Millennials counter long-standing kitchen trends

  • Mar. 29, 2017 12:30 a.m.

As millennials join the ranks of homeowners, they’re making their mark on how those homes look, and in some cases bucking long-held preferences.

Here are some of the trends popping up among the newest generation of homeowners found in Houzz’s 2017 Kitchen Trends Study. Of the survey’s 2,700 participants (all of whom had recently completed or were completing a kitchen remodel), 10 percent to 12 percent were ages 25 to 34.

– Soft neutrals strengthen their hold

“Millennials are a lot more focused on making sure that the style, color palette and materials used in the major elements of the kitchen stay as relevant as long as possible because they’re not planning another remodel any time soon,” said Nino Sitchinava, Houzz’s principal economist.

Although gray was the most popular wall color across all ages (and up in popularity 4 percent from 2015), it was especially popular among millennial homeowners (43 percent of millennials vs. 22 percent of baby boomers chose it). Boomers were more likely to try warmer colors, and 1 in 10 chose green walls.

White cabinets topped all age groups; millennials were nearly twice as likely to extend that color to the backsplash as well.

– Decorative lighting over functional lighting

Younger renovators tended to prefer decorative pendant lighting (67 percent), while older homeowners were more likely to choose more functional under- or in-cabinet lights (74 percent). “There’s potentially a little more versatility with pendant lighting,” Sitchinava said. “It’s self-contained [and] a little more affordable. But some of it could also be preferences and style aesthetic.” Lighting upgrades were part of 84 percent of the kitchen renovations surveyed.

– Kitchen islands

The most popular built-in features for millennials were pantry cabinets and islands, appearing in two of five renovated kitchens, and younger homeowners were much more likely to install an island than older homeowners (49 percent vs. 36 percent, respectively). “They are a must-have in a millennial kitchen,” Sitchinava said. “Millennials really do value that extra counter space.”

– Modern and farmhouse styles

Although contemporary is the most popular style for kitchen remodels across all ages (26 percent among millennials and 24 percent among baby boomers), younger homeowners are more likely to try a modern (19 percent) or farmhouse style (14 percent) for their renovation as opposed to boomers, who are more likely to stick with a traditional style (14 percent compared with 8 percent of millennials).

– An eye on the budget

Millennial homeowners “are twice as likely to be driven by cost considerations than homeowners over age 35,” per the survey’s findings. Younger renovators are also more willing to get to their hands dirty when it comes to kitchen remodeling, with a majority favoring stock and ready-to-assemble cabinets.

“They are less likely to hire a general contractor, architect or a designer and instead take on that process themselves,” Sitchinava said.

Still, about a third of the millennials surveyed splurged on custom cabinetry (vs. 42 percent of baby boomers). “Millennials are going into their kitchen remodel with a sort of understanding that they want to make the kitchen as perfect as they possibly can,” Sitchinava said, “because they are going to be utilizing it for a long time.”

– Starting to turn away from granite

Look and feel (72 percent), and durability (53 percent) were the driving factors for choosing a countertop material, far ahead of cost (21 percent), and quartz and granite reign supreme as the most sought-after materials, across all ages. But Gen Y is much more willing to experiment with an alternative, more budget-friendly countertop material such as laminate or wood.

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