A Cornucopia of Cabinetry
A strong industry rebounds to support a wide variety of
cabinetry design options, including grey-toned glazes, rustic looks
and ‘warm contemporary’ styling.
By Daina Manning
Today’s hot cabinetry trend is well, there really isn’t just one.
More than ever, well-informed consumers are looking for something
“Innovative styling sells,” declares Tom Cook, executive v.p.
and general manager for Medallion Cabinetry, Inc., in Waconia, MN.
“People are going to go for that custom look in their kitchen.
Whatever appeals to them, that’s unique to their personality
they’re willing to spend money on that.”
Trends also vary considerably by region, manufacturers report.
For instance, clients in Mountain states are more likely to embrace
the new rustic looks, while West Coast consumers tend to favor a
sleek, contemporary style.
But, whatever style they choose, today’s customers want their
kitchens to be spectacular showcases of form and function, with
cabinetry their biggest purchases and, often, their central
In terms of door styles, “there’s two ends of the spectrum,”
reports Sandra Luttchens, director of design and training for Omega
Cabinetry, in Waterloo, IA. “Either there are extremely ornate
kitchens with carved mouldings and multi-level finishes, or very
Jean Butler, v.p./marketing for Yorktowne Inc., makers of
Yorktowne Cabinets, in Red Lion, PA, cites appliqués and
onlays that provide an architectural look as important components
of ornate, “furniture” styling.
Carla Fish, senior designer for KraftMaid Cabinetry, in
Middlefield, OH believes “simplification” is the prevailing trend:
“simpler and cleaner door styles, tighter wood grains. Softening
colors and glazes also play a role.”
The intent is to create a more restful and uncluttered
environment to balance out hectic day-to-day schedules. “When
[people] get home, they want to relax,” thinks Luttchens. “They
don’t like all the fussiness [of traditional styles], and they
don’t like to clean all that, so [they prefer] real simple,
Mark Conde, product manager for Yorktowne Inc., also mentions “a
clean and uncluttered look” that combines the look of contemporary
with the warmer, retro vibe of Arts and Crafts as a hot
In the past few years, when consumers thought “simple,” they often
chose Shaker doors. Manufacturers disagree as to the style’s
popularity in the future.
Angela O’Neill, director of marketing and advertising for
Wellborn Cabinet, Inc., in Ashland, AL, believes Shaker is trending
down in favor of “the new fresh modern look.” However, she adds
that sales of Shaker styles are holding steady.
“Shaker has stayed very, very strong, along with the slab door
styles,” agrees Ray Ducharme, director of marketing for LesCare
Kitchens, in Waterbury, CT.
“We see Shaker slowing down, but it’s still a big thing for us,”
says Michael Hommis, CKD, director of marketing and education for
UltraCraft, in Liberty, NC.
Fish cites glazing on Shaker doors as a way of giving the
tried-and-true door style a new look.
For those looking for a still different look, “we’re seeing a lot
of rustics,” notes David Irion, dealer sales manager for Canyon
Creek Cabinet Co., in Monroe, WA. A rustic cabinet combines knotty
wood such as hickory, alder or maple with glazes and distressing:
cracking, wormholes, bird pecking, rub throughs and
New Finish Options
Glazes have, of course, been the trend of the past few years,
lending cabinetry a depth and variety, particularly with ornate,
high-end, Old-World styles.
Today, “glazes are [still] hot, and are coming into the stock
category at a more universal price point,” notes Steve Mangin,
marketing communications manager for MasterBrand Cabinets, in
Glazes remain strong, agrees Wellborn’s O’Neill, who cites cherry
tones as new additions to her company’s line. “Glazes are getting
darker and warmer. Even in the standard finishes, [we’re] moving to
the mid- to darker tones,” she says, citing a miter door style,
Savannah, that takes glazing particularly well.
Luttchens explains that the trend towards darker colors reflects a
desire for a comforting feeling, part of the increased move towards
cocooning post-9/11. Several manufacturers noted pewter, charcoal
and other grey shades as a fresh new glazing option that goes
particularly well with the ever-popular stainless steel appliances,
as well as metal onlays. Hommis also cites black glaze as an
But Laurie Galbraith, sales coordinator and training manager for
HomeCrest Cabinetry, in Goshen, IN, believes that the mainstreaming
of glazes might cause high-end consumers to go for something
different. “People who have been there, done that [are] going to a
sleeker contemporary look,” she notes, adding that simple doors
often indicate a simple finish.
“The multi-step finishes aren’t as popular with [contemporary
looks],” notes Butler. She adds that consumers who go for modern
often complement their cabinetry with dramatic natural elements
such as granite countertops, “so they’re going to go with more of a
straight finish [on their cabinets].”
Other high-end customers who like a more ornate look might
differentiate their kitchen by going a step further with multi-step
finishes, opines Butler, for instance, adding distressing for an
Mix and Match
Another new, high-end adventure pick is metal onlays, manufacturers
report, making for a dramatic, upscale look that coordinates
beautifully with stainless steel appliances.
“[That’s] starting to hit the consumer level now,” notes Sarah
Reep, ASID, CKD, CMG Chairholder, and director of design for
Starmark Inc., part of Norcraft Industries LLC, in Sioux Falls, SD.
Metallic resin, which mixes real metal with other materials,
provides that look in a lightweight, easy-to-install material that
has a wide variety of applications.
A fresh take on a more traditional furniture look can also be
achieved by mixing and matching one’s cabinetry options,
manufacturers agree. “We’re seeing people being more creative with
different species,” says Luttchens, who cites “natural cherry and a
cherry tone two or three shades darker not necessarily extreme
contrast, just blending together of different tones.”
Similarly, she notes a mixing of heights and depths of cabinets
for more of a furniture feel, with free-standing pieces along with
Mangin also cites mixing colors and wood species within a
kitchen, for instance, a painted door with natural wood accents and
mouldings. When consumers choose paint, Mangin adds, white remains
the most popular pick; specialty colors in the higher end include
green and yellow, with black gaining popularity as an accent color.
Paint with glaze over it remains a popular variation, he notes.
When it comes to wood species, the news is the advent of cherry,
which is increasing its market share and becoming available even at
a moderate price point. “It’s a warm look that gets richer with
time, so we’re seeing a real interest in it,” says Galbraith.
Red birch is really catching on, adds Ducharme. “It’s a
beautiful hardwood, but it’s the core wood of the birch tree, so
it’s available in limited quantities,” he elaborates. “It gives you
the richness of cherry with the pearlescence of maple.”
Hickory is also an up-and-comer for those desiring the rustic
look, especially if the dramatically grained wood is left natural.
“It’s a real midwestern look,” says Galbraith. “You probably
couldn’t give it away in Boston,” she laughs. The wood also lends
itself to distressing.
“Consumers are looking for something new, and they’re moving
into textural patterns,” says Reep. For instance, Charles Bearman,
program coordinator for Sokee Corp., in Monroe, WA, cites his
company’s exotic veneers featuring the Japanese woods, tachidamo
and tamamoku. The majority of customers leave these woods natural,
though Bearman does report an increase in tinted finishes in
“Italian colors,” such as oranges, yellows and greens.
Similarly, Kim Craig, marketing manager for KraftMaid Cabinetry,
in Middlefield, OH, notes her company’s new glaze, Chiffon, in a
soft, buttery yellow tone.
Other high-end picks from Sokee include a stainless steel door,
which is frequently used as an accent amid beech cabinetry, and a
high- gloss black piano finish.
Many consumers, of course, are operating at a lower price point,
and Ducharme reports new looks for high-pressure laminate as well,
with a lot of warm colors coming to the fore. “They’re doing earth
tones, a muted palette,” he notes. White thermafoil remains the
biggest seller, however.
Hommis also cites laminates in wood grains as newly popular, as
better imaging techniques have made the wood look more
UltraCraft has also recently introduced a new line, Vision,
which features micro wood fiber veneer over MDF, providing a real
wood door look at a lower price point. The thinness of the veneer
allows it to be used in many door styles, including more elaborate
ones, proving elegance and style in cabinetry that can be obtained
at any budget. KBDN