The kitchen has become the central hub of the home for family and entertaining, making it one of the most important rooms for a remodel. As families continue to do more in their kitchens, they want more from them. High fashion style and organization are now key to the modern kitchen, and kitchen cabinetry is the way to accomplish that goal.
“The biggest significant thing to happen to our industry is the kitchen going from a utilitarian need to a fashion subject in the eyes of the consumer,” says Andy Wells, senior director of product design and merchandising for MasterBrand. “It’s our job to take consumers on a journey. We’re trying to build a story and emotionally connect to the consumer.”
From a styling standpoint the industry is seeing both ends of the spectrum. One is very clean, leaning to a contemporary side, but nothing like the high gloss white of 20 years ago. There are still slab clean doors, but mid to dark tones are added to warm up the kitchen for comfort.
On the other side of the spectrum, kitchen cabinetry is also very traditional. There continues to be a lot of ornamentation, so kitchen cabinetry is running the gamut from contemporary to extremely traditional.
“I would say that mid to dark tones are more popular,” says Sandra Luttchens, director of design and training for Omega Cabinetry. “On the traditional side we’re seeing a tremendous amount of glazes where you can get the layering and multilevel look. We’re seeing a lot of impact in the Arts and Crafts, with the quartertone oak coming back.”
Most homeowners are mixing and matching and being very eclectic about their kitchen cabinetry. It’s not the case that all the doors are one color. Some people might put white doors on the top and wood doors on the bottom, or even glass panels on the doors above and solid on the bottom. It has become about homeowners creating their own personal environment. That’s what people are looking for — that individuality. And that applies to all the segments really, whether it’s the baby boomers or Generation Xers.
Every homeowner wants their kitchen to stand out, so they are putting their own personality right into their kitchen. As the lines begin to blur in stark styling for the kitchen, manufacturers now have the opportunity to expand their product lines with much more diverse ornamentation and accessories.
“In the past, cabinetry was very much a milquetoast industry but today where we’ve gone beyond being useful to being everyday and fashionable. As such, we see a lot of change happening in our product more frequently than we ever did before,” says Wells.
The profile of the consumer has changed as well. The consumer is much more discerning and knowledgeable about the process and what they need. Manufacturers have to spend a lot of time understanding all the consumer segments.
“Today it’s about ‘Brand Me’ because all 300 million of us want our own identity and we’re looking for it to be affordable and customizable all in one breath,” says Wells. “Consumer knowledge is huge so we need to know what influences them. What is it that is dinging the bell at them in the marketplace?”
While many cabinet makers have a focus on high style, the other need that the consumers have lately is “organize me.” For instance they don’t want their sink areas to look like a trash areas — they want it to be organized. That’s a huge trend and a strategy right now for cabinet-makers.
Homeowners want a lot more functionality in their cabinets and they want efficiency. There is a lot of cross-generational lifestyles living in the same home.
Now it might be a mother, her mother and a small child. Because of this, the product has to be more flexible than it did before, and that can mean multiple cabinet heights for different ages and different uses.