Kitchen-Island-Ideas &
Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends


*By Jan Mitchell



This island allows for separate zones in the kitchen, while lighting above the cabinetry makes a dramatic statement. Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes in Riverchase, New Braunfels, Tex., Merchandising by Mary DeWalt Design Group.


  • Kitchen-Design

    Flat-paneled cabinetry, a microwave accessible to all ages, and an open floor plan appeal to today's busy family buyer. Shown is the Hanley-Wood BUILDER Concept Home for a Gen-X buyer; Merchandising by Kay Green Design






    In this model from Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes at The Preserve, Georgetown, Tex., a gleaming stainless steel hood commands the center of attention. Merchandising by Mary DeWalt Design Group. Photo by Raychel Kay

    "Indeed, the kitchen of 2013 is limited only by one's imagination."

    Indeed, the kitchen of 2013 is
    limited only by one’s imagination.
    “The kitchen has really changed,”
    says Kay Green, MIRM, president
    of Kay Green Design, Inc.

    “We used to talk about the 'work triangle,’ but now we’re talking about ‘zones’: the baking zone, the prep zone, the

    clean-up zone.”  Zones are delineated with islands, beverage bars, and separate sinks, for example, a prep sink in an island and a deeper sink elsewhere. 

    Espresso or juice bars create a place to refill out of the way of the morning’s commotion, while family members fry an egg at the stovetop or read the paper on an island barstool.

    Kitchen Design With Microwave Accessible By All
    Award Winning Kitchen Design

    “Kitchens are taking up a larger percentage of the house space,” says Doris Pearlman, MIRM, president of Possibilities for Design. For today’s busy cooks and sous chefs, more space in the kitchen is definitely a plus.

    Green agrees: “We need to plan for more than one person in the kitchen today,” as cooking is no longer solitary, but a team sport. Because cooks don’t want to be segregated from the family or from the guests, the open floor plan still reigns supreme.

    Kitchen-Island-Ideas & Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends
    "The Heart of the Kitchen"

    If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the island is undoubtedly the heart of the kitchen. “The island is one of the best things to happen to kitchen design,” believes Pearlman, as it can serve as a food station, a dining table, a gathering spot, and more.

    “Every island ups the functionality of the kitchen by 100%.” Whether it’s seating for two or an array of leather dining chairs, the island has become more important than ever for dining, conversing, or finishing homework under Mom’s watchful eye.

    That means islands for every targeted buyer and in every price point. To interject an eye-catching pop in the kitchen, create the island in a contrasting finish from the rest of the cabinets, suggests Mary DeWalt, MIRM, Fellow, president of Mary DeWalt Design, pointing out another strong trend.

    Green adds that the modern island is built at counter height, rather than bar height, making it easier to flex back and forth between functions.

    Kitchen-island-ideas are showing up in all shapes and configurations. In the Texas Hill country, a semi-circular island seats a family of four from Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes, while an island at a Toll Brothers’ model in Lakewood, Co., comprises an extension which becomes a kitchen table with four legs and space to scoot in a regular-height dining chair.



    Double islands create twice the function, with one dedicated for cook prep, and another decked out for dining. Further blurring the distinction between the kitchen island and the dining table is furniture-quality cabinetry.

    Kitchen-Island-Ideas & Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends
    "Take it to the Top"

    “Back splashes give you one more time to show off,” says Pearlman. “It can do a lot for a kitchen, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to achieve an upper-end look.” Green agrees, noting that a new exciting selection of glass tiles can make an average kitchen spectacular. Some of her favorites are convex-shaped and four- or five-inch by ½ inch.

    Juxtaposing tumbled marble tiles with glass is a striking combination. And
    speaking of stunning backsplashes, imagine if we took it all the way to the ceiling . . .

    Kitchen Backsplash Extends All The Way To The Ceiling

    Another notable trend in today’s modern kitchen is the application of the backsplash continuing over the top of the cabinetry and culminating at the ceiling.

    DeWalt believes this gives the room a more finished, upscale look, like in the Jimmy Jacobs Custom Homes model at Vintage Oaks, adding lighting above the cabinets, illuminating the top for a touch of drama. This traditional kitchen with a touch of contemporary is what she calls “Hill Country modern” and is perfectly customized to its central Texas buyer.

    Top-end appliances are becoming popular at almost every price point. “Consumers are more sophisticated and educated,” says Green. “They don’t mind spending more for high-end brands like Jenn-Air.®” This stretches to include a fabulous array of new faucets with electric eyes and foot pedals
    that keep hands sanitary, and “Smart” appliances, like dishwashers that automatically dispense the required amount of detergent.

    Refrigerators- and dishwashers-in-drawers are gaining in popularity, reducing bending and stooping for an older buyer, or as an ancillary appliance in a bonus or game room kitchen in a family home. And that points to another trend: the secondary kitchen, which allows the teens to grab their own snacks, leaving tidy the main kitchen.

    Kitchen-Island-Ideas & Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends
    "Time to Vent"

    Imagine that architectural center of the kitchen would turn out to be something as utilitarian as the vent hood . . . “It’s become like a work of art,” says DeWalt.

    Seen in markets across the country, these can include
    custom-made aluminum and stainless steel hoods for a contemporary, sleek look.

    In more traditional kitchens, elaborate sculpted drywall or covers made of matching cabinetry lend an upscale, formal air. Sometimes, the hood can even disappear completely behind cabinetry for a sleek, seamless look.

    Adds Pearlman, “There are lots of places to add increasing layers of design and intricacy. This includes, not only creative hoods, but picture frame tile work over stove burners.”

    BUILDER Concept Home Gen-Y Kitchen

    The BUILDER Concept Home Gen-Y kitchen shows Shaker-style cabinetry, a marble counter top, and ultra-sleek hood. Photo Courtesy of Hanley-Wood.


    Kitchen-Island-Ideas & Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends
    "Taking Command"

    The office niche in the corner of the kitchen has morphed into the kitchen command center, another strong trend. This is generally a separate room right off the kitchen, and can serve multiple functions, such as a bill paying station, recipe research center, or homework haven.

    Secondary Kitchen

    In the 2012 BUILDER Concept Home, white glazed cabinetry and bronze appliances demonstrate the hottest trends. A nearby walk-behind bar in the dining room ensures entertaining success. Merchandising by Kay Green Design.

    One computer, or even two, can find a home here, as well as a charging station for all of life’s electronic necessities.

    At King’s Ridge in Castle Rock, Co., Ryland Homes shows an office off the kitchen that includes a life-size busy family calendar for a second-time move-up buyer.

    At the Ridge at Lookout Canyon in San Antonio, McMillin Homes boasts an office off the kitchen which serves double duty as a “drop zone,” with backpack hangers and cubbies for stowing muddy cowboy boots or soccer shoes.

    Best Kitchen Designs
    Kitchen Island Ideas

    Kitchen-Island-Ideas & Other Great Kitchen-Design Trends
    "The Finish Line"

    Best Kitchen Floorplan

    “Cabinet door styles and finishes are the first things that set the tone,” says Pearlman. “They can change or affect the entire complexion of the kitchen.”

    She adds that off-white cabinetry is making a strong comeback in upper end markets. Flat-panel and Shaker-style doors are current hits, and so are cabinets in black and espresso.

    Six- or even ten-inch bar-like pulls are big hits, and for appliances, why be limited to stainless steel or white, both of which have been around for a while?

    Bronze is a gorgeous new finish for ppliances, suggests Green, and was featured in the Hanley-Wood Concept Home at IBS 2012.


    For countertops, granite is still popular, but equally so are some of the man-made quartz products such as Silestone® and Zodiaq.® These provide more design options, are more sustainable, and are maintenance free and bacteria resistant. Countertops such as IceStone® and Vetrazzo®, made of recycled glass, are important for the enviro-conscious buyer.

    The Collage model at King’s Ridge answered the builder’s request for a kitchen that represented sustainability. The countertops are man-made composite surfaces, and all tiles are made of glass.

    On the natural end of the spectrum is Carrara marble or a surface that resembles it. At Wilson Park in Tarrytown, N.Y., Toll Brothers shows a Cashmir granite countertop, echoing colors and veins reminiscent of Carrara, but without the maintenance of real marble.

    Kitchen with two islands


    Staying one step ahead of kitchen-island-ideas & trends can seem like hard work, but it pays off, says DeWalt. “We try hard not to show what everyone else is doing, so that our models will have a longer shelf life. You have to keep ahead of the trends because they change so fast.”

    Jan Mitchell

    has been senior editor for Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for over 20 years. She began her career as assistant director of NAHB’s National Sales and Marketing Council.

    She covers the art of model home merchandising and sales and marketing strategies for national industry publications and contributes to local home and garden magazines.

    She has served as a consultant to NAHB members across the country, and holds a California real estate license. As a newly crowned empty-nester, she now has a deep understanding of the important market niche that she has been covering all these years. Reach her at

    *Reprinted with permission from "REIMAGINING THE MODERN KITCHEN" by Jan Mitchell, 2013, Sales + Marketing Ideas, pages 22-29, Copyright 2013 by National Sales and Marketing Council of The National Association of Home Builders.

    Thanks for visiting kitchen-island-ideas! As you continue with your kitchen home-improvements, be sure to bookmark this page as a great reference tool. And, please don't be shy about sharing these kitchen-island-ideas with all of your friends. . . look to the left, take your pick...thanks for that!

    Keep in mind that it can take up to six months to fully develop a great kitchen-design, so don't rush things. Use this article as a starting point and be sure to check out some of the award-winning kitchen-designs from the authors below.

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