No longer are kitchen accessories and interior fittings simply nice “extras” to have – rather, they are becoming crucial to the way the space looks and functions. These elements complement the aesthetics of the cabinets and offer much needed solutions to long-standing storage issues.
Shari McPeek, marketing manager at Rev-A-Shelf, LLC in Jeffersontown, KY says the kitchen is now an extension of the living area and the kitchen is expected to fit in visually with adjoining spaces. Because of this, interior fittings and accessories have grown to be more than functional, she says, designed with beautiful features that are constructed of materials that complement the cabinet. “Cabinet accessories are no different than a handbag. They complement the garment it is paired with and provide needed storage,” she states.
A need for efficiency and convenience drives innovation in the kitchen space, notes Daniel Tripp, kitchen product manager for Häfele America Co. in Archdale, NC. “Every decision we make with regard to the products and services we produce has to include these elements. Whether you order takeout every night or consider yourself a gourmet chef, being able to efficiently use kitchen real estate is always an important consideration.”
Billy Peele, marketing/PR representative for Doug Mockett & Co., Inc. in Manhattan Beach, CA agrees. “Since we expect everything to be at arm’s reach, practical and easy to use, it is important to accommodate these needs with thoughtful solutions in mind, whether it’s with storage options or convenient power options. Technology will only have a growing role in this relationship with the user experience and efficiency in the kitchen, so expect more smart home integration in the years to come,” he says.
“Kitchen and product designers have to reconsider their approach when designing the kitchen or interior fittings,” points out Christophe Lies, product manager, kitchen accessories at Richelieu in Montreal, Canada. “Until a few years ago, a ‘pretty face’ kitchen was enough to satisfy the end user’s need. Today, if the designer doesn’t include functionality and internal storage space management, they won’t be successful.”
Top trends in kitchen accessories and interior fittings include filling all available space with unique storage solutions; incorporating innovative, high-quality elements; integrating soft-close and touch-to-open technologies; mirroring the sleek aesthetics of cabinet exteriors, and keeping the space looking clean and clutter free. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
SMART STORAGE SOLUTIONS
Space is always at a premium, especially in the kitchen. Accessories and fittings that make the best use of available space are top priority, according to manufacturers. “Maximizing space in every nook and cranny is challenging and fun at the same time,” says Peele. Built-in solutions like spice racks, pull-outs and drawers for cleaning supplies under the sink, and food storage containers are all great for getting organized, he maintains. “Or consider unused space you would never think of for storage, even replacing the toe kick with a drawer to store baking sheets,” he adds.
“I don’t know one person who would rather work harder, and that goes for in the home, too,” says McPeek. The desire to maximize how the space is used has increased the popularity of frameless cabinets and moved storage accessories from add-ons to must haves, she states.
Micro-unit apartments as small as 240 square feet are a big trend in dense and heavily populated cities according to Lies. “Designers must overcome this challenge in creating functional and ‘livable’ spaces. They need to come up with smart solutions to provide the end user with the same comfort found in a bigger home.” Because these are often open-concept spaces, the kitchen and its accessories must be considered in the overall design. Pull-out tables installed inside drawer space are one popular solution. “As designers have less available square footage to work with, they must find a way to use higher upper cabinets in creating additional storage space,” Lies adds. “Accessing those hard-to-reach items is quite easy with the Panasonic soft down mechanisms sold by Richelieu.”
The need for extra space drives demand for creative and innovative storage products. “Consumers are beginning to choose their cabinets wisely,” says Karen Smith, brand communication coordinator for Stanley, NC-based Blum, Inc. “Selecting cabinets as solutions to storage needs creates a more desirable workspace.” This might mean wider cabinets with deep drawers, or an interior roll-out in a deep drawer to store smaller, seldom-used items. “Choosing a wide drawer application instead of two smaller cabinets can give you up to 15% more storage space,” she says. Two other areas that are prone to wasted space are sink and corner cabinets, Smith says.
“The average homeowner is very busy these days and they want everything in their home to be organized, especially in the kitchen. Less time searching for things helps them complete tasks more quickly and more efficiently,” points out Dee Maher, senior product specialist at Kesseböhmer USA, Inc. based in Wilmington, NC. “There are so many great interior storage solutions out there today that an empty cabinet with a shelf is really becoming a thing of the past.” Designers are always looking for corner solutions and storage that takes aging in place and universal design into account, she adds. Kesseböhmer recently introduced the iMove pull-down shelf system for upper cabinets. “This will be helpful for all of us who can’t reach what’s on the top shelf, and will be key for this aging population and will make a big impact on their lives,” she says.
Closets are a sector that shouldn’t be ignored, notes Jan Fitzpatrick, customer and market relations manager, Grass America Inc. in Kernersville, NC. “Americans have a lot of things, and all of these items must be stored. One may typically think of clothes closets, but closets go beyond that,” she says. The ZBox Drawer System from Grass offers a new twist for the closet manufacturer with a metal drawer box on a ball bearing slide, she adds.
CLEAN AND CLUTTER FREE
The overall trend in kitchen design toward a modern, simple look with clean lines carries over from the exterior of cabinets to what’s inside, manufacturers say.
“Minimalist kitchen designs continue to inspire homeowners,” Smith states. “To keep kitchens neat, and give them that clean, open feel, homeowners are searching for ways to get clutter off of countertops.” Full-extension drawers in base cabinets, adjustable interior organization and appliance garages to hide stand mixers or coffee makers are all products that can help designers achieve the minimalist look.
“Clean, out of sight and organized – those are the key components of thoughtful design execution. Take the stress out of a cluttered kitchen and substitute with clean and simple design solutions,” says Peele. “The relationship between form and function is a delicate balance.”
The increasing popularity of contemporary-style kitchens has brought an increase of full-access, or frameless, cabinetry and more industrial designs, McPeek notes. “Full access often leans toward contemporary straight lines and more rugged looks with exposed pipes and textured brick,” she explains. “One overall design trend with these cabinets is for open or limited wall cabinets, which create a demand for storage accessories and, more importantly, those with sleek metal accents and unique colors that accentuate the overall design.”
“The requirement for functional hardware in a more minimal design is becoming more popular,” agrees Fitzpatrick. “The attention to detail and quality must be represented in the product, but the design must feature a classic, clean look. Drawer sides in a metal drawer system need to match or complement the exterior of the cabinetry to create unity throughout the kitchen.” This desire for “clean living” also lends itself to touch-to-open and electronic drawers as the look of handle-free drawers becomes more popular, she adds.
No longer are designers and consumers playing it safe with wood interior accessories. As designs are increasingly transitional and contemporary, the demand for finishes that complement the exterior is on the rise.
“Up until recently, the traditional American consumer wanted to see wood interior accessories, but as we move into the more transitional and contemporary style of clean lines and shiny finishes in hardware, our Chrome finish has become very popular,” says Maher.
“More and more end users are looking to harmonize colors, whether with accessories inside a drawer, such as cutlery dividers, or a pull-out or a blind-corner unit,” says Lies. The trend also extends to more angular products, he adds.
McPeek says color combinations like walnut and orion gray are hitting the market because of how well they work with all designs, especially contemporary and industrial. “You are also seeing products coming to market that are just as lovely as the cabinets they go in, with flat wire and shelf options that range from wood to gray and white,” she adds.
“Beauty is no longer only skin deep. Designers and their customers are looking for solutions that bring unparalleled functionality but are also attractive to look at once a drawer or cabinet is open,” says Tripp. Häfele’s new Fineline Kitchen Accessories speaks to this trend, bringing a combination of warm woods – birch and walnut – with metal brackets to some of the firm’s most popular base cabinet and pantry pull-outs, he says.
As kitchen space becomes more versatile, adding accessories and interior fittings becomes less an option and more an expectation. There are elements that simply ensure the kitchen space works well, from soft-close and touch-to-open products, to storage solutions, to LED lighting.
“For many years, kitchen accessories were optional,” says Lies. “Nowadays, end users consider these accessories as an essential part of their kitchen. They are willing to sacrifice [by] having fewer cabinets, but emphasize more functionality by adding on more accessories. By doing so, they increase their comfort level whenever they use their kitchen.” The best example, he says, is slow and soft motions on hinges, slides, drawers, doors and pull-out or pull-down systems. “A few years ago, this functionality was optional. Nowadays, it has become an industry standard.”
Smith agrees. “Just like consumers have come to expect a quieter dishwasher, soft-close drawers and doors are a must. Soft close has become the standard in most all cabinet lines. In fact, it is now expected in mid- to high-end kitchens. Having the soft-close technology built into the runner or hinge cup makes installation quick and simple.”
Pull-out options have become another standard for cabinet interiors. “The roll-out tray has become a standard along with a built-in waste bin cabinet. Spice pull-outs in either base cabinets or wall cabinets have become very popular and often work in those spaces we would normally use fillers for. Under-sink caddies for cleaning supplies and corner pull-out units are becoming standard items as well,” says Maher.
“Waste pull-outs that feature space for both trash and recycling need to be in every project,” notes Tripp. “Customers are more and more eco-conscious, and this is simply one of the ways they show it.”
Features that add convenience are increasingly important, and Peele believes that while additional outlets in the kitchen used to be considered a luxury add-on, the convenience and value they bring has helped to make them a new standard in functional kitchens. “Since kitchens are the nucleus of activity in the home, including cooking, dining, hosting, etc., this translates for a greater need for convenient power options for powering small appliances and charging mobile devices,” he says. Mockett’s new PCS77 provides power where needed, and hides away nearly flush into the countertop when not in use, he points out.
LED lighting is another accessory that is more standard than optional, according to Tripp. “Whether built into cabinetry during manufacture or added afterward, LED lighting adds value and total functionality to any kitchen project. These are now a must-have.”
Accessories and fittings add value to the space, but only if they meet the high standards of designers and consumers. As people become more aware of the options available, they are selecting products that not only perform the desired functions, but are also made to last through everyday wear and tear.
“The interest in and demand for quality components – whether they be for storage options, functional hardware, decorative hardware or LED lighting for kitchens – has never been higher,” says Tripp. “While form still predominantly follows function, the quality of materials used to create interior fittings and kitchen accessories has really improved. Folks want products that add functionality and value but also those that extend their investment in the kitchen space,” he adds.
McPeek says “value” isn’t about cost. “People are looking for products that give them the best value for their money in functionality, design and construction. They are looking for products they can count on from companies that stand behind their products and [they] know they can trust.”
“We feel that value to the American consumer means something that is high in quality and beautiful aesthetically but will also make their lives easier, through convenience and efficiency,” says Maher. “People are willing to spend more on better-quality items for a large purchase, knowing that they won’t be buying these items again for another 10-15 years. Statistically, over 30% of people who have remodeled their kitchens wished they had spent more money in hindsight.”
Sustainability and conscious consumption factor into decision making, and using quality products helps consumers have less impact on the environment. “Homeowners are willing to spend a little more up front for quality when they understand they won’t need to replace the product within the next few years,” concludes Smith. “Not only does this ensure less waste in the long-term, but also ensures consumers will save money, not having to continually replace hardware that doesn’t last the lifetime of the cabinets.” ▪