Design trend: The expanding realm of the kitchen

Butler’s pantries, spice kitchens, bright pops of colour and integrated appliances are in demand

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Just like the proverbial cliche in mystery novels, it’s all about the “butler.”


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In this case, there’s no smoking gun or a not so novel ending pointing to the butler as the culprit. Rather, we’re talking about creating ultimate kitchens and it’s the butler — as in butler’s pantries — who steals the show.

“The pantry is definitely getting more attention and love these days, and the introduction of more butler’s pantries is definitely increasing,” said Kara Murray, partner, Alair Homes. “The name of the game is having more in the kitchen, while being able to hide or camouflage all these items to keep things minimalist and sleek, while still offering full functionality.”

The addition of catering and spice kitchens are becoming quite prevalent, giving homeowners a separate prep space out of the way of the main kitchen, adds Michelle Dolan, vice-president, Legacy Signature Homes.

“A catering kitchen is a separate kitchen that can be used for preparation and behind-the-scenes storage prior to serving when hosting a party,” said Dolan. “It will normally have all the conveniences of a full kitchen, only smaller. In higher-end homes these used to be called butler’s kitchens or for some of our ethnic clients they refer to it as their spice kitchen, where they prep aromatic foods away from all their guests in the main kitchen.”

Similarly, Birkholz Homes said butler’s pantries are also quite popular. They’re finished with appliances that could include a microwave drawer, a fridge or freezer or both, and millwork to match the main kitchen is typical, said Birkholz president Kevin Birkholz.


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However, it’s not just about the pantry. These three Edmonton-area homebuilders said they’re also seeing a spike in demand for larger kitchens, larger or dual islands, some pops of colour, solid backsplashes and hidden appliances.

“We are seeing a trend toward larger islands and gathering spaces within the kitchen,” said Dolan, noting that more people are living, working and schooling from home and the kitchen has become the natural place for everyone to come together.

“We are seeing a lot more people eliminating dining rooms to create more space to gather and entertain within the kitchen.”

That echoes a comment from Alair, with Murray noting that many homeowners are looking for the kitchen to act as the central gathering point or entertaining area.


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“We are seeing more people sacrifice the size of their living area to favour more space in the kitchen and eating areas,” said Murray.

But what colours should you go with?

“While white still tends to be popular in kitchens, we are starting to see a trend to introduce more jewel tones in parts of the cabinetry, and see this mainly in the island or lower cabinets,” said Murray. “Navy and hunter green are both trending right now to bring some statement features to the kitchen. We have even seen bold and bright colours like orange against white cabinetry to create a can’t miss vibrant statement in the kitchen.”

At Legacy, they’re seeing a trend back toward woods and warm tones, as well as high contrast colours such as blacks and rich blues.


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“The main bodies of the kitchens are a subtle tone,” said Birkholz, in terms of what he sees buyers selecting. “Many are a lighter colour. Accents are either a strong colour for the island or a full height section of cabinetry while high-end laminates are increasing in popularity. Wood look-alikes, he said, are extremely strong and durable but also very realistic looking compared to wood veneer panels.”

Complementing those colour schemes, the builders said solid backsplashes — think the countertop pattern taken up the wall instead of a more traditional tile finish — are in vogue.

“We are seeing a bit of a surge toward large format countertop and backsplash products such as Dekton and porcelain sheets,” said Dolan. “This allows us to go big with fewer seams and joints and gives a very uniform look.”


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Hidden appliances, meanwhile, is another big consideration when designing today’s kitchens.

“The hidden appliances, to match the cabinets, is very on trend right now and we’ll see more of this going into 2022,” said Murray, who adds that this helps to support the demand for that minimalist look their clients are seeking.

Connected Cooking

Heading into 2022, and with a continuing pandemic to take into account, some Edmonton-area builders are noticing these tech/smart-oriented kitchen features being on homeowners’ wish lists:

  • The pandemic really inspired people to move to touchless faucets, soap dispensers or garbage bins — Alair Homes.
  • TVs that can double as computer screens for recipes or your favourite cooking class are popular — Birkholz Homes.
  • Smart-home packages are a norm for most households these days; we are seeing centralized control locations and touch screens being added to kitchens as the hub to control the whole home — Legacy Signature Homes.



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