Hudoba finds that green issues play a large role in the radiant floor heat market. “One of the most attractive features of radiant is the energy efficiency it provides. Consumers are becoming more and more educated in the sustainable building markets and they are learning that radiant is the way to go – especially when it incorporates with renewable energy sources, such as geothermal and solar.”
As the population ages, Universal Design becomes increasingly important as well. Blum, Inc. has an interesting take on this trend, as the firm conducted research using an “age explorer” suit, which ages the wearer to 70+ years old in a short period of time. The suit simulates many issues that older adults face, such as range of motion, reduced muscle strength, arthritis and decreased vision.
This research allowed the company to test the functionality of its product offerings to see if they made it easy to access items in a cabinet, says Poteat. “When we test products and try out various solutions, we wear the suit a minimum of two hours to really feel its full effects. This helps us to be sure that the products we create and launch to the market really will be beneficial to all kitchen users.”
Tripp points out that functional storage options provide a great alternative when talking about Universal Design. “The ability to pull the contents of a cabinet out rather than having to bend down and perhaps get on your knees to reach an item is a major plus,” he says.”
As for the recession, the economic downturn has certainly had an impact on overall design in the kitchen, but perhaps not as significantly in the area of fittings and accessories, according to manufacturers interviewed.
Stathis says, “Designers tell me that some clients, who may have once sought custom cabinets and furnishings, are maximizing their project budgets by using stock cabinets and retail furnishings. These same buyers value quality interior fittings and accessories and continue to spend in these areas.”
Fitzpatrick adds, “The general population wants to get the best value for their money, but people also realize that cabinetry is a long-term investment. They will still pay somewhat more for what they want because of the longevity of a kitchen.”
For that reason, many consumers don’t want to compromise quality for a better deal. “People are taking a harder look at every dollar they spend and they want to feel like they are getting the best value for their money and they insist on products with a long life,” says Tripp.
McPeek believes that those who are unaffected by the economy are still pulling out all the stops, but those who have been affected – or think they might be – are looking for options that meet both their needs and their budgets.
Hudoba says, “I believe people are now expecting more for their dollar to get the biggest return on their home value.” He adds that, in today’s climate, most everyone is being frugal with money. “People are purchasing different sizes of systems but the trends for energy efficiency, comfort and value bridge all price points.” KBDN