“Being able to access all of the space in a cabinet is important,” says Sandy Nierengarten, creative design coordinator for Crystal Cabinet Works in Princeton, MN. Elements in highest demand include roll-outs, spice racks and pull-out pantry units. Ptacek agrees. “No one wants to get on their hands and knees anymore, so they want everything to come to them,” he says.
Ducharme has seen a growth in drawer bases, as well as more storage accessories from pull-outs to toe-kick drawers. And Miller says that consumers are also using ceiling height to get more storage, by using taller wall cabinets or stacking wall cabinets.
Having the design, style and organizational capacity that meets the exact needs of the consumer is increasingly valuable, in all price points, and with all cabinet options, manufacturers agree. “The definitions may be changing, however, due to the pressure on dealers and manufacturers to provide improved features and benefits,” says Wilcox.
Ducharme says, “Stock cabinetry builders are trying to reinvent themselves by increasing their offerings; mid-priced lines are continuing to strive to please the consumer with the pursuit to remain constant, while the high-end custom lines are looking to provide a lower-cost alternative to increase their market share.”
Nierengarten says that several modifications that were previously only available in custom lines are now offered in semi-custom. While she doesn’t think designers will compromise style for value, she does say, “Value is more important than ever.”
Ptacek says, “I don’t think there is a true ‘stock’ line out there anymore. Everyone is doing things they didn’t do two or three years ago. No one wants to say ‘no’ to an order today, so they are allowing various modifications.” He says that Fieldstone does more customizing now than when the firm had a full custom line.
On the other hand, there will always be different categories of consumers, and therefore a need for all categories of goods. Don Harvey, purchasing manager at Grabill Cabinet Co., in Grabill, IN, says, “Definitions are not changing, but stock and semi-custom are doing a better job of providing a custom look at a value price point. In stock and semi-custom, they are still delivering a nice design; however they are compromising quality of finish and construction.” Consumers who opt for true custom lines are able to get high-end style, design, finish and construction, which he says is the true value.
Korsten expresses some concern about confusing category definitions. “Consumers place a lot of emphasis on the word ‘custom’ but we feel it is often misused by cabinet builders,” he says. “We call ourselves semi-custom because we don’t do custom wood species and custom door styles, but we’ll build custom configurations and we’ll do custom paints. So, the big question is, what is custom and who defines it?”
In keeping with recent years, the trends in design continue to favor simple, clean lines with less ornamentation. Harvey sees a movement toward a transitional or more contemporary look, with rich finishes coupling with a clean, simplistic design. He has also seen a trend toward higher-gloss finishes, dark stains and two-tone projects.
While Korsten agrees that clean, simple lines are the growing styles, he cautions, “don’t count out the more decorative, ornamental designs. Even though clean and simple is growing, there are plenty of very traditional, ornamental style projects being sold. The growth of simple is only marginally so.”
Nierengarten says that subtle curves are still popular. She adds that clean, simple lines are becoming more popular, but “there is demand [for] some ornament, but toned down and more subtle.” Her firm’s Shaker style designs and slab door styles are most popular, along with simple raised panels, she says.
Some manufacturers don’t see a pattern toward any particular style. “There is less consistency in styles as designers tend to have more of a theme,” says Miller.
Manufacturers and dealers also have personalities of their own that impact design, says Wilcox. “At Sunny Wood, we are tied to what we call consumer lifestyle trends. Basically, this is how end consumers are living now. How they are living helps determine what sort of products they need and also determines the style, wood finishes, wood species, etc. they may desire.”