On Trend: For Kitchens and Bath, Lighter Colors and Spaces, Younger Owners Reign

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While the living room and patio often dominate the discussion of what the Southern California home should look like, the truth is that many potential redesigns begin in the kitchen and the bathroom. The spaces in the home may not soak up the glamor of a hero photo on a real estate listing, but the kitchen and the bathroom are constant touchpoints for those actually living in the home and incredibly important to the quality of life for the homeowner.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association, a New Jersey-based organization that represents the designers, suppliers and artisans that create those spaces, has released its 2022 research report, “NKBA 2022 Design Trends.” Among the fascinating findings gathered: technology, flexibility, sustainability, and cleanliness are proceeding as usual, but pops of color and the naturalistic trends demanded by an increasingly millennial audience are more surprising.

Here are four major trends in kitchens and baths, as found by the NKBA.

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Emerging Technology and Sustainable Living
Expectedly, given the meteoric rise among smart technologies being integrated into the home, technologic marvels are making their way into the kitchen and bath. Congruent with that trend, sustainable, energy-saving features are almost universally requested by those looking to update their plumbed spaces. Among respondents, nearly all were excited about tech-integrated kitchen features, with 31% of those specifically requesting integrated, app-based appliances, 24% looking for touchless faucets, and 18% asking for LED lighting that is voice-controlled. This trend continues in the bath, with spaces linked to smartphone technology for heating and cooling, LED lighting, and even more uncommon uses. Said one polled designer, “New bathroom trends will be related to technology: voice-activated lights, mirrors that hook up to Bluetooth ... intelligent toilets, voice-control showers and mood lighting.”

With this comes a push for sustainability, both from increased concern for the environment and the potential over-time cost savings. A sizable percentage - 79% of homeowners - requested 100% LED lighting included in their projects, and over half wanted dedicated spaces for recycling. A plurality of respondents also requested Energy Star-rated appliances for both the kitchen and bath (e.g., ventilation) and were looking for energy- efficient water heaters like tankless models.

Flexible Kitchens Are a Must
With so many lives shifting to being at home more often, many respondents to the NKBA survey, both customers and designers, predicted that more flexible spaces would be a demand in kitchen spaces over the next three years. Beyond eating meals and food preparation, 59% of those asked requested space in the kitchen to do schoolwork or work-from-home tasks. As homeowners - especially busy millennial parents with young children - try to juggle work-from-home, cooking, hybrid schooling and other unprecedented changes due to the ongoing pandemic, flexibility is key.

Not all flexibility trends err toward the minutiae of day-to-day life, however. Some exciting trends are occurring in kitchens with flexible storage and multi-use spaces for food prep. For example, 64% of respondents wanted a dedicated coffee center in or around their pantry, and over 67% requested an area for small appliances in the pantry, easing food prep and storage by centralizing it.

A Refreshing Pop of Color
On trend for the next three years is adding color to the kitchen and bathroom. While the last ten years have seen kitchens and baths laid out in stark white with industrial inspired highlights (think white subway tile and copious stainless steel), experts at NKBA see this trend reversing and colors appearing in these spaces.

The big winner in these highlight colors? Green, says the survey. Green walls, tiles, cabinet faces and even artwork will make a big splash in kitchen and cabinet designs for 2022 and beyond. Not to be outdone, other cool colors like blues and grays will be introduced more thoroughly, and light wood grains will make their way back into the kitchen, both in natural wood surfaces and luxury vinyl plank flooring.

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Seamless Connection to the Home
These trends dovetail into a larger trend among Southern California homes in general - a connection with the natural spaces surrounding the home and a more organic feel to living. With the greens and natural surfaces of the forest echoed in the kitchen and bath, a more naturalistic form to the once-stark rooms is connecting the spaces with the home, and the lush land surrounding it. 57% of respondents requested “organic and natural” spaces, up from last year and pushed heavily by Millennials.

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More than half of respondents also wished to open their kitchens and baths to more natural light, bringing more of the outside in through large windows, skylights, and doors. This trend is echoed in the bathroom with larger windows, skylights and solar tube technologies. In some more ambitious designs, bathrooms are even being connected to balconies for a spa-like luxury experience and a moment to take in the outdoor world before beginning the day.

In a place like L.A., with year-round beauty and world-class vistas, why not?