High-end kitchens – The latest design trends

by Ofentse Sefolo
High-end kitchens – The latest design trends

Decades ago, the kitchen was hidden in the back of the house. It was a place where meals were prepared and dirty dishes were washed. Fast forward to 2020 and the kitchen has a much different role.

Today, the kitchen is the focal point of the home, the place that brings everyone together at the start of the day or after a long day at work. Now the kitchen is a showcase, which in many ways sets the tone for the home’s design. It has literally become the heart of the home.

Kitchen designs have seen one of the most dramatic changes over the decades, with both the advancement in technology and changing social dynamics having contributed greatly to the rise of the modern kitchen. There is a far bigger focus on open-concept homes that revolve around the kitchen, so everyone can be together.

As with any modern design trend, clean and simple styles have become favourites for homeowners, with natural light becoming an essential aspect of the overall look and function of the kitchen space. However, high-end kitchen design trends are bringing many exciting features to the fore. Here is a look at the top kitchen design trends for 2021.

1. Smart kitchens
Technology has entered the kitchen in full force, and not just in the form of fancy gadgets and appliances. Smart kitchens are an evolving aspect of design. In fact, many kitchens today are built smart from the ground up. For older kitchens, sensors, smart gadgets and other devices can be added for convenience to the homeowner.

Simplicity and smart technology will be key features of the futuristic kitchen.

Easy add-ons are motion-sense equipped kitchen nozzles that can sense the presence of hands underneath and will come on automatically, or try a one-touch feature, refrigerators that can alert you when your groceries items are running low or a coffee maker programmed to have your coffee ready when you wake up. There is also a gadget that monitors your eggs, telling you which ones are almost rotten.

Do not forget to update your lighting system – allowing you to control all the lights from your smartphone or tablet.

2. Cabinet colours make a bold statement
Although white cabinets are a classic look that can be used in almost any kind of kitchen style, we are slowly starting to see them being replaced with bolder colours.

These pops-of-colours will be most popular in shades of blue and green. There is an increase in the use of dark jewel tones, such as black, navy, emerald green and even plum or red.

Various elements in shades of blue and aqua create a calming feel in the kitchen.

Dark kitchen cabinets portray full-on elegance and a deep rich luxurious atmosphere that the other options just do not. They cast the kitchen in a subtle dramatic essence. However, you must be careful that it does not overpower the room, making it feel perpetually dark.

It is surprising how well dark kitchen cabinets can work in and/or enhance a kitchen space with its dramatic and luxurious feel.

But more and more homeowners are getting bolder and opting for a kitchen with dark cabinets. Expect to see tons of black and darker colour shades in the trendiest homes of 2021. Also read our feature on black kitchens being the biggest trend for 2021.

3. Streamlined design, materials and textures
While styles like farmhouse and mid-century modern are still popular, kitchen designs are getting more streamlined in their overall aesthetic and use of alternative materials. Stress-free environments are what we would like to come home too and drown out the day-to-day stresses of life – which usually means simplicity. Simple looks are all about modern and clean lines. They will continue to be a huge hit, especially in smaller modern apartments.

Another key trend for 2021 is that many kitchens are being designed without upper cabinets, creating a more open and modern feel.

Removing upper wall cabinets opens the visual space, making the kitchen appear much larger and brighter. It allows you to utilise the countertop space more productively. Not to mention, most people cannot reach what is on the top shelves of the cabinetry anyway. Although open shelves would be a great alternative, if the added storage space is needed or a focal point element was desired.

When we say streamlined, we do not want to equate that with boring. Consider materials with texture. If using open shelving, use rough-cut wood to bring in natural elements or metal tubing for a more industrial attitude.

Floor tiles in a natural stone or backsplash tiles that are sculpted, bevelled or stacked make for the perfect focal point. These interesting textures are quite different than the usual polished or glossy finishes we see everywhere. You may even want to consider a ceiling treatment to bring in that added punch. Coffered, tray and wood beams are the perfect choices to consider.

4. Quartz remains popular
For high-end kitchen countertops, quartz still reigns supreme. The material is extremely hardy, can last virtually forever, is a breeze to maintain and is anti-microbial. Granite, the main competitor in the high-end bracket, requires slightly more maintenance.

When quartz countertops first came into the market, the main worry was a lack of variety in terms of colours and finishes. But with time, thanks to technology, manufacturers have provided a wide range of colours to choose from as well as realistic stone patterns. Nowadays one can even get quartz finished with elaborate swirls and large veining to imitate other materials like natural stone. These unique styles have become immensely popular.

Marble remains a popular upmarket choice. However, the price tag is not within everyone’s reach. It is durable and creates a feeling of opulence, and there is a demand for more modern finishes.

But there is a notable trend towards softer and more neutral colours. More and more homeowners are opting for colours like grey, taupe, creamy or white finishes.

The pattern preferences have changed to veining from particulates that we have seen in past years. This definitely follows the trend towards cleaner styles seen in most home spaces.

Waterfall islands continued to increase in popularity, given the many colours and patterns available.

While we are still on the topic of countertops, there is a rising trend to match the entire kitchen with the countertop finish selected.

5. Effective storage solution cabinetry
One of the foundations to a functional kitchen is kitchen storage. If it is inadequate or ineffective, you will be faced with endless frustrations and challenges. To counter these storage challenges, kitchen designs now offer better storage solutions within the cabinetry.

These can include appliances garages for small appliances, drawer dividers for cutlery and utensils, pull-outs for spices, tray dividers, roll-out trays and containers for pots and pans; as well as wastebasket cabinets for garbage and recyclables and/or deep drawers. These will make it easier to store foods, drinks and small appliances; and is focused on making our daily lives more effortless and making cooking fun.

A modern example of integrated storage solutions.

6. Herringbone used on walls and floors
Herringbone hardwood floors bring an element of warmth to this kitchen. We are seeing this design being used in both floors, walls and backsplash designs.

Another catchy design is the blue herringbone tile backsplash that adds a much-welcomed trendy touch to this kitchen. Rustic elements like open wood shelving make the space feel casual and friendly, while the dark blue cabinets are a pretty way to add depth and richness.

The grey herringbone tile backsplash is the star of this kitchen. 

7. Single-level multipurpose kitchen islands
Kitchen islands are no longer an afterthought or something small to squeeze into the space. They have become focal points and the hub of the kitchen. One of the changes emerging is the single-level larger sizing, serving multiple uses; especially since we are seeing less wall cabinet space in kitchen design. The kitchen island is meant to create an impact, and its design must make a statement.

In larger kitchens we are seeing two islands being installed to optimise work surfaces and seating space.

The larger kitchen islands of 2021 will become the jack of all trades. They will have storage solution cabinets and will be fitted with various under-counter appliances while also providing seating – serving as a casual dining and/or drinking bar. To accommodate the increased size, we are seeing a tendency for the kitchen island to extend into living room spaces in homes with open-plan designs. This ensures the kitchen island can be multi-functional without cluttering up space in the kitchen.

8. Beautiful backsplash trends
Backsplashes can be a fun part of the house to decorate. However, these tile backsplashes in kitchens always seem to have new trends and styles.

It seems that subway tiles are out. Okay, maybe not completely out, but these days, larger tiles are more on trend, with a move to larger slabs of tiles and tiles with various textures or patterns.

The colour choices are endless here. It just depends on the other colours chosen for the kitchen and, of course, personal taste. A pop of colour would be very trendy right now and allows you to get more creative with your design. Neutral patterns with natural texture are another option for those looking for a classic look.

Geometric black and white tiles create a striking look in this smaller kitchen, effectively blended with touches of metallic.

Another big change we are seeing in tile backsplashes is their size and the portion of wall they are covering. Large slabs are taking over. These slabs can be marble, quartz, wood, copper, stainless steel, glass…. the list goes on forever. Wall coverage is changing, with backsplashes rising to the ceiling. With upper cabinets on their way out, homeowners are left with more wall space.

9. Bringing the outdoors in
Designers are connecting the kitchen to an outdoor space or patio. They are also adding entry points from the kitchen to outside entertainment areas. By installing a glass door in a kitchen, one can easily connect these two spaces.

Another trend is to replace smaller kitchen windows with much larger and wider windows, which requires some re-framing and removal of the wall cabinets but is very much on trend. It allows for natural light to flow through the space and to create a picture window or a glass wall.

This modern kitchen beautifully links with the outside. The use of dark cabinets and the mixing of materials such as stone, wood and chrome make for a sleek, modern kitchen that is warm thanks to the natural light and materials.

10. Mixing of metallic touches
Mixing metals adds character in the space, especially if it is done correctly. We will be seeing more of an eclectic style in 2021. Keeping spaces “matchy-matchy” is no longer in trend. If you love gold fixtures, but do not want it all over your kitchen, add a soft gold faucet with black or nickel hardware.

Light fixtures can be a completely different metal altogether, while having hints of the same metal you are using elsewhere. These pieces are the finishing touch to the space. Make them stand out.

The industrial feel of this kitchen is softened with wood panelling on the opposite wall and using more lighter colours. The kitchen stools and portable metal island are both unique features.

Another way to mix in metals, would be in your furniture selections for kitchen tables, chairs or island stools. These can be easily interchangeable when you want to change things a bit. Textured metals that are the same colour as other pieces in the kitchen are a nice way of adding a different element, while not getting too crazy.

Plumbing manufacturers are also coming out with more options such as matte black, rose gold and soft brass or chrome. Have a look at the latest options before making your final selection.

11. Subtle touches making a statement
Focusing on hood design along with appliances will be a new trend for 2021. This piece can be a major focal point in the space, especially depending on the layout of the kitchen. Most of the time, we design the space with the range and hood on a wall that are seen from other rooms in the house. Why not make these elements a statement piece?

Metallic hoods

The gold inlay used on this striking black hood is mirrored in the stool’s legs and the taps.

Eye-catching pendants
Pendants are no longer just for light; they have become decorative features and even the focal points in many kitchens. Using pendants at different heights, unusual designs and the mixing of materials are some of the latest trends.

Pendants in different shapes, sizes, materials and colours are all ways that one can add unique touches to create a kitchen with a difference. The above kitchen features all these elements – the stools, pendants, island and hood are all unique.

Options are endless
These ideas combine the best in functionality and aesthetics to create the ultimate kitchen – be it a remodel or new construction, let these trends help guide your choices. There are also many helpful tools available where one can “try on” elements to see if the element creates the desired look.

The kitchen has indeed become the star of the show, with designs more mesmerising than ever.

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