Susan Serra, President of Susan Serra Associates, Inc. and founder of Scandinavian Made, is a certified kitchen designer, E-design consultant, award winning designer, kitchen and bath industry brand consultant, speaker on kitchen design and indefatigable observer of product and behavioral trends in the kitchen. Follow Susan at @susanserrackd and @scandinavianmade.

The kitchen design outlook for 2018 has evolved from recent years in notable ways and offers a virtual basket of both mature and fresh design goodies for everyone. The vernacular of kitchen design in 2018 puts the spotlight on an elevated aesthetic, promotes well being, encourages food prep efficiencies and as a result, the kitchen becomes THE room in the home where all five senses reside. It’s a magnet for physical and emotional nourishment. Let’s look at what’s happening in the kitchen design-wise.

Neutral finishes (colors) for cabinetry historically reign supreme, but this year there’s a twist – actually more than one. The all-white kitchen in all its purity and impossible-to-keep-clean glory, is fading FAST. Taking center stage in 2018 are very light and soft grays, semi-opaque cream finishes on wood and a surprising micro emerging trend – light khaki tones. Grays and warm grays in the medium to dark shades are even more widely seen in stylish kitchens than in previous years, often mixed with a soft white, an update to classic black and white. A micro trend of gold finishes on cabinet doors is new for 2018.

Black is back as both a leading (all cabinets) and supporting (just accents) player – the latter, much more common for 2018. The use of contrast is used as a design and style element in 1) light and dark tones OR 2) a mix of cool and warm tones. Playing with contrasting interior and exterior cabinet finishes add a fashionable touch. Painted cabinet colors are in the range of soft medium blues but bold blues and khakis are on trend as well for 2018. Matte black stainless appliances: happening NOW!

OAK is back! Not the flame patterns of our childhood design-traumas, but the understated texture of rift or quartersawn oak. Sophisticated, sexy, subtle, smart. Multi-colored finishes on cabinetry are being used in new ways – as frames surrounding cabinet doors and drawers or a mix of wood finishes within the kitchen. New to the kitchen scene are light to medium finishes on white oak, reminiscent of British and Scandinavian cabinetry. Gorgeous! Matte finishes RULE this year.

Grid motifs are everywhere! Often seen in black, the contrast of a black grid in window muntins, glass cabinet doors, pantry doors, framework surrounding an island or designed into other cabinet sections such as legs, defines form. It’s also a nod to a lite industrial look.

In general, kitchen design in 2018 is all about modern design with several variations on the theme. Little by little each year, function and aesthetics are equal players at the start of the design process. This means that art, collections and the visual aesthetic plays a more important part than ever. A small chip to the “form follows function” armor?

Modern design, THE look for 2018 kitchens, are more masculine and moody in style due to the prevalence of warm and cool grays, matte finishes, quiet countertop colors, built in appliances, grid motifs and black elements. Design elements are both strong and simple.

The industrial style, perhaps overly accessorized in recent years, has been significantly watered down to a much less trendy/identifiable look featuring accents rather than full-on industrial themes.

The modern farmhouse style takes the place of the basic Shaker kitchen we’ve seen since (precise date: 2004) and is a super fresh look! Open shelving in contrasting colors, lighter finishes in quartersawn oak cabinetry or painted cabinetry in soft whites, reclaimed-like wood elements with clean lines and a pleasing less-is-more approach. An inset door construction with slab door and drawer fronts in quartersawn oak is ideal for a modern farmhouse look.

Minimalism loves maximalism, translated, is a peripheral trend toward a clean, simple design framework which features a single, bold focal point of colorful florals or other bright patterns or colors. It’s a pleasant antidote to straight lines and introduces color, warmth and visual emotion in a surprising yet modern design statement – a backlash from recent years of minimalism in our interiors.

A trend toward wellness is more a concept than a specific look. Large windows, comfortable seating-perhaps a kitchen sofa or banquette, space for plants and herbs, high performance/easy care products such as engineered stone, room for art, design elements from nature, a large sink, purified water, ample traffic flow and a steam oven are some attributes of a kitchen designed for an overall feeling of wellness.

Countertop trends for 2018 feature an old favorite, marble, especially seen in engineered stone. Marble patterns are so creatively designed in exaggerated blown-up patterns we saw last year and still love as well as a wide range of patterns that are almost coy – obviously faux but clearly marble-inspired. There is a noticeable turn away from the Calacattas and Carraras toward these (and natural) similar but different marble patterns. Wood countertops are trending in 2018 and nicely warm up the modern aesthetic. Engineered stone countertop colors (non marble) for 2018 are grays, mottled and soft concrete textures, leather finishes on the periphery and a bit of khaki colored stone on the horizon.

Hardware on cabinetry is all about the mix – handleless cabinetry combined with oversized pulls in matte finishes combined with knobs on featured pieces. Dark metals will be most prevalent in 2018, piggy-backing on the light/dark contrast theme.

Gold and warm toned finishes on faucets, cabinet doors and other design elements, are not going away anytime soon. They look great with all the moody grays and provide a strong visual accent in the kitchen. Interestingly, there is an upswing on gold accents on covers of burners on gas cooktops and ranges for a stylish touch which ties into other gold accents on the appliance! Mixed metal finishes continue to be strong for this year’s kitchens.

Kitchen sinks are big and getting bigger for good reason! The abundance of sink accessories allow quick and efficient meal preparation, an important component in a kitchen centered around wellness. Two faucets installed at a large sink, 45”+, means more than one person can use the sink at once and surrounding countertops can remain cleaner – an ideal situation for smaller kitchens. This trend deserves to have staying power. Stainless steel sinks are most prevalent, but the faucet finish to coordinate with the sink is up for grabs.

We’re still seeing natural wood elements in the kitchen and the floor is where this design statement is being made. Noted above, wood countertops are on the upswing, thick wood shelving and more textured door styles in clear or semi-opaque stains are beautiful design elements in 2018 kitchens.

Backsplashes are generally quiet affairs, creating to a visual flow in the design. Seamless engineered stone with soft patterns are trending. Tile for the backsplash is either very small shapes or larger format sizes.

Taken all together, it’s a “sophisticated cool” look for 2018 kitchen design with lots of exciting design elements to choose from! Next, in Part II, we talk about the brainy kitchen in 2018 – tech, products we can’t live without and how we’re interacting in the kitchen.