Katie Holdefehr for Real Simple on design mistakes to avoid in a kitchen remodel.
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Interior designers share their best advice for a trend-proof kitchen.
For many of us, the kitchen is truly the heart of our homes. It’s where we spend time with family, gather with friends, cook meals, check homework, take Zoom calls. Since the kitchen plays such a big role and remodeling this space is so expensive, choosing a timeless design we’ll love for many years is essential. But when it’s so easy to be swept up in pretty images on Instagram or Pinterest, it can be tough to parse out which design moves are truly trend-proof. That’s where the pros come in. We tapped interior designers for their best advice on the design decisions to avoid for a timeless kitchen. Plus, how to work in the latest trends in reversible ways that won’t require a reno to switch out.
If your current kitchen could use a refresh but you’re not planning a full remodel, check out some easy ways to update your kitchen in the 2022 Get It Done virtual home. Navigate to the kitchen, then click on the hotspot to learn pro-approved (and budget-friendly) ways to revamp your cookspace. Tour the entire virtual house for even more motivation to tackle those projects on your home to-do list.
Avoid: Anything That Won’t Match Your Style Long-Term
If sage green has always been your favorite color since day one, go ahead and paint your kitchen in that color of the moment. But if you never considered the hue until you saw it pop up on Instagram, give it a second thought. Anything you are confident matches your personal aesthetic long-term will always be trend-proof to you—whether that’s shiplap, industrial details, mid-century modern furniture, or periwinkle paint. Once you identify the style you love, you can stop worrying about trends.
Avoid: Manufactured Countertops
“To create a timeless kitchen design, I would pay close attention to countertops,” recommends Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors. She explains that besides kitchen cabinets, the countertops take up a lot of real estate in the kitchen, so they have a big effect on the timelessness of the design. “If possible, I always encourage clients to use natural materials such as marble, soapstone, or quartzite as their countertop material.” These natural materials have greater longevity than engineered stone, such as quartz, she says.
Kristen Peña of K Interiors echoes this message. “The use of natural stone is always a good idea in keeping a kitchen looking timeless,” she says. “Natural stone will never be a dated finish in any space.”
Avoid: Counters in Surprising Colors or Patterns
However, interior designer Darryl Carter says that many homeowners are selecting synthetic countertops because they won’t show as much wear and tear, compared to a soft stone like marble. “There are a number of credible synthetic stones available that are quite durable in today’s market,” he says. These options are becoming more popular as home cooks look for surfaces that are more forgiving. “In this regard, I would avoid using anything that has unusual color, pattern, or movement, as these tend to be trendy and may not survive the life of the kitchen.” Avoid faux stone counters with dramatic contrast, and stick to options that show subtle movement.
Avoid: Elaborate Kitchen Lighting
“Many people don’t realize that kitchen lighting can date the space,” says Linda Hayslett of LH.Designs. When choosing light fixtures, she says: “Stay with classic, simple shapes that aren’t too fussy. Glass globes and finishes like black nickel will always be classic. You’ll never have to switch the light out, and it’ll always look good in the kitchen,” she assures us.
Avoid: Prioritizing Form Over Function
“While materials and lighting play a large part in the overall kitchen design, creating a functional layout is such an important factor to consider,” advises Molly Torres Portnof of DATE Interiors. “A timeless kitchen is one with ample storage, optimal space planning for the ‘kitchen triangle,’ and easy access to everything you use regularly.” The kitchen work triangle is the triangle formed between the sink, stovetop, and refrigerator—or the three main points you’re always moving between as you cook in the space. Traditionally, when these three features are arranged in a triangle without major barriers (like a huge island) between them, it’s considered the optimal work layout.
Clever Ways to Work in Trends
A timeless kitchen can still nod to the latest decor trends; just do so in ways that are affordable and easily reversible.
- Get dishtowels in on-trend colors
- Apply peel-and-stick wallpaper to a small area or accent wall
- Introduce popular houseplants or cut flowers
- Switch out details like vases or artwork on open shelving
- Place a new colorful or patterned mat below your kitchen sink