Feature Article /
Jan 27, 2021

What Homeowners Want From Their Kitchens in 2021

kitchen home interior design

Kitchen by Renaissance Homes | Photo: Diana Sell Photography

Houzz says its 2021 Kitchen Trends Study may be a result of adapting spaces to fit new needs, but how does this homeowner study compare to a residential professional survey?

COVID-19 related trends made a big impact, according to Houzz’s report. Those trends include expanded storage, changes in floor plans, and an outdoor connection. This remains in-line with the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s (NKBA) 2021 kitchen design trends report.

NKBA predicts outdoor living to continue its popularity throughout the next few years, in addition to the demand for increased kitchen storage. Where NKBA’s report surveyed architects, interior designers, manufacturers, and other professionals, Houzz’s report surveyed 2,014 American homeowners who recently renovated their kitchens or are in the midst of planning a renovation.

But Houzz respondents opted to call on residential professionals for the majority of their kitchen renovation projects, according to the survey. A whopping 85% of homeowners surveyed said they hired a professional.


kitchen island trends 2021

Kitchen by Renaissance Homes | Photo: Diana Sell Photography

Most Popular Kitchen Upgrades

Fewer homeowners seem to be embarking on entire kitchen redesigns. When it comes to renovations, a homeowner is most likely to focus on their countertops and backsplash, according to the Houzz report. Due to the attention countertops and backsplashes are getting in comparison to other kitchen features, one can assume that these are most important to homeowners or presumed to have the most impact in the space.

Other features, such as sinks and faucets, have solid interest, but the number of those upgrades are dwindling. Sink upgrades remain important, but it experienced a 2% drop from 2020 to 2021. The same goes for upgrading a faucet, interior doors, and wall finishes. 

Upgrades for light fixtures and all appliances are decreasing the most. Both features saw a drop of 5% from 2020 to 2021. Houzz says homeowners appear to be scaling back the scope of their kitchen projects.

Appliances may be seeing less interest due to supply chain issues brought on by the pandemic. Manufacturers have been experiencing much greater lead times due to global supply chain issues but also an unprecedented surge in demand.

A Best Buy spokesperson told The Baltimore Sun that appliances have been the largest drivers of sales for the company in the second quarter of 2020. Consumer Reports acknowledged the appliance shortage as well last month, noting that good prices and deals on appliances are hard to come by nowadays.

Appliances often can be the most expensive upgrades. Although the average spending on a kitchen remodel has remained the same during the last three years, according to Houzz’s numbers, the money saved on appliance upgrades are most likely being put elsewhere.


kitchen trends 2021 houzz

Kitchen by Todd Hallett, TK Design & Associates | Photo: Alex Norris, MI Real Estate Photography


Changes in Kitchen Layouts

The NKBA’s study differs greatly from Houzz’s results on the kitchen size. More than 80% of residential construction professionals surveyed said they predict an increase in the sizes of kitchens in the future, up to 50% larger. Professionals surveyed also said that the removal of walls will be needed to increase a kitchen’s size and layout. 

But Houzz’s study found only 26% of renovated kitchen projects included increasing the size of the kitchen, a 3% drop from 2020’s study. The grand majority—67%—of homeowners kept their kitchens about the same size. Only 10% of NKBA respondents said kitchens will remain the same size.

The pandemic may be influencing the popularity of open floor plans as well. In open floor plans, kitchens, living rooms, and dining rooms are often unrestricted by walls. Only 43% of homeowners surveyed said they opted to open their kitchen to other interiors—a 10% drop compared to 2019 numbers.

But homeowners do want to bask in the great outdoors, even in their kitchens. A biophilic theme emerged last year as more Americans looked to nature as an escape. Some homeowners are choosing to utilize their kitchens as an outdoor/indoor space, with 22% of respondents changing their kitchen layout to be more open to the outdoors, a 2% increase from 2020. The majority of homeowners opening kitchens to the outdoors are doing so by using double doors or a row of doors. Overall, homeowners appear to be renovating kitchen layouts for an for L-shape with islands that are only partially open to other interiors.


walk in pantry design

Messy kitchen/Pantry by Renaissance Homes | Photo: Diana Sell Photography

Kitchen Storage Design Trends

Homeowners want more storage, so they are utilizing islands, walk-in pantries, and cabinet additions to do so. Houzz’s study found 46% of homeowners upgraded their pantry cabinets, a 3% rise from 2019. But 13% of homeowners decided to add a walk-in pantry, up 10% from last year.

The Wall Street Journal noted a luxury pantry frenzy, fueled by pantry tours from celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian, and organizational shows such as The Home Edit. The majority of homes nowadays are being constructed with walk-in pantries already, according to a 2019 survey from the National Association of Home Builders. 

For those homeowners who decided to do a partial cabinet upgrade, the majority decided to refinish the exterior. Fewer homeowners are opting to replace some of their cabinets, with 28% adding more cabinets, a 20% increase from 2020’s survey.

By far, projects that included cabinet upgrades also included the installation of specialty storage, such as a pullout waste or recycling bin, cookie sheet organizer, and a spices organizer.



marble kitchen island design 2021

Kitchen by Kimberly Timmons Interiors (KTI)Bassenian | Lagoni ArchitectShea Homes | Photo: Eric Lucero Photography

Kitchen Island Design Trends

Fifty-five percent of kitchen renovations included the addition or upgrade of a kitchen island. Nearly all of those who renovated their islands decided to add some storage. Fewer homeowners want islands that have cabinets with doors. Instead, it’s all about drawer storage now.

Kitchen cabinets are still predominantly white, but more homeowners are adding a pop of color with contrasting island cabinets. The top colors for island cabinets are blue and gray, and 41% of homeowners who renovated or added an island went for some sort of contrast.

The same goes for island countertops. Although not as many homeowners wanted a different countertop on their island than their main counters, 25% still went for a contrast. White, just like cabinets, remains the most popular color, but multicolored countertops trail only by 9%.

While butcher block can be difficult to maintain for a full kitchen, some homeowners still want that natural wood look, so it’s a popular choice for kitchen islands.

These color trends align with NKBA’s trend report, which identified whites and off whites to be the top color scheme for the next three years. Grays, beiges, and blues were the most popular color schemes after whites, according to the professionals surveyed.


modern kitchen design inspo
Kitchen by Sweenor BuildersDigs Design Company | Photo: Greg Premu Photography

Kitchen Product and Material Trends for 2021

Homeowners who responded to Houzz’s survey said full coverage backsplashes, quartz countertops, and dishwasher upgrades were most important to them.

Full coverage backsplashes, where the backsplash reaches up to the upper cabinets or range hood, were the most popular type of backsplash. Projects that utilized partial coverage and backsplashes up to the ceiling were minimal. And for those backsplashes, homeowners mostly chose ceramic and porcelain tiles, likely due to the materials’ durability and appearance.

Quartz countertops, also noted for its wide variety of styles and strength, has been the most popular upgraded countertop material for the past three years. In Houzz’s 2020 kitchen design report, homeowners opted for quartz 51% of the time. That dropped down to 40% in 2021.

Rising costs of quartz is most likely to blame for this. Houzz notes that the rising cost of engineered quartz comes from increased tariffs from Chinese imports. Still, the NKBA overwhelmingly believes quartz to be the most popular countertop material, according to 78% of surveyed professionals. 

Another big difference to NKBA’s 2021 kitchen design trend report is the popularity of hardwood flooring. Half of professionals surveyed said hardwood or engineered wood would be the most popular flooring for the next few years. Only 23% of homeowners chose hardwood flooring, a 6% drop from 2020. The NKBA’s second most popular choice was luxury vinyl plank, which was even less popular with homeowners, yet it did grow in popularity by 5% from 2020 to 2021.

The top three most upgraded appliances in kitchen renovations are dishwashers, refrigerators/freezers, and microwaves. More than 70% of projects that included an appliance upgrade chose to refresh one or all of these appliances.

Caroline Broderick

Caroline Broderick is the associate editor of PRODUCTS.

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