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Painted Simplicity

Painted kitchen cabinetry stands out with contrasting accents, pops of bold color and features that add personalized value to the kitchen space.

authors Elizabeth Richards | June 16, 2020

Kitchen cabinets will always be noticed, whether they’re intended to blend into the décor or stand out proudly as the focal point in the kitchen. The sheer amount of space the cabinetry occupies makes finding exactly the right choice a top priority for designers and homeowners. Big trends shift slowly over time, especially in stock or semi-custom markets, but color and feature choices allow designers to experiment with new ideas even as overarching trends remain the same.

As a central feature in the kitchen space, the overall preference for cabinet design is a clean, minimalist style. “In the mass market, the design trends in kitchen and bath are slow to evolve,” says Lindsay Powell, director of sales and marketing at Ideal Cabinetry in Bartow FL. Higher end lines see trends and changes more often, he adds, which then trickle down. In stock/semi-custom markets, product lines are influenced by the popularity of decorating shows on television, he adds, and “what you tend to see over and over again is the safe, consistent styling.”

Open-concept design influences both storage and style trends in cabinetry. “In general, open-room concepts magnify the idea and necessity of fashion. When the kitchen is a premier focal point in the home, there is an expectation of broad styling options that can be combined in ways that reflect their personality,” explains Scott Korsten, director of marketing at Showplace Cabinetry in Harrisburg, SD. “The broad use of taller ceilings in newer construction demands cabinets that are equally tall to maintain visual continuity in design.”

A focus on overall room and home design impacts kitchen cabinet trends a great deal, according to Kari Hiltner, marketing and design manager at Plato Woodwork in Plato, MN. “Special finishes and more furniture fit installations – as well as incorporating metals, lighting, tile [and] glass into the cabinetry to create an overall design aesthetic – all affect cabinetry trends,” she says.

Other trends include a continued leaning towards white or gray painted cabinets, color contrast and accents within the space, clean and simple door styles and demand for features that help organize and personalize the space. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Open-concept Design

When the space between the kitchen and living areas is open, thoughtful planning of cabinetry aesthetics is essential for design flow and a cohesive feel.

“The popularity of open-concept design continues to influence cabinetry trends and preferences,” says Dean Geiller Jr., national sales manager, St. Martin America in Cressona, PA. “There has been an increased desire for floating shelving as opposed to wall cabinetry, custom wall hoods to match larger appliances and islands with seating for the whole family,” he observes.

Opening up the space in the kitchen/living area is often the first request when remodeling, reports Angela O’Neill, director of advertising and marketing for Wellborn Cabinet in Ashland, AL. Large windows with lots of natural lighting pose an issue for storage, she adds, so adjacent rooms, such as a pantry, are necessary.

“With the continued trend of open-concept living spaces, butler pantries and secondary prep areas have become a necessary staple in large kitchens,” offers Logan Yoder, product development and design at Grabill Cabinets in Grabill, IN. “This secluded area creates a space where messes can be made, hidden from open sight-lines.”

Because open floor plans allow the kitchen to be seen from living spaces, it’s important that style and color choices flow with the design theme of the house, notes Mary Baber, design and training manager at Marsh Furniture Company in High Point, NC. “For instance, if you have a contemporary home, you may choose a simple slab door with low-profile edge pulls for hardware. Likewise, if you like the farmhouse style, you may consider adding beadboard or shiplap elements into your kitchen to continue the theme,” she states.

Taller ceilings have also had an influence, adds Perry Miller, president, Kountry Wood Products in Napanee, IN. Several years ago, taller wall cabinets came into fashion in order to make the space feel a little less open with those high ceilings. Now, Miller adds, smaller cabinets stacked on top of shorter cabinets are showing up more often.

Paint Dominates

Paint remains the most popular finish for cabinetry by a relatively wide margin, often in shades of white or gray, manufacturers say. However, other colors are creeping in, particularly when used as accents.

“Paints are hot and still growing,” offers Miller. “I don’t think we’re even close to peak yet on paints. We’ve seen those grow in double digits the last three years and they just continue to grow.”

“Our top five paint finishes are all shades of white,” Yoder comments. “However, there has been a shift from pure, bright whites to muted, soft whites. Homeowners are wanting to bring more warmth and softness into their homes.” She adds that grays are also warming up, becoming more “greige” – beige/gray shades. The shift to warmer tones pairs well with the rising popularity of natural wood finish accents, she observes.

O’Neill offers, “Paint is selling 70% to 30% stain, which is a complete flip from five years ago.” Shades of white are dominating paint sales, she adds, and shades of gray and blue are also strong. This preference for painted cabinetry means that medium density fiberboard (MDF) is the material of choice, O’Neill reports. Second to MDF, she says, is maple.

While most manufacturers say white and gray are on top, Hiltner disagrees. “In 2019, 66% of our product left our facility painted, but gone are the days of a simple white or gray. Walking through our finishing department, you will see an array of special colors. It really speaks to the ability to customize our product for the end user and their desire to make their spaces speak to them.”

Clean and simple style

Modern and minimalist styles continue to be in demand, manufacturers say, which means that door styles also lean towards simple, clean lines. Any door style that is simple, with less profiling, is the trend, offers O’Neill.

Korsten notes that there haven’t been big shifts in styling. Flat-panel options continue to grow, along with demand for transitional or contemporary styles, he says. “We’re putting meaningful effort into creating styles with nuanced differences that homeowners can choose to personalize their space within the general style,” he says.

Miller adds that Shaker door styles dominate, with predominately white paint. Grays are picking up, he notes, but white is still the clear frontrunner. “Our white paint is 34% of what we do right now overall, followed by gray stains and then gray paint,” he remarks.

“White Shaker is still the leader of the pack. People are looking for the clean, bright, safe, simple option,” offers Powell.

“Everyone’s looking for the next white Shaker,” he adds, which has prompted a slight shift towards gray tones as customers seek something a little different than what everyone else has. “It’s a manageable step away from a white Shaker, [and] it still complements your stainless steel and industrial looking appliances,” he says.

The quest for the “next Shaker” is also prompting a move to a little more detail on doors, such as a straight bevel, Powell observes.

Yoder says Grabill’s Shaker door style is still the top seller, but several styles that are slight variations on the Shaker door have been favorites for dealers. 

“Shaker and modified Shaker are still the most popular door styles; however, we’re beginning to see a slight incline in our applied molding doors,” reports Baber. “These styles are built with a simple molding detail around the inside panel while maintaining the clean, square outer edge of a Shaker. The result is somewhat of a softer option to Shaker.”

Modern styles are on the rise, which can mean growth for frameless cabinets. “Frameless cabinetry with slab, veneered doors has been a current dealer-favorite combination,” Yoder comments.

At Plato, Hiltner says, they saw 25% growth in their frameless product, INOVAE, in 2019. “We have been focusing on our frameless product for a few years, and we have certainly seen the shift,” she stresses.

Color Accents and Contrasts

Though white is still on top, colors are showing up in cabinetry. Often, designers are mixing various colors and material, and using color as an accent or focal “pop,” particularly on islands.

“We are starting to see a trend of three colors in a kitchen space, with the third color being a stain, like on the island space,” O’Neill states.

“While monochromatic white Shaker kitchens continue to dominate the field, designers are increasingly incorporating different colors into the cabinetry for islands and wall cabinets,” reports Geiller. “As end users continue to take risks and spec colors that match their preferences and lifestyles, two-tone and even three-tone kitchens are now almost as common as monochromatic ones,” he adds.

“Pops of navy and jeweled-tone colors have become the perfect accent to white cabinetry,” says Yoder. She adds that some homeowners have even ordered an entire project in these bold colors.

Baber agrees that mixing painted styles with pops of stained product continues to trend. “Bold colors like blacks and blues are being incorporated in larger spaces, not just as accent pieces like in years past,” she stresses. “Many times, these bold colors are being paired with a nice brushed gold or champagne cabinet pull.”

Miller says that, much like with furniture suites, cabinets are not matching each other like they used to, but instead blending more colors, such as base cabinets that contrast with walls.

Color is being used as an accent to the white or gray Shaker kitchen, Powell reports. “It’s still simple, clean cabinetry with functional storage, but maybe the island is an accent [color], or the lower cabinets are in a darker tone with gray or white uppers,” he says. Using accent items with white Shaker allows for easier home resale, he says, allowing the homeowner to remove the accented items and have a clean, contemporary, safe kitchen for retail.

Island time

A demand for additional space to relax, socialize, eat and work in the kitchen, as well as the need for additional storage space, has increased demand for kitchen islands. In fact, manufacturers say, sometimes kitchens are being designed with two islands.

“Because the kitchen is increasingly a place to relax or congregate with friends and family members, islands continue to grow in size and scale,” says Geiller. “There is also a major trend of having two islands in a kitchen or making U-shaped islands that accommodate built-in, lounge-style seating. With the growth of telecommuting, there is
now a movement to incorporate custom desk and cabinet areas within
the kitchen.”

“Most of the layouts we see from our designers throughout the country incorporate an island,” says Yoder. “Big or small, an island is the best place to add style and personality into a kitchen. A more recent growing trend is incorporating multiple islands in a kitchen layout.”

Essential storage and function

Features that add convenience as well as dedicated storage solutions are a necessity, manufacturers say.

Providing organized storage solutions helps homeowners navigate a busy lifestyle with more efficiency, according to Korsten. Today’s homeowners are interested in a less cluttered lifestyle, “so providing adequate storage is appealing,” he adds.

“The newest kitchen gadgets should always be considered when kitchen planning,” stresses Baber. “Specialized storage needs for large countertop appliances should be taken into account so these items can be tucked away nicely and easily. Instant pressure cookers and air fryers are among the newest appliances to become staples, much like mixers, blenders and crockpots have been in the past.”

Hiltner says that space needs to be thought out and planned with the individual user in mind, to include specific pullouts, docking drawers and appliances to enhance the spaces.

“Organizational features such as drawer rollouts, base pullouts, pantry organization, drawer dividers and waste pullouts are all common throughout kitchen designs,” Yoder says.

LED lighting is the most requested and accessible technology in the kitchen and bath industry, Geiller says. He adds, “As door styles become more modern, new developments in push-latch hardware and electronic hinges and glides are also gaining in popularity.”

Technology in the kitchen and bath space means Smart technology, O’Neill reports. “We are selling technology in lighting by controlling all features of lighting from inside to underneath the cabinets, controlled with just a touch to the iPhone. Cabinet doors and drawers open and close with simple touch motion and some with total motion sensors,” she says.

“Are consumers ordering all these features…Not totally yet,” she continues. “Features cost money and that budget is not figured into the average kitchen pricing as of yet.” ▪

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