What’s Trending in Kitchen Design – With Jenn Dussault

White quartzite counters with island in blue
An island in Sherwin Williams Serious Grey breaks up a white kitchen in Belmont MA. Cabinets are Dura Supreme Highland Panel. Counters are quartzite.

It’s a good time in kitchen design. Homeowners can play around with all kinds of ideas: interesting wood finishes, mixed materials, exciting metals, and innovative technology. Today’s kitchens have become very personal. And it’s fun and easy to personalize them, according to Jenn Dussault of Carole Kitchen and Bath Design. “Kitchen design should be catered to the user,” she says. “Unless there’s a resale in the near future, the homeowner’s unique lifestyle and taste will play into how the kitchen will look, feel, and function.” Coastal Design recently sat down with Jenn to discuss kitchen trends and ideas for simplifying the kitchen renovation process.

1.     White kitchens have been popular for the past five or six years. Is that changing? What’s going on with color and cabinet trends?


White is still popular, but neutrals are infiltrating the overall white scheme. For example, white with gray undertones, white with beige undertones. These “warmer whites” add an element of warmth to an otherwise utilitarian space. Oftentimes, white is used, but another color is brought in to mix it up and add visual interest. For example, the island cabinetry could be designed in blue, gray, green, or even black. Another fun idea to add pop is making the base cabinets a different color from the upper cabinets. Custom colors can also be used on cabinetry.  For example if Jenn’s client had a particular color in mind, she has the ability to custom color match part or all of the cabinetry.


Many homeowners are aiming for a more natural, organic feel and opting for natural wood tone kitchens, regardless if the look is contemporary, traditional or transitional. Cabinets can range from a light stained, modern-looking maple, birch or walnut, to rustic hickory or cherry vintage-style cabinets. They are different from the wood finishes of the 90s in that honey maple was the color of choice then.

Coastal Flair   

Very popular, especially on the ocean, is reclaimed wood that looks old and weather beaten. One line, Dura Supreme, offers a “weathered finish” and uses a process to raise the grain by texturizing the wood’s surface. The technique emulates the effect the sun and wind would cause over long periods of time.  Special stains and glazes are then used to pull out the natural pattern of the wood grain.

Dura Supreme weathered cherry cabine
This clean and contemporary Arlington MA kitchen showcases the Dura Supreme weathered finish on a cherry island and display cabinetry. Door style is Hudson Panel.

Designer Tip:

Look for drawers that are made and constructed well. Drawer boxes, drawer tracks, and door hinges are important and take most of the abuse from users. If those aren’t made well, then you’ll have trouble down the road. For example, a 3-sided drawer box with front panel will not wear as well as a 4-sided drawer box.

Wenge wood veneer cabinet with waterfall edge
Wenge-wood veneers and high gloss white cabinetry exemplify the perfect contrast (EXECUTIVE CABINETRY). Quartz counter with waterfall edge provides a dramatic focal point.

2.     What’s hot right now in kitchen countertops?

Quartz is the number one selection at the moment and does a beautiful job with a faux marble look.  Marble is soft and will age over time with pitting and etching.  Some clients prefer the crisper clean look quartz has to offer.  It can also resemble concrete nicely which is popular when creating a clean contemporary design.  Another popular choice is quartzite; a beautiful, natural stone that’s softer than granite and harder than marble. Because quartzite is a natural stone, it will need to be sealed occasionally (unlike quartz which is comprised of manmade materials). Granite is still a strong option. It’s natural, durable, timeless, and always going to give you a unique and creative look. Counters are a great way to incorporate the client’s personality into the design.

White quartzite counter top
The popular quartzite countertop brings clean lines, durability, and timelessness to the home.

3.     What are the must-haves in kitchen technology right now?

The appliances most popular with Jenn’s clients focus on saving time: smart technology using Wi-Fi, and refrigerators with built-in screens allowing sharing of schedules, messages, shopping lists, and photos. Alexa and Google Home functionality are built into many of these smart appliances. Steam ovens, which convert heat to steam, are big with consumers who like steaming their vegetables and seafood. Another popular appliance is the compactly built speed oven that prepares food quickly.  Integrated coffee makers, cappuccino makers, and wine fridges round out the top choices for kitchen appliances.  A must have for most busy families today are “charging stations” and “drop zones.”  This is a place where electronics are charged, and paperwork and message boards can be located.

Kitchen drop zone
A computer-generated design illustrates the kitchen drop zone, a central location for the completion of multiple organizational tasks.

4.     What are a few of your basic design principles for novices? Give us three basics to look out for.

1.   The Work Triangle

This refers to locating the SINK, FRIDGE, COOKTOP in a triangular pattern. You don’t want to have to walk around an island every time you’re going from the sink to the cook top, for example, with a hot steaming pot of water.

2.   KISS

Keep it simple, stupid. Some cabinet inserts can be complicated and cumbersome to use, so be sure to discuss the different options with your designer.

3.   Visual Interest

You want to have something to break up a (potentially monotonous) white kitchen. Examples include high-end or retro appliances, interesting vents/hoods, color contrasts, use of metals, or an interesting wood countertop. Jenn notes that brass is back. Not shiny brass, but rather, soft brass, coppers, bronzes, and golds. “Using interesting or stylish hardware, lighting, and faucets is a cool way to bring in an additional design element,” she says.

5.     What should we look for in a kitchen designer? Which certifications should they have?

Jenn is certified as an Associate Kitchen Bath Designer (AKBD) and has 30 years of kitchen design experience. That being said, she is the first one to say, “There are plenty of experienced designers without this certification. Experience can often trump certifications.” She adds. “Referrals are the key to making the right choice.” A good designer will work with the installer and be present  the entire project. She/he must work efficiently with all of the subcontractors. The homeowner should follow through on checking references and ask about their satisfaction with the results, budget, and timing of the project.

Custom painted maple and walnut kitchen island
This Winchester, MA kitchen was completed using ELMWOOD CUSTOM CABINETRY with a painted maple and walnut island. The bright white vent hood and unique modern light fixture really let the client’s personality shine.


Kitchen Renos Made Easy – 5 TIPS

1.   Always hire professionals.

KNOW who they’ve worked with and if they’ve been on schedule with their past projects. Check their references or use a referral from someone you know.

2.   When you make decisions, don’t second guess yourself.

And keep in mind, the professional will be there guiding you every step of the way and will find a way to let you know a decision may not be in your best interest.

3.   Don’t be afraid of the kitchen designer’s price.

It’s not as expensive as you think. Jenn uses the old adage; “If you think good design is expensive, you should see how expensive bad design is.” Most of the time the fee is built into the materials cost.

4.   Build in the time.

A general rule of thumb for ordering the materials is 5-6 weeks for a semi-custom kitchen and 8-10 weeks for a full-custom kitchen. Build in time for the subcontractors. For example, moving plumbing, electric, or gas lines across the room takes time.

5.   Communication is key.

There’s no such thing as too much info. Get a full set of plans—they’re the “bible of the job.” The elevations, measurements, and exact details translate the vision to the team, so that everyone is reading the same set of documents (electrician, plumber, and installer).

6.       Do you design differently when you plan kitchens in seaside homes?

Yes. Near water, humidity is going to be a greater factor (the fluctuation of it). Wood is going to expand and contract and is normal, for both cabinetry and flooring or any wood in the home for that matter. Synthetic floors are a good option for beach houses, especially with sand and water from the beach being brought in on feet, towels and more. You will also need to consider flow and functionality. How many people will you be entertaining in the space? You may want an open concept and the ideal 42-48″ of space between countertops.

From a design perspective, Jenn loves to bring the outside in. The sky, ocean, and sand, i.e., blues, greens, and beiges are easy to incorporate into the color palette. Jenn’s ocean-side clients like to bring in the eastern light. So, they sometimes opt to have minimal or no wall cabinets to allow for large windows. With lots of windows or open shelving, don’t forget to plan for storage. Today there is a wide selection of base cabinets to compensate for the lack of upper storage. It is easy today to store everything, from dishes to glasses, in base cabinets.

Wall of windows in kitchen
A wall of windows in this Wakefield, MA kitchen brings loads of natural light into the space. Don’t forget to plan the appropriate storage solutions.

7.     What’s the most fun part of your job?

It’s the design phase of the project. Jenn says she could design for hours. It starts with freehand sketches (roughly sketched), next, computer-generated versions using 3D kitchen design software, and finally, multiple designs created for the client to review. The more time that’s spent up front means fewer surprises during the project.

Jenn points out that you can achieve ANY look in the kitchen. It’s fine to share inspiration photos and ideas with your designer. She told us the story of a client who had a strange alcove in the wall of her kitchen and was stumped by it. With Jenn’s help, they designed around it, and what was truly challenging for her client became an interesting focal point. She simply took the uniqueness of the space and installed a window and striking sink underneath it. Usually, a negative can be turned into a positive—by thinking outside of the box with the help of your trusted kitchen designer.



With her superior space planning skills, design abilities and creativity, Jennifer L. Dussault AKBD helps clients make their dream kitchen a reality. On design, Jenn says, “A successful kitchen should not only meet a client’s wants, needs and budget, but it should be a true reflection of their unique personality and taste.”

© 2020 Coastal Design.