The top must-have kitchen feature of 2020 is (drum roll, please) the kitchen island.
Nearly two-thirds of renovated kitchens include an island, according to a recent survey from design and remodeling site Houzz. The site surveyed nearly 2,600 homeowners who are planning, in the middle of, or just finished a kitchen project.
Granted, kitchen islands have been hot for a while. But these days, many homeowners are making them into statement pieces through shape and color. About 39% of folks create a focal point by contrasting the colors of the island’s cabinets with the cabinets against the walls of the kitchen. About a quarter opted for gray hues, while a fifth chose blue colors, and one-tenth went for black. Black butcher tops and built-in appliances such as microwaves, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and cooktops were also popular for the islands, which can be L- or U-shaped.
“We’ve always known that kitchen islands are popular. What’s surprising here is just how big and elaborate the islands are,” says Houzz Principal Economist Nino Sitchinava. “From storage [to] lighting to cabinetry design to colors to appliances in the island, everything screams higher-end design. It’s definitely a focal point in the kitchen.”
All of those features cost money, so it’s no surprise that homeowners’ remodeling budgets have gone up. They spent a median $35,000 on a major kitchen renovation in mid-2019, up 17% from a year earlier. That’s mostly due to the high and rising prices of custom products and materials, says Sitchinava.
“Kitchens are the most expensive room to renovate,” she says.
And those higher costs are despite the fact that fewer folks (46%) last year were opening up their kitchens to other rooms. Just 46% opted to rearrange the layout, while 35% prioritized adding more square footage. The remodelers were also slightly less likely to upgrade countertops and sinks.
About 85% are shelling out some dough on hiring the professionals to do the work. But the remodels are a lot less extensive as they’ve been in previous years.
The top interior kitchen styles were transitional, contemporary, and modern. Meanwhile, farmhouse, which was all the rage for a hot minute, appears to be over. It peaked at 14% in 2018 and then fell to 11% last year.
“Farmhouse had been growing for three years at a very rapid pace. Farmhouse is very distinct, with wooden elements and some cast-iron elements in chairs and furniture,” says Sitchinava. “Transitional and contemporary styles don’t have distinct elements. They borrow from other trends that might emerge. They’re more hybrid styles that reflect the styles of today.”
When it comes to backsplashes, white designs led the pack, followed by multicolored and gray. The most daring homeowners, about 11%, are extending their backsplashes to the ceiling. The majority, 63%, are taking them up only to their upper cabinets or the range hood above their stoves.
White cabinets also remained popular with about 45% of remodelers. Medium wood-tone cabinets were next, at 11%, followed by gray, at 10%, multicolored, at 7%, and light wood tones, at 6%.
“While there’s so much movement in style, there’s little movement in color. The dominant colors are still neutral colors,” says Sitchinava. “Homeowners tend to be a little more conservative.”
Hardwood floors reigned supreme, with 29% of remodelers choosing the natural flooring, with ceramic or porcelain tile coming in close behind, at 23%. The latter is more durable than wood and can look nearly identical to wood or stone.
The big surprise was that vinyl flooring, seen as tacky by some, is on the rise. About 14% of homeowners picked it out for their kitchen remodels.
“Vinyl is a really interesting material. It’s extremely durable, but with new innovations it can now take any color, any pattern, any texture of any other material. It can look like tile, stone, or hardwood,” Sitchinava says. “But it doesn’t crack, it doesn’t break, so it can last an eternity—and it comes at a very affordable price point.”
High-tech appliances fell a bit out of favor with homeowners. Just a quarter of major appliances (e.g., refrigerator or stove/oven) were high-tech—compared with 30% last year. Meanwhile about 51% of faucets were high-tech with increased efficiency, a no-fingerprint coating, or touch-free activity—versus 57% the previous year.