As kitchen design trends continue to move toward clean lines and a modern aesthetic, uncontained clutter has no place. Storage solutions and accessories are designed to use every bit of available space to neatly store away the tools needed to keep a kitchen fully stocked and functional.
With open-concept kitchen designs, these interior items become even more essential in creating and maintaining sleek appearances. While in the past, designers focused primarily on exterior elements such as choosing the right pull or knob, and matching the color of the cabinet doors to countertops, they must now rethink the way they are designing to meet the growing demand for multi-functional kitchens and intelligent storage, says Veronique St. Cyr, training and communication coordinator at Richelieu in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
As kitchens double as living and work spaces, a multi-purpose work station in the kitchen is becoming more common. “Traditional kitchens as we once knew them are turning into transitional spaces and extensions of the home office,” says Billy Peele, marketing/PR representative for Doug Mockett & Co. in Torrance, CA. “Kitchen tables are making way for added counter space and islands.” This work space incorporates such accessories as docking stations for charging mobile devices and hideaway task lamps that collapse into the surface when not in use, says Peele.
Reaching beyond the expected storage areas, designers are getting creative in the use of available space. “In the age of Pinterest, we’re seeing more and more unique, creative uses for everyday products, such as using a base cabinet garbage can to store pet food. Additionally, there’s been a renewed focus on usability, with designers taking a holistic view of how fittings and accessories are used, in what order and by whom,” says Daniel Tripp, kitchen product manager for Häfele America Co. in Archdale, NC.
Top interior fitting and accessory trends include deep drawers with specialty dividers, a rise in pull-out and sliding options and more creative use of storage space. Neutral finishes that complement the cabinetry are preferred, and soft-close and touch-to-open mechanisms are becoming standard rather than a nice-to-have add-ons. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
DRAWERS AND PULL-OUTS
Karen Smith, brand communication coordinator for Blum, Inc. based in Stanley, NC, says that cabinetry with deep drawers is a long-lasting trend. Inside these drawers, organizers like Blum’s Orga-Line or Ambia-Line are important, allowing for adjustable organization to keep everything in its proper place, she notes.
Jan Fitzpatrick, customer & market relations manager for Kernersville, NC-based Grass America agrees that large and deep drawers are on the rise. “It’s always been common to have one or two deep drawers in the kitchen area, but now the trend is for a bank of deep drawers. And these deep drawers need hardware that carries a high-load weight capacity,” she says.
St. Cyr says that drawers are becoming both wider and deeper. Sides are thinner, she says, to allow for more interior storage. Inside these drawers, the trends move toward modular accessories that can be customized and dividers with an edge on each side that can be installed for utensils and larger cutlery. The deep drawers also allow for the popular use of waste bins and recycling centers inside.
Full-extension drawers offer easy access to stored items, as do interior features that pull out or slide. “One of the biggest trends in kitchen organization is using pull-out storage solutions,” notes Marisa Sanchez, product manager for Hardware Resources in Bossier City, LA. The most common is a wastebasket pull-out, she says. Other pull-out accessories include spice racks and pantry pull-outs that store a variety of items and allow easy access to the inside of the cabinets.
“Sliding and pull-out accessories have become key factors in creating temporary space when opened and maximizing living space when closed,” says St. Cyr. In upper cabinets, she adds, changes over the past year include a growing trend toward the use of sliding doors and new opening, lifting, pull-out and pull-down systems.
INVENTIVE USE OF SPACE
With the move toward uncluttered spaces, and ever more items needing to be tucked away, designers are looking for creative storage solutions that use all available nooks and crannies in the kitchen.
“We are finding that designers are looking for places for additional storage, secret storage and unexpected places to store things,” says Fitzpatrick. For instance, it is becoming more popular to use the toe kick area for storage, she states. “This works especially well with a touch-to-open product like the Grass Sensomatic electronic drawer or Tipmatic touch opening. With the slight tap of your foot, you can find a secret drawer in the kitchen.”
Shari McPeek, marketing manager at Rev-A-Shelf in Jeffersontown, KY, says that designers are looking for products that enhance the overall design and provide increased functionality. “With limited wall cabinets, the biggest trend in kitchen accessories is storage solutions like our 5708 that turns hard-to-access places above the fridge into much needed and accessible storage space or cabinet pull-outs that store countertop items like knives and utensils,” she says.
Making maximum use of space is important, particularly in smaller kitchens. “By incorporating organizers into kitchen design, you can really maximize your storage potential,” says Sanchez. “Corner cabinets used to be wasted space, but now with all of the options for corner organizers, that space can be utilized.”
With the push to use space wisely, the demand for customized storage has risen. “Choosing cabinets as solutions to storage needs creates a more desirable workspace for consumers,” says Smith. “There are two main areas in the kitchen that are prone to wasted space: the sink cabinet and the corner cabinet.” For the sink area, Blum offers the Legrabox sink drawer, a full-extension drawer that creates storage around the sink basin and plumbing, bringing items out in full view. “This application uses every inch of space that would normally be lost around the sink,” says Smith. Blum’s Space Corner, a full-extension drawer corner solution, transforms once wasted space into an easily accessible storage area, she adds.
David Hatcher, senior manager, product management and development at Häfele America Co. says, “We’re seeing a focus on a great deal of products that offer modularity and flexibility in placement and use.” Open storage is also coming into its own, he adds. “One of the last great frontiers for functional storage is the backsplash. Products like our backsplash railing system use this previously untouched space to hang utensils, or hold spices or even cookbooks.”
Electronics and technology are ever present in modern life, and accessories centered around these elements are becoming increasingly requested and expected as well.
“You are seeing an increase of accessories that cater to electronics in the home, like pull-down tablet racks, USB wall ports and drawers with built-in charging stations,” says McPeek.
“With kitchens serving as the hub of household communication, integrating tech into kitchen design is a natural step forward,” agrees Peele.
CLEAN AND CONTEMPORARY
Aesthetics may focus more on the exterior of a cabinet or drawer, but interiors are following the same minimalist design style.
“Clean, contemporary looks are all the rage right now,” says Smith. “Touch-to-open mechanisms, with either electronic or mechanical components, are the key element to achieve this look. Besides their sleek appearance, touch-to-open options are easy to operate for people of all ages.” Mixing textures and materials in the kitchen is also a trend that’s gaining popularity, she says.
St. Cyr says kitchen accessories come in neutral colors, such as a wood grain, gray or chrome. Having different shades of the same color is another growing trend, she notes, adding that accessories should match the cabinet exteriors.
Hatcher adds, “People have really caught on and realized that the inside of a cabinet or drawer can and should be just as beautiful as the outside.” The inclusion of LED lights such as Hafele’s Loox lighting strips have put a focus on this idea, he notes. “Now everything from organizational trays and systems to the backs and bottoms of drawers featuring sleek metal or glass profiles are integral parts of a modern design.”
Homeowners have the ability to customize and select options that make the most of both the space they have available and the budget they had in mind. Designers must be aware of perceived value, both in price and functionality, of the solutions they offer their clients.
“Consumers today are more conscious of their consumption choices, wishing to positively impact not only their wallet, but their carbon footprint,” says Smith. “Homeowners are willing to spend a little more up front for quality when they understand that they won’t need to replace the product within the next couple of years. Not only does this ensure less waste in the long-term, but consumers save money in the long run, not having to continually replace hardware that doesn’t last the lifetime of the cabinets.”
Sanchez adds that people are willing to spend more on features that aid in accessibility, like pull-out pantries, spice racks and trash systems. “The kitchen is the heart of a home and it needs to be a functional space. A well-organized kitchen saves homeowners time and stress,” she says.
Perception of value varies by consumer, adds McPeek. “Today, with so many people turning to technology to do their research and shopping, both cost and quality are playing a larger role in determining ‘value.’ People are looking for the best deal but are far more comfortable spending more for a quality product,” she says. “People are willing to spend more on items that make their lives easier and are opening their wallets for features such as soft-close and products that are designed with their needs in mind.”
St. Cyr agrees that a rise in consumer awareness has impacted what consumers are looking for. “They are looking for products that will provide solutions. What counts is how they will use the product and how it can solve a problem, more than the cost itself,” she says. As people spend more time at home, they also see items that increase well-being and comfort levels as having great value, she adds.
Value means adding both day-to-day functionality and increasing potential resale value down the road, notes Tripp. “Ultimately, quality solutions like pantry pull-outs and kitchen cleaning caddies pay for themselves in convenience and daily usability alone,” he believes.
It takes time for an add-on feature to become expected rather than extra, but it is safe to say that the soft-close technology has arrived. “Soft-close hinges and slides are becoming the standard in residential cabinets,” says Travis McElveen, product manager – Next Generation Functional Hardware at Hardware Resources. Smaller is better for cabinet hinges, he adds. “Compact soft-close hinges are becoming more prominent as homeowners appreciate the reduced footprint available from compact hinges.”
Fitzpatrick agrees that soft-close action in hinges as well as drawer slides is becoming a standard. “Whether it be integrated into the product itself or as an add on, soft-close is a must.”
Smith concurs: “Just like consumers have come to expect a quieter dishwasher, soft-close drawers are a must. Soft close has become the standard in all cabinet lines. In fact, it is now expected in mid-to-high end kitchens. Having the soft close built into the hinge cup and drawer runner makes installation quick and simple.”
St. Cyr adds that soft close isn’t a standard in the kitchen only, but anywhere else doors, drawers, slides, baskets and hinges are found, and concludes that this is increasingly the case in projects from entry level to the high end.