An Exclusive Interview with the NKBA’s Elle H-Millard on the Latest Industry Trends

In an exclusive interview with Elle H-Millard of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, we dug deep into the findings of the 2018 Design Trends Report.

By Janice Harris


Are you someone who likes to stay ahead of the trends? Were you obsessed with black stainless steel, gold-plated bathroom accents, and farmhouse sinks before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon?


If so, then we’ve got the latest kitchen and bath design low-down for you!


In early 2018, The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) released their 2018 Design Trends Report. It’s THE report if you’re looking for substantial, research-backed data on everything from new trends to emerging technologies. The 2018 Design Trends Report is a great resource whether you’re a designer, architect, builder, manufacturer, or an average homeowner looking to spruce up your humble abode.



Budget Friendly Contempoary by Elle H-Millard, Photo Courtesy of NKBA


Thankfully, we had some help breaking down the report from Elle H-Millard, a Certified Kitchen Designer and NKBA’s Industry Relations Manager. In an exclusive interview with Elle, we dug deep into the findings of the survey and were inspired by what we learned.


The Research

The NKBA, a leading industry trade group dedicated to promoting professionalism in the kitchen and bath design industries, provides members with the resources they need to learn and grow along with their peers. The 2018 Design Trends Report, which was released alongside the 2017-2018 Market Outlook report, is meant to provide insight and education to anyone interested in kitchen and bath design.


We asked Elle specifically how NKBA conducted the Design Trends Study. She explained, “Results of the 2018 survey are based on feedback received from 822 professionals (91% from the United States and 9% from Canada; 94% are NKBA members and 6% are non-members). It provides the point-of-view of specialists on the front line: those professionals who are specifying, building or selling kitchen and bath products to the consumer market.” These professionals include insiders such as designers, remodelers, architects, dealers, and manufacturers.


The Audience

Naturally, knowing about the latest trends isn’t just important for industry professionals; homeowners today are also eager to know “what’s up” in the design world. As we upgrade, remodel, redesign, and construct, whether through the help of a professional or on our own, it’s always a good idea to understand what purchases to make that have a better chance of standing the test of time.


“The results of the Design Trends Study have value to both homeowners and industry professionals,” Elle agreed. She noted that many homeowners who are ready to tackle a kitchen or bathroom remodel are as eager as industry professionals to learn about which styles are most popular, and which materials, colors, appliances, and fixtures to choose.


Another benefit of this particular report is that it helps design professionals in their own trade. “This knowledge of current and future design trends helps professionals remain relevant and competitive in the kitchen and bath industry,” Elle explained.


The Trends

If you’ve followed our trade show coverage, notably the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (a show organized by the NKBA), then you may already be familiar with some of the most popular kitchen and bath trends. It’s really no surprise that a lot of what we saw at KBIS and other shows is touched on in this report.



NKBA 2018 Design Competition - Lauren Levant – 1st Place Medium Kitchen, Photography by Dave Bryce Photography


Let’s break down some of the biggest design takeaways.


Column Refrigeration

Per Elle, “Column Refrigeration units are trending...showing that homeowners are adapting to versatility in the kitchen.” Columns are a fabulous trend because they allow designers to be more creative with space. Separate columns that include a fridge, freezer, and wine refrigerator can be installed separately or paired together as needed.



NKBA 2018 Design Competition - Sandra Gjesdahl - Best Kitchen, Photography by Reid Rolls of Reid Rolls Photography


“I believe we will continue to see more options within these units in the future based on the industry movement of personalization,” she explained.


Barn Doors

Barn doors are usually filed under the “shabby chic” style category, but the 2018 Design Trends Report found that barn doors aren’t just rustic. “Barn doors were found popular by 69% of the designers surveyed,” said Elle.



Neoclassical Modern by Paige Fuller, Photo Courtesy of NKBA


“Barn doors are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also have some major benefits in design including space saving and safety. They eliminate the swing of the door which opens up clearance space and also by eliminated the swing of a door, you eliminate entrapment from a door swing.”


Farmhouse Style

Along the same lines as the barn doors, designers are also noting a large uptick in homeowners choosing to feature “farmhouse” styles.



Princeton Chateau by Peter Salerno, Photo Courtesy of NKBA


“This year, the farmhouse style takes the lead in style as 79% of designers find this trendy. Surely, homeowners are being influenced by the media, internet, and an adorable couple that has dominated the farmhouse lifestyle,” Elle joked.


That may be the reason why farmhouse sinks are dominating in 2018. “We saw at KBIS 2018 that the variety of farmhouse sink allows it to be implemented in more than the farmhouse style, some showed more of a furniture piece with some vintage flair while others showed versatility with allowing the user to switch out the apron front.”


After farmhouse style, designers are using both transitional and contemporary styles.



Since we’ve been using white in our kitchen and bathrooms for some time, we wanted to talk a bit more with Elle about the trendy finishes designers are using nowadays. She explained that white is still a popular cabinet color, “however, we are seeing a bold punch of color added into the appliances, especially the gas range.”



NKBA 2018 Design Competition - Richard T. Anuszkiewicz – Best Before & After Kitchen, Photography by Jennifer Hughes, Photography LLC.


Likewise, designers are choosing to incorporate more professional-grade appliances and stylistic elements. “We are seeing more of the luxury line of appliances, which include some amazing colors including yellow, blue, red, green, purple, and orange.” Wow!


In the bathroom, stainless is still king. However, Elle notes that there are more shades of gold and copper at industry events. “My experience tells me that we will move away from the stainless and nickels and move toward the golds and copper tones,” she informed us.


The Upcoming Technologies

Design isn’t just about colors and finishes; technology is also an important element in kitchen and bath design. We asked Elle about what some of the most significant technology-based findings from the report. She explained, “Technology in appliances seems to be where it is at.”


In the kitchen, homeowners are looking for app-enable ovens, technology-monitored safety features, and integrations with Google Home and Alexa. Technology is also useful in the bathroom because it helps ensure a hands-free environment. “Yes, that even means hands free from cleaning the toilet!” she told us.


The Future

We know what’s currently trending, but the 2018 Design Trends report also touched on what may be trending in the future. This includes a focus on wellness.


Elle dove into this a little deeper by explaining that, “In the kitchen, I see a surge in freshness, preservation, and safety all infusing technology in one way or another. In the bath, it is maintenance free products and materials that create a healthier lifestyle.”


As you can see, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year of new designs and emerging technologies in the kitchen and bath industry. Thanks to reports like the 2018 Design Trends survey, we can stay ahead of the curve and bring you all the latest, most relevant design-related news.


To learn more about design trends and market outlook or if you’re a professional interested in joining the National Kitchen and Bath Association, visit the NKBA website.


The House Tipster Media Team wishes to extend a special thank you to Elle H-Millard for her invaluable insight and expertise.

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