As the remodeling industry enters the busy fall season, kitchen redesigns and upgrades continue to top the list of most-requested projects.

Recent purchasers of existing homes in particular are choosing to remodel the kitchen to suit contemporary lifestyles and tastes. Their preference is for open spaces and clean lines, with an emphasis on functionality and easy maintenance. Instead of opting for gourmet kitchens with lots of gleaming gadgets, they are combining materials in interesting ways to create visual appeal.

Long-term homeowners are spending their money on repairs and maintenance. According to a study by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, those who have owned their homes for 10 years or more are investing in basic improvements such as roofing and siding. On the other hand, recent movers — those who have owned their homes for three years or less are spending heavily on kitchen and bath remodels.

Similarly, this year's Houzz & Home survey found "recent home buyers tend to do more, spend more and are more likely to hire professionals to help with their renovation projects than other homeowners." And kitchen remodels remain the most popular interior remodeling project — comprising nearly one-third of the projects in the Houzz survey, as compared to one-fourth who undertook a bathroom remodel.

Among the top reasons homeowners undertake a kitchen remodel are updating an old kitchen and changing the style. For many homeowners, the kitchen is the most-used room in the home, serving not only as the place for preparing and serving meals, but also as a space for socializing, spending family time, and doing work or homework.

To support these many activities, homeowners are opening up the kitchen to create better flow to other areas of the house and to outdoors, and expanding the space to accommodate more people. While aesthetics are important, today's kitchens are more workrooms than showrooms. Rather than going for "wow," the emphasis is on designing for functionality to make the best use of the available space including clean lines, durability of materials, convenience, storage and easy maintenance.

As a counterbalance to all this practicality, homeowners and designers are employing materials in interesting ways to add visual appeal without creating clutter. Texture plays an important role in many contemporary designs.

Smooth surfaces, such as quartz and marble countertops, are paired with time-worn looking materials like brick, stone, wood and wood-look porcelain tiles that appeal to the consumer's desire for eco-friendly and reclaimed products. M S International, a vendor of hard surface materials, suggests combining brick with wood planks to add interest and set off an area within an open space.

Incorporating striking forms is another popular strategy. In its latest Trends and Influences look book, Ferguson provider of kitchen, bath and lighting products highlights a number of ways designers are using and mixing forms to create visual appeal. These include the use of curved lines, organic and nature-inspired forms and bold shapes, such as large rocks or elongated crystals, as well as sculptural fixtures that entice the eye and add drama to a space.

Contrasting colors, textures and shapes are favorites with homeowners, too.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association lists two or more cabinet colors or finishes in the same kitchen and multiple countertops that differ in color and material among its top 10 kitchen trends for 2016. Mixed finishes, such as mosaics or combining classic black-and-white tiles, can add depth and variety and complement most contemporary designs.

Practical doesn't have to be sterile. With the wide variety of materials available, designers can delight the eye while maintaining the integrity of an overall open, clean design.