As we slide into a new decade, the kitchen of tomorrow is taking shape. And one characteristic above all dominates: low maintenance.
Going back 20 years, kitchens were beautiful and functional, but they also required a lot of upkeep. They could be anxiety-provoking, too - think pristine marble countertops that were prone to staining and scratching, or stainless-steel finishes that showed every fingerprint.
Today's homeowners aren't interested in that kind of stress. Fortunately, manufacturers have responded with a slew of new products and materials that combine beauty and performance with minimal upkeep. Here are five to consider for your next kitchen remodel:
1. Quartz countertops
Spilled wine, oven-hot casserole dishes and razor-sharp chef's knives can wreak havoc on marble and other natural stones - but not quartz. The engineered stone consists of stone chips, pigments and resins that combine to form an impervious surface, without the need for periodic sealing. Quartz also comes in an array of beautiful designs, including faux-stone patterns, so you can have the look of marble (or granite or soapstone or concrete) without all the upkeep.
2. Black stainless steel
Traditional stainless-steel appliances have endured for so long because they provide the perfect neutral backdrop in so many kitchen design schemes. The downside is the constant wiping of fingerprints, water marks and more. That fact is driving a ton of consumer interest to black stainless steel, especially among younger homeowners with busy families. The material's matte finish makes it virtually smudge-proof, and its soft, warm luster plays well in a range of kitchen styles, from transitional to mid-century modern.
3. Porcelain flooring
Natural wood has been the preferred kitchen flooring material for decades, conferring warmth and beauty throughout millions of homes. But as many of those homeowners will attest, wood floors are highly susceptible to scratching, denting and fading. Enter porcelain tile, a supremely durable material that's also moisture-proof - a bonus in kitchen installations. What's more, porcelain comes in many very convincing faux-wood patterns, from weathered oak to the richest mahogany, so there's no compromise on style.
4. Colored cabinets
The classic white kitchen will never go away completely, but more homeowners have discovered just how much elbow grease goes into maintaining the all-white look. As a result, more people are applying color to their cabinets. The embrace started slowly, with beiges and grays, but we're now seeing deeper blues and greens find their way into the kitchen.
Preferences around cabinet styles are also evolving. Twenty years ago, we saw a lot of ornate designs with raised panels and delicate moldings - all of which trapped grease and grime and were a pain to clean. Today's homeowners are opting for simple, flat-front designs, epitomized by Shaker cabinets, in part because they're so easy to wipe down.
5. Matte finishes
For the same reason black stainless steel is becoming more common, homeowners are choosing low-maintenance matte finishes for their kitchen faucets, cabinet hardware and light fixtures. Smudge-resistant brushed nickel is particularly common on faucets, though more and more are choosing matte black to coordinate with their black stainless-steel appliances. Homeowners who are going for the popular mixed-metal look might do lighting fixtures or cabinet hardware in an oil-rubbed bronze finish. It requires a bit more upkeep, but most people are OK with that, provided the rest of the kitchen is super easy to clean and maintain.
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