Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: Part I

Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: Part I

Today I Googled “latest kitchen design trends” in order to compare them to some of my own observations in the market. Coincidentally, I also just received in my inbox the latest U.S.Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. Here’s a quick roundup of what today’s homeowners are going for in kitchen appliances, kitchen technology and kitchen cabinetry:

Colorful Appliances

This actually came up on my search as a “trend”. Homeowners today are on the hunt for one or more technicolored appliances to satisfy their “kitchen eye candy” needs and there are a number of vendors that cater to them.
Colorful Ovens 2016
Viking, Blue Star, Big Chill, Bertazzoni, Smeg, Elmira, and Dacor are a few of the manufacturers offering bold color schemes for refrigeration, cooking and clean up appliances. However, even though the media tell us that bright colored appliances were considered trends in 2014, 2013, and 2012, and earlier, very few of my DC/Metro area clients over the last decade were interested in these options — even though they were intrigued by the bold color concept.

La Cornue Chateau Series Gas Range in Stainless Finish

La Cornue Chateau Series Gas Range in Stainless Steel Finish

I had a few clients that chose La Cornue and Ilve gas ranges in conservative colors, but for the remaining appliances they opted for stainless steel or panel ready options.

La Cornue Majestic Range in Midnight Blue

La Cornue Majestic Range in Midnight Blue

Most popular kitchen appliance colors 2016

Houzz Study: Most popular kitchen appliance colors 2016

And to further confirm my suspicion that this “trend” is hardly one at all, the Houzz study found that 75% of homeowners prefer Stainless Steel finishes over other colors for their kitchen appliances.
The 7 % “other” category could include cherry red or violet colored appliances, but I would bet it leans more toward “panel ready”.


Technology: Communications Center in the Kitchen

The following idea is a “must do” because of our world of constant connectivity. The latter, combined with time spent in the kitchen cooking, eating and socializing, requires a dedicated communications center in the kitchen for all family members.

Docking Drawer

Docking Drawer

For example, take a look at These units offer a solution that can be applied regardless of your kitchen’s present status (existing or to be remodeled). The Docking Drawer will hide the cords, charging units, and devices that often invade every family’s kitchen counter.
Now, look around in your kitchen. Do you need to allocate space to each family member for their various electronic gadgets? This system eliminates the “missing charger” scenario that all of us have encountered at one time or another. If the chargers are dedicated and connected in a drawer, they will likely stay there.

It was interesting that Houzz did not specifically identify this element in their study — yet I have found nearly all of my clients asking for a dedicated connectivity space in their kitchen.

Check out Houzz’s summary of homeowners’ use of the kitchen and hours spent there:
How Homeowners Use Their Kitchens

Wow. Given the number of hours we are awake each day, over 50% of homeowners spend at least a third of their time in the kitchen!

This leads me to the other trend I see consistently with my clients: opening the kitchen up so it becomes what Houzz refers to as the “super kitchen”:

Opening Up the Kitchen

I would guess, and confirming my own observations, that when given the option regarding other rooms, and provided the option is economically and structurally feasible, most homeowner want a completely open kitchen.


Well, I could not add anything more to Jacob Hurwith’s short but fabulous article:
Kitchen Cabinet Trends to Watch in 2016

Everything he says is spot on and agrees with my own observations. Simplicity, clean lines, and neutral color schemes continue to be “hot”.

If you happen to live in a traditional setting, keep in mind that streamlined modern kitchens are presently being installed in Georgetown DC townhouses. It is amazing to see the transformation. Further, Houzz’ study concluded that white remains the most popular kitchen cabinetry color, followed by medium toned wood colors:

Most popular kitchen cabinetry colors 2016

Most popular kitchen cabinetry colors 2016

As for “gray is the new white” (also noted on Google as a trend), it appears that it has made the entry in a color for consideration, but it has not yet eclipsed white as homeowners’ primary color choice.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget

Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

When planning a kitchen remodel or other home renovation project, it is important to leave room in your budget for quality and reputable tradespeople.

Over the course of my career, I have witnessed homeowners invest in the finest appliances, cabinetry, flooring, and fixtures yet tighten their wallet when paying the tradespeople responsible for installing these products. Experience has proven that homeowners who skimp on labor costs will regret it.

Lately I have been reflecting on the conversations I overhear from the tradespeople working on home renovation and kitchen remodeling projects. These are dedicated, skilled professionals who face numerous challenges every day with project situations beyond their control.

Their lives are stressful, too. They have families to return home to, mouths to feed, cars that break down . . . in short, the same stresses and challenges that everyone has.

Therefore, I believe in compensating generously those who work conscientiously to deliver an end product that meets high quality standards. It saddens me when I encounter clients who, although they pay top dollar for the products that go into their remodeling project, take perverse pride in pinching pennies in paying the people who are doing the work on their home.

In my experience, most trades people who come into your home care very much about the quality of work that they do. The better you treat these critical workers, the more they will be motivated to take ownership of the outcome. This will make your life easier and smooth the way for problem solving when issues arise. Homeowners who treat their trades people with disdain contribute to a negative dynamic that leads to sub-par results.

The fine details involved in remodeling are endless. There are times when unforeseen difficulties arise; this is where success hinges upon the talents and problem-solving abilities of the installation crew. If you compensate them poorly, they will be tempted to shift the blame to others and avoid participating in solving problems well and properly. Time is wasted, frustration increases exponentially, and tempers flare. I assure you, this is not fun and will create additional stress.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Planning and Collaboration: The Key to Kitchen Remodeling Success

Planning and Collaboration: The Key to Kitchen Remodeling Success

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

I just received Home & Design magazine’s “Late Spring” issue. I always enjoy opening it and seeing what has debuted lately in the DC/Metro area. What caught my interest this month was the article “Fresh Start“, offering great insight into the reincarnation of a 1950’s split level home in Mclean. The project’s outcome and the tale told therein should be heeded by all homeowners considering the undertaking of a remodeling project.

The photos reveal sequences of tranquil spaces throughout the home; all elements, as can be seen in the photos, take on a fresh airy feel, with each room’s transition into the next as seamless as the one before–including a comfortable relaxed kitchen (my expertise, of course.)

So, besides the beautiful pictures (all illustrating that these particular homeowners love the color blue), what caught my interest? The following excerpt, which echoes perfectly what I embrace when working with my clients:

“The renovation process was remarkably smooth, which Leggin (the architect) and his clients attribute to the seamless collaboration of the design team early on. ‘They met every two weeks for six months to discuss the vision for the plan,” says the husband. ‘It was a totally collaborative process.”

Bingo. They began early. They included several design experts. The homeowners engaged themselves fully with the experts, thereby ensuring that the end result was what they wanted.

To read the full article, “Fresh Start: A Talented Design Team Transforms a Mundane McLean Split-Level,” click here.

Sandra Brannock has designed beautiful and functional custom kitchens for clients throughout Northern Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, DC region. For more information about Expert Kitchen Designs services, call Sandra direct at (703) 801-6402 or email

Induction Cooking: Time to Reconsider?

Induction Cooking: Time to Reconsider?

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Typically, when I ask my client what type of cooktop or range they will be using, the response is either electric or gas. Few clients realize that there is a third option that is worth considering: induction.

History of Induction Cooking

Induction cooking has come a long ways since 1933, when it was first introduced in the “Kitchen of the Future” at the Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair. Fairgoers witnessed the miracle of “cool heating” using electrical power that required much less energy than standard electrical cooking appliances. For years thereafter, attempts to perfect induction cooking units continued in the U.S., but alas, the induction cooking units were plagued with problems and U.S. manufacturer units went off the market in 1999.

Regardless, Europeans and Asians pursued induction cooking research and development (R&D) due to their concern with energy conservation. Ultimately, their efforts paid off and led to a breakthrough in U.S. commercial applications in restaurant kitchens. As a result, chefs began to recognize the benefits of induction cooking. Through word of mouth and experience, early adopter home cooks began to embrace induction cooking as well.

Benefits of Induction Cooking

Induction cooking offers many benefits, including:

  1. Instant and precise cooking as with gas
  2. No wasted heat
  3. Cooler kitchen because of #2 above
  4. Safety — the cooktop is cool to the touch immediately after use.
  5. Universal design compliant — induction cooktops are thin and can be inserted so that knee space is available underneath without any interference.
  6. Ubiquitous installation -— runs only on electricity
  7. Easy to clean

Induction Cooking Drawbacks

Induction cooking may pose some possible drawbacks, but these are easily overcome as described below:

  1. Cooking vessel has to be made of magnetic material. So if a magnet sticks well, not loosely, to the bottom of the vessel, that vessel works with an induction cooktop.
  2. Noise. Sometimes the actual cooking process produces noise through the cookware because it is not top quality —- the interior pieces of the cookware can rattle. Easily remedied by investing in quality cookware.

For more specific information about induction cooking not addressed in this blog, check out this article:

induction cooking explained

Additional information about the pros and cons of induction cooking can be found at:

Sandra Brannock has designed beautiful and functional custom kitchens for clients throughout Northern Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, DC region. For more information, call Sandra direct at (703) 801-6402 or email

How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinetry for Your Kitchen Remodel

How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinetry for Your Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaKitchen cabinetry usually accounts for a significant portion of any kitchen remodeling project. As a professional kitchen designer, I often educate clients about kitchen cabinetry basics: what to look for, and what to avoid, when selecting new kitchen cabinetry.

Too often, homeowners assume that a cabinet box is “just a box”. This is erroneous thinking that can lead to costly mistakes and inevitable disappointment with the final outcome of your kitchen remodeling project.

There are major differences among cabinetry manufacturers that the uneducated consumer will not easily detect. In kitchen remodeling, as in other aspects of life, the fact is — to quote a very worn out cliché — you get what you pay for.

The jargon of kitchen cabinet manufacturing can be intimidating. Do not let manufacturer jargon deter you. By educating yourself about kitchen cabinetry fundamentals, you will soon be able to “speak the language” that will help you make a sound purchase decision.

The Four Main Elements You Must Understand About Kitchen Cabinetry

There are four main elements you must understand before selecting and investing in your new kitchen cabinetry. These elements are:

  1. Cabinet Construction — framed and frameless construction consist of box and drawer box construction, and hardware operational mechanisms.
  2. Door and Drawer Styles — includes the actual detailing and construction of the door and drawer front.
  3. Wood Species — from basic to exotic veneers — the latter being the most expensive.
  4. Finishes — for toughness and durability, especially in the kitchen, the quality of the finish cannot be overlooked.

Cabinet Construction

When cabinet manufacturers refer to cabinet construction, they refer to two categories—framed and frameless or full access. Framed cabinets are most common in the US. Within this category you can choose, in order of least to most expensive:

  1. Standard or traditional overlay
  2. Full overlay
  3. Inset

Frameless (or full access/European construction) cabinets have no face-frame to the opening; the 3/4″ sides of the box define the opening. We often see this type of cabinet construction in contemporary or modern settings.

Installing frameless cabinets is more involved than installing framed cabinets, which can result in higher installation times to get your frameless cabinet into its proper position. Therefore, it requires a skilled and experienced carpenter to install this type of cabinetry.

Box Construction

Whether framed or frameless in style, cabinets are “boxes”. However, the materials and joinery used in their construction vary greatly among manufacturers. You may be familiar with terms such as particle board, MDF (medium density fiberboard), and plywood construction. Plywood is considered the best form of construction for a cabinet box. However, some manufacturers offer high quality MDF at a lesser price than plywood. Particle board is considered one of the lowest quality materials.

Drawer Box Construction

Drawer boxes, not including the hardware attached, come in three basic forms.

  1. Laminate/stapled
  2. Solid Wood Sides/Plywood bottoms/Staple or Dovetail
  3. Metal

Laminate kitchen cabinet boxes are least expensive. Over time, with heavy use, they fall apart.

Dovetail constructed cabinet drawer boxes reign supreme over stapled cabinet construction. Some manufacturers build a better drawer box than others by using a ½” plywood bottom. The drawer box bottom is what supports the weight of items placed in the drawer box. One of my manufacturers often demonstrates the quality of his drawer box by turning it over and literally “jumping” on it with his 200 pounds of weight! Now that is a drawer box meant to last a very long time!

Metal drawer boxes are just that. They are more popular with European manufacturers who, as an example, may use Hafele as their drawer box supplier.

Obviously, if you want a long lived product you will prefer the higher end drawer box construction.

Hardware Mechanisms

These are purchased by the cabinet manufacturer for various uses including, but not limited to, door and drawer opening mechanisms and internal accoutrements. BLUM and GRASS are popular hardware systems. Hafele, Richelieu, and Rev-A-Shelf offer internal convenience items for storage. All cabinet manufacturers rely on these “third parties” to enhance their cabinetry’s functions

Door and Drawer Front Styles

Doors and drawer front style components and proprietary details are too numerous to illustrate in this short article. Within the specific category of framed or frameless construction, your kitchen cabinetry costs will vary widely depending on these factors:

  1. Flat or recessed panel door styles cost less than raised panel door styles.
  2. The more detail a door has, the more expensive it will be.
  3. Doors that are thicker than a standard 4/4″ door (i.e. a 5/4″door) will cost more.
  4. The quality of the door and drawer front depends on whether it is made “in house” or purchased from an outside supplier. Higher quality manufacturers make their own doors and drawer fronts, as a general rule.

Wood Species

Another element that affects price is the wood species used for the cabinet: Oak, Maple, Cherry, Lyptus, Mahogany, Hickory, Birch, Ash, Alder, Knotty Pine, Walnut, Chestnut — these are all “wood species” derived from trees. Supply, demand and quality govern the specie price. For basic wood species, it is safe to assume that:

  1. Oak, Hickory, White Birch, and Knotty Alder will be the least expensive.
  2. Maple is next in the hierarchy.
  3. Cherry cabinetry will cost about twice as much as Maple cabinetry.

Also, within each species, there are tolerances or grades assigned –ranking the quality of the wood. If you are particular about the way the wood specie will “look” in its finished form, be wary of cheaper manufacturers’ quality—the outcome is entirely different than that of a higher quality manufacturer.


Finish is one of the most important aspects affecting your cabinetry’s appearance and quality. If you talk to any carpenter who makes cabinetry or furniture, he or she will tell you that finishing may be most time-consuming and challenging component of the cabinet production process. The sanding process, attention to detail, and finish elements must be top-notch if you want your cabinetry to be the kind of high-quality investment that will endure for generations to come.

What do you need to know before making your cabinetry selection?

First, use your eyes and hands. What you see is what you get: A first rate finishing process costs more because the cabinet manufacturer has invested a large amount of capital in human and equipment resources that will pay off in future years.

Comparing finishes across the board in terms of cost (from least to most expensive):

  1. Stain wood finishes.
  2. Add 5-15% to the base price if you want additional accent or glaze applied to your cabinetry.
  3. Add 10-15% to the base price for straight painted finishes (on paint grade material, maple or birch), depending upon the manufacturer. Also, be sure to understand the difference between a lacquer paint finish versus an “opaque” or “color tone”stain”. The latter is not a paint but often passes as one under the consumer’s radar. This type of finish will not endure and will “rub through” over time.
  4. Add an additional 15-20% to the base cost ff a glaze is added to the paint,.
    5) A multi-step process which includes distress, patinas, or anything with an artistic one-of-a-kind appearance will add anywhere from 30 to 40% more to the cabinet price.

Now that you have this information, you will be better able to make a well-informed kitchen cabinetry purchase decision with which you will be happy for years to come.

Of course, there is always more to learn, but now you have everything you need to know to steer yourself in the right direction.

If you would like more information or advice on your kitchen remodeling project, call or email Sandra Brannock, (703) 801-6402,