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February 15, 2021

IBSx Recap: Designing the 2021 Kitchen

Last month for IBSx, interior designer, Doris Pearlman, and I recorded our educational session on the 2021 kitchen. Unfortunately, they were unable to broadcast the semi-live portion as scheduled. Fortunately, you can watch the pre-recorded session here (, which I highly recommend to listen and visualize both of our perspectives (Doris covers many amazing interior design topics not discussed in this week’s newsletter).

But since so many didn’t get to see it, I wanted to share my thoughts.

When thinking about designing the 2021 kitchen, it’s impossible not to consider the impact Covid-19 has had and is still having on our kitchens. I believe the lockdowns have changed the role of our kitchens and our relationship to them. I like to think of it as the Covid Transformed Kitchen:

Home School/Home Office by day

As families were suddenly thrust into working and schooling from home, many found their homes ill-equipped with this new demand. Most often, the kitchen table and island became new workspaces. This demand on the kitchen was unprecedented. Moving forward, as many continue to work from home, buyers will want bigger, smarter, and better organized kitchens.

Bigger, Better Islands

Everyone wants a seat at the island! This was true before the pandemic, but Covid just increased that demand. During the day, the kitchen island became the school/workspace. This made the outlet on the island the most sought-after outlet in the entire house.

In the evening, the island often hosted dinner since the kitchen table was also filled with work. This is why we really need more than three seats at the island.

If you can place the seats at 90 degrees from each other, it becomes more conversational.

The Experimental Kitchen and Restaurant

The demand on our kitchens throughout the year was relentless. Unlike pre-pandemic times, when the house was empty during the day, now every meal was prepared and served in our kitchens. Furthermore, without the benefit of restaurant dining, there was an increased demand for new and different dishes and recipes. Suddenly, there was a shortage of yeast as folks tried making their own bread.

My daughter who was locked down in NYC learned how to make bagels, homemade pizza and of course, experimented creating exotic desserts. Why couldn’t she learn this when she lived with her parents?

Many cooks resorted to Amazon to delivering a variety of kitchen gadgets with just a click of the mouse. The list might include: Air Fryers, Bread maker, sous vide, rice cookers, quesadilla maker, immersion blenders… This begs the question, where do we put it all?

The Messy Kitchen

Enter the need for the Messy Kitchen. One of the cornerstones of our “Daily Lifestyle Solutions”, the Messy Kitchen became home to all the new, small kitchen appliances and gadgets. Think of it like an appliance garage on steroids. The Messy Kitchen could simply include extra counter space out of view of the main living area with ample outlets for our gadgets. A larger budget might include a second dishwasher or refrigerator. I like adding a sink to the Messy Kitchen, as you can never have enough places to wash your hands.

The Beverage Center

Now that everyone is home day and night, there is great demand on – well everything. The beverage center extends the function of the kitchen and is accessible to all without interfering with meal prep. Think of the beverage center like the office water cooler and coffee station during the day. For the kids, it’s a perfect spot to keep their juice boxes and snacks handy. At night, perhaps a craft beer or chilled bottle of wine. The beverage center lessens the load on the kitchen refrigerator – which is now packed to the gills.

Even before the pandemic, many households had a second refrigerator in their garage or basement. So, the need has always been there. Isn’t it time we recognized this trend and started designing our kitchens with space for two refrigerators?

The Power Pantry

As we dined in more, this placed greater demand on the pantry for storage. The average family, pre-pandemic, might have lunch in their homes only on the weekends and eat out at least three times during the week. That’s 13 meals prepared and served. During the height of the lockdown, 21 meals were prepared and served. That requires a lot of food.

Larger pantries were needed, not only for the additional food but also for paper goods – if you could find them. Bigger pantries might also include that second refrigerator and storage for more small appliances.

The Kitchen Pocket Office

Pocket offices became the new “must have” design feature following the pandemic. I love the idea of a pocket office just off the kitchen. This location is perfect for the multi-tasking chef who can both work and prepare the evening meal. It is also a great space for kids to do their schoolwork during lockdown or homework now that they are going back to school.

Kitchen Cleanliness

If we weren’t all germaphobes before the pandemic, we are now! Washing our hands, we were told, is the best way to stop the spread (of anything). This is why I love the idea of two sinks in the kitchen. Ideally, the second sink could be located near the owner’s entry to the home. Kitchen surfaces have also become a huge focus when it comes to cleanliness. The porosity of granite is less desired. Consider quartz countertops like Cambria that have the same porosity of stainless steel – but much more attractive.

Appliance Innovation to the Rescue in 2021!

Fortunately, makers of kitchen appliances have stepped up their game – just in time for the increased demand on our kitchens. Their goal is to do more within the same space. This might include wall ovens with a proofing feature for baking bread (goodbye bread maker). Some ovens include air fryers – freeing up our countertops and eliminating appliance clutter. Whirlpool has an oven equipped with a baking stone, steamer, and indoor grilling feature. Add the Yumly Bluetooth thermometer and you’ll never overcook the roast because you lost track of time “working” from home.

The same design philosophy has spilled over into dishwashers that now have three racks – allowing more dishes. The four-door refrigerator freezer allows better visibility and access to food. And don’t forget the pantry refrigerator and wine columns.

The housing industry’s response to the pandemic has been spectacular. Innovations in technology and design have given new and updated homes the upper hand when it comes to addressing buyers’ concerns. Has your idea of the perfect kitchen evolved over the past year? Do you find yourself needing more storage for all of the latest and greatest gadgets? Have you replaced granite countertops with a solid surface that’s easier to clean? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters