WOW! Have kitchens changed!
Recently I went with one of our designers to inspect a home where he had sold a new kitchen. Although this was not a kitchen Allen Kitchen & Bath remodeled back in the 80's it reminded me of the layouts and features that were typical of that time and earlier.
There were almost always soffits above the cabinets, a designated desk area, a peninsula with wall cabinets that hung too low to see past. There was typically one central light that provided not enough light and plenty of shadows. The cabinets were most likely stained oak and the tops were certainly laminate. The finish was typically peeling on the sink base from water damage and dark and punky around the knobs or pulls from the oils in our hands. Floors . . .they were nearly always sheet linoleum that usually yellowed or joints puckered letting water below that formed mold. Microwaves were probably still sitting on the counter and not built in.
What a difference a few decades makes! Today the soffits are coming out with taller wall cabinets for added storage and multi piece top molding trimming to the ceiling. The peninsula is removed in favor of an island or at least an angled peninsula that extends into the dining area with snack bar or built in table offering easier access. The peninsula wall cabinets that blocked our view are gone to get a more open and inviting area.
The cabinets now are probably stained maple or painted, although we did go through a period of natural maple in the 90's. Cherry still has a following to provide an elegant, rich look. The most recent stains and paints are gray tones, something I would have bet against 20 years ago.
Countertops evolved from laminates to solid surfaces (Corian) to granite and now to quartz. Quartz offers the same hardness and scratch resistance as granite but is non-porous and never needs sealing. The technology for making quartz tops has improved to allow patterns that resemble natural stone.
The finishes on most cabinets for the past 20 or so years are a catalyzed varnish that chemically cures and is not affected by oils from our hands or even most chemicals. Drawer runners are always full extension so they pull completely out of the cabinet and feature buffered soft closing.
Our most popular flooring material is Adura by Mannington. It is available in tiles that can be spaced and grouted to look just like ceramic tile but offer a much more comfortable surface to stand on. Adura is also available in wood grain planks that you'll have a hard time differentiating from real wood flooring but with much greater durability.
Recessed can lights are the most common lighting approach for kitchens now. This allows the sources of lighting to be spread about the room to provide more even lighting with less shadowing. Undercabinet task lighting is now low voltage LED on wireless switches.
What a change! Buckle up, I'm sure it will continue!