The Sub-Zero and Wolf annual Kitchen Design Contest, now in its 11th year, provides useful insights into leading and emerging trends in kitchen design

Drawing on the results of a survey of 53 regional and eight global winners in the Sub-Zero and Wolf annual Kitchen Design Contest, the two manufacturers have created a 2016 Kitchen Design Forecast that looks at emerging trends in the role of the kitchen, kitchen design, kitchen must-haves, appliances, and materials. Here are some highlights.


  • Open plan: 7 out of 10 designers say that an open floor plan is still in demand with clients.
  • Three out of four designers complete projects more for function over form. Rather than creating a “show kitchen” for their clients, designers are called on to provide kitchen designs that fit into clients’ living and cooking styles while also offering an aesthetically pleasing design.
  • 82 percent of design pros say the kitchen island is essential.
  • 72 percent say recycling centers are a must-have.
  • Transitional design style still prevails, with growing interest in the modern aesthetic.
  • “Organic design” is a growing trend that involves incorporating salvaged lumber and recycled materials into the home. Including natural elements, such as vertical gardens—particularly in designs that have limited outdoor space—is also gaining favor.
  • White is still the most popular color in the kitchen, but “new neutrals” and accent colors are gaining traction, with gray, blue, and black being the most popular colors.
  • Wood ranks as the No.1 material of choice, followed by quartz and stainless steel.
  • Integrated appliances are popular, with more panels and panel overlays being used. Refrigerator and freezer drawer technology is also on the rise, along with the desire to be able to conceal ovens, cooktops, and sinks when not in use. However, the survey results note: “Design pros agree that the term ‘integrated’ is the most misunderstood word in kitchen design today.”
  • Convection steam ovens and induction cooktops are the appliances most in demand. The designers surveyed say that they’d like to see consumers eliminate microwaves from their kitchens.
  • Over half of the design professionals surveyed agree that the outdoor kitchen is becoming increasingly popular.


  • Formal dining rooms: 72 percent of designers agree that the formal dining room is a thing of the past, with 47 percent of clients opting to remove it. Survey participants say that if the formal dining space is retained in the design, it often becomes part of a different room that uses barn doors or drapery to delineate the space. This allows homeowners added flexibility to either close up the space or keep it open.

Emerging Design Considerations

  • Aging Americans are downsizing or right-sizing and are looking for a cleaner, more streamlined kitchen design with fewer ledges and grooves.
  • Many parents are increasingly involving their children in cooking and family activities in the kitchen, and as kids become more interested in these activities, designers should start thinking about how to include them in the kitchen design. Examples: a separate drawer refrigerator specifically for kids’ snacks; corner sinks so parents and kids can work together on kitchen clean-up.

This article originally appeared at Pro Remodeler.