With so many materials, surfaces and appliances at play, it can be difficult to get a kitchen's design scheme right. And ensuring your kitchen is functional and inviting is of the utmost importance, as you're likely spending a decent chunk of time cooking, entertaining, and eating in this versatile room.
There's such a wealth of timeless kitchen styles to choose from, but small details can make a huge difference – one wrong move, and your classy contemporary kitchen could be left feeling like a time capsule.
If your kitchen design is due for a refresh, you'll want to opt for up-to-date and state-of-the-art features that'll prevent the room from showing any signs of age. We spoke with interior designers for expert insight on features that are probably making your kitchen look dated. Plus, they told us how to remedy an out-of-date look. Here's what they had to say.
What features are making your kitchen feel dated?
To make sure your kitchen stays up to date, it's important to pay attention to both the big picture and the seemingly minor details. Elizabeth Krueger, principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, says that kitchens are easy to give a quick refresh – you just have to know where to look.
'Door styles and colors, countertops and hardware – the good news is those are easier to update to get a fresh look,' says Elizabeth.
These are the other features making your kitchen look dated, and how to keep your design style fresh.
Elizabeth Krueger is the principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, an award-winning firm based in Chicago and Cleveland.
1. Trend-centric design styles
Kitchens work best when they're welcoming and calm, and the overall design style you opt for has a big impact on how the space makes you feel. It's important to go in with a plan of action so when all is said and done, you're left with a room you love.
'We love kitchens, first of all, that function for serious cooking, but being visually warm and inviting is also a truly wonderful thing,' says Matthew White, interior designer and co-founder of White Webb.
By sticking with reclaimed and hand-made materials, 'crisp, clean cabinets' and plastered walls, Matthew says a space feels 'bright and fresh,' enduring the test of time.
Matthew White is co-founder of White Webb, a New York City-based design studio, alongside Frank Webb.
Amber Shay, National VP of Design Studios at Meritage Homes, agrees that materials matter, and suggests choosing those that have already proved to be long-lasting in the design world. Natural stone is one of her top recommendations. To avoid a dated look, steer clear of the oversized molding and complicated details often found in Tuscan-inspired kitchens, she says.
'Ornate moldings and intricate details can give a kitchen a heavy and traditional feel,' says Amber.
Farmhouse style is one to avoid if you're looking to keep your kitchen fresh, according to Audrey Scheck, interior designer of Audrey Scheck Design. Although the style doesn't always come across as dated, it's shifted over time and might need some updating.
'While the charm of farmhouse design is certainly not going anywhere, we’re seeing a shift towards the cottagecore trend. Instead of horizontal shiplap, we’re seeing a rise in vertical wood paneling or kitchen wallpaper to bring more visual interest to your walls,' says Audrey.
But if you're really looking for an enduring design style, staying away from the kitchen trends seems to be secret.
'With this list, my biggest takeaway is to avoid the trends! Design for you: with the styles, colors, and materials you love, and your space will have much more longevity than anything you find plastered all over any social media platform, says Alexandra Denburg, principal designer of M&P Design Group.
2. White and gray color schemes
Color trends seem to come and go on the daily, but certain color schemes are clear giveaways for dated kitchens. While white kitchens were all the rage for a while, Amber says the style is now 'taking a backseat.'
'Design preferences are shifting toward more diverse color palette, incorporating warmer tones and varied textures,' she says.
Along with white, cool gray shades can be a bit dated, making a space feel 'cold and unwelcoming,' says Amber. She suggests using 'softer greige tones' for a warmer, more homey look.
Alexandra agrees that grays look quite dated, and says that dark-colored base cabinets or islands are signs of an old-school kitchen design. Dark navy or hunter green are especially out of date, she says.
Amber Shay is the National VP of Design Studios at Meritage Homes, a real estate and construction company based in the United States.
3. Cool-toned cabinets
Color, material, and detailing all contribute to up-to-date cabinetry, and the correct combination of all three makes this prominent kitchen feature shine. When it comes to color specifically, many of the full-kitchen color schemes that look out of date apply to the kitchen cabinets, too.
'While white cabinetry will remain a classic, there is definitely a shift happening. Designers and homeowners are gravitating toward warmer hues in an effort to infuse character into their environment. In particular, we’re seeing an upward trend in an earth-toned color palette of muddy green, burgundy, creamy whites and shades of brown,' says Audrey.
With more than a half-dozen years of experience in remodels and renovations, Audrey Scheck leads Audrey Scheck Design, a full-service interior design firm based in Austin, Texas.
Richard Davonport, Managing Director of Davonport, agrees that warm neutrals are on the rise, as they provide a 'richness and homely feel.' He says to stay away from recent trending colors like forest green, gray, navy blue and cold-toned whites, stressing how easy it is to update cabinet color schemes when in need of a refresh.
Certain wooden cabinetry can quickly put your kitchen out of date as well, according to Jennifer Davis, principal designer and founder of Davis Interiors.
'Decorative ceiling grids and soffits, while once popular, now appear quite dated. I also find that golden oak cabinets with shiny brass hardware and cabinets that don't reach the ceiling belong to a bygone era,' she says.
Amber says to avoid this pitfall by opting for painted cabinets – that way, you can update any time you like rather than committing to just one wood finish. She also suggests Shaker-style cabinetry for their 'clean and simple lines' that have proved versatile and timeless.
Richard Davonport is a luxury cabinetmaker and designer, and the Managing Director of Davonport, a bespoke kitchen brand based in the UK.
4. Out-of-the-box hardware
Little details go a long way, and the hardware and plumbing finishes you choose for your kitchen can make the room look dated in an instant. Jenny Keenan, principal designer and founder of Jenny Keenan Design, says to stick with the classics to ensure expensive plumbing or high-end hardware doesn't go out of date.
'We do classic timeless finishes, polished nickel, un-lacquered brass, and chrome on our plumbing – that will never go out of style,' says Jenny.
Amber adds that gold finishes won't date, but 'strong, brassy gold tones are often associated with older design trends.' And a finishing touch that takes a kitchen back in time, according to Alexandra, is an exposed cabinet hinge. Hide the hinges away with your cabinetry for a sleek and streamlined look.
Alexandra leads M&P Design Group, an award-winning interior design firm based in New York City.
5. Granite countertops
When it comes to kitchen countertops, the consensus is that granite makes for an old-school space: 'While granite countertops were once highly popular, they can now contribute to a dated appearance. Modern kitchens tend to feature materials like quartz or marble for a sleek feel,' says Amber.
She suggests choosing quartz or quartzite for a 'luxurious and modern look' that's durable enough for the kitchen. Marble also has a 'timeless and elegant quality that many homeowners appreciate,' she says. Jenny adds that natural stone countertops offer a gorgeous patina that won't go out of style. And Jennifer says to steer clear of laminate finishes.
'Laminate countertops, especially those with patterns reminiscent of the '70s or '80s, are often associated with outdated kitchens. While granite used to symbolize luxury, the current trend leans towards diverse and unique materials like quartz or marble. These materials, known for their sleek and low-maintenance qualities, have become synonymous with modern kitchen design,' says Jennifer.
Jennifer Davis has 25+ years of design experience, and is the Principal Designer and Founder of Davis Interiors, a full-service interior design studio based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
6. Harsh lighting
Lighting has a massive impact on any space, and the kitchen is no exception. Kyle O'Donnell and Christopher Sale, founder and senior project manager of New York City-based Gramercy Design, says that 'halogen puck lighting and dated can lights all over the ceiling instantly divulge a kitchen's age.'
'Swapping these out for unobtrusive LED strip lighting under the cabinets and small format LED recessed downlights in the ceiling is a great way to provide an instant facelift,' they say.
Jennifer also warns against fluorescents for kitchen lighting, saying it 'tends to cast a harsh and unflattering glow.'
'Switching to contemporary pendant lights or recessed lighting not only instantly transforms the ambiance but also brings the kitchen into the modern era,' she says.
Gramercy Design is a boutique interior design studio based in New York City, and founded and led by Kyle O'Donnell. Christopher Sale is the firm's Senior Project Manager.
7. In-the-way appliances
A kitchen without appliances isn't worth much, but designers say that hiding them away is one of the best ways to avoid an old-fashioned design scheme. Placing clutter-causing appliances in a butler pantry or appliance garages are growing in popularity for a clear countertop look, says Audrey.
'We’re seeing a rise in panel-ready appliances, which allow for a custom panel to be installed on top of a refrigerator or dishwasher to seamlessly integrate them into kitchen cabinetry,' she says.
Jenny agrees, saying her firm now tends to panel appliances so stainless steel finishes remain hidden. Millwork or custom metal range hoods are also go-tos, allowing for a more streamlined design scheme.
Jenny Keenan is the Principal Designer and Founder of Charleston, South Carolina-based Jenny Keenan Design.
Keeping your kitchen up-to-date can really make a difference, allowing you to whip up meals without stress and your guests to relax in a welcoming space. And as long as you pay attention to timeless features, your kitchen will last for the long term.
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I am a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, with a focus on interior design. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.
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