Kitchen Design 2021: What’s New, What’s Noteworthy

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This Samantha Bailey-designed New Leaf kitchen incorporates several of 2021’s top trends. (New Leaf Custom Homes)

Leave it to COVID to give gourmet chefs and Howard Wang’s reheaters something in common: We’re all spending more time in the kitchen. Whether you actually cook or not is irrelevant.

“Since the pandemic, the kitchen has become a multi-purpose zone for the family to gather,” says Samantha Bailey, Lead Interior Designer for New Leaf Custom Homes.

Looking ahead to 2021, design trends will not only be about aesthetics, but maximizing functionality of what’s become the central hub of the home. Here, an overview of what’s new and what’s noteworthy.

Durable Materials

Farrow & Ball’s heavy-duty paint is washable and scuff-proof. (Farrow & Ball)

“Clients are frequently asking for durability of materials to keep up with their busy schedules,” says Samantha. Requests are up for fabricated porcelain slabs, natural quartzite, and marble.

The New Leaf designer also likes natural stone backsplashes. “Along with offering a ‘wow’ factor, they’re easier to wipe clean.”

Heavy-duty paint is another way to help combat everyday wear and tear. Farrow & Ball’s new Modern Emulsion paint finish is washable, scuff-proof, and protects against mold and mildew — an ideal choice for both walls and cabinets.

Oversized Islands

Some homeowners are opting for double islands. (Canva Pro Photos)

Scott + Cooner owner Lloyd Scott predicts islands will have a bigger footprint in 2021. The bigger, the better: “Some homeowners are even opting for two.”

They’re just not for dining anymore, either. “Islands double as kids crafts and homework space,” says Samantha.

Hybrid islands provide extra seating and working space. (Kitchen Architecture)

Hybrid islands are also trending. “A kitchen island becomes even more functional with a spacious table and seating attached to one end,” according to House & Home.

Maximizing Storage

Working pantry rooms are trending in 2021. (Houzz)

Cooking at home inevitably means more stuff — and the need for places to put it. Pantries, drawers, and cabinets are all getting much-needed makeovers, both DIY and professional.

Working “pantry rooms” are another common request, complete with beverage fridges, sinks and appliances. “They function like a catering kitchen,” says Samantha. “Mess and clutter stay consolidated in one room.”

Mixing It Up

Contrast is king when it comes to mixing materials. (Ledbury Studio)

“We’re finding anything goes in both modern and transitional designs, from mixed metals to rift cut stained and painted cabinets,” says Samantha.

Lloyd sees more mixing of finishes, rather than one color for the entire kitchen space. One popular combination: wood and darker shades of matte lacquer.

Brass and steel married with marble and dark timbers are another complementary pairing. “Use a fusion of tactile materials to achieve a confident blending of styles,” architect Natalia Miyar told Home and Garden.

New Hues

Trending in 2021: Robin’s egg blue (New Leaf Custom Homes)

When Dakota Johnson posted her alligator green kitchen on TikTok, her cabinets garnered a cult following, according to Elle Décor. This bold color trend is also on display in Cameron Diaz’s Kelly Wearstler-designed home.

“Colors we’re seeing most range from soft pastels like robin’s egg blue to black and sage green,” says Samantha.

Cameron Diaz’s Kelly-Wearstler-designed kitchen boasts bold green cabinetry. (Elle Decor)
In 2021, sinks are a design element. (Grohe)

Metallics are also having a moment, from sinks and faucets to cabinetry and backsplashes.

Smart Kitchens

Today’s kitchens can have technology built into every feature and appliance. Options include kitchen faucets equipped with motion detection, refrigerators that provide an alert when food is running low, and lighting controlled from a smartphone or tablet.


Wallpaper spruces up this New Leaf-designed space. (New Leaf Custom Homes)

Wallpaper is making its way to the kitchen, according to Country Living. Ideas include graphic designs that mimic the look of tile or bold prints to give any space instant impact. If you’re hesitant to wallpaper an entire wall, try using it behind shelving or inside the pantry.


Elaine Raffel

Having left the corporate world to launch her own freelance creative business, Elaine Raffel is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the mega-talented Dallas homebuilding community. She credits her work with top fashion and design brands for teaching her one inarguably valuable lesson: that truly great work is always a collaboration.

Reader Interactions


  1. Afton Jackson says

    I like how you brought up hybrid islands and all the different ways you can utilize them. In a household as busy as mine, having kitchen space like this could really be the best way for me to both entertain guests and feed my kids whenever the need arises. I’ll make sure to ask for something like this if I can find a kitchen remodeling service in the area that can assist me.

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