Pretty In Paint
authors Elizabeth Richards | June 4, 2019
Kitchen cabinets loom large as one of the most functional aspects of the kitchen space, but also one of its most prominent aesthetic features. Certainly, cabinet design and style influence the rest of the room – and can even set the tone for cohesive design elsewhere in the home.
“Kitchen cabinetry not only serves a functional and utilitarian role but can also serve as a platform to continue or highlight design themes throughout the house,” says Mary Baber, design & training manager at Marsh Furniture Co. in High Point, NC. “While the majority of homeowners opt for a classic white or off-white kitchen, we are seeing an upswing in bold colors taking center stage. Historically, we’ve seen punches of bold colors incorporated in islands, hoods or other statement pieces, but we are beginning to see these bold colors used throughout the kitchen as well as other spaces in the home,” she says.
“As we all know, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home. The macro consumer trend of people doing more things at home than in the past is well established and the kitchen is, at many times, the center of these dining and entertaining activities. The kitchen and living room are merging functionally in many home interior layouts. Therefore, the importance of the kitchen being beautiful and functional is at an all-time high,” says Steve Wilcox, director of design and new product development for SunnyWood and Sagehill Designs in Cerritos, CA.
Perry Miller, president of Kountry Wood Products in Nappanee, IN says, “While cabinetry is still an emphasis, the countertop tends to have a larger focus on the design than in the past. While the overall kitchen design may be intended to blend, designers tend to design a featured cabinet with a contrast to the room to bring focus to the cabinetry.”
Trends in cabinetry shift slowly, and manufacturers say that no major changes have occurred in the last year, though some trends are peaking while others continue to rise. Demand for painted cabinetry, for example, continues to grow, but there’s a slight shift away from all-white cabinets.
“We approach kitchen style and color trends from an evolutionary perspective. Rather than major shifts every six to 12 months, the design trends for the kitchen seem to cycle on more of a two- to five-year basis. But, it is certainly important to follow these consumer and interior trends and then modify our lines to meet the consumer lifestyle needs,” says Wilcox.
Functional storage, clean lines, transitional design and high demand for Shaker doors also continue as top trends. Technology impacts cabinetry in varied ways, most notably in internal components that add convenience and internal lighting. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
The popularity of a painted finish for kitchen cabinetry continues to rise. While whites and grays still dominate, manufacturers say they’re seeing a shift toward color as well.
“Paint has rapidly become more popular than stain. We’re still seeing whites and grays as being the dominant choice for paints; although blues, greens and beige requests are emerging with greater frequency,” says Baber. “These emerging color trends may be a direct impact of consumers’ desire to begin pivoting away from grays. We’re also seeing warm brown stains, both light and dark, being paired again with painted product within spaces.”
“Painted cabinetry completely rules the day,” agrees Brian Yahn, sales manager at Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry in Schaefferstown, PA. He says that white is still by far the most popular color, but there’s also a move in 2019 from blues to greens in shades from very pale to very dark.
Angela Wellborn O’Neill, director of advertising and marketing for Wellborn Cabinet Inc. in Ashland, AL, says the trend is “paint, paint and more paint.” She adds that, although white cabinetry is safe and constant, showing no sign of disappearing, people are also beginning to move away from all-white cabinetry and incorporate colored cabinets into the kitchen. Sometimes, she points out, people are making a statement and creating a mood with cabinetry through the use of a warmer color palette, for instance.
Wilcox believes that painted finishes are the lion’s share of the market, with grays and whites being most popular. However, he also sees a slow shift away from all-white and gray cabinets, along with a move toward darker and less monotone interiors. “It does appear that monochromatic spaces are starting to peak and perhaps we will be seeing more dramatic and richly colored kitchen interiors,” he notes. “This may perhaps be due to the strong economy and the desire for younger consumers to have something unique and different.”
The demand for painted finishes also influences material choice. “Maple is still the most popular, just because it is painted the most,” says Jeff Ptacek, CKD, director of product management at StarMark/Fieldstone in Sioux Falls, SD.
Baber adds, “Wood species with a subtle grain pattern are still requested with the most frequency. This is primarily due to the increased requests for painted product over the past several years.”
O’Neill notes that Glacier paint is her company’s most popular finish, providing the perfect canvas for a traditional white cabinet design. In terms of materials, maple is most often requested, with MDF a close second.
Style in the kitchen continues to favor clean lines and an uncluttered feel, and cabinetry follows suit. “The trend of clean, flat lines is continuing from a year ago, according to our sales and customer demands,” says Miller.
“Door styles tend to be of cleaner design with simple and elegant proportions and details,” adds Wilcox. “However, we still see door styles with elegant applied moldings as being very commercial. In general, most styles can be simply categorized as ‘casual traditional’ or ‘casual modern.’”
The demand for an unadorned look affects which overall design styles are favored. “We are still seeing transitional style prevail, with less and less traditional,” says Yahn. He adds that contemporary/modern styles are also trending upward. “Door styles have become very minimalistic, with five-piece flat plane and slab doors being very popular.
Cabinets are a long-term investment, not easily replaced every time a new trend comes along, which may be why simple, classic doors like Shaker style or slab doors continually remain most popular.
“The Shaker door style is still going strong as always,” says Moses Indig, director of marketing and public relations for CNC Cabinetry, based in South Plainfield, NJ.
Ptacek agrees. A flat Shaker-style door, with simple clean lines, painted in white, is the strongest style, with shades of gray close behind, he states.
O’Neill says Wellborn’s most popular door styles are the Hancock and Bishop styles, which complement Shaker styling. The Hancock, a more relaxed Shaker design style, is the most popular, she notes. The Bishop is more transitional, and has risen to popularity because of its crisp, clean lines, she adds.
Although there are clear favorites when it comes to door styles and finishes, manufacturers say they are also tasked with offering enough variety to appeal to a wide audience. The trend toward customization and personalized style throughout the kitchen – and the home – means options are essential.
Personal style often determines whether cabinets are designed to blend into the surroundings or stand out as a creative focal point. “The question as to whether the cabinets are standing out or blending in all depends on the consumer’s vision and lifestyle. Therefore, suppliers need to clearly identify the sort of lifestyle choices their target customers are choosing to live and then design products to meet those lifestyle needs,” Wilcox says. “Macro trends within the cabinetry arena are focused around casual lifestyles, the standard finishes, unique accent finishes and enduring quality,” he adds.
“Kitchen cabinetry sets the pace for the whole room design,” says O’Neill. “Depending on the homeowner’s design style, cabinetry can either stand out or blend into the space.”
Painted finishes are often requested, but manufacturers also see a demand for stains in a variety of colors. “While painted cabinetry is on the rise, stains are still a top contender. Stains are warming up with a rich brown walnut color tone,” says O’Neill.
Indig says they have seen more frequent requests for gray stains, and CNC’s Ocean Blue stain recently.
Yahn notes that rift-cut white oak is currently very trendy, in light stains and white cerusing finishes. Walnut is also always in demand, he adds.
Textures and accents add to the visual landscape in cabinetry as well. Yahn says that metal accents are on the rise, from door trims to complete metal hoods, doors and drawers. Laser cutting is also becoming popular, he says, for mullion doors and decorative ends. Laser cutting allows for many unique shapes and styles.
Ptacek says, “Textures, either by wire brush, sand blasting or acid etching, are all seeing more play to combat the popularity of textured melamines in the market.”
Cabinet trends aren’t impacting the kitchen space only, especially in open concept designs.
With so many open spaces, cabinetry must be considered more like furniture than cabinets, says Ptacek. While surrounding cabinets often blend into the overall design, a design statement is added with color or patterns within an island, he maintains.
Yahn notes that many of the orders his company receives are multi-room orders, so they blend one room into another. “Many times, the colors or door style may change, but the overall design tends to be the same,” he states.
Functional attributes are also extending into spaces beyond the kitchen. “People are using kitchen cabinets more creatively to build out other functional parts of the home, surrounding the kitchen, like using utility cabinets as book cases,” says Indig.
Creative Storage Solutions
Though aesthetics are important, the functional utility of the cabinet space in the kitchen is even more essential. Whether open or closed, storage solutions must provide top-notch organization and convenience. Customized interiors are becoming more common, with a specific place for every kitchen gadget, spice and specialty appliance.
Miller sees open cabinets or shelving that include floating shelves becoming more prominent. “Islands are almost becoming a standard in every kitchen design,” he notes.
Clever, concealed storage is also trending, according to O’Neill. “Consumers continue to gravitate toward concealed and clean integration in kitchen design, with maximized and clever storage solutions,” she says. “Coffee lovers rejoice with the variety of K-cup storage solutions. Spices are a pain to store; Wellborn’s vast array of spice storage and organization options are endless. Pots and pans now have a unique spot in the kitchen – hanging pot and pan pull-out and wide-deep drawers.”
In cabinets, technology solves practical problems and adds flexibility and convenience to the space.
“We live in a world where technology is king,” says O’Neill. “Technology will continue to drive innovations and new pleasures in the kitchen, giving homeowners ever more specific home appliances targeted to their tastes. Motorized lifting systems are a trend to watch; more and more homeowners want easier accessibility. The Ninka Qanto lift hides kitchen appliances with the touch of a button. The lift solves the inaccessible space in the corners of the kitchens by providing a vertically rising tray for maximum space usage,” she says. “Bringing technology into the home is now easier than ever.”
Baber says that internal accessories that make the kitchen more accessible and functional continue to be in high demand. Specialty spaces and designs around pets are also on the rise, she notes.
Ptacek says they’re starting to see more powered SKUs, such as waste basket cabinets that open with a touch of the knee to provide for easier internal access.
Wilcox believes the kitchen environment is full of unique products that are both high tech and high style. “Today’s younger consumers can have their choice of products and interior designs from around the world, and they can be delivered to their front door almost effortlessly. I think this makes younger consumers more daring in their choices,” he notes.
The three purposes cabinetry serve for the consumer, he continues, are surface space for working and entertaining, storage for stowing away necessary kitchen items and style. “Anything that can enhance these basic functions will do well. I think the most significant technology that has won universal appeal for consumers is soft-close mechanisms becoming pretty much a standard requirement.”
Miller agrees: “Soft-close drawers and doors are consistently requested by consumers.”
Lighting is another add-on that is becoming more prominent in cabinetry. “Lighting is on the rise – interior and exterior LED lighting for ambiance and functional task lighting,” says O’Neill. ▪