URBANA — The immediate past president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association told members of Champaign County Association of Realtors that they should look for more gray tones, quartz counter tops and white-painted cabinets in kitchens.
Speaking Thursday in Urbana, Alan Zielinski reported results of the association's 2013 Design Trends Survey.
Zielinski, whose family-owned kitchen-design business has been around for 57 years, said whites and off-whites remain the top color scheme for kitchens and bathrooms, followed by beiges.
But gray is quickly becoming more popular. According to the survey, 55 percent of member-designers reported using gray in kitchen design this year, up from 33 percent last year and only 9 percent in 2010.
Gray is perceived to have a "cool, calming, neutral" effect, Zielinski said.
Likewise, quartz is growing in popularity. Granite remains the No. 1 material for kitchen counters, but quartz is closing the gap. Eighty percent of the surveyed designers were using it this year, up from 69 percent last year.
"The big trend is in quartz," Zielinski said. "It's easy to clean and doesn't need the maintenance of natural stone."
White-painted cabinetry is also "in," with 67 percent of polled designers using it, up from 47 percent two years ago.
Other popular kitchen features include deeper sinks and high-spout faucets that help accommodate the use of bigger cookware, Zielinski said.
Touch-activated faucets are also trendy, with 32 percent of surveyed designers specifying them, up from 20 percent the previous year.
For faucet finishes, satin nickel is the No. 1 pick, with bronze and oil-rubbed bronze finishes taking second.
Polished chrome, once on the way out, "is back," Zielinski said, even though the survey showed a slight dip in usage this year.
For wall decoration, glass backsplashes are becoming more common, though ceramic and porcelain tiles remain the most popular option.
In comments following his speech, Zielinski recommended using glass tiles only as limited "punctuation" to a wall, noting that widespread use of them could cause a kitchen to appear dated down the road.
Overall kitchen design is trending toward simplicity, with straight horizontal and vertical lines evident, Zielinski said.
There's no heavy ornamentation to cabinetry, with a possible exception being the kitchen island, which is considered more of a "furniture piece."
"They're not just big slabs. They serve a lot of different functions," he said, noting they're used for prepping food, cooking and socializing.
In post-speech comments, he said that in smaller kitchens, people are moving away from having double ovens and double-bowl sinks. Steam ovens are also replacing microwave ovens, he said.
Zielinski said seven years ago, 70 percent of his business was new kitchens and 30 percent was remodels. That reversed when the recession hit, going to 20 percent new and 80 percent remodels.
"Now housing starts are up, and I'm starting to feel better," said Zielinski, whose business, Better Kitchens Inc., is based in Niles.
Zielinski said the average cost of a kitchen project is $47,308, down from $51,050 last year but up from $40,500 two years ago.
He attributed the slight drop to homeowners substituting mid-price fixtures for top-of-the-line name brands.
The average number of years between kitchen remodeling projects has steadily been dropping, he added. At one time, the average life was 28 years, but now it's fallen to seven or eight years.
The rule of thumb for how much one should spend on a kitchen remodel, he said, is 10 percent of the value of the house, not counting land. But that rule is flexible, depending on the owner's lifestyle choices.