What’s Cooking in Kitchens

By Diane White McNaughton

Alfred Hitchcock may not be the preeminent spokesperson on a beautiful home (think the dive-bombing feathered friends-turned-enemies in “The Birds”), but he knew that “Happiness is a small house, with a big kitchen.” 

Fill that kitchen with friends, family, love—and, of course—delectable food, and your home is indeed a home sweet home. That’s why every house party seems to begin and end in the kitchen.

A kitchen is not just a room; it’s a feeling. 

Verna Lenker and her husband Gary appreciate the importance of a warm and welcoming kitchen. They often entertain their large circle of friends in their Susquehanna Township home. Verna readily admits that Gary is a far better cook than she is. But more than knowing intricate recipes for a five-course gourmet meal, Gary, as a long-time home builder, and Verna, as a decorating fashionista, both pay special attention to home design and hot trends. 

While Verna and Gary were often dining out at popular local hot spots or at the elegant homes of their friends, pre-pandemic, they love their own kitchen, especially after baking up their own mini-kitchen renovation this year.

Verna wanted not only pretty, but practical. The Lenkers added a new island, with pendant lighting above it, and enhanced it with a new built-in island refrigerator for all those space-consuming beverages. 

Their main new refrigerator is stainless steel, with a black see-through front with double doors, and a French drawer at the bottom. 

For artistic accents, their backsplash sports shades of tan and cream, and a decorative painting of leaves and fruits arches across their crystal-clear bay window. 

Dark wood cabinets provide ample storage in the island, contrasting white cabinets hug the walls, and silver pendant lights above the island with teardrop lanterns provide light and warmth.

The island’s beverage fridge is set at a steady 56 degrees—the perfect temperature for those Chardonnays and Pinot Grigios.

“What makes it special is that our kitchen has always been the gathering place for everything that goes on in our house. It is the center of everything,” Verna says. “Everyone says it is such a fun place to gather and talk.”

She downplays her magazine-worthy kitchen’s luxury. “Our kitchen is really just a big room with a bar and a big TV, a double oven, my desk, the island and my new fridge.” A large window overlooks the deck and pool.  

While the role of the kitchen has never changed, its appearance certainly has. Whether you want a farmhouse-kitchen look, French cottage, sleek contemporary, vintage 60’s, or rustic campfire vibe, your kitchen is a reflection of your tastes—literally. 

One emerging trend involves the choice between contrast and cohesion in colors and appliances. 

Shelly Greene, a kitchen and bath designer at Swartz Supply’s Harrisburg location, says, “A trend that I am seeing fade away is full-on white kitchens. I feel like families are wanting to warm up their homes to make them look more inviting.”

She adds, “I see them doing this by mixing colors and textures, such as pairing the white cabinets that everyone loves with a neutral stained wood tone and a countertop that pairs both those colors and textures together.

“I do still think islands are in,” she continues. “People want these for larger work areas, eating space, or gathering spaces. A trend that I have seen in kitchens with islands are people are two-toning the island to be a separate color from their perimeter cabinets, whether that is a pop of color or a neutral wood tone.”

But the stainless steel look may be fading faster than the scent of your early morning coffee. 

“Each appliance manufacturer has their own version of stainless steel, which is still popular, but I do not think that it is the most popular anymore,” Greene says. “I have seen many customers go for matte black, black stainless or even matte white appliances. I know white appliances are back!”

Customizing hardware also allows homeowners to add their own added touch. “You can even get appliances to have matching hardware to the rest of the kitchen. Hardware trends are tending to be more minimalistic in the color tones of champagne bronze, black, chrome and satin nickel,” Greene says.

She also sees big changes in pantries.

“One trend is a walk-in pantry with a slider barn door for the entrance. Another trend is completely hiding the entrance to the walk-in pantry within the wall of cabinetry. This will appear to be just a normal pantry cabinet that opens into a walkway in the hidden walk-in pantry room.”

Greene says the COVID-19 lockdown has inspired many kitchen remodels, as families take the money they saved on travel and restaurants and redirected it to the things they have always wanted to change in their home.  Some changes are for functionality, and others, for aesthetic reasons. 

HGTV.com notes that kitchen trends include two-toned color combinations, like dark stone-gray cabinets, a subway tile backsplash, and white counters. Other trends include herringbone in flooring and tile backsplashes, along with multi-level islands. 

Another fun choice are statement stools at the island, like contemporary blue upholstered backless seating and leopard print.

Marble is also a growing choice.  Marble backsplashes, especially coveted in white or black, add a touch of elegance and royal flair.

Delicate pendant lights above the island are also a big trend, as the Lenkers knew.

Gold hardware and statement hoods, such as copper vent hoods, are also an up-and-coming fashion. 

Wayfair.com sees today’s trends including:

1. Natural textures. Organic materials like stone, slate, and wood are having a moment, in the backsplash, wall paneling, and arches over doorways.

2. Concealed hoods. Range hoods can be eyesores if they are not hidden. Decorators can match hoods with the backsplash to create a more pleasing aesthetic.

3. Floor-to-ceiling storage. This tall space eliminates clutter. Pots, pans, oversized platters, and all that Tupperware can have a huge, hidden home.

4. Waterfall islands, and

5. Marble-clad surfaces. 

Laura Stumpf, of Creative Designs Kitchens and Baths of Lebanon, says the biggest trend she sees now is the Shaker Style door. 

“Over the past few years, I have had client after client asking for these picture-frame style doors, so they are here to stay. Adding color to a kitchen is also becoming more and more popular, as well as two-toned kitchens, whether it be a statement dark island or bright wall cabinets and a deep blue base. Color is even being added into hardware as I see more and more people leaning towards the black or brushed gold hardware to add that statement into their kitchen!

“Some more common things coming to light are floating shelves, natural tones and contrasting countertops,” she says.

Fromm Electric sales representatives note that COVID-19 has disrupted many supply chains, including those for appliances, often leading to months-long delays in securing the appliance of your choice. Freezers, especially, have seen higher demand as consumers look to keep stocked up on food at home to avoid frequent runs to the grocery store.

Still, when that new countertop, light fixture or beverage fridge finally arrives, that new accent can heat up your kitchen and let you cook with spice like never before.  A COVID-19 kitchen makeover can be a true feast for your eyes, and just what the doctor ordered.