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7 Things I Learned About Kitchens from Watching a Million Episodes of House Hunters

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Credit: Kath Nash

I’ve never owned a home, and the apartment I currently reside in is only slightly bigger than the couch, so my addiction to House Hunters can really only be described as an exercise in fantasy fulfillment. (Double sinks — they will be mine!)

Still, after endless marathons of the show that turned house porn into a genre, I’ve inadvertently learned a few things. For example, wainscoting used to be functional and is now decorative; “character” is often a euphemism; and a person in search of a ranch-style home will always be married to someone who wants two stories. And, while only a handful of Hunters have expressed profound feelings about claw-foot tubs, everyone who’s ever House Hunted has a strong opinion about the kitchen: it’s the soul, the center, the litmus test of a home’s perceived value. No matter how deep the marital discord on this show gets (and man, does it get deep), all Hunters manage to come together in the belief that you can never have enough counter space.

Here are seven other things I learned about kitchens from watching House Hunters.

1. Shaker cabinets are a perpetual favorite.

Even when a House Hunter seems confounded by the difference between linoleum and travertine, they’re quick to identify (and delight in!) a set of Shaker cabinets. Shakers — clean-lined and streamlined, with a sleek, recessed picture-frame panel — complement every kitchen aesthetic, and are forever a selling point for wannabe homeowners.

Credit: Liz Calka

2. People love an island.

Whatever a kitchen’s quirks — a strange secret door that leads nowhere; ancient appliances; a drawer you can’t slide out while the fridge is open — all is forgiven if there’s an island. How many food prep stations and decorative bowls of fruit these island obsessives will actually need space for is unclear; but bigger is always better. “We can’t even reach across,” one Hunter bemoaned to his wife, upon seeing house # 2’s massive island. “We’ll slide things to each other,” she shrugged. Order up! 

3. Open kitchens aren’t going away any time soon.

For a good majority of House Hunters, the concept of “open concept” is the only concept worth conceptualizing. The freeform flow of amorphous, wall-less space can present some conundrums — where does one hide the mess when there’s nowhere to hide? — but one hallmark of open-concept that’s consistently considered a perk is a kitchen that bleeds into the living room. I can’t count the number of Hunters who thrill at the prospect of seeing “what the kids are doing” while they stir the macaroni; or who declare that zero barriers between the cooking and hanging spaces will prove “great for entertaining.” Doesn’t anyone want to keep their recipe (read: store-bought packet) for French onion soup a secret anymore?

4. All-white kitchens are the dream.

Among the hours I’ve logged watching this show, I can recall exactly one Hunter who balked at an all-white kitchen: a young man who worried his deep-fried culinary adventures might send grease flying and stain all those pristine surfaces. Otherwise, I’ve seen countless people (not to generalize, but mostly women) go full Veruca Salt when they glimpse a dreaded pop of brown: “This is not the all-white kitchen I wanted!” Stark-white often gets equated with other kitchen desirables — “airy,” “light,” “bright,” “dreamy,” and even, one time, “majestic.”

5. Granite (still) reigns supreme.

If you Google “wine stain granite,” you’ll find household hacks for cleaning last night’s party off your countertops. But thanks to House Hunters, I learned that “wine stain granite” is actually a thing — as in, a deliberate design, patterned throughout slabs of the natural stone, that looks like dark maroon drips and splotches. Now, why did the Hunting couple in question not mind that their kitchen came pre-stained? Because granite, even when it resembles the aftermath of the Red Wedding, is still the the top choice among home buyers. While laminate is lamented and marble lusted over, mineral-based granite — with its durability, high heat/scratch resistance, and uniquely intricate veining and color combos — is always a pro and never a con. You can cook to your heart’s content; it won’t blister, scratch, or chip. Just remember, as the wine-stain realtor warned, “You can’t drink the counters.”

6. A galley kitchen is a project waiting to happen.

I live in New York City, land of tiny spaces, and am the proud owner of a galley kitchen, a narrow aisle flanked by cabinets, counters, and appliances that forever feel like they’re closing in. It’s fine; less to clean! But on House Hunters, a galley kitchen is usually a problem to be solved. Upon entering the gallows, I mean, galley, around 90 percent of Hunters immediately suggest “knocking this wall down,” as long as it’s “not load-bearing.” And even if it is, a support beam right up there would look industrial-chic, indeed.

7. Kitchens (and baths) sell homes.

Okay, technically this is a refrain from Flip or Flop, a different HGTV show where a (now-ex) couple flips and sells houses. But it’s proven true on House Hunters, too: When the Hunting couple is huddled around IPA flights at their local brewery to pore over their options, the kitchens often top the list of deciding factors. It makes no difference if the buyers are pro chefs or literally use the oven to store sweaters, Carrie Bradshaw-style. The kitchen, as they say, is the heart of the home, and if it doesn’t deliver … the Hunt goes on.

Watch House Hunters on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Are you a House Hunter fan? What else have you learned from watching the show?