The average American home has grown over the years, and the kitchen has followed in lockstep. New homes have ballooned from around 1,500 square feet in 1970 to about 2,775 square feet in 2017. Similarly, the kitchen has gone from about 70 square feet in size to just a hair more than 150. And, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 2019 trends survey, many kitchens— especially at the high end of the market—are 350 square feet or larger.
To be fair, a small kitchen in 1970 made sense. The requirements of the space were relatively minimal: people prepared and cooked meals, washed their dishes, and ambled to the fridge for milk. The kitchen wasn’t the cool spot to hang out at parties, it wasn’t the hub of the home, and it wasn’t a place to do homework or write checks (assuming people still do that).
That’s not the case today. Kitchens are bigger because they do more and accommodate more stuff—larger islands, pantries, coffee stations. While wealthy homeowners may not cook all that much, they may still want a large kitchen for the caterers. And partygoers usually end up in the kitchen, so the space needs space.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, though. It’s easy enough to enlarge a kitchen, but more difficult to make it warm and efficient. The truth is: A large kitchen should get the same amount of design rigor as a compact one. Rather than give clients large kitchens that lack soul, give them efficient spaces with trending features.
Which features exactly? According to the NKBA 2019 trends survey, painted maple cabinets in vibrant blues, dark grays, or white are popular. If you’re going with a veneer, walnut and white oak are hot. Refrigerator columns allow designers to separate the freezer and fridge for more flexibility, while clients are looking for accessories such as LED lighting, pullout organizers, and spice racks. And quartz is the fastest-growing countertop surface. Pro tip: Tile is great for the backsplash, but if there’s a spill (and there will be spills) the grout joints can get stained. Consider using large-format tile or running the countertop material all of the way up to the cabinets.
Our design feature this month (pages 12–18) provides three perfect examples of the right way to design and build a large kitchen—and tips for not losing your shirt while doing it.