Design in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. is almost as diverse as the area itself. Encompassing Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, homes range from 19th century Victorians to urban sleek to coastal cottages.
“We work on a bit of everything,” reports Katherine Dashiell, designer, Reico Kitchen & Bath in Annapolis, MD, “and I think what my clients are interested in depends on their lifestyle.”
Clients in their 30s and 40s who are in the middle of raising their families, are bulk shopping and entertaining their friends and their kids’ friends are looking for things like big pantries and bulk storage, she observes. “For them, the kitchen is a multi-purpose room that needs to have a place and a space for things outside of cooking.”
She also notes that there are a lot of 55 and older communities going up in her area, and the clients moving into those spaces “are typically downsizing. They have turned large family get togethers over to their children,” she explains. “They are concerned with entertaining, but typically with smaller groups. They are more concerned with aging in place and ease of use – most things within easy reach, roll-out trays in base cabinets and pantry cabinets, etc.”
Paul McAlary, president, Main Line Kitchen Design in Bala Cynwyd, PA, agrees that how the kitchen functions is key. “We try to design the space to be attractive and functional first, and then adapt the style to the customer’s taste and specific needs,” he offers.
“While design styles change from person to person, most people look for the same sort of functionality,” remarks Dashiell. “Functionality seems to be the driving force.” She notes that, while some people come to Reico for a new kitchen because they think their kitchen looks dated, “most are finally pushed into taking the plunge because the kitchen no longer functions for them or their family,” she stresses.
McAlary observes that clients often have preconceived notions about function that are not accurate. “Functionality is a very universal concept in kitchen design. Usually, the theories explain why they need what they have now and are used to,” he comments, adding that customers will adapt quickly to good design once they can be convinced to be more open minded.
At Reico, the majority of clients want an island with lots of seating, and they want to maximize storage, reports Dashiell. Among the items on Dashiell’s clients’ wish lists are cabinet inserts to customize storage, and cabinets dedicated to a specific type of storage or use, such as spice pull-outs, pantry pull-outs, utensil pull-outs, coffee stations, charging drawers, etc. She also sees interest in appliance garages, though the old fashioned tambour doors have been replaced by flip-up and/or pocket doors. Microwave drawers are popular, and wood hoods – as well as appliance panels – are being requested as well.
Though function is clearly important in today’s kitchens, how a room looks and feels is also part of a winning combination. But, different areas mean different choices for homeowners.
“Where I work, the differences from area to area seem to be more aesthetic,” explains Dashiell. “Annapolis and the surrounding area is more coastal in terms of the colors and finishes – not necessarily cottage or traditional, just light and bright with fun colors mixed in. The clients that live in and around Washington, DC tend to go more towards a sleek contemporary aesthetic, although that may go out the window if they live in a very traditional house. People near Baltimore are more transitional. Depending on their age and the age of the house, they could tend more contemporary as well.”
She continues, “I think people are driven by what they want and what appeals to them, but most clients – and all designers – keep the house style in mind when settling on finishes.”
“Metro areas differ most from suburban and rural areas. City kitchens, particularly in high rises and condos, tend to be far more contemporary and use slab doors in laminates, acrylics and foils” notes McAlary.
“Suburban areas are the most trendy, and while shaker and recessed panel painted kitchens are the most popular, grays, blues, greens and natural wood cabinetry has begun to become more popular lately – particularly for islands. Rural areas always lag far behind suburban trends and never embrace contemporary styles,” he adds. “In rural areas, natural wood cabinetry is still more popular than paints.” While McAlary notes that Main Line Kitchen Design hasn’t sold an oak kitchen in 15 years, “we hear from our cabinet reps that, in rural areas, oak cabinetry is still common.”
When discussing what types of cabinets and colors clients are looking for, McAlary shares, “Shaker white, shaker white, shaker white…” But seriously, he states that, after a decade of white shaker, “we are starting to see other colors – gray, blue, green and wood – and recessed panel door styles coming back. Rift cut and quartersawn cerused oak cabinetry are also recent trends,” he adds.
Over the past decade, walls have been coming down to make kitchens more open to other living spaces.
“Years ago, everyone put the main emphasis on their living rooms and dining rooms, and the kitchen was hidden away. It was a space they reserved for family and close friends,” notes Dashiell. “Now, not only is the kitchen the center stage when it comes to the home, people are taking over the adjacent dining room and/or formal living room areas to make more space for the kitchen.”
“In most instances, and with most clients, the kitchen is a multi-purpose room,” Dashiell offers. “In addition to being where you cook dinner and prep lunches, it is the room where you catch up with your family at the end of the day, it’s where you entertain when you have a party, it’s where your kids do homework and, more and more, it may be where you set up shop when you work from home.”
“Today, over 50 percent of our kitchen designs are combining the dining room and the kitchen to create a larger, less formal space,” adds McAlary.
While open floor plans remain a top request, issues have emerged with regard to too much open space. Since COVID, adults and children are spending more time at home, and finding private spaces to work and study has become more challenging.
With the pandemic, “overnight, people went from everyone leaving the house during the day to everyone working from home and going to school virtually,” remarks Dashiell.
As a result, she notes that her firm has started incorporating work areas into the kitchen again. “People are worried about how to be separate and together at the same time. It’s been interesting.”
She notes that they’ve turned dining rooms and extra bedrooms into office space or multi-desk spaces for kids. “People are more concerned with how to conceal noise, which has become more difficult in the open concept layouts. Things that people could live with before seemed to drive them crazy when they were suddenly spending all their time in their houses. The need to give everyone a space, and for all the work and school gadgets/paperwork/books/etc. to have a specific home became very important.” ▪