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Features on a new model car?

Kristina Phillips in the remodeled kitchen of her Ridgewood home. The kitchen features Shaker-style cabinets that have flat, clean lines. The microwave? It's below the counter. "I just didn't want to see it," she says.

Peter Rymwid
A kitchen in Englewood completed last summer by Peter Salerno Inc. contains many of the elements trending this year: island seating, Caesarstone quartz countertop, white cabinets with Shaker doors, a ceiling fixture featuring Mason jars, and a backsplash of glass and porcelain tile.

Kristina Phillips in the remodeled kitchen of her Ridgewood home. The kitchen features Shaker-style cabinets that have flat, clean lines. The microwave? It's below the counter. "I just didn't want to see it," she says.

Creative Kitchen & Bath
A Wyckoff kitchen done in 2014 by Creative Kitchen & Bath showcases the trends breaking this year: quartz countertops and a marble backsplash.

No — some of the hot design trends for kitchens in 2015.

Softer colors such as gray hues and white and Shaker-style cabinets have been bubbling up for the past couple of years and are among the top wants in new kitchen designs. Backsplashes are playing a big role, as are more informal seating and charging stations in the kitchen. And try looking up: Ceilings are increasingly standing out in the design mix.

French country-style kitchens? Adieu.

Microwaves? Better if you can’t see them.

Granite countertops? Been there.

“The buzzword is ‘transitional’ — a combination of traditional and contemporary,” says Peter Salerno of Peter Salerno Inc., based in Wyckoff, a high-end kitchen and bath designer.

Maria Stapperfenne, president of the Hackettstown-based National Kitchen & Bath Association, agrees. Customers “want clean simple lines, they want easy to maintain, they want universal design features in the kitchen.”

The trends are driven by a mix of customer wants, innovations by manufacturers and their engagement with the design community.

“All you need is one manufacturer to produce something in a unique color and before you know it, it starts to develop and carries across the country,” says Peter Albanese, owner of Creative Kitchen and Bath in Wayne.

And consumers are well-versed on what’s in the marketplace through online research and social media, websites like Pinterest and the home remodeling and design site Houzz, and television shows like those on HGTV.

“Everyone does so much research before they come in,” Albanese says.

When Kristina Phillips moved into her Ridgewood home about a decade ago, she inherited a kitchen with traditional basic cabinets and in need of an update.

After making cosmetic changes, the family embarked on a complete kitchen renovation project, enlisting Carr to design it, and completed the project last summer, she says.

“We did our research extensively and knew exactly what we wanted when we finally pulled the trigger,” Phillips says.

The new kitchen has several of the elements trending this year, such as an island that offers seating, multiples of appliances — in this case, three dishwashers — and white-painted cabinetry against gray walls.

Although the home has a formal dining room, Phillips says the island is a gathering spot.

This time around, Phillips also wanted to avoid having a lot of hanging cabinets, preferring to have storage lower to give the kitchen a more open feel. The Shaker-style cabinets have flat, clean lines and the microwave has been bumped to below the counter.

“I just didn’t want to see it,” she says.

Among the top trends reported by National Kitchen & Bath Association members in their 2015 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends report:

  • Clean with a contemporary feel.
  • European-styled cabinets.
  • Multiples of appliances.
  • Steam ovens.
  • Outdoor kitchens.
  • Furniture-look pieces.
  • Fewer standard kitchen tables.
  • TVs and docking stations.
  • Wine refrigerators.
  • Focus on user experience, from easy maintenance to accessible design.

“Gray is king of the colors this year,” says Stapperfenne, who is also the manager of Tewksbury Kitchens & Baths. Following are blues, she adds, which are coming back into the kitchen mainstream.

Soft white also is extremely popular, says Albanese, with people also starting to go back to adding a splash of bold, bringing in bright primary colors of red or blue as an accent.

Many designers consider cabinets the foundation of the kitchen, but both form and function are getting updates.

Detailed cabinetry of previous years has evolved into sleeker, more contemporary designs. Raised panel cabinet doors are giving way to flat-door or Shaker-style cabinets.

Painted cabinets are the No. 1 cabinet choice, and white paint is the most popular finish, Stapperfenne says. Dark wood stains also are a trending choice for cabinets.

Cabinet styles are marrying modern with traditional, says Rose Marie Carr, owner of Kitchens by Rose in Ramsey. In designing their kitchens, customers are looking for a cabinet layout that is more family-friendly, with more emphasis on making better use of existing cabinet space to organize storage, with pullouts and rollouts for cabinets, and customized interiors.

“Storage solutions are big,” Albanese says. “People are recognizing the functionality of the cabinets and maximizing storage.”

With kitchens very much a gathering place for families and for entertaining, designers say customers are opting for things like banquette seating, pub-height tables and island seating instead of a traditional table and chairs.

“People are cooking and entertaining in their kitchen,” Salerno says. “If you have a place for them to sit, it ends up becoming part of the experience.”

And the backsplash, often recognized solely for its role in protecting the wall from stains, is stepping out. Dated are 4-by-4 tile backsplashes. Designers are mixing it up with colors, tile sizes and textures.

Backsplashes can be the accent piece of a kitchen design, Albanese says.

Shapes and materials are evolving, says Salerno, who has incorporated items such as leather, coconut shells, antique mirrors or reclaimed tin ceilings into the backsplash. In this way, the backsplash “becomes a piece of art,” he says.

Solid is in fashion

As for kitchen countertops, quartz is now the material of choice. With a marble-like appearance, designers cite its color consistency and say it’s more durable than granite and competitive in price.

“With a sleeker-looking kitchen design, people are very minimalistic. They don’t want a lot of movement to their counters anymore,” opting for a solid countertop, Albanese says.

Ceilings also are getting in on the act.

Salerno says he uses ceiling details over islands to accentuate and magnify the room, noting one design that incorporated a lighting fixture featuring 36 Mason jars over an island.

“I believe in using five walls: four walls and the ceiling,” Salerno says. “Ceilings have been ignored for so long.”

Appeal of steam ovens

Carr says the increase in ceiling designs has included beams, coffered ceilings, certain lighting or tin, with an emphasis on adding more embellishment to the ceiling and less on the cabinets.

“It brings your eye up,” Carr says.

And move over, ovens and microwaves: Steam ovens are on the rise, spurred by the healthy benefits of cooking with steam, according to the survey. Another on the must-do list: built-in warming drawers.

As for the microwave, customers are opting for microwave drawers or placing them lower and under counters.

The cost of a complete kitchen design and renovation can average between $50,000 to $60,000, designers say. For high-end kitchens such as those designed by Salerno, the cost can be from $80,000 to $150,000.

While the majority of customers opt for a total renovation, some decide to make spot changes to refresh their kitchens: changing the countertops and backsplash, replacing hardware or painting cabinets.

“That’s a nice way to keep costs down,” Stapperfenne says.

Despite the costs, designers say they see an upswing in renovations.

“For 2015, people are starting to remodel again, Albanese says.

Until this point, people have been looking to update, such as painting cabinets or updating hardware, he says. But “confidence is up in the economy again and we will see more and more people deciding to remodel.”

“People are a little bit more confident and they’re making the plunge,” Carr says.

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