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Homeowners are looking for modern kitchen designs with white and gray color schemes. Though, beyond that they're interested in flexibility and customization in their kitchen and bath spaces. Changes in bathroom and kitchen designs also are driven by innovations in technology and the desire for low-maintenance living, says Dan DiClerico, smart-home strategist and home expert for HomeAdvisor.

Washington Post writer Michele Lerner presents new trends in kitchens and baths that builders should keep in mind:

Smart toilets: Technology has improved one of the most basic fixtures in the house: your toilet. New models have built-in bidets, cleaning functions and night lights for safety. “Smart toilets have features to minimize maintenance with self-cleaning features, including one that mists the bowl before and after each use to cut cleaning time in half,” DiClerico said. “Wall-hung toilets also make it easier to clean under and around the toilet.”

Barn doors: Barn doors have been part of the rustic and industrial-chic design style for a few years, sometimes as a closet door or a decorative element in homes. Now they’ve become a highly functional element of bathroom designs, says Elle H-Millard, industry relations manager for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). “Barn doors are efficient and provide easy access to the room and, since they don’t swing out or in, they use less space and don’t trap anyone behind the door,” H-Millard said. “It doesn’t look like universal design, but it’s actually a practical safety mechanism that consumers are adopting.”

Mixed materials: Even though most homeowners stick to a gray-and-white color scheme in the master bathroom, there’s plenty of space for creativity. “There are so many tile options, including porcelain, natural stone and ceramic tile, so we’re seeing a lot of people mix and match the size of the stones or tiles,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist with Houzz. “Some people are using large slabs of stone or tile for the flooring and walls, and using a variety of tiles in the shower. Even if they are using all white tiles, they can add interest with different textures.”

Columns for refrigerators and more: “One of the most surprising things to me is how quickly column refrigerator units have been adopted,” H-Millard said. “It usually takes years for trends to be embraced, but these were introduced just a couple of years ago, and their popularity has boomeranged.” Separate refrigerator and freezer units allow homeowners to reconfigure and customize their kitchens with more or less freezer space or special units for different food groups. According to NKBA’s 2018 Kitchen and Bath Design Trends study, 55 percent of professional kitchen designers say refrigerator columns are the trendiest item in kitchens. More than 75 percent of designers say homeowners want separate wine refrigerators.

Connected kitchens: Technology can be used to improve safety in kitchens, such as appliances with an automatic shut-off or an alert system, which DiClerico says will become increasingly important for elderly people adjusting their homes to better meet their physical needs, or aging in place. Some exciting technology, such as smart appliances, are enticing but yet to be widely embraced by homeowners.

Low maintenance materials: Quartz is the most popular material for kitchen counters, identified as trendy by 94 percent of kitchen designers in the NKBA study. “Consumers today, especially millennials, have less tolerance for high-maintenance materials,” DiClerico said. “They don’t want moldings on their cabinets that catch dust, and they’ve realized that quartz requires less maintenance than marble or granite.”

A little color and darkness: Although white and gray are still on-trend for kitchens, colorful appliances and new metallic finishes could be found in abundance at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. “This is more of an emerging trend, but our survey of designers found that people are starting to integrate a little more color into their kitchens,” H-Millard said. “Appliances and fixtures in brass, copper and gold finishes look elegant and not outdated. We’re even seeing some bold appliance colors like cobalt blue or orange. The good thing about those is that they have a simple panel to exchange the front for a different color in the future.”

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