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The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

(MoneyWatch) Home renovation projects can be stressful, but one of the fun parts is picking out finishes. A new vanity in the bathroom, different countertops in the kitchen or a fresh coat of paint can make your old house feel like a brand new home.

With more people staying put due to low home values and a stagnant real estate market, home renovations are on the rise. If you're planning a kitchen or bath renovation this year, keep in mind these top trends, courtesy the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Non-traditional wood cabinetry

No matter what style cabinet you choose, steer clear of cherry and maple woods - designers reported a drop in requests for these types heading into 2012. To stay on trend, choose a "lesser-used" wood like oak, walnut, birch, bamboo or alder.

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The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Darker finishes

Natural cabinetry is slowly falling out of favor with designers. According to the NKBA report, 30 percent of kitchen designers have used light natural finishes, as opposed to the 55 and 58 percent of designers who have used medium and dark natural finishes.

If you prefer painted cabinets, stick with white: 59 percent of designers report using white cabinetry.

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The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Glass backsplashes

A nice backsplash can tie any kitchen together, and the most popular material right now is glass. More than half of the designers the NKBA surveyed reported using glass on a backsplash. Other commonly used materials include natural stone tile, ceramic, granite and quartz. Granite and quartz are usually used in conjunction with a countertop of the same material.

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

LED lighting

LED's are popular in kitchens, baths and all throughout the home. They're more expensive than traditional bulbs at the outset, but more efficient and can save you money on energy bills in the long run. Seventy percent of kitchen designers report using them in a remodel. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) don't fare as well, despite using roughly one quarter of the energy of an incandescent bulb. Only 26 percent of designers report using them in a remodel, due mostly in part to the poor quality of light they emit and the presence of mercury inside them.

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The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Pull-out faucets

According to the NKBA, these are the dominant type of kitchen faucet. I can see why -- they make doing dishes much easier. They come in tons of different colors and styles, so they can be used with any type of kitchen design. Fourteen out of every 15 kitchen designers surveyed who designed a kitchen in the final three months of 2011 reported using a pull-out faucet in their design.

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Medicine cabinets

Over the past several years, the use of traditional medicine cabinets in bathroom remodels dropped to 36 percent. It's hard to understand why, given the wide variety of styles and the smart use of space. That's probably why kitchen designers are jumping back on the medicine cabinet bandwagon. As we enter 2012, roughly 66 percent of designers reported incorporating a medicine cabinet into a bathroom remodel.

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Blending styles

For the first time since the NKBA began tracking kitchen and bath design trends, a blending of styles -- known as a "transitional" style -- has trumped the traditional style. The transitional style is a blend of traditional and contemporary, which the NKBA describes as finishes with "lines that are simpler than traditional, but a bit more elaborate than contemporary in order to create a modern classic look."

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Solid-surface countertops

Roughly 30 percent of designers reported using solid-surface counters in the kitchen, and 34 percent of those surveyed said they used the material in the bathroom. In both kitchens and baths, granite and quartz continue to be the clear No. 1 and No. 2. Marble is popular in the bathroom as a vanity top, and glass is beginning to take hold as well.

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Gray color schemes

According to the NKBA, gray "can allow for very attractive, distinguished looks without overpowering a design." Thirty-three percent of designers surveyed reported using gray in the kitchen, and 40 percent used a gray color scheme in a bathroom remodel. Even so, white and off-whites continue to be the most popular color schemes in the kitchen and bathroom. Other popular colors for kitchens and baths include beige and "bone."

Brown, bronze and green have become more popular in kitchen remodels, while green and blue remain common colors for bathrooms.

The top kitchen and bath trends for 2012

Polished chrome

After years of losing the popularity contest to brushed metal finishes, polished chrome is on its way back. Fifty-two percent of designers recently used the material in a kitchen remodel, while 65 percent reported using it in the bathroom. The increased use of polished chrome means fewer designers are using brushed finishes, but stainless steel remains popular. Bronze finishes are also widely used in both kitchens and baths, with 41 percent of designers using them recently in both kitchen and bath remodels.

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