High Performance Countertop.jpg

You’ve probably been spending a lot more time at home in recent months, and chances are, the kitchen has become one of your main hangouts. Perhaps you’ve noticed a few things that are lacking — either in how the space looks or how it functions. Whether you’re considering a full remodel or are eager to tackle a few problem areas, local kitchen remodeling and design experts are ready to help. Here’s their take on what’s trending:


Demand for remodeling projects, in particular those related to the kitchen, are on the rise. “What might have been a plan for the future is becoming a plan for now,” says Ashley Noethe, designer for Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale. “Kitchens are always on people’s minds, but when you are using it exponentially, the pain points are more obvious.” 

Kristin Petro, owner of Kristin Petro Interiors in Elmhurst, agrees. “When people call me now, there is almost a sense of frustration — they want a space that feels larger, less crowded. And the last number of months have put a lot of wear on our kitchens because of increased usage.” 

Using a space more frequently provides the opportunity to take an inventory of what you need, and today’s homeowners are placing a greater value on how the kitchen functions than ever before. 

Hannah Bond, a designer for Slaten Residential in St. Charles, has observed that people are seeking expanded pantries and large drawers for tucking away items to cut down on clutter. “People are going back to cooking and family dinners,” she says. “For a very long time, the trend was more aesthetic, but now people want a countertop where they can roll out their homemade bread or kids can do schoolwork.” 

Gail Drury, owner and creative director at Drury Design in Glen Ellyn, says that islands with workstations for children and built-in charging drawers for electronic devices and computers have also become frequent requests of late. 


Ted Kawczynski, president of The Kitchen Master in Naperville, says that the pandemic has also had an impact on kitchen design. “Health and safety are the watchwords everywhere we go. But nowhere are they more important than in our kitchens,” he observes. 

He notes that many new product introductions are geared toward helping maintain a healthy kitchen, including cabinetry that can be built with a surface material that is not only scratch- and wear-resistant but also has antibacterial properties. Other health-minded products include stainless steel sinks and quartz composite blend sinks made with a special type of silver ion that is antibacterial. 

There are also ozone-water faucets that claim to kill viruses, bacteria, mold, yeast and algae for an ecologically safe way to clean food and water-safe surfaces. Even powerful range hoods can provide increased ventilation by bringing fresh air into the kitchen. 


From cabinets to range hoods, the pared-down, clean look is very much in evidence. “We are doing more straight-out modern kitchens in traditional west suburban homes,” says Dan McFadden, owner of PB Kitchen Design in Geneva, pointing to a recent project that paired lighter-colored textured laminate cabinetry with boldly patterned black granite on the counters and backsplash as an example. 

“I’m seeing a more contemporary look regardless of the house style,” echoes Bruce George, president of Charles Vincent George Architects in Naperville. This often leads to a shift throughout the home — blending some of the traditional features with the more modern. 

“There’s definitely been a rejection of the more embellished homes,” says George. “Clean lines are almost universal now.”


Brian Hogan, owner of Hogan Design & Construction in Geneva, believes that classic looks, such as white Shaker-style cabinetry, will continue to be a top choice because of their versatility. “It will stand the test of time,” he says, “and can be updated to fit the look and feel of the moment with hardware choices.” 

While white is still a cabinet mainstay, it is being augmented by other hues that carry a softer palette, such as blues and grays. “There is a drive toward colors that are calming and soothing,” Drury observes. 

Touches of dramatic black are making a comeback, from the range hood to the island. “These richer colors are mingling with lighter hues, including bleached or lighter aged wood tones. The practice of pairing lighter perimeter cabinets with a contrasting or colorful island is still in favor, as is mixing painted and stained looks. 


Though painted wood cabinetry has long been the standard, more man-made cabinet materials are coming to the forefront, says Drury, noting that they are very durable and offer the look of exotic woods without the high cost. 

“Non-wood looks, like textured laminate, are an emerging trend and I think we are going to see more of it,” says McFadden. “It’s a higher style and quality of laminate than we have seen in the past.”

Screen Shot 2020-10-24 at 7.25.43 PM.png


While islands obviously make a fitting focal point, oversized hoods, hoods encased in marble or shiplap or even multiple metals are becoming statement pieces in today’s kitchens. Lighting or perhaps a beautiful, on-trend faucet is another great way to make a statement. “Unique pendants, a contemporary chandelier, or a rich metallic faucet will draw the eye and be a great conversation starter,” Hogan says.


Lighting sources are key to making a kitchen look nice and work well. “Lighting makes or breaks a design,” says Drury. “You can have a very expensive kitchen look cheap if the lighting is not right, and you can make an inexpensive kitchen look great with the right lighting.” 

Lighting systems that allow for control of a room’s lighting setup at the push of a button or include motion sensors make life easier and help to conserve electricity. 

While in-cabinet lighting has been around for a while, McFadden says it has become more attainable and is translating into cabinet drawers as well. While it makes it easy to see the drawer contents, it’s more about the aesthetic. “We never see this kind of lighting on somebody’s wish list, but we have it in the showroom and when they see it, they want it,” he notes. 

In new construction and some remodeling projects, extra or larger windows are brightening kitchen spaces with additional natural light. “We are finding that people want to add more windows in the kitchen,” says Petro, “even if that means sacrificing some storage. It gives the space more of an open feel.”


Texture is key, particularly in the backsplash area. “Looking at a backsplash is one thing, but being able to touch it is another. More and more people are experimenting with a textured backsplash, and this is typically seen in a more modern setting,” says Victoria Pelly-Lauer, a designer for Sebring Design Build in Naperville 

While subway or metro tile is still a classic look, longer, leaner versions that include subtle pattern or artisanal texture are coming into play. As an alternative to tile, Hogan suggests whitewashed or painted brick to bring texture to the space. 


Engineered stone, especially quartz, remains the top-selling countertop, and comes in a wide range of colors and styles. “People want surfaces that are beautiful but not vulnerable to staining,” explains Drury. 

But just as pairing cabinet finishes has been popular, a combination of several different countertop materials within a kitchen is a growing trend, and these often feature different thicknesses as well. 

For example, some might use quartz for the perimeter counter and select granite or marble with interesting veining for an island or backsplash. McFadden says some of his clients who seek natural stone are intrigued by quartzite, which is harder than granite and offers an option for an easy-care, yet natural, material.


McFadden says upcycling kitchens with paint and doing partial remodels is another trend. Though not everyone has a layout that works or cabinets of a quality that can be repurposed, he says, those who do may be able to change the look of their kitchen by replacing some key elements and having cabinets repainted. His company has been revisiting projects from the past and working with those clients to refresh their spaces. 

“People are not redoing the whole kitchen but are updating,” says Bond. “I have recently had three projects that involved painting the existing cabinets, getting rid

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.