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The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) as released its annual design trends report, and it predicts outdoor living projects, technology, and natural, calm-inspired kitchen designs to be big in 2021.

At the end of every year, NKBA surveys its members to get insight into the most popular design features, along with a glimpse into the future of kitchen and bath design. After surveying 716 professionals, ranging from designers and manufacturers to architects and fabricators, the association identified emerging kitchen design trends, products, materials, and technologies.

Here are some other key takeaways for kitchen design:


Parma birdge kitchen faucet

Parma Bridge faucet by Gerber Plumbing

The Average Homeowner

To understand upcoming and emerging trends more clearly, look no further than the ages of homeowners embarking on both kitchen and bathroom projects.

Age can shed light on the future of design trends and whether they may be short-lived or long-term. Age can also help you market your professional services to a specific demographic.

NKBA’s report found that both Gen X and Boomers, those aged anywhere from 39 to 73, started projects the most. The age breakdowns come from professionals responding to the question, "Which life stage(s) describe clients for whom you've designed, specified, or provided products for in the past year?" Professionals were able to choose multiple age ranges.

Age Breakdown:

  • 79% of pros worked on projects from Gen X (39-54)
  • 80% of pros worked on projects from Boomers (55-73)
  • 51% of pros worked on projects from Millennials with children (23 to 38)
  • 42% of pros worked on projects from Millennials without children (23-38)
  • 34% of pros worked on projects from the Silent/Greatest Generation (74+)

The majority of projects, 71%, also occur inside homes that are 11-years-old or older. On the other end, a whopping 19% of kitchen and bathroom projects are inside of new construction.


Outdoor stainless steel sink

Merino outdoor sink by Ruvati

Outdoor Living

Compared to pre-pandemic times, professionals are experiencing an influx of outdoor living projects. This may come as no surprise due to the nature of the virus and safety precautions designating the outdoors as much safer for small gatherings.

In addition, homeowners had to halt summer vacation plans, which resulted in more funds and more demand for their own stay-cation spots.

Sixty-five percent of pros expect their 2021 outdoor living projects to increase significantly. Only 31% believe their demand for outdoor living areas will remain the same.

Outdoor kitchens were the hot projects for 2020 as 76% of projects focused on these cookeries. Coming in second place are patio and deck projects, which 54% of pros worked on this year. To round out the top three, screened-in porches, or three-season rooms, were reported as 31% of outdoor projects.

Homeowners desired upgrades to their outdoor living spaces the most, but still, 40% of homeowners embarked on creating a brand new outdoor living space.

At least a quarter of projects requested nearly every type of outdoor living product, from pools and hot tubs to integrated entertainment. The hottest were fireplaces and firepits, weather protection, expanded or enhanced seating, and kitchens.


Wall mount pot filler faucet

Juxtapose Collection by Kallista

Kitchen Design

For 2021 and beyond, the NKBA predicts L-shaped kitchens with islands to remain popular.

Size is where changes will come, though. The association predicts kitchen islands to be sized between 24 and 35 square feet while kitchens themselves will become somewhat larger than today.

Residential professionals can expect the removal of walls to open up the kitchen as a top request. While large kitchen islands are a must for many homeowners, it will require the removal of surrounding walls.

Islands are growing in size and popularity due to their storage and space advantages. Many homeowners are utilizing their kitchen islands as dining tables, homework spots, and a gathering space. 

When it comes to styles, the report found contemporary, transitional, and organic/natural to rule kitchens for the next three years. 

Professionals see minimalism with a sustainable focus and fitted with gadgets to be the ultimate upcoming kitchen trend.

“European in style, but also scale,” one professional told the NKBA. “It is a very modern and clean look and offers functionality that Americans love.”

There will be no emergence of bright colors for kitchens in the next three years. Whites, off-whites, grays, and beiges will remain the top color schemes.


Bertazzoni wall ovens and fridge

Wall ovens and food preservation columns by Bertazzoni


Interest in technology for both the kitchen and bath is rising as more intuitive technology becomes widely available.

In the kitchen, homeowners want a spot for charging electronics, along with video communication, and appliance-monitoring tech.

Homeowners generally want to keep tabs on both areas of the home easily, with the most interest in technology that alerts them for any floods, gas leaks, and power failures.


Kitchen Products

Professionals are loving the technology solutions integrated into the latest kitchen appliances and faucets, in addition to new styles, colors, and designs of both. Pros look forward to seeing more of these offerings over the next three years.

Also over the next few years, light-colored quartz will become the “it” material for both countertops. Behind those counters, both slab and long subway tiles will be the most dominant for backsplashes.

Cabinets are predicted to go toward full-painted wood in a flat panel/slab style. While both countertops and cabinets remain in a white palette, the kitchen island is where homeowners are most likely to try something different. For cabinets, 68% of designers say projects included different colored island cabinets.

Stainless steel will continue to rule kitchen sinks, but white follows closely behind. Single bowls will remain hot, but apron-front, or farmhouse, sinks will not be too far behind.

The same goes for kitchen faucets: 42% of designers expect stainless to remain most popular, but black faucets come in second with 32% of designers believing the color will be most popular. A grand 57% of designers see matte as the prime finish for kitchen faucets over the next three years as well.


Ceramica Saloni subway tiles

Ceramica Saloni subway tiles

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are no longer going to be the most widely used flooring in kitchens. Respondents say hardwood or engineered wood along with luxury vinyl wood planks will be the most used over the next three years.

And do not turn away from lighting. Under-cabinet lighting will pop off the next three years, according to 60% of professionals. Homeowners will want dimmer switches, as well.

And just like kitchen sinks and faucets, stainless steel is expected to be most popular for cooking appliances, refrigerators, and kitchen ventilation hoods.

The cooking appliances that will gain the most interest are convection and steam ovens, along with microwave drawers. While gas cooktops will be most popular, induction cooktops only trail by 3%.