Five Kitchen Trends That Should Die in 2020

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credit: 1961 Hotpoint kitchen

After another site makes a list, we add our own suggestions.

There are a couple of things that make me crazy about modern kitchen designs. Perhaps the biggest is the open kitchen, which I have been complaining about forever. Now Kitchn, the food site from Apartment Therapy, lists 9 kitchen design trends that will disappear in 2020, many of which have been on my lists of things to hate for years. They say "kitchen design, like fashion and other home decor, usually follows trends that come and go. One minute avocado-green refrigerators are cool, and the next they’re incredibly dated. Ditto: linoleum flooring."

Fidgidair ad from sixties

James Vaughan/Flickr/CC BY 2.0I would respond that good kitchen design is timeless, that even my late mother-in-law's kitchen with its brown appliances was still great because it was so well designed and laid out. And I still have 35 year old linoleum floors in my kitchen. Many of these are not superficial trends about style, but about operations, health and safety, and efficiency. Take my favorite bête noir, the open kitchen; they write:

Open-Concept Kitchens

credit: Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen 1926

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen 1926/CC BY 2.0

People used to be all about knocking down walls and opening up ALL THE SPACE. Now, we see the error of our ways and we want our walls back. People have gotten tired of looking at piles of dirty dishes while they sit on the couch, or putting their heads on throw pillows that smell like last night’s dinner.

Hurrah! But there are many other reasons. I have noted in the past that small, separate kitchens were developed in the thirties to give women freedom. The Frankfurt Kitchen, designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky “was to be used quickly and efficiently to prepare meals and wash up, after which the housewife would be free to return to ... her own social, occupational or leisure pursuits."

50s kitchen

James Vaughan on Flickr/CC BY 2.0

But after the Second World War, things changed, and a woman's place was back in the kitchen, often with a breakfast area, and then open. I wrote:

In the fifties any thoughts like those of Christine Fredericks or Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, where women would be freed from kitchen responsibilities were pretty much extinguished by the baby boom, as the woman's job once again became cooking for dad and feeding the kids.

There are also now questions of air quality and health, and it has been suggested that open kitchens make you fat. I once told an interviewer: "I have a separate dining room and it means sitting down to eat is a conscious decision. The family has meals together, no grazing." It takes an SUV to fill a fridge these days, and you could probably park it in there along with the food.

Marble counters

credit: Formica

Formica/Public Domain

Let us clarify — we’re talking about the actual stone, not the look of marble. With its unique striations and coloring, it will forever look good in a kitchen or bathroom. Real marble countertops come with a lot of issues, though. They need to be resealed every few years; can scratch, chip, or stain; and are porous so heat and even certain cleaners be problematic if used incorrectly. The reason for its exit? There are more durable options available — like quartz, butcher block, or even granite.
credit: Lloyd Alter/ Caesarstone counter with Jasper on bed

Lloyd Alter/ Caesarstone counter with Jasper on bed/CC BY 2.0

Actually, granite has the same problems of needing sealing as marble, and is sometimes radioactive. And butcher block? Seriously high maintenance, which is why people stopped doing wooden counters a hundred years ago. Quartz, like the Caesarstone I have in my house, is really just plastic resin full of ground up rocks; it is really a plastic countertop. That's why for years I have kept coming back to plastic laminates – just paper and a much smaller bit of resin with a pretty picture printed on top, and the cheapest counter you can buy.

All-white kitchens

credit: Xray-delta

Xray-delta/CC BY 2.0

You can’t really go wrong with a white kitchen, but it’s boring and the design world is over it. Where’s the personality? Instead of all-white kitchens, we’re seeing bold cabinets, wood tones, or, at the very least, texture.

Texture is the last thing you want in a kitchen cabinet – it catches stuff. Wood cabinets stain and deteriorate; I did wood in my kitchen and it looks terrible now. We want smooth and washable. I am thinking laminate again.

The rest of their objections are purely stylistic, from subway tiles to oversized industrial lamps to stainless steel appliances. These are questions of style. But looking at the images of the kitchens, I would add two more trends that should die:

Gas should be gone.

Promo image. The Gas Council

The Gas Council/Promo image Of the six complete kitchens they show, four have big gas ranges. But over the last few years we have learned how bad the air quality is in homes with gas stoves, noting that Piles of peer reviewed research show how bad cooking with gas is for your health, and that gas stoves are unhealthy and polluting.

kitchen exhaust over indoor barbecue

James Vaughan/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

And there is not a single hood shown that looks close enough to work. I have called the kitchen exhaust hood the most screwed up, badly designed, inappropriately used appliance in your home, noting that exhaustive studies have shown how useless most of them are. (Engineer Robert Bean says they should be wider than the range and no more than 30 inches from the top.)

What's with all the wood floors?

early open kitchen

James Vaughan on Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Five of the seven kitchens shown have wood flooring. I know, with an open kitchen it is an easy choice because it is hard to make the transition, but wood and water don't mix well. People are buying commercial gas ranges but you never saw wood in a commercial kitchen. I still like linoleum, but there is also rubber or cork.

Frigidaire kitchen of the future

Frigidaire kitchen of the future/Promo image

I don't disagree with any of the Kitchn's choices, but most are about looks and not about function. The next few years are going to see more changes in the kitchen than we have seen in decades, as the way we cook and the way we eat changes. That's why we have seen the rise of "messy kitchens" that hide all the small appliances. As the baby boomers who grew up with those open kitchens age, they may be outsourcing more of their food to cloud kitchens. It is definitely a bigger issue than the subway tiles or light fixtures.