Last week we discussed design trends for the whole house. This week we will focus on the 2012 trends for the kitchen.

Kitchen Trends before Kitchen trends of 2012

Before and after photos of a recent kitchen remodel. Major kitchen remodels have a 68.7 percent return on investment.

(Annie V. Schwemmer)

Kitchen updates rank among the most popular home improvements. The reason: Kitchen upgrades provide an excellent return on the investment, even in a down economy.

While a sluggish housing market and high remodeling construction costs continue to push down remodeling return on investment, a kitchen remodel has stayed relatively steady. A major kitchen remodel still has a 68.7 percent return on investment for the 2011 cost analysis. On a national average, customers spend $58,367 for a major kitchen remodel and recoup $40,126 in resale values. Keep in mind this figure is a national average, but whole kitchen remodels are expensive.

When you are determining your own return on investment, cost should be in line with the value of the home. To avoid over-remodeling for the neighborhood, real estate professionals recommend setting a budget at 15 percent of the home’s value for specific remodeling projects. They point out that this will ensure a higher return on investment, though if you do the math you will see that this amount will not generally be sufficient for a whole kitchen remodel.

Therefore, a popular option is a kitchen “face-lift,” Minor kitchen remodels that cost under $20,000 see a return on investment of 72 percent on a national average. This project is considered more of a replacement project than a remodel. The minor kitchen remodel project at that budget usually includes new cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware, as well as new countertops, appliances and flooring.

Plumbing fixtures and appliances generally stay in their same location. Not surprisingly, since 2004, when Minor Kitchen Remodel was added to the project list for the Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report, it has been the best-performing project in every year but one.

Basically, the logic is that smaller budget projects have a bigger impact on resale value, especially for areas of the home in high demand, such as luxurious new kitchens.

Even with a minor kitchen remodel, you can get creative and clever with appliances, countertops and lighting to create a significant impact. The top five kitchen remodeling trends for 2012 are doable with a minor kitchen remodel budget, though you will have to temper your selections (especially appliances) always with an eye on the budget.

Concealed appliances are on the top kitchen remodeling trends for 2012. Modern and minimalism kitchen designs have been using concealed appliances for years, but now more designers are finding creative ways to use these function-building ideas for the nearly every style of kitchen.

Induction cooktops and built-in wall ovens are options with this popular trend. Concealed steam ovens, warming drawers and built-in coffee centers are also becoming must-haves when it comes to kitchen design.

If matching panels are installed on the front of refrigerators and dishwashers, they will blend seamlessly with the rest of the cabinet layout. This becomes more important if your kitchen is open to either the dining room or family room, as it then needs to hold its own in meeting the level of décor and sophistication of the surrounding rooms.

According to the design trend followers, maple cabinetry seems to be among the favorites for this year. However, your cabinet choice should depend on personal preference (remember that this part of your kitchen is here to stay for the next decade or two) and the style of your home. Different shades of white or off-white hues make good finishes for Cape Cod kitchens, while dark natural finishes work well in more traditional designs.

Trends are also coming in the form of creative cabinet designs. Floating units, touch-latch doors, and cabinets with innovative surfaces, such as semi-translucent glass, bamboo and aluminum are becoming popular options for 2012.

Countertops with custom touches, such as inserts of marble pastry slabs or wooden butcher blocks, are also expected to grow in popularity. Some homeowners even embed concrete with metal and glass bits. Choosing renewable and recycled materials, such as quartz and concrete over natural stone or marble is a great option for those who want to cut down on maintenance.

Using decorative lighting in the kitchen is another up-and-coming design trend. Decorative lighting fixtures, accent lighting and sconces are being used to draw attention to kitchen décor.

Overall, kitchen design hasn’t changed much over the past few years. When choosing your kitchen updates and finishes, make sure they work with the style of your house and your own personal preferences. While more people are doing minor kitchen updates as opposed to major kitchen remodels, it is important to keep your master plan in mind. If you have plans to relocate or add on to the kitchen, or an addition that might disturb the kitchen, then plan ahead to avoid doing something you will have to tear out later. Consider the impact your project will have on your property’s value, plan for the future and remember to remodel smart.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group,, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

Kitchen remodeling trends for 2012