The Latest Trends for Kitchens and Bathrooms

An interview with kitchen & bathroom design trend analyst, Ellen Cheever

Credit: Ellen Cheever

The latest trend in design include live-in kitchens

Ellen Cheever is one of the leading design trend analysts in the world of kitchens and bathrooms. As anyone who has undertaken a home renovation knows, this is a tricky, complicated world. Ellen effortlessly combines demanding technical aspects with elegant aesthetics, all in harmony with on-trend designs. She’s based in Delaware, but over 37 years has graced homes, showrooms, tradeshows and editorial sets all across North America with her indelible style and product mastery.

She’s also charming, articulate, and clearly passionate about her field. In a phone interview, Ellen shared some of her favourite tips and trends for creating stylish yet functional kitchens and bathrooms.

Top Tips and Trends

  • Live-in Kitchens: “This is the biggest rend now… the integration between kitchen space and adjacent living spaces,” Ellen advises. Instead of creating kitchens that are tucked into the corner of a larger space, they’re now taking centre stage, sometimes with 360 degrees of access. Formal dining rooms and hallways are eliminated and, instead, one large table integrated into the kitchen is used.
  • Compact Living: “Get rid of free-standing tables and chairs!” This is Ellen’s biggest tip for both saving space and anchoring a room with a strong, modern design element. Instead, use a banquette against a wall with normal dining chairs on the other side of the table. This alone can save you up to 36″ of space.

Another favourite space-saving concept and one that’s extremely popular with younger consumers is to attach a 30” high table-top to the end of the island where people can sit and eat, creating a split-level surface for multi-purposes without any wasted space.

Ellen also notes that folding and stacking chairs are much more sophisticated these days and can act as proper dining chairs when the family’s over for a large meal, but then can be tucked away easily when not in use.

  • Safety: Spaces that are safe and accessible for everyone are becoming more of a priority. Induction stoves, because they don’t use traditional heat coils or an open flame (so the cooktop remains cool) are a popular alternative for those who are worried about young children or older adults getting burned. Also, safety grab bars in bathrooms are becoming increasingly prevalent and more stylish, as are integrated benches and foot rests in showers and bathtubs.
  • Bathtubs and Showers: The biggest change here is either installing a smaller tub or eliminating it altogether.  The preference, it seems, is for a well-designed beautiful shower room that offers features such as rejuvenating, high-power multi-jets, or perhaps a steam option.
  • Bathroom Vanities: Remember when you first saw a double-sink vanity in a private home and thought it was revolutionary? The trend now is to actually separate the vanities to create completely personalize areas for each person using the bathroom. For women, this might mean more surface area on the vanity for beauty products and more drawers for hair implements, styling products and makeup. For men, they might prefer a larger, wider sink for shaving, and open shelves for easy access to extra towels and grooming accessories.
  • Go Go Gadget: Technological advances for the home are constantly being improved upon and prices keep coming down – like for induction cooktops. Another relatively new product to consider is man-made quartz for countertops, which is far superior to marble, soapstone, wood or limestone because it’s impervious, so it doesn’t require sealing and there’s no worry about food safety or contamination. Also, appliances such as ventilation fans and dishwashers are becoming more energy efficient and quieter than even just a generation ago. And one of Ellen’s favourite appliances (and something she has in her own home) is the Jenn-Air multi-function microwave, which can be programmed to cook quickly via microwave, then circulate air with convection, and finally brown with a broiler – all in one compact unit.
  • Try, Try Again: Ellen’s final tip is emphatic: try before you buy. Don’t just buy based on photos, specs, reviews or price. Always ask if it’s possible to see the product and ideally get a demo. Many stores have showrooms now and should be able to accommodate this request. This is especially important is you’re using products that are new to you, which is common during a renovation. For example, check the shower head to ensure you get the pressure and variety of streams you want; if you’re switching from gas to induction, bring some pots and pans to make sure they’re compatible and heat up in a manner that works with your style of cooking; and check that the ventilation fan when you turn it on doesn’t sound like fighter aircraft taking off.

To hear more about Ellen Cheever’s ideas on live-in kitchens and compact living, join her on Thursday, 9 February 2012, from 10am to 12pm. She’ll be presenting a seminar at BUILDEX, one of Canada’s largest tradeshow and conference for those interested in design, construction and real estate management.