This is the time of year when kids are back in school, vacation memories are as faded as our summer suntans and thoughts start to turn to holiday planning. Savvy homeowners are already well underway on their kitchen remodels. Those who haven’t started will be reminded anew of the shortcomings of their spaces and appliances. Many a request will flood into designer and contractor inboxes for projects to start in the new year and panicky visitors will show up in showrooms when their ovens fail before Thanksgiving. It isn’t as far off as it seems!
When recommending new appliances to clients, it’s worth noting some of the emerging and established trends seen around the country. These pros – from New York to California – share what they’re seeing and offering:
- Jessica Petrino Ball, editorial director for appliance retailer AjMadison
- Denise Benach, director of interior design for Chicago-area builder Lexington Homes
- National Kitchen & Bath Association research director Tricia Zach
- Interior designer Ariana Lovato on California’s central coast
- Kitchen and bath designer Meredith Weiss on Long Island, New York.
There are social and consumer trends that supersede our industry, but impact the buying decisions homeowners make. These include sustainability and health concerns. “The adoption of electricity instead of fossil fuels for heating and cooling has turned into a widespread movement known as electrification,” Ball observes. Air quality concerns are tied into this trend, and frequently raised, she adds. “Catalyzed by the pandemic, wildfires and increased pollution, air quality in our homes became a widely discussed topic,” she says. “Ventilation, once an afterthought, is now a priority for many remodelers.”
California often leads the nation in trends (along with legislation and regulation), and this is no different. “We are seeing a huge shift away from gas, and induction cooktops, electric dryers and fireplaces are huge,” observes Lovato.
“According to the designers/specifiers participating in the NKBA’s 2023 Design Trends study, we know that they feel ‘steam cooking and air frying technology integrated into ovens’ will be one of the most popular kitchen tech products/solutions among homeowners over the next three years,” comments Zach, adding that this preference “suggests that healthy cooking has widespread appeal among homeowners.” Both support the health concerns trend. The growth of induction touches on both health and sustainability.
“Induction is the most popular cooking technology today,” declares Ball, citing its speed, safety, low maintenance and eco-friendly benefits. “Induction is the most energy-efficient cooking technology, with 90% of induction heat reaching your food. That far exceeds traditional gas or electric heating elements,” she adds. There are also government rebates available for qualifying purchases and buyers. Ball notes that induction requires less venting, so it’s ideal for when outdoor venting isn’t possible (often the case for condo owners). Lovato agrees, noting that it’s huge in California, with more clients asking for it than ever. With regard to cooking ventilation, Ball is seeing hidden hood inserts trending for their design flexibility, she says. Statement hoods in metals are also popular.
“Ranges with built-in air fryer capabilities are in high demand among our buyers, who appreciate that this eliminates the need to have an extra appliance on their countertop,” Benach comments.
“One significant and enduring effect of the pandemic is that many people are still working from home today – and subsequently eating more meals at home,” observes Benach. This, in turn, impacts the amount of food they keep on hand in their refrigerators, she points out. “Many of our homebuyers are anticipating this and opting for a larger-capacity refrigerator when the floor plan they choose can accommodate it.”
“If a client has a large enough home, they like column refrigerators,” Weiss shares. Some are choosing to separate them when made aware of that possibility, she adds. “When you show them a picture, they fall in love!” Her clients also love the idea of separate small refrigerators near the kitchen for beverages, leaving the main appliance for food preservation, she notes.
“Dishwasher drawers are back!” declares Lovato, especially for her empty-nester clients and those with accessory dwelling units (ADUs). “We are also doing at least two dishwashers per kitchen now (if size is big enough) which seems like overkill, but for a busy family or one that entertains often, it is a super-nice function.” When it comes to washer/dryer sets, she reports that 75% of her clients are choosing stackable units for their space-saving benefit.
“The all-in-one washer dryer is making a comeback with GE’s new 2-in-1 washer dryer combo unit,” Ball observes. Whirlpool also introduced a combo at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show this year.
“Buyers are opting for large-capacity washers and dryers, with a preference for front-load and side-by-side configuration,” Benach says. “In terms of the laundry room itself, our buyers prefer to have it located near the bedrooms.” Lovato sees these appliances going into primary suites, closets and even guest room closets and ADUs when there’s space available.
Ball is seeing a lot of interest in retro-style refrigerators as both cooling stations for snacks and cool design elements in non-kitchen spaces. She’s also seeing homeowners add portable air purification appliances around the house to keep germs and contaminants at bay, she adds.
Benach says wine refrigerators are popular, both as kitchen features and in butler pantry areas for Lexington’s luxury homes. She’s also seeing installed coffee makers and small appliance space in pantries to keep kitchen countertops uncluttered. Weiss sees coffee systems fading somewhat in popularity, but wine fridges surging.
Lovato says she’s putting both coffee stations and beverage fridges in primary suites and home offices.
“We are seeing buyers increasing their spending on all appliances that offer functions such as mobile app connection,” Benach declares. NKBA’s Zach is seeing this in her organization’s research, too.
“Kitchen technology is now mainstream; it is no longer an expense out of reach. Homeowners expect it,” NKBA’s 2022 Kitchen Technology & Millennials report declared. The association’s most recent trends study noted that “51% of NKBA designers/specifiers say that their clients want a mobile app to control their kitchen appliances,” the researcher reports. “Demand for this smart feature is being driven by Millennials, but it is certainly spreading to Gen X’ers and even Baby Boomers.” (Tech native Gen Z, as noted in August 2023’s Trend Spotting, will definitely be expecting this capability.)
“While the benefits of smart tech were once rooted in entertainment, we are noticing a shift toward practical smart features – simplifying the user experience or monitoring for service needs,” Ball shares. Popular features include cooking appliances that provide recipes and guidance; refrigerators with artificial intelligence-based food preservation inspired by owner habits; remote diagnostics for service; door open/burner-on alerts, and automatic updates with new appliance features. “When air fry technology first became popular,” Ball recalls, “several brands were able to include this mode as a software update on older stoves and ovens.”
Lovato and her clients are enthusiastic. “You can preheat the oven on your way home from work, learn all about the latest recipes, and also enhance the shelf life of your produce with the latest technology in refrigerators.” She’s also bullish on cooking aids, energy monitors and leak detectors.
Weiss shares Lovato’s enthusiasm for the remote pre-heat feature. She’s also interested in refrigerators that can inventory their contents. “Coming down the pike, [they] will be scanning codes,” she predicts. This technology can alert homeowners when items are going to expire. (An early smart fridge offered this capability, but shoppers had to manually enter each grocery item’s info, minimizing the feature’s use and value.) The new versions, Weiss observes, will be hugely helpful in reducing food waste. “I’m hoping that this feature will be a new standard, especially with the rising cost of food these days.” (It also reduces methane in landfills created by food waste.) With California mandating composting statewide for its more than 13 million households, it’s likely that new appliances will be showing up in 2024 appliance trends.
Appliances are going into areas beyond the kitchen, laundry room and outdoor living spaces. “For bar areas and ADUs, full-size dishwashers are popular,” Ball comments. Washer/dryer units – often ventless – are going into primary suites for homeowner convenience, and into ADUs and pool houses, she adds.
“Many of our buyers are opting to add a smaller refrigerator or a beverage center in a finished lower level to enhance its functionality as an entertainment space or as a hang-out area for kids,” Benach says. “It’s also a nice convenience if they create a home office on this level, since they don’t have to run up and down the stairs during the workday to grab a drink or snack from the kitchen.”
Lovato is doing quite a few beverage center appliances in home offices, she reports. They’re also popular with her clients for kid-friendly rec rooms. “We have lots of people wanting built-in coffee makers and have seen them in home offices as well. We also have a couple of primary suites where we’ve installed coffee stations as well,” the California designer adds.
AjMadison is seeing a lot of interest in panel-ready dishwashers, including handle-free models. “Another big trend is the stainless steel dishwasher with a pocket handle. This style is a go-to option for kitchens with mixed appliance brands as you won’t need to worry about the handles clashing with other appliances,” Ball observes.
Lovato is seeing the hidden trend with refrigerators and vent hoods on her coast. “It seems that the gold standard right now includes inserts that are covered by a drywalled unit to disguise the vent hood,” but she’s also seeing brass, teak and slatted wood finishes for hood surrounds.
Weiss says more of her clients are choosing paneled appliances, but for those choosing non-paneled, there’s an interest in a mixed metal look, such as brass accents.
“While stainless steel continues to be the most common finish choice for our buyers, we continue to offer the choice of black, stainless steel and smudge-proof slate at most of our developments,” Benach shares. Lovato’s clients are also interested in black and graphite finishes, she says.
There are more appliance choices than ever, both with established and emerging brands, new technologies and configurations, even new appliance types, and it can be challenging to keep up. Sometimes it makes sense to focus on macro concepts that will endure and appreciate that this season’s preferences will be so over in a few seasons. And it always makes sense to have an appliance go-to who stays up to date on what’s noteworthy and what’s causing endless headaches, and a technology integrator to do the same from that perspective to make all the innovations work as designed. Those folks are priceless! ▪
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an award-winning author, wellness design consultant and industry speaker. Learn more about her design industry presentations, books, Clubhouse events and consulting services at jamiegold.net.