Kitchen Customization Adapts to the Marketplace

As apartment units shrink, kitchen customization replaces the cookie-cutter approach.

Armstrong’s Calibra flat-panel collection

Open kitchens have become mostly omnipresent in recent years, and while it’s still common to see this type of floor plan, “we’re going to more of a wall kitchen, or if it’s an L [shaped] kitchen, it’s along two walls and the island is being removed,” observes Sanford Steinberg, AIA, CGP, principal of Houston-based Steinberg Design Collaborative LLP.

“We see it as an opportunity for the resident to do their own design in the unit, so if they want to have an island they can purchase an island,” he points out. In those instances where a resident doesn’t require the additional counter space, he may choose to create more of an eat-in kitchen where the dining room essentially becomes part of the kitchen.

“The kitchen is not as big a focal point as it’s been in the past, and a lot of this is because square footages are getting smaller,” Steinberg notes. “As units are getting smaller, the amenity areas are getting larger. Residents are spending more time in the common areas in the community than they have in the past.”

Because there is less of a separation between spaces, there has become more of an upgrade in flooring options, with many clients choosing hard surfaces over sheet vinyl.

As far as the finishes, Steinberg notes that Energy Star appliances and low-flow fixtures have become the norm in most, if not all, apartment types. Pull-down spray faucets have made an appearance in the multifamily market, while electric stoves remain common. Steinberg believes, though, that as local gas companies offer more aggressive rebates and incentives, the industry will shift to gas cook tops—the seemingly more preferable option.

Granite remains popular, and while stainless steel “looks fantastic when you walk in,” Steinberg points out that maintenance issues—such as keeping the appliances looking clean—often come into play, so many clients are comfortable choosing black appliances. At the same time, he reports, more cabinet designs have become available to the multifamily market, with solid wood—in a variety of natural stains—highly popular.

“What’s changed is that you’re not putting one color cabinet throughout a whole community,” Steinberg observes. “Our clients are coming in with two or three color palettes …and putting them in different units throughout the whole community to give residents a choice.”

Moreover, Steinberg sees decorative pulls on cabinet doors and drawers becoming more popular. “A lot of that goes with the psychology of the resident making the stuff that they touch and feel daily feel [like] the higher-quality product.”

Product picks

Timberlake Cabinetry recently launched two new finishes: Painted Maple Hazelnut and Cherry Java. One hundred percent of Timberlake’s dimensioned hardwood comes from sustainable forests in the United States, and Timberlake purchases composite wood products from only CARB (California Air Resources Board)-certified suppliers. Pictured: Rushmore Painted Hazelnut Glaze with Cherry Java accents (

Made with up to 41 percent pre-consumer recycled materials, LG Hausys Surfaces’ HI-MACS Eden Plus range of solid surfaces can contribute LEED credits toward indoor air quality. Stain- and scratch-resistant, Eden Plus inhibits the growth of bacteria. HI-MACS surfaces exceed the most stringent GreenGuard requirements for indoor air quality as low-emitting interior materials (

InSinkErator’s Evolution Excel features SoundSeal Plus technology, making it 60 percent quieter than standard disposers. Its MultiGrind Plus technology uses three grinding stages, allowing food to wash through pipes with ease. Installing the disposer can contribute toward a building’s achievement of the
National Green Building Standard, since disposers provide an alternative to transporting leftovers to landfills, and wastewater treatment plants can recycle food scraps into energy and fertilizer (

Sterling’s new Cinch stainless steel undercounter kitchen sinks feature the two-inch corner radii, designed to facilitate an easy sink cutout, and an integrated faucet deck option eliminates the need for faucet-hole locating and drilling. The design of the sink maximizes basin space and under-sink storage, and a “caulk channel” around the rim makes installation faster. The sinks feature SilentShield technology, reducing the noises normally associated with stainless steel (

Granite Transformations has released five new colors to its Trend Stone collection, which offers an alternative to traditional surfaces by fitting over existing countertops. Trend Stone is non-porous, stain-resistant and low-maintenance. It’s resistant to wear and chemical agents, and it’s light-weight, non-absorbent, frost-resistant and heat-, stain- and scratch-resistant. Granite Transformations’ new color lineup includes King Ivory, Walker Gold, Mocha Real, Blue Steel (pictured) and Dark Steel (

Armstrong’s Calibra flat-panel collection is made of Solid Plantation Hardwood. Slightly radiused edges on all four sides of the plantation hardwood doors and drawers combine with full overlay cabinets. The collection is available in Espresso, Mocha, Bordeaux, Chestnut and Honey (