Luxury Trends: Why Do We Think We Need Designer Kitchens?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I’m the first person to admit to a fair amount of fancy kitchen ogling. (Hello Pinterest.) Of course, these are mere dreams for me, but for many home buyers designer detailing—custom cabinets, high-end appliances, swanky countertops—are an essential part of a decent kitchen, and anything less is a remodel-in-waiting. But designer kitchens weren’t always the “necessity” people now claim they are. As The Salt recently put it: when and how did Americans come to expect expensive kitchen trends and technology to show up in even modestly priced homes? Why do we think we need designer kitchens?

The short answer: we don’t need a fancy kitchen to cook, but it can make things easier. Cooks have been cooking in kitchens of all shapes and sizes forever (just looking through this year’s Small Cool Kitchens contest will tell you that). But, ironically, we as a country as spending more money than ever upgrading our kitchens (one estimate says an upscale kitchen remodel can average $111,000!), but less time actually cooking in them! So why do people feel the need to upgrade?

One argument is that a fancy kitchen, like most trends, is less about you and more about other people. As The Salt notes, “getting a trendy new kitchen is like getting in shape before a high school reunion; sure it’s great for you, but it’s even better if someone else sees it.” The other side of the argument says that, hey, for avid cooks a detailed, custom kitchen makes the whole process easier and more enjoyable. Amanda Hesser, founder of Food52, cooked for years in a tiny utilitarian apartment kitchen when she was a food writer for The New York Times. But now she has a new remodeled kitchen, and it’s worth every penny. As she notes, “A nice kitchen has come to represent some sense of accomplishment, and there’s nothing bad about that… But how it gets expressed has maybe gotten a little carried away.”

What do you think about this? If you’re buying a house, is a fancy kitchen a huge selling point? Do you think it’s a justified expense, or has it gotten out of hand? What kind of kitchen do you cook in now, and how close is it to your dream kitchen?