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Kitchen Design Trends: The Universal Design Kitchen

By on May 14, 2014
Kitchen Design Trends: The Universal Design Kitchen

Kitchen design trends change every year, which is what allows certain trends to come in and out of style every couple of decades. Interested in updating your kitchen but not sure what will allow for the most resale value later on? Here are some trends currently sweeping the kitchen culture that you might think about.

Finishes and Backsplashes

Darker and glazed finishes have been the top design trends so far this year, with dark finishes consuming 55 percent of the kitchen design jobs and glazed finishes increasing from 44 to 48 percent this year. The natural look of wood is still the most popular, as compared to multi-colored or white and black finishes in the kitchen, giving a more at-home country feel to the kitchen. Glass backsplash is also growing dramatically in the last few years. It’s up to 64% this year, overcoming the lead stone tiling had last year. Ceramic and porcelain are still popular as well, but they have decreased in value over the last year or so.

Energy Efficiency

Another major design trend in the kitchen is energy efficiency. Whether it’s with LED lighting or the installation of more windows for natural light, people are making their kitchens greener than they have in past years. They’re buying more energy-efficient appliance with the Department of Energy “Energy Star” rating and designing their kitchen lighting to use less electricity than before. They’re also buying faucets that will use less water, like ones that are touch-activated ones or less pressurized.


Designers are developing kitchens that work for users of all ages and abilities: lefties, righties, grandparents, kids. Chances are you are sharing your kitchen with one or more of these folks. To accommodate this diverse group, designers are cooking up more innovative ways to make kitchens useable by as many types and sizes of people as possible.

Remember the traditional work triangle? When laying out a more accessible plan, designers reduce the distance between any two points (sink, stove and refrigerator), to minimize the lifting and reaching as much as possible. For example, placing a dishwasher or sink closer to the stove results in less lifting of containers and cookware. In addition, raising the oven and dishwasher six inches off the floor can make it easier to transfer food or dishes to the countertop and cuts down on bending. And keep in mind, a path five feet wide is the minimum turning radius needed for most wheelchairs and walkers.

Universal designers adjust proportions to accommodate a child or those in wheelchairs by incorporating foldaway steps under the sink or by lowering cabinets. Sinks can also be built into adjustable countertops and raised or lowered mechanically with the push of a button. Staggering the heights of islands, countertops and cabinets is another way to create a comfortable work area, regardless of the user's size.

You can also add knee space underneath workstations –the counter, island, sink and cooktop. Items such as rollout trays and pull-down cabinets also make storage more accessible for many. Another good idea is to place an angled mirror over the range to allow someone in a sitting position to watch the contents of the pots on the back burner. 

Designers employ open shelving or clear glass doors to display items for the visually impaired. Non-glare, matte-finish countertops with contrasting color edging can help people with diminishing eyesight distinguish where the counter ends. Fortunately, such innovations are becoming easier to find.

Author: Barbara Winfield

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