House & Home

More time at home means more opportunity for you to design your personal kitchen, bath

Every year we consider the colors and styles homeowners are gravitating towards when personalizing their new home kitchen and baths. The 2020 season, more so than ever, has given us the most poignant glimpse into how everyday living can affect our design choices.

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Photo courtesy of Drees Homes
Julia Reinert
, Martin Communications, writer for New Homes & Ideas

Every year we consider the colors and styles homeowners are gravitating towards when personalizing their new home kitchen and baths. The 2020 season, more so than ever, has given us the most poignant glimpse into how everyday living can affect our design choices. 

The global pandemic we continue to experience has resulted in families spending more time at home, altering both their needs and wants with regards to aesthetics, technology, innovative design options and energy-saving features.  

Buyers may have also found a little extra time to spend on Pinterest or watching HGTV to get inspired on the design of their new home.

“I have buyers that come in after months of being stuck at home with social distancing/COVID restrictions and they have learned what they don’t like,” said Rachel Anne Phelps, design consultant for Drees Homes.  “Through staying home, COVID has helped buyers learn how they truly function at home and that carries over to their choices they make with me.”

So, in the spirit of how form and function merge to create a space that your family desires to spend a lot of time in, let’s take a look at what homeowners are currently asking for in their kitchen and bath design!


As evenings may include more home-based activities like menu planning, reading, board games or puzzles, proper lighting is of the utmost importance. Undercabinet lighting and stacked cabinetry lighting remain popular in the kitchen as well as the classic look of clear glass options in the bathroom.

Other lighting must-haves include exposed bulbs, sconces everywhere, and drop-down pendants, especially in the ever-popular black and chrome.

“We are also seeing larger pendants and linear lights over the islands in the kitchen,” said Phelps. “A lot of homebuyers see lighting as the jewelry of the home and in main living spaces they want something that makes a statement.”


Many homeowners are opting for their accent pieces to help them achieve a more modern look so they pair up brushed nickel and matte black features with their cabinetry of choice resulting in a wonderful contrast. Supporting that more modern look is the decision to forego dual-handle bathroom faucets, choosing rather the single-handle option.


We all seem to be cooking more these days, dusting off recipes and discovering what our kitchens are really capable of doing for us!

As buyers work with their builders to layout their dream kitchen, designers are receiving requests for hidden microwaves, vent hoods with a cooktop, oversized ranges, and of course the tried and true double wall oven or microwave/oven combination. 

While stainless steel still ranks supreme (especially fingerprint-resistant stainless steel), black stainless continues to gain popularity in that modern and edgy department. However, an even fresher look of matte white with gold or rose gold handles and accents is being considered by homeowners who desire an open and airy feel in their kitchen.


Whether it is the view from soaking in one’s tub or enjoying a snack at the kitchen island, homeowners continue to realize how much personality and charm tile can add to a room. Designers are noticing that amount of personality and charm can range from simple, classic subway to intricate mosaic or even a showstopping marble. 

Even those who are looking for a little of all worlds can spruce up a white subway tile with a dark gray grout for contrast and style or go for a little more detail through stacked or herringbone patterns. Do not forget that tile is no longer confined between cabinets in the kitchen or right around the tub as it can now go to the ceiling in any room.

“What has been up and coming over the last couple of months is a more modern take on mosaic tile,” said Phelps. “More fun patterns in a larger scale and different colors have come out as opposed to the busy glass mosaics from 10 years ago.”

Patterned tile in the bathroom continues to fall in the lighter spectrum of whites and grays as most buyers are trying to recreate a spa-like feel, maybe something similar to a resort that they have visited in the past. Travel may not be as convenient right now but why not take advantage of turning one’s bathroom into a wonderful sanctuary with a calming tile design?

“We are seeing marble…any shape you can get it: geometric shapes, chevron, or simple subway,” adds Rachel Greene, marketing professional with Baker Residential. “The marble gives the veining look to a simple white that everyone is after.”

Though most homebuilders do not offer wallpaper options in their design centers we feel it necessary to mention that homebuyers are favoring wallpaper over tile in certain areas of the home, such as the powder room or an accent wall. Not only is it more budget friendly but it can implement floral, modern or abstract aesthetics to complete a particular design theme.


Let’s face it-our flooring is receiving more action than usual so durability is key! Laminate hardwood flooring has become the answer to that problem, enticing buyers with its great aesthetics and hardiness. Not only does the newer laminate give wider plank options but it is beautiful and harder to decipher from wood options.

“The luxury vinyl plank flooring has been our top seller throughout the majority of the home as it is low maintenance and holds its durability with children and pets,” said Asia Dillis, design center manager for the Dan Ryan Builder Group.
Photo courtesy of Baker Residential

In the last decade, the quality and offerings of vinyl plank floors have improved greatly. Many options today greatly resemble hardwood flooring due to their bevels and grains, especially lighter hardwoods in natural and white oak which become more popular every day.

“These [vinyl plank flooring options] are so “life friendly,” being more water, scratch and dent resistant,” said Greene. “They are perfect for laughter-filled homes!”


Revisiting the spa-like environment that homeowners are trying to create in their bathrooms, spacious showers and freestanding tubs are a given. Pile on the additional shower heads, fancy wall jets, floor-to-ceiling tile walls, and tile shower pans (have you seen the gorgeous pebble look?) to reach the ambiance you want most.


There is no doubt the impact that a gorgeous countertop can have on a bathroom or a kitchen, especially as kitchen islands get bigger. When comparing materials, quartz has several advantages over granite (it is more durable and it is not porous). In the quartz family, a countertop that is getting attention is Dekton, “a sophisticated blend of the raw materials used to produce the very latest in glass and porcelain as well as the highest quality quartz work surfaces.”

It holds up well to heat, abrasion, staining and cuts and it is a much more affordable option. Countertop selections run the gamut but a majority lie within the white and gray section of the color wheel.  In order to stay within budget though, while still making a statement, buyers will choose the more decorative and perhaps more expensive countertop for their oversized kitchen island and then go with a plainer and more cost-effective option for their perimeter countertops.


Homeowners seem to be all over the map when it comes to cabinetry. Many show their preference for white cabinets, others are going bold with black, and then there are those who mix things up with dual tones in their kitchen. Drees Homes notes that their most popular look is the white perimeter cabinets offset with a navy or black island. Additional features homeowners are finalizing include glass doors and stacked cabinets to the ceiling for a more custom feel.

“[Regarding finishes], we’re starting to see black trickle in [with] black islands, black hardware, etc.,” said Greene. “[However], people are still loving the white and shaker.  Clean lines are everything!”

Photo courtesy of Baker Residential

Energy-saving or Green features

A great new feature being offered by builders such as Drees Homes is the new FLO by Moen which acts as a smart appliance for water usage. This innovative product scans the home and will let the homeowner know about total water usage, detect leaks and even shut off the water if necessary.  


Last but not least is the question of which colors are currently the most sought after. Designers are seeing a wide variety of color palettes cross their desks from lighter, calming greens and grays to darker hues of blue such as an elegant navy.  Incorporating rustic or industrial looks is still common but now with warmer hues to contrast and soften.   Other palettes are being presented with vibrant splashes of color or black tones with gold accents.

“We have seen homeowners going more neutral with grays/whites and tans/browns for versatility with their furniture,” said Dillis. “Then they have the ability to switch out simple décor such as pillows and draperies with a pop of color!”

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