Cabinetry is a main focal point when walking into a kitchen. The material, color, layout and design choices homeowners make for their cabinets can influence style choices throughout the kitchen.
“Unquestionably, cabinetry provides foundational importance for the overall tone of the design and supports the integration of various material accents and appliances,” says Meaghan Hodshire, designer, Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry in Kreamer, PA. “Functional design starts with the cabinetry and meets the client’s daily lifestyle. Ultimately, cabinetry is the cornerstone of the design, the foundation that all other elements are built on.”
“The first thing you notice in a kitchen is the cabinetry: the style, color and design,” comments Angela Wellborn O’Neill, director of marketing and advertising, Wellborn Cabinet in Ashland, AL. “Cabinets start the design of a kitchen and reflect the style you want. Cabinetry can also drive the style of the décor around it.”
“Cabinetry basically builds the bones of the kitchen,” states Brian Yahn, national sales manager at Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry in Schaefferstown, PA. Layout and flow are determined by the way the customer will use the kitchen, he remarks. Door style, wood and finish choices will either complement existing surroundings or drive the palette and design choices for the other design elements in a new space, he adds.
Beyond the visual aspects, functional considerations also impact the flow of work in the kitchen. “The customer will want storage, storage and more storage in their new cabinets,” Yahn continues.
“Not only does cabinetry determine the overall space of the kitchen, the functionality inside a cabinet can make daily use of the kitchen either something so simple that you don’t even think about it, or it can frustrate the user on a daily basis,” reports Bonnie Schmitz, manager of design trends & innovation, Cabinetworks Group in Ann Arbor, MI.
“The typical kitchen triangle, which is the relationship of space between the refrigerator, range and sink, can be enhanced with the placement of cabinetry and surfaces. Functional storage accessories should be placed as close as possible to the place where they will be used most – like pots and pans storage and spice storage near the range,” she says.
While design taste and lifestyles vary widely, trends lean towards clean, sleek lines and efficient functionality. Painted cabinets are still most popular, but accents using color, texture and diverse materials are also trending, say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Design style, personal taste and designer’s inspiration are all key factors in the choices consumers make for their cabinetry. Texture and the use of accent features, whether contrasting colors or varied materials, are showing up more and more often in these choices.
“As the all-white kitchen has been evolving, we have noticed an increase for designers to incorporate accent colors and warm wood tones into the island, floating shelves or wood hood accent areas,” notes Delfina Doherty, marketing director at Stowe, PA-based Wellsford Cabinetry.
Texture, whether from unique materials or finishing techniques, is a rising trend in cabinetry finish, manufacturers say. “Texture is a primary component to finish trends and, with increasing interest in texture comes increased interest in stain as well as specialty finishing techniques, like dry brushing,” says Schmitz.
“We’ve been seeing a trend towards texture in cabinetry. Whether it’s wood grain veneers or stone, consumers and designers are craving tactile experiences,” offers Andreas Gommeringer, president at Doral, FL-based Häcker Kitchens North America.
Hodshire says homeowners are looking to designers to help them integrate several materials into a space by layering in natural elements. “This includes a balance of materials including metal and wood accents; natural materials like stone, quartz and ceramic pieces, and glass and tile to create an overall smooth, transitional appearance.”
She adds that they are seeing an uptick in demand for earthy tones, like white oak and walnut, which provide texture and a softer look, moving away from the dark accent stains of a few years ago. “These types of stains and wood species combinations allow for wire brushing and sandblasting techniques that create subtle accents when combined with these new earthy tones,” she observes.
Yahn notes that lighter colors and earth tone finishes are on the rise, along with the addition of metal accent pieces that add a third element to the design. “Designers need to be prepared for customers showing up with more European design ideas and styles, some being quite different from the norm,” he says.
Painted cabinets are still the top choice, but stained accents and natural wood finishes – especially as accents in the room – are on the rise. White is still the most favored color, but other colors, especially shades of gray and green, as well as natural wood tones, are being used more often.
O’Neill reports that painted cabinets still account for 75% of their orders, but they’ve seen an uptick in stains and a recent trend toward the addition of wood stain or wood grain laminate in the space. “We’re seeing a design trend where people are using natural wood graining in their lower cabinetry or island to add character to a space. We believe, based on these trend changes, that natural wood is going to continue to rise and that 75% will definitely change,” she states.
“Right now, warm neutral paints, like off-white and “greige,” are trending upward, along with blue, green and black,” reports Schmitz. “The most popular stains are those in light-to-medium tones with a neutral undertone, like the light gray stains that have been popping up everywhere over the last couple of years.”
Yahn reports that white paint is the top choice still, with brown, earth-toned stains also making a resurgence. In paint, blues, blacks and greens are also trending, he adds. “Gray has backed off a bit. Cerusing on Rift Cut White Oak is quite popular, with lighter, more natural tones being prevalent,” he offers.
Gommeringer notes that consumers and designers want options. Wood veneers that can be either a color or natural stain, such as walnut or reclaimed wood, offer the “best of all worlds” in terms of design. “We are seeing a lot of demand for natural wood to ground the design and give it a homey feel, paired with a pop of color and/or neutral color palette to create a contemporary mix and match look,” he comments.
“The color green is certainly trending, and we displayed our latest launch – Modern Country – in this color at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show,” he adds. “With a lift from the Biophilia trend that has been happening for [the] last few years, green is the new gray.”
Natasha Shtapauk, brand ambassador for Germany-based Bauformat, says black is a current trend, a perfect base tone to be combined with other colors and finishes. “Black looks perfect with bright colors, wood grain, metal, glass and stone,” she observes. A couple of years ago, she adds, Bauformat developed a resin-based lacquer that is scratch resistant and fingerprint proof.
James McCabe, showroom manager at Los Angeles, CA-based eggersmann USA, notes that the choice between paint and stain is either a personal preference or dictated by the architectural style of the house. “Either way, a lot of people are pairing it with glass door cabinets or other textures,” he says.
As important as the aesthetic is, ultimately cabinets are about storage space. With homeowners wanting a clean, uncluttered look in the kitchen, it’s essential to plan out cabinetry with intention.
Storage that suits the individual lifestyle of the consumer is also key, as today’s homeowners are more concerned with the space being set up to use the way they want to, rather than laid out for future resale. Easy access and high organization are the most important factors to consider.
“As the family kitchen renovation wish lists continue to grow, organization and improved functionality continues to be the driving factor,” explains Doherty. She notes that there is increased demand for pantry storage, appliance garages, communication centers and utility storage areas.
“Accessibility should be a primary focus for every kitchen now, rather than just those concerned about aging in place or for people who are disabled,” stresses Schmitz. “No one wants to get on their hands and knees to access the back of a blind corner cabinet, and they shouldn’t have to. Designers need to anticipate these accessibility and storage needs, as experts, to guide homeowners toward the right solutions for them.”
Shtapauk reports that clients are looking for gadgets, such as cabinets that open automatically, hidden lifts and voice-activated functions. “Our most popular designs are the cantilever kitchens with floating island or hidden integrated kitchens that don’t even look like kitchens,” she reports.
Clean lines are far preferred over ornate, decorative styles, manufacturers say. That has led to increased popularity of both frameless cabinetry and shaker and slab doors. Manufacturers note that frameless is a top choice due to both accessibility and the sleek look it offers.
“Framed cabinets were invented in the U.S., but they are more difficult to install, reduce storage and they do not offer a modern, clean appearance. Modern is trending in design today, and so the frameless European style of cabinet is more appealing to consumers,” stresses Gommeringer.
“Frameless cabinetry is ruling the day,” concurs Yahn. He adds that flat panel and slab doors are trending high. “Slabs can be anything from wood veneer, reconstituted veneers, textured melamine and laminate, acrylic and Fenix materials,” he says.
Hodshire reports that frameless cabinetry makes up the majority of her company’s business. “Framed cabinetry is almost exclusively inset in the furniture or luxury grade segment of the market,” she offers. “We often see frameless perimeter applications with an inset framed island or furniture applications as accents.” Slab doors with delicate outside molding and applied edge details are driving the market, she adds, like Wood-Mode’s Cologne and Pescara door styles.
Doherty also sees increased demand for frameless cabinets. “When you’re trying to maximize storage within the drawers and cabinets, you don’t have to have that 1½” frame, so you get more storage space internally,” she notes. “The classic Shaker door style is always favored with a flat center panel, but the framing bead is usually the variable factor.”
O’Neill agrees that slim shaker doors are rising in popularity. Wellborn has released two doors, Muriel and Florence, in this style this year. “These doors have the clean, simple look that is steadily rising in demand. We are also seeing a rise in the one-piece slab laminates with wood graining,” she remarks.
Shtapauk, on the other hand, says Bauformat’s clients aren’t looking for white shaker cabinets. “People who come to us want innovative products – something unique and unconventional for the kitchen cabinet industry,” she states. There has been a switch, she continues, from using a conventional wooden door front to the use of laminated, ceramic or stone door fronts. “Man-made materials are more durable, easier to clean and maintain and look more stylish and sophisticated. Besides that, all these innovative materials are safe to produce and environmentally friendly,” she adds.
When it comes to cabinetry, advances in technology can mean anything from better manufacturing processes to lighting to hidden features that enhance functionality. All are important details that can influence cabinet trends.
Elements that make the cabinets easier to access are popular, manufacturers say. Doherty notes that the tip-on accessory for trash and recycling inserts, which open with the touch of a knee allowing for easy access to the cabinetry without having to touch it with dirty hands, is a popular feature. “Everyone who sees it says, ‘I want that,’” she remarks.
Other features, such as hidden hinges, hidden lights within the shelves, and the ability to add texture to doors, contribute to the minimal aesthetic, McCabe says.
While smart technology may not have a direct connection to the cabinetry itself, it can impact both design and function in a variety of ways. “Incorporation of smart home devices should be considered when laying out a design. Smart appliances have also been growing in popularity. It’s important to understand how these devices will be used and how that may impact the space,” stresses Schmitz.
Another cabinet feature that is trending is integrated LED lighting that is operated by wireless switches and apps on mobile devices.
Hodshire notes, “Clean lines are key, and an integration of technology through appliance applications controlled via a smartphone and well-placed lighting with similar smart environmental controls provide both a visual and life balance for homeowners.”
Advances in manufacturing technology are also important to cabinetry trends, though not as visible to consumers, manufacturers say. “Some of our advances are behind-the-scenes, such as Häcker’s certified Carbon Neutral Manufacturing facilities. The environment is very important to our customers, and so our launches now and in the future have a strong focus on making the packaging, materials and manufacturing processes as sustainable as possible,” offers Gommeringer.
“The main advantage of our company is our sustainable production,” notes Shtapauk. “Our company has invested heavily in special equipment that allows us to produce our products without harming nature. We believe that these investments will benefit the entire global community in the long term.” ▪