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Kitchen Trends for 2023 - A Guide to Kitchen Design for Build-to-rent and Student Living

In this article, Gary James, one of our kitchen specialists, provides an expert guide to the latest trends in kitchen design for BTR and student accommodation schemes.

1. Darker Hues and Contrasting Colours

Whilst contemporary blue painted finishes are still being specified, we are expecting a move towards lighter and more muted hues such as greys, forest or sage greens, and latte.


The trend for combining two colours in the kitchen cabinetry is set to continue. Base and wall units can be single colour for a clean, flush appearance or the base units can be a complete contrast and have a darker finish. Wall cabinets can provide a sense of space in a lighter shade to complement the walls and ceiling. Either way, there is no cost difference to varying the colours from our standard range.


We are also seeing combinations of different finishes, for example a woodgrain for the base units with wall units in tones of matt grey – in line with the growing trend for more muted cabinetry colours and biophilic design themes which use natural materials and colours to reflect nature.



2. Sleek Cabinetry

Clean lines and flat doors will continue to be specified – the classic panelled doors, such as a shaker style, are rarely specified for build-to-rent.


There has been a clear move away from gloss to matt finishes for build-to-rent. Laminated doors are often used for student accommodation as well as for high end contemporary kitchens as it this type of door is so durable.


On some schemes we are seeing open shelving, although wall cabinets provide invaluable storage space for urban living where there may only be one base cupboard as the space under worktops is taken up with a drawer unit, kitchen bin below the sink, dishwasher, and a tall fridge freezer.

Developers are now specifying wall cabinets up to the ceiling, but a small gap makes these much easier to install particularly for pre-assembled full height cabinets. Ceiling heights in concrete-framed apartment buildings will also vary between apartments so some room for tolerance is strongly advised.



3. Luxurious Worksurfaces

Quartz will continue as the ‘go to’ worksurface for contemporary apartments.


Developers of rental schemes tend to specify quartz for its hardwearing and low maintenance properties. It is much less prone to damage which is an important consideration for retained assets.


Marble-effect quartz has strong marketing appeal to attract residents and there is a move towards darker coloured worksurfaces that contrast with lighter cabinets, such as charcoal grey, rather than having worktops that match the cabinetry.


Bevelled grooves in the quartz allow water to drain into the sink as a higher specification alternative to stainless steel draining boards.


We are also seeing quartz specified for higher end student schemes although typically worktops for student accommodation are laminated, which is a more cost-effective solution. However, laminated finishes are more easily scratched or damaged by hot pans in high traffic areas, such as communal student kitchens.



4. Industrial-style Fittings

As in the domestic sector, the industrial style is now a really key trend with materials such as matt black for taps and handles, or steel as an alternative to brass. We have recently had an open steel shelf specified for a contemporary build-to-rent scheme.


Sinks are nearly always stainless steel. Solid surface sinks were specified for a time, but these are softer materials than steel and can stain which is not ideal for apartments for rent.



5. Splashbacks, Upstands and Downstands

Splashbacks for PRS schemes will continue to be quartz or glass, which can be painted in any colour.  Slab quartz splashbacks look stunning and are highly durable.


100mm quartz upstands are typical but downstands at the end of a run of cabinets or island for higher spec apartments or penthouses are a new trend and can look fantastic.


In student schemes, splashbacks tend to be full height laminate which is more cost effective.



6. Discrete Handles

There are two key trends for handles – either black industrial style or handles which give the appearance of handle-less doors for a really sleek appearance. These can be achieved with extruded aluminium fittings behind the cupboard doors or drawers, such as a Gola handle profile, which is really neat solution.

With this trend for clean lines, handles can be recessed into the drawer or door top – or the door can be profiled, avoiding the need for a handle at all.


7. Energy-efficient Appliances

Energy efficiency will be the biggest driver for appliance specification, and this will continue to grow in importance as more schemes are designed to meet BREEAM or Passivhaus standards and to meet developers’ sustainability aspirations. The requirement for water-saving taps is increasing for the same reasons.


We are already manufacturing kitchens for a number of high specification student schemes which are being built to a Passivhaus specification and expect that trend to continue. However, the appliances to achieve the required energy ratings are still very costly but are likely to fall in the future as customers demand lower running costs.

Extractor fans can be energy-intensive and also remove heat from a kitchen, whereas for a Passivhaus specification that warm air should be circulated and re-used, requiring a different system.

Kitchen trends are also moving towards downdraft extraction systems which remove odour and vapour at source and directly from the hob before permeating the air. This is particularly important in open-plan kitchens and living spaces.


8. Traditional Kitchen Layouts

Kitchens have a formulaic layout that has varied very little over the years and that is unlikely to change. Build-to-rent schemes tend to have L-shaped kitchens at the rear of the apartment which are close to internal service risers and with dining areas located nearer the windows.


Studios where space is limited will have a linear, galley-style kitchen and an island with a breakfast bar could be added to a three-bed apartment or penthouse which will have strong tenant appeal.



9. Atmospheric Lighting

Linear LED strip lighting under cabinets is standard on nearly all build-to-rent schemes and is a feature we now supply with the cabinets. We are also seeing this for some for student projects. This trend will definitely continue as it is a relatively low-cost option but a really nice visual feature.



10. Indulgent Touches

For penthouse apartments and higher specification urban apartments, additional features will continue to be specified to extend the luxurious feel.


There may be an island with a quartz overhang to create an additional seating area. We will also see wine coolers, ceramic hobs with integrated extractor, and hot taps to provide instant boiling water.



A Maturing Market

As the build-to-rent market continues to mature and competition for tenants increases, high-quality materials will be specified that have both powerful visual appeal as well as functionality and durability. Brand awareness is also a strong selling point and we will continue to see clients specify well-known, high-end manufacturers. As a solutions driven furniture manufacture, we ensure that all of our projects are met to the highest standards.

We expect demand will continue for streamlined kitchens and minimalist design solutions that create a calming, uncluttered living space with clean sweeping lines


For more details about our kitchen range, see


Images - O&S Doors