The Hottest Kitchen and Bath Trends of 2021
After a year of sheltering in place, the kitchen and bath industry turns its focus to wellness and style.
The annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show
(KBIS) is the largest event for these two important home spaces, typically drawing more than 100,000 attendees who seek out the latest in materials and technology, faucets and fixtures, appliances, cabinetry and much more. Because of the ongoing pandemic that has shut down large gatherings, this year’s show took place virtually. We clicked in to find the hottest new products, learn about emerging design trends and see if the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how homeowners view and use their kitchens and baths. From eye-catching styles to innovative technology, the following pages showcase some of this year’s most anticipated releases and must-have accessories that will transform your living spaces into a comfortable, beautiful and safe retreat.
The COVID Effect
The pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home orders have upped the ante when it comes to design. “The past year has made us all crucially aware of what hygiene, wellness and safety are all about,” says Bill Strang, president of operations for Toto. The company touts “cleanovation,” a portmanteau of “clean” and “innovation,” to articulate its commitment to a kind of cleanliness that promotes peace of mind, beauty and wellness.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the popularity of personal hygiene toilet seats, both for protection against the virus and self-reliance from those infamous toilet paper shortages. Bidets, incorporated into new toilets or added to existing units, offer an added sense of sanitation.
“An interesting phenomenon happened in March 2020—we at Toto call it the Great Toilet Paper Panic,” Strang recalls. “When that occurred, bidets became the 20th most-searched term on Amazon, behind hand sanitizers, gloves, masks and toilet paper. Before the pandemic, a bidet was something most folks only knew about if they traveled internationally. Afterwards, it became no longer a want but instead a need.”
David Kohler, president and CEO of Kohler, adds, “Hands-free technology is very top-of-mind for homeowners. Demand for clean kitchen and bath products has soared over the past year. Touchless faucets and intelligent toilets with bidet capabilities and self-closing seats reduce germ spread.”
Motion- and voice-activated fixtures, once reserved only for public restrooms, have made their way into households. They’re ideal for kitchens, powder rooms and shared bathrooms where multiple people touch the same tap. Some faucets even feature temperature memory for convenience and an automatic 20-second washing mode for health. “Homeowners particularly want touchless fixtures that can help with washing hands and limiting cross-contamination with other areas,” Kohler notes.
Low-maintenance surface materials that are easy to sterilize are also making their way into homes, serving as countertops, flooring, wall cladding and integrated sinks.
“People are really thinking about cleanliness lately,” says Austin Durling, a spokesperson for Cosentino, which offers Dekton and Silestone. “We heard from clients and homeowners that they want to be more educated about the hygienic properties of our products. Even if they’re not going to bite the bullet on something that’s more expensive, they at least want to understand it.”
Unlike natural stones, which are porous, these ultracompact manmade surfaces feature little to no pores, they’re not only durable, they’re easy to sanitize. Durling notes that Cosentino’s materials only require a little soap and water, but if you wish to use stronger cleaning solutions, “you can scrub away and don’t have to worry about the surface staining or fading.”
While most of these concepts aren’t new to the market, they’ve become much more prized and taken on added importance when faced with a life-threatening virus. Strang sums up this new outlook: “We all want to live a cleaner, healthier, safer life, and our home’s hygiene is all about where we are for overall wellness.”
Say goodbye to toilet paper by adding the Washlet C5 bidet seat to your current toilet. Featuring an easy-to-use remote control with illuminated touchpad, the C5 provides a satisfying cleansing every time. A warm, gentle spray oscillates and pulsates, after which warm air gently dries the area. To keep the bowl and wands clean, the EWater+ system automatically mists with electrolyzed water, reducing the need for harsh cleaning chemicals. $780 (totousa.com)
Push of a Button
The Ladylux L2 SmartControl Kitchen Faucet makes everyday tasks effortless. Equipped with Grohe’s SmartControl button at the tip of the pull-out spout, it allows for easy on/off and hands-free convenience. The newly redesigned fixture showcases a streamlined tapered base with no lever or handles. A dial at the base of the faucet regulates water, while flow is adjusted by turning the SmartControl button. Available in chrome and steel. $799/$949 (grohe.us)
No Touch Flush
The Cadet Touchless Toilet helps control the spread of germs in the bathroom. Simply wave your hand over the compact sensor module, installed within 3 feet of the toilet, to trigger a powerful flush. And American Standard’s exclusive EverClean surface inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew that cause stains and odor, so you spend less time cleaning. $652 (americanstandard-us.com)
Developed before the pandemic but released this year, the U by Moen smart faucet is operated through the company’s smartphone app, by voice control commands compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and through MotionSense Wave touchless sensor activation that’s turned on with the wave of a hand. A “Wash Hands” preset turns warm water on for lathering and then turns off for 20 seconds—the CDC-recommended time for scrubbing—and then turns on again for a final rinse. Fourteen styles and seven finishes ensure an aesthetic that matches any home decor. Prices start at $671. (moen.com)
Wash Your Way
Transform your standard toilet into the next generation of cleanliness with the Discovery DLS Bio Bidet by Bemis. This attachable bidet seat features automatic open and close for a completely touchless experience. The built-in UV sterilizer cleanses the nozzle after each use. Front and rear wash, adjustable air and water temperatures and water pressure, a heated seat and three-stage air dryer make each trip to the bathroom safe and luxurious. $900 (biobidet.com)
The four-piece Riff Kitchen Faucet Collection brings a modern aesthetic to the heart of the home. Available in five luxe finishes, the fixtures feature the company’s aerated Sweep stream, which creates a powerful blade of water, and Boost technology that allows for a 30% increase in flow rate. On top of this, Riff integrates with Kohler’s Konnect smart home platform for voice-activated, hands-free control, as well as the Response motion-activated technology. Prices start at $350. (kohler.com)
The Evita washbasin is Cosentino’s first direct-to-consumer launch. Crafted of a single piece of Silestone, the design provides visual unity and seamless integration with the surrounding countertop, eliminating joints for easy cleaning. Available in three standard basin sizes, three colors—White Zeus, Statuario and Desert Silver—and a variety of tailor-made countertops. Prices start at $1,399. (silestoneusa.com)
The Rise of Outdoor Kitchens
According to a virtual panel at KBIS 2021, the demand for outdoor living spaces is forecasted to grow, regardless of the climate. “Eighty-two percent of participants in a Harris Poll conducted by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens said that their interest in outdoor living spaces is greater than it was pre-pandemic,” says Los Angeles-based interior designer John McClain, who moderated the discussion.
Whether homeowners live in major cities or small towns, on the East Coast or the in the Sonoran Desert, minimizing the amount of time spent inside has become top of mind, especially with the limitations placed on the travel, restaurant and shopping industries. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, amenities such as swimming pools and outdoor kitchens, while popular especially in Arizona, were often an afterthought.
“People are looking to have staycations at home and reevaluating how they entertain,” explains Matt Herbert, general manager for Sherwood Outdoor Kitchens. “Where they used to go to restaurants, they’re now saying, ‘How can we bring that kind of fun into our back gardens?’.”
While fire features, bars and TV and theater seating arrangements are moving up the list of backyard must-haves, outdoor kitchens have evolved from a simple grill and picnic table to chef-quality spaces that expand and sometimes rival their interior counterparts.
Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning architect and designer Daniel Germani is known for his innovative product creations for such industry leaders as Cosentino, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens and Gandia Blasco. “The line between indoor and outdoor design has completely blurred,” he says.
Many homeowners want to match their interior appliances to their outdoor ones, and a lot of high-end manufacturers, including Wolf, Heston and Thor, offer dedicated outdoor appliances, making it easy to match styles and finishes. Specialty items, such as pizza ovens, wine refrigerators and dual-fuel grills, add another level of culinary experience. “Countertop space is also is important when it comes to an outdoor kitchen,” Herbert notes.
Hardwearing materials, such as stainless steel and ultra-compact surfaces, dominate, thanks to their ability to withstand extreme temperatures, hot cookware and chipping, as well as their ease of care. “Durability and the construction of products are so important these days,” McClain says. “This may not be something on the surface that’s easy to see right away, but it really makes a difference. These beautiful details are often hidden behind the scenes.”
Germani points to Dekton’s zero porosity, which results in a finish that never fades or stains. The designer incorporates the material as a countertop on his modular freestanding outdoor kitchens, including the award-winning ASA-DS and Elements line, both of which are produced through Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens.
“Today, there are no boundaries to design because the materiality and technology are there,” Germani says. “We’re moving away from the whole idea of an outdoor kitchen with the pony wall and the big brick finishes or fake stones. Now you can create really bold, beautiful, modern settings that could easily feel at home inside. Literally, the sky’s the limit.”
The MoBar 550 S brings the party from the pool to the patio. Stylish and functional, this mobile bar cart is designed of heavy-duty stainless steel that holds up to harsh environments. The dual-zone compressor refrigerator can hold up to 39 wine bottles or 155 beer cans, while a removable ice bucket can keep an additional 22 bottles or 32 cans chilled and on display. An oak cutting board, steel serving tray and adjustable storage rack are also included for complete entertaining. $4,399 (dometic.com)
Style and Substance
The Elements collection of freestanding stainless steel modules takes outdoor kitchens to the next level of refinement. Sleek lines and a low profile complement today’s popular midcentury modern-influenced homes and furnishings. With access to storage and shelving from both sides, the units can be combined into sideboards, cooking stations or island blocks, and they’re available in a range of powder-coated shades, from mint green and cotton candy pink to rich black and bold red. Price upon request. (brownjordanoutdoorkitchens.com)
Interest in outdoor cooking has expanded beyond burgers and steaks, and the Series 9 built-in grill expands the menu to include everything from pancakes to paella. In addition to traditional grilling, this handcrafted stainless steel appliance smokes, sears, rotisseries, bakes and slow cooks, thanks to the inclusion of a griddle, power burner, charcoal smoking trays and an infrared rotisserie that can hold 50 pounds. Available in 36″ and 48″ models. 6,209/$7,359 (dcsappliances.com)
Thor’s Modular Outdoor Kitchen Suite eliminates the need for costly build-ins. The eight freestanding pieces can be arranged in flexible layouts, including an L- or U-shape. Mix and match from your choice of 24-inch refrigerator drawers, a pizza oven, a side burner with bottom cabinet, a grill, a grill cabinet, a sink cabinet, corner cabinet and appliance cabinet, all crafted from 304 stainless steel that resists rust, is easy to clean and ensures longevity. Prices range from $299 to $1,299 per unit. (thorkitchen.com)
Each year at KBIS, more than 600 brands from around the world introduce new products for the kitchen and bath. From decorative accessories and lighting to plumbing fixtures and appliances, the innovation and creativity seen on the exhibit floor are constantly changing. Here are some of our favorite finds from this year’s show.
Forza goes extra-wide, extra-large and extraordinary with the 48″ Professional Gas Range with a single-cavity oven. Large enough to fit two turkeys or multiple commercial-size trays, the 7.8-cubic-foot cavity has more than 40 inches of clearance. Ultra-premium features include a 33″ rotisserie, the industry’s only blue-flame broiler and an angular racecar-inspired design. Seven color options are available. $8,599 (forzacucina.com)
Ideal for modern, minimalist and industrial homes, the plinthlike Urban Kant Pedestal basins showcase crisp lines and mitered edges. Choose from seven stone-look and eight marble-look porcelain finishes, three HPL finishes, and matte white or matte black Corian solid surface to suit your contemporary bathroom design. Shown in porcelain marble-look Bianco Statuario. 34.625″H by 29.635″W by 17.75″D. $5,999-$6,750 (hastingstilebath.com)
Next Generation of Clean
Fisher & Paykel expands on its iconic DishDrawer with the Series 11. Enhanced features include knock-to-pause function, fully stainless steel interior, soft close, wine-glass grippers and Wi-Fi capabilities. The glass care 60-minute wash-and-dry is ideal for homeowners who like to entertain. Price upon request. (fisherpaykel.com)
The Finishing Touch
Handcrafted in Portland, Oregon, the Apex collection of stoneware tiles incorporates crisp geometry and bold textures for a subtle play of shadow and light. Choose from five three-dimensional patterns in a variety of opaque and translucent hues, as well as metallic glazes. Starting at $80/square foot. (annsacks.com)
The Medley Collection by Nemo Tile & Stone reworks the classical design of Italian terrazzo for today’s taste and lifestyle. Comprised of hardwearing concrete, this is a fresh take on an iconic surface material with chunky, contrasting chip patterns in six retro shades. Select from multiple sizes, ranging from standard 12″-square tiles to 47.2″L by 12.9″W slabs. $7.50-$9.50/square foot. (nemotile.com)
Made to Order
Customize your refrigerator to meet your needs and express your personal style with Samsung’s Bespoke line. Eight shades and two finishes offer a variety of creative looks, from a solid hue to color-blocking. Choose your water option and ice dispenser, as well. Prices range from $1,299 for an 11.4-cubic-foot single-door Flex column to $3,899 for a 23 cubic-foot, four-door model. (samsung.com)
Enjoy the warmth of wood with the durability of engineered surfaces with Wilsonart’s Lujo Collection. Six Timbergrain textures showcase a low-sheen wood finish paired with dimensional, realistic ticking and natural variations. Shown in Avondale Ash. Cabinet doors start at $18 per square foot; TFL panels from $1.50 per square foot. (wilsonart.com)
Curb Kitchen Clutter
The sturdy Storage With Style collection of organizers was designed with aesthetics and functionality in mind. Maximize cabinet storage and gain easy access to dishware, pans, spices and more. Two finishes, polished chrome and black nickel, fit with any kitchen color scheme. $275-$1,020 (hardwareresources.com)
No Detail Overlooked
Elegant fixtures receive a pop of playful fun in Fantini’s new Nice Collection. Transparent resin handles in cheerful shades of red, blue, green and black pay tribute to the luminous essence of water; their smooth finish reflects the sensual lines of the minimalist fixtures. $872-$2,782. (fantiniusa.com)
2021 Award Winners
The Best of KBIS Awards recognize the most groundbreaking new kitchen and bath products introduced each year.
BEST IN SHOW
Dekton Craftizen Collection
Designed specifically for flooring and cladding, the Craftizen collection combines the covetable hand-finished look and feel of Venetian plaster with the durability and ease of care for which Dekton is renowned. The large-scale 126″L by 60″W slabs are available in five warm organic hues, ranging from a silky tan to an elegant dark gray and a timeless terra cotta, and feature a rich stucco-like texture that withstands stains and scratches. (cosentino.com)
Emtek Select Knobs
Door hardware should be more than a way to open and close a room, and this contemporary collection helps your home make a statement. Available in three designs (white marble, knurled or straight knurled) and seven finishes, the knobs can be mixed and matched with Emtek’s stems and rosettes for customized, trend-forward looks. (emtek.com)
Flo by Moen Smart Sump Pump Monitor
A failed sump pump can result in flood damage and costly repairs. This proactive device tracks water levels, power loss, leaks and more and alerts homeowners when failures or unusual conditions are detected. The Moen app allows you to view real-time data, analytics and pump status from anywhere at any time. (moen.com)
GC Touchless Faucet
Inspired by the entrance columns of ancient Japanese temples, the sleek minimalist design of the GC Touchless Faucet epitomizes timeless beauty. Its high-arc ribbon spout and SoftFlow Technology ensure precise flow control, while the hydropower turbine in the EcoPower valve means there’s no hardwiring or routing battery replacement required and no daily usage limits. (totousa.com)
Moxie Showerhead + Wireless Speaker with Amazon Alexa
Transform your shower into an immersive sensory experience. The stylish showerhead provides full-coverage spray and features a portable speaker powered by Harman Kardon that delivers the highest-quality acoustics. Just say the word, and built-in Amazon Alexa technology will cue up your favorite song or podcast or check the day’s traffic and weather. (smarthome.kohler.com)
IMPACT AWARD GOLD
TandemLED from Task Lighting
This patent-pending technology from Task Lighting features a two-wire operation that allows users to adjust the lights from Warm White 2700K to Daylight White 5000K while also fine-tuning the output from dim to bright. The system can be controlled by a wireless remote or by smartphone or voice command. (tandemled.com)
IMPACT AWARD SILVER
LG Studio WashTower
Tackle ultra-large loads in half the floor space with this sleek, single-unit vertical laundry solution. Showcasing LG’s exclusive Noble Steel finish, the 5.0-cubic-foot washer and 7.4-cubic-foot dryer fit king-size bedding, while the TurboWash 360° uses five jets to power through large loads in less than 30 minutes. 79.34″H by 27″W by 32.75″D. (lg.com)
Cooking with Monogram
Brian Malarkey knows kitchens. The popular chef and restaurateur first caught the public’s attention on the third season of Bravo’s reality cooking competition “Top Chef,” on which he came in fourth. Since then, he’s gone on to open numerous eateries—including the celebrated Herb & Wood in San Diego, as well Searsucker in Scottsdale, which operated from 2012-2014— and appeared as a contestant and judge on a variety of TV shows, including “Top Chef All-Stars,” “Home & Family,” “Chopped” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.” He’s also partnered with Monogram to showcase the company’s products through cooking demonstrations and appearances at trade shows. We sat down with Malarkey following the 2021 KBIS to get his take on appliances and learn about what he looks for in a kitchen.
What got you hooked on Monogram?
Brian Malarkey: When I bought my house, I used the appliances that were already in it. Then I started playing with Monogram’s products, and I was so impressed. I especially love the Hearth Oven. The fact that I could have an oven inside my home that could get up to 1,300 degrees blows my mind. That’s hotter than what you find at fancy charbroiled steakhouses. And I don’t feel any heat when I’m standing 1 foot in front of it. I was wowed by the innovation.
One of the biggest trends in ranges in the past few years is induction cooktops. What are your thoughts on them?
Malarkey: When I first started using Monogram’s induction cooktop, I realized how responsive it was and how easy it was to clean. It’s also very home-safe because the surface doesn’t get hot except for where it touches the pans. I don’t know what space-age materials they use on them, but they don’t scratch. You don’t have to use special saute pans. I love using big, heavy cast-iron pots and getting them super-hot. Look at [three-Michelin-starred restaurants] Alinia in Chicago, French Laundry in California or Maaemo in Norway. They only use induction cooking. It really is the wave of the future.
You recently redesigned your home kitchen. What’s your advice for making the space attractive and functional?
Malarkey: You have to begin with timeless design—everything from the tile to the countertop to the appliances. It’s better for resale and it’s better for the aesthetics. If you add items with too many bells and whistles and colors, they’re not going to stand the test of time. I like appliances that are understated but really perform well. That’s why I like Monogram. Their products have a classic appeal. Also, the kitchen is the heart of the house. It’s where most of the time, energy, life lessons, stories and laughter are shared, so any time you have the opportunity to open up walls and build a sitting area around the counter where people can talk and cook makes the space approachable—that’s what’s important.
Not everyone can afford a top-of-the-line chef’s kitchen, but what elements should not be skimped on?
Malarkey: The oven is the engine of my sports car. That’s where I’d spend the money. You also want countertops that are built to take food. Marble is beautiful, but it absorbs all the acid and stains. The faux counters are better.
What’s one item in your kitchen that you can’t live without?
Malarkey: My knives are as important to me as a cell phone is to communication. Everything I do with a knife is done with precision. I recommend the Japanese brands Miyabi and Shun. Asian cutlery uses thinner metal than German knives, which is much easier to keep sharp.