Kitchen Heads Toward the New Millennium

The kitchens of the 1980s and 1990s were suddenly high on style, and it wasn't always good. But in the 21st century we're getting back to good design.
By: Mark McCauley


In the kitchen, the 1980s were all about stripping down and getting back to basics. That wasn't always pretty, but in the 1990s: Watch out. Everyone switched recipes and went for style, any style, doesn't matter if it matches the rest of the home, it's Style with a capital "S."

What do you want? You can have it. How about an 18th-century kitchen in deep cherry with brass batwing drawer pulls, maybe an Arts-and-Crafts Kitchen, an ethnic-influenced kitchen, perhaps a little California washed-wood finish with that delightful pink undertone was your cup of tea. It was the "anything goes" concept in the '90s, your choice. That's because the kitchen industry wised up and stopped telling people what was fashionable and started asking people what they wanted.

What people wanted, it turned out, was a humongous industrial stove. It was de rigueur to have such a veritable stainless steel monster of a stove — even though you nuked everything — that looked like it belonged in the kitchen of the St. Regis Hotel, whipping up meals for hundreds, three times a day. These babies were big mothers, and, not unlike an automobile, status symbols.

On top of the big-stove fetish, everybody today seems to want to be an Italian. This comes from the following poor reasoning: If I surround myself with Italian style, it will magically change me into a magnificent Italian chef.

Unfortunately, this reasoning is somewhat unsound — sorry to disappoint you. And, in fact, you should absolutely avoid the latest kitchen fashions. A kitchen is going to have a long lifespan, due for the most part to the expense. You aren't going to want to redo your kitchen next fall, so the style you pick today tends to stick around. In 2015, every single human being who views your Tuscan calamity will go, "Hmmm, I bet they did this kitchen in 2005." And darned if they'd be right! Won't you be embarrassed?

The way out of this mess is to decorate your kitchen in conjunction with, not as a complete departure from, the rest of the home's architecture. Look at your home, inside and out, check out the molding style, the roofline and the materials used in other parts of the home. For example, if you have a brick facade on your home, consider incorporating that into your kitchen design, perhaps a travertine pillowed marble backsplash that replicates a brick wall. If you have flagstone outside, consider a flagstone floor in the kitchen.

Your kitchen is your home in miniature, and it is unlikely that you live 50 miles outside of Florence. It's your home, your kitchen, and the essence of the home. Use that to inspire your design choices and old Buckminster Fuller, the guy who got us thinking about the kitchen as the heart of the home, will be proud.

Mark McCauley is the senior interior designer at Darleen's Interiors in Naperville, Ill.

Next Up

Thoroughly Modern Kitchen, Only Warmer

Rebekah Zaveloff fulfills the vision of a decisive client who wants minimalist design without the cold and is willing to take chances.

Top Kitchen Design Styles

From contemporary to cottage, today's most popular looks inspire beautiful kitchen designs.

Kitchen Design Styles

Gather info on kitchen design styles, and prepare to install a stylish and functional kitchen in your home.

9 Hot Trends for Today's Kitchens

Check out the latest design trends from Asian Fusion and organic to high tech.

Freestanding Kitchens

Create a casual atmosphere with laid-back freestanding kitchen design.

U-Shaped Kitchens

Discover why a horseshoe, or U-shaped, kitchen just might be your lucky charm with these design ideas.

Peninsula Kitchen Design

Consider options for peninsula kitchen design, and prepare to add a space-saving and efficient kitchen design to your home.

Freestanding Kitchen Design

Get all the information you'll need on freestanding kitchen design, and get ready to create an attractive and efficient kitchen space in your home.

L-Shaped Kitchens

Reclaim your unused corner space with the right L-shaped kitchen design.

Kitchen Peninsula Ideas

Discover how adding a kitchen peninsula can create more room for food preparation or entertaining guests.

Go Shopping

Refresh your home with stylish products handpicked by HGTV editors.

Watch Live TV

Don't miss your favorite shows. Live stream HGTV now.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.