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Around The House

As demand for cabinetry expands beyond the kitchen, flexible features and a wide range of finishes provide customized, aesthetically pleasing storage solutions.

authors Elizabeth Richards | June 14, 2021

As homeowners continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on how they use space in their homes, a need for practical storage solutions has made thoughtfully selected kitchen cabinetry more important than ever. Designers are tasked with finding creative solutions to make kitchens – and adjoining spaces – work well, functionally and aesthetically, for the entire family.

“Cabinets are the foundation of any kitchen, and their form and function can make or break a space,” says Jessica Smalley, national sales trainer for Cabico&co in Coaticook, Quebec. “As home design trends such as smart technology, wellness, multifunctional spaces and pops of color evolve, cabinetry design supports and brings their functionality to life.”

“Our homes used to be the place we retreated to at the end of the day, but over the past year they have evolved to act as so much more. Our homes are our office, our classroom, a place to work and a place to play – and the kitchen is the central hub of it all,” reports Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at Jasper, IN-based MasterBrand Cabinets.

Decisions around cabinetry are impacted by much more than just the kitchen design, including layout of the home, aesthetic and functional needs, she adds. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for kitchen cabinets. Instead, homeowners need to ask themselves what type of layout, finish, door style and storage solutions will work best for their household. It comes down to a lifestyle preference.”

Current trends highlight flexible design that incorporates cabinets into open-concept spaces; creative storage solutions; customized features; finishes that incorporate metal accents, natural wood tones and pops of color, and a continued desire for a sleek, clean look. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Open Space and Plentiful Storage

Whether designed to blend in or stand out, cabinets shouldn’t skew the overall design. And with open-concept spaces as popular as ever, it’s important to consider the impact of cabinets on the flow of the space, as well as the impact that open space has on cabinetry.

“A designer’s job is to pay attention to the amount of natural light, vertical space or other architectural details in a room and guide the customer towards selections that make sense for the space while also giving them the flexibility to make it their own,” emphasizes Hannah Gebauer, marketing director at Showplace Cabinetry, based in Harrisburg, SD.

“The function of the kitchen and the layout should be designed with the space in mind, while material selections can match the current homeowner’s style. A really successful design will make the client feel like it was made just for them, while the next homeowner will appreciate a successful layout just as much,” she notes.

Cabinets are an essential piece of the storage puzzle, which means they’re showing up in more places throughout the home than ever, manufacturers say.

Because of the importance of natural lighting, Angela O’Neill, director of marketing for Wellborn Cabinet in Ashland, AL, says open kitchen/living room spaces are often filled with large windows. “The use of a lot of windows can eliminate the wall cabinets needed for storage, so secondary rooms [and] pantry areas are a must. The walk-in pantry is in popular demand,” she reports.

Brian Stowell, president of Crown Point Cabinetry based in Claremont, NH, says that cabinetry is being purchased for reasons they’ve never seen before in 40 years in business. Projects are being designed to be comfortable for either one family or to include extended family, just in case, he explains. Kitchens are sprawling into family rooms, twin islands are added to accommodate multiple family cooks, and long walls house floor-to-ceiling cabinetry. Cabinets are being put in kitchens, office areas and additional separate spaces, he adds.

“Cabinets for the home office have become a huge priority over the past year,” agrees Gebauer. “Pantry cabinetry is more of a priority as well. Whether it be a custom walk-in pantry, or just a large cabinet for pantry storage and organization, overall home organization is a hot trend with consumers right now,” she reports.

Smalley emphasizes demand for flexible, multifunctional spaces. “Homeowners are re-evaluating their homes, and cabinetry plays a significant role in creating more flexible spaces. From large kitchens with multiple workspaces, to home offices, mud rooms and entryways, incorporating cabinetry into the home adds functionality and storage solutions wherever you need it most.”

Practical considerations also come into play. Mary Baber, design & training manager at Marsh Furniture Company in High Point, NC, says popular requests when designing client spaces include a double trash pull-out and as many drawers as possible.

Flexible Features

The myriad ways cabinets are used creates demand for flexible, customizable features that meet the specific style and functional needs of homeowners. Both technology and organization are important considerations, manufacturers say.

“As people rethink their spaces, the full range of customizable elements we offer complement and reflect the entire variety of styles,” emphasizes Jennifer Paul, product development manager for Elmwood, Cabico&co, in St. Catharines, Ontario. “Cabico and Elmwood work with leading manufacturers including Häfele, Blum and Hettich, harnessing the latest technology to innovate and create motion solutions for outstanding functionality,” she adds.

Smalley notes, “In the kitchen and beyond, we’re seeing an increased appetite for touch-latch cabinets, power sources and docking stations, and voice-activated features.” She adds, “The home of the future will be wired for wellness, and lighting will play a key role in the pursuit of the healthy home with principles such as biophilia, task and ambient lighting.”

Multifunctional spaces with plenty of good lighting and charging station areas are top priorities, Gebauer offers. Other important features for cabinetry include interior organization, drawers with outlets, and colors that look good not only in photos, but in person as well, she adds.

“We are plugged in from our breakfast to our bedroom, and our spaces need to help us not just stay connected but stay charged,” stresses Pierce. “Recent MasterBrand research reported a 67% increase in requests for charging or docking stations. And while we continue using our phones, tablets and computers, our kitchens need to keep up.”

She adds that, while a demand for storage is a given, they are constantly working at MasterBrand to meet the needs of evolving kitchens. “From drawers specific to single-use coffee pods to an appliance garage the exact dimensions of your mixer and even a biometric secured drawer to safely store valuables or medication, we are also considering how new technologies you use might impact your cabinetry needs,” she remarks.

When it comes to cabinets, important technological advances include how materials are made as well as elements that impact function. Melamine prints are becoming more advanced, Stowell states. “Companies are able to create textured materials that are closer to reclaimed wood than ever before,” he adds.

“It’s interesting to see so many turning to wrapped technology that is used to produce durable alternatives to the popular painted door styles to get the same look but at a more attractive price point,” Baber states. “Designability meets affordability with Marsh’s expanding Captiv8 product line.”

Metal Accents

The use of metal as an accent feature in kitchens is currently trending, manufacturers say. “Metal shelving at the end of islands, floating on walls, or as a total base to rest cabinetry on the floor is a great look,” offers O’Neill.

“Metal is being integrated into almost every project we manufacture,” says Andrea Tobias, CKD, sales & marketing for Premier Custom-Built Cabinetry in New Holland, PA. “From whole kitchens to metal accents on doors and parts, the majority of Premier projects feature metal in some form or fashion.”

Gebauer adds that open shelving that mixes wooden shelves with metal frames is popular. “Designers are using a mix of materials, finishes and textures within a room. This includes mixing different metal finishes in hardware, faucets and lighting,” she says.

Emerging Finishes

Painted finishes remain a top choice, according to manufacturers. And while white is still most often selected, colors and natural wood tones are also emerging.

“Painted finishes still rule. I tell people 80 percent of what we sell is painted and 80 percent of that 80 percent is one of about 20 different whites,” Stowell says. “We are finally starting to see more of a shift to color, and not just on islands or ‘accessory pieces,’” he adds. Demand has been higher for walnut and lighter woods, especially rift cut oaks, he reports.

O’Neill says gray, green, blue and black paints are all strong. Wood tones with natural-to-dark stains are also being used, particularly in kitchen islands, she reports. And though the perimeter more often sees painted cabinets, she adds, they are seeing all wood stain kitchens and baths starting to come back.

“What is exciting is that this industry is finally seeing color on cabinetry as a positive enhancement again,” Pierce reports. “We have been slowly incorporating color back into our cabinetry palette, seeing blues first emerge, and now green and black. But don’t be surprised if you see reds and yellows appear on cabinet doors,” she says.

“The biggest change in this cyclical trend is that we no longer see the single ‘avocado green’ as the universal driver for color infusion. Once a tone emerges, we have been seeing it carry anywhere from three to six variations of the tone into popular demand, so emerging greens are dark, olive and pale. This trend aligns well with the current culture desiring personalization of products,” she adds.

“Painted finishes are still very popular, but designers are incorporating more natural wood tones with pops of color in the kitchen,” explains Gebauer. Top requests for Showplace include Rift Oak and White Oak, she says. “While gray finishes are still popular, we are seeing a shift to more taupe finishes,” she adds.

Paul says that earthy hues and pops of color are currently trending. “Earthy pinks, nature-inspired greens and blues that reflect water and sky will dominate color direction for the next few years. We’re proud to say, we’re ahead of the crowd. Many of the colors cited had already been featured in our trend color suggestions,” she notes.

Nature-inspired, calming styles are also on the rise. Pierce says, “The notion of Japandi stylization crossing over into the kitchen space is a natural evolution in lifestyle trends that we see in this area right now. Kitchens have been solidly dominated by neutral palettes and clean lines to minimize clutter for a while, but what is fresher in the mix is the integration of nature. Black painted accents, balanced grid-like cabinetry lines and neutral paint colors that complement organic wood tones are all a great place to start with inspiration to incorporate this trend.”

“Warm wood and wood-looks are in the spotlight right now,” Paul stresses. In the past few years, she says, Walnut and White Oak have been on the rise. Now, Hickory and Red Oak are emerging, she notes, along with cerused and glazed finishes that highlight the material’s natural beauty.

Pierce agrees that wood grain is re-emerging. “Walnut wood tones and Walnut wood are in high demand and have beautiful inherent undertones that pair especially well with gold metal details, black finishes and green accents, which make them easy to integrate and be on-trend within a design,” she says.

Baber adds that there’s a current trend toward using three finishes, rather than the traditional two, for increased interest.

Simple Styles

Transitional styles that lend themselves to a clean, sleek look and an uncluttered design are still preferred by many homeowners and designers, manufacturers say.

“People still appreciate the clean and simple lines of a Shaker or modified Shaker,” Baber reports. “We’re also seeing more flat panel requests in stained wood due to the minimalistic mid-century style that is so popular now.”

“The most popular or in-demand doors for Cabico are all very simple profiles, minimal details, clean lines,” observes Smalley. These include Shaker style, variations of Shaker with beveled or beaded edges, and slab doors, she reports.

Stowell notes that thin, tapered framing around a rift oak slab panel is a door style that’s attracting a lot of attention currently. They also see demand for this type of door in painted finishes, he adds.

O’Neill reports the door styles currently in demand lead to simpler profiles. Shaker has long been a top design choice, she notes, but the look today is a slight twist from straight Shaker to doors with slight profile details. Solid panel, slab doors and square panel doors are all in currently, she adds, while cathedral and arch profiles are not. “Sleek and clean is the word,” she stresses. ▪

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