Trends in White Kitchens

I received this email from Elizabeth, a reader, and just had to share it with you. Here it is in its entirety:

"Susan- i ran across your site a few months ago and i am continued to be drawn to your work, photographs and thoughts as a source of tasteful inspiration for our kitchen. we recently purchased a home with a kitchen that needs updating so i am currently living and breathing kitchen design (i am a designer by training and so this is a dream project for me). Anyhow, I wanted to send you kudos on your work and blog. I would love it if you would post your thoughts on the resurgence of the white kitchen. it seems like every magazine i pick up these days has all white kitchens. is it just a trend? is cherry/maple.oak totally dated?"

white%20kitchen%201.jpgElizabeth, this is a great question! Thank you for your lovely comments and for your question. Here's what I think. I think there are a few things going on.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts...white is a classic in kitchen design, and its interpretation seems to continually reinvent itself over the decades.

First, the white kitchen, in recent years, is being looked at as a "fixed architectural element" to the home...being used (although it may not be historically accurate) as a traditional/classic backdrop, becoming one with the other millwork in the home. White, as we know, is often seen in architectural features in a home, in paneling, trim, doors, stairs, etc., and I think there is often an underlying motivation to give built in cabinetry in the kitchen and other rooms a "permanence" in feeling in this (also quiet/safe) way...for many. Surely, white is not practical whatsoever in the kitchen, so it follows this line of thinking. The look, of course, can be one of elegance. Take a look at the white built ins in the dining room shot, you'll see what I mean, how they connect with all the other white doors and casings.

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Secondly, it's easy to coordinate other design elements in the room, let's face it, it's a free-for-all design wise...countertops, wall color, tile, accessories. That is also a motivation for some, always. An offshoot of this is to consider that white is sort of a classic "utilitarian" shade, and the kitchen is a utilitarian room to many, wanting to play up that theme. Also, white reflects light, brightening up the entire space, lifting one's spirits substantially, particularly in a room with small or few windows.

The third reason is, I know there has been a reawakening, a redefinition, of the traditional style in kitchen design. I call it "the butler's pantry look." The clean, simple lines of today's white traditional kitchens, evoke the feeling of kitchens past. What was previously called a shaker style kitchen is now an upgraded look with the same door style, yet a bit more embellished in decorative detailing, but not too much. It's an evolution of styling, a redefinition. It's fresh and new.

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And, the fourth reason? I can put my finger on it exactly...2003, when the movie, "Something's Gotta Give" came out! The effect on kitchen design as a result of this movie was HUGE. Here's the google search page for it, complete with blog posts by my blog buddies Cote de Texas and Surroundings, even now, four years later! I heard about it and saw its effect with my clients. The U.S. was ready to move away from all of the highly decorative detailing of the decade before and into a "less is more" philosophy as well. And, that look, for those who like the traditional style, is still so very prevelent today, as a direct result of this movie. In fact, I've had these images (shown above) of the kitchen in the movie, that I have been meaning to create a post around since I started this blog, and, so, here they are.

Take a look at a previous post I did on the white model kitchen in one of the last, great, New York City residential apartment buildings to be built, still being finished as we speak. Some similar thoughts in that post.

Is cherry/maple/oak outdated? Quite the contrary. Kitchen design NOW is all about expressing yourself the way you want to, NOT to follow the pack. Although that said, there will always be trends. Watch out for trends, however, that's my advice, they can be quietly addicting. Maybe not the best way to invest in something that needs to last for, oh, a couple of decades or so. Do what speaks to you, be open to all possibilities, and look past the trends.

So, there you go! Oh, one last thing...is this look, as I defined it, a trend? Absolutely! Therefore, is it something to run from? No, not this trend, not if it is linked to the architecture of the home. Yet, awareness is a good thing.

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Posted on October 5, 2007 and filed under Kitchen Color.