OPINION

AT HOME: Open floor plans, bigger islands in today’s kitchens

This newly remodeled kitchen reflects several of the top kitchen trends revealed in the 2024 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, including a large island with ample seating, and varied-color cabinetry. Upper kitchen cabinets are Benjamin Moore White Heron. Lowers are Sherwin-Williams Requisite Gray. Island and bar cabinetry features Farrow & Ball Pitch Black. (Courtesy of Lisa Everett)
This newly remodeled kitchen reflects several of the top kitchen trends revealed in the 2024 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, including a large island with ample seating, and varied-color cabinetry. Upper kitchen cabinets are Benjamin Moore White Heron. Lowers are Sherwin-Williams Requisite Gray. Island and bar cabinetry features Farrow & Ball Pitch Black. (Courtesy of Lisa Everett)


I know we're not supposed to care, but don't we all kind of want to know what's going on in other people's houses? As least decorwise? Last week, the 2024 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study came out, and I was eager to peek. I wanted to know what was cooking in kitchens not just because I like to keep up, and not even because I am generally nosy, but mostly because my daughter and her husband are about to tackle a major kitchen renovation.

This kind of feels like the first time you see your kid drive off with a new driver's license -- you just hope they don't crash.

When Paige and her husband bought their first house together 18 months ago, they knew they wanted to ultimately upgrade the underwhelming kitchen. After living in the house, they've had time to think about what they want.

"We love to cook and entertain," Paige said. "That's how we live. Our kitchen isn't great for either." Their choice came down to move or improve. Sound familiar? Having a baby on the way (insert cartwheel emoji) caused them to make up their minds and get going.

They asked a designer to show them what was possible. The designer drew up a plan that would indeed allow them to get what they wanted.

A popular software platform for home improvers and industry professionals, Houzz has been publishing the kitchen trends study for 10 years, said Marine Sargsyan, Houzz staff economist, who helped compile the study.

"The beauty of the survey is that we don't ask wishful thinking questions, like, would you like more storage? Or a walk-in pantry? We ask, what did you actually do?" Sargsyan said.

Here's what's hot in kitchens today according to this year's report:

◼️ Kitchens are opening up. "After going through the pandemic, a time when homeowners were hesitant to open their kitchens to the rest of their house, I was happy to see a reversal," Sargsyan said. "We are back to open-concept kitchens that allow for more socializing." Among respondents, 43% made their kitchens more open to other indoor spaces, up 5% from a few years ago. Of those homeowners who made their kitchens more open, nearly two-thirds (64%) removed a wall.

◼️ Organized Storage is a priority. Consumers continue to put function first, she said. Features such as cookie sheet organizers (55%), spice racks (44%), and organizers for cutlery (41%) and utensils (37%) each gained 3 percentage points in popularity over last year. These were all must-haves on Paige's list, too.

◼️ Islands are growing. Confirming that the kitchen is the place to be whether cooking, eating, entertaining or doing office or home work, the survey showed a strong trend toward bigger islands with seating. Among renovators, 42% added an island 7 feet or longer, up from 38% last year. "We don't see as many islands shorter than 6 feet," she said.

◼️ Tradeoffs are real. What the report doesn't capture, Sargsyan added, are the tradeoffs most projects require. A bigger kitchen, for instance, could mean sacrificing somewhere else, like having a smaller laundry room. Paige, for instance, loves her walk-in pantry, but is giving it up to gain more counterspace and more floor space around the island. She is counting on clever storage solutions to make up for the loss.

◼️ Most seek professional help. More than four out of five homeowners (84%) rely on professional help for their kitchen renovations. General contractors are the professionals most commonly hired (55%), followed by cabinetmakers at 35%.

◼️ People still like white. Light colors still reign, especially on counters. "We're seeing fewer multi-colored counters and backsplashes. Cream and white counters are the choice for 43% of remodelers. White cabinets also remain popular at 46%, followed by wood, whether dark, medium or light, at 25%. Interestingly, one-fourth of renovators made their upper cabinets a different color from their lower cabinets, often white above and wood below. About 46% opted for their islands to be a different color from their cabinets.

◼️ Layer the light. Recognizing their sustainability and longevity, LED lighting factored into 91% of projects. Recessed lighting was part of the plan in three out of four remodeled kitchens; 69% included under-cabinet lights, and more than half (56%) included pendant lighting.

◼️ Costs are up. Like everything else, the cost to remodel a kitchen has been climbing. The median expense for a major kitchen remodeling (meaning all new cabinets were included) was $55,000, up 22% over last year, and for a minor remodel the median spend was $18,000, up 29%.

◼️ What's out? Glass doors and open shelves are trending down, as more consumers opt to keep their stuff hidden, which is probably a good idea.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books including "Rightsize Today to Create Your Best Life Tomorrow."