A Cornucopia of Cabinetry

A Cornucopia of Cabinetry

A strong industry rebounds to support a wide variety of cabinetry design options, including grey-toned glazes, rustic looks and 'warm contemporary' styling. 

By Daina Manning

"Innovative styling sells," declares Tom Cook, executive v.p. and general manager for Medallion Cabinetry, Inc., in Waconia, MN. "People are going to go for that custom look in their kitchen. Whatever appeals to them, that's unique to their personality they're willing to spend money on that."

Trends also vary considerably by region, manufacturers report. For instance, clients in Mountain states are more likely to embrace the new rustic looks, while West Coast consumers tend to favor a sleek, contemporary style.

But, whatever style they choose, today's customers want their kitchens to be spectacular showcases of form and function, with cabinetry their biggest purchases and, often, their central focus.

Design Choices
In terms of door styles, "there's two ends of the spectrum," reports Sandra Luttchens, director of design and training for Omega Cabinetry, in Waterloo, IA. "Either there are extremely ornate kitchens with carved mouldings and multi-level finishes, or very clean looks."

Jean Butler, v.p./marketing for Yorktowne Inc., makers of Yorktowne Cabinets, in Red Lion, PA, cites appliqués and onlays that provide an architectural look as important components of ornate, "furniture" styling.
Carla Fish, senior designer for KraftMaid Cabinetry, in Middlefield, OH believes "simplification" is the prevailing trend: "simpler and cleaner door styles, tighter wood grains. Softening colors and glazes also play a role."

The intent is to create a more restful and uncluttered environment to balance out hectic day-to-day schedules. "When [people] get home, they want to relax," thinks Luttchens. "They don't like all the fussiness [of traditional styles], and they don't like to clean all that, so [they prefer] real simple, flat-panel designs."
Mark Conde, product manager for Yorktowne Inc., also mentions "a clean and uncluttered look" that combines the look of contemporary with the warmer, retro vibe of Arts and Crafts as a hot style.
In the past few years, when consumers thought "simple," they often chose Shaker doors. Manufacturers disagree as to the style's popularity in the future.

Angela O'Neill, director of marketing and advertising for Wellborn Cabinet, Inc., in Ashland, AL, believes Shaker is trending down in favor of "the new fresh modern look." However, she adds that sales of Shaker styles are holding steady.

"Shaker has stayed very, very strong, along with the slab door styles," agrees Ray Ducharme, director of marketing for LesCare Kitchens, in Waterbury, CT.

"We see Shaker slowing down, but it's still a big thing for us," says Michael Hommis, CKD, director of marketing and education for UltraCraft, in Liberty, NC.

Fish cites glazing on Shaker doors as a way of giving the tried-and-true door style a new look.
For those looking for a still different look, "we're seeing a lot of rustics," notes David Irion, dealer sales manager for Canyon Creek Cabinet Co., in Monroe, WA. A rustic cabinet combines knotty wood such as hickory, alder or maple with glazes and distressing: cracking, wormholes, bird pecking, rub throughs and sand-overs.

New Finish Options
Glazes have, of course, been the trend of the past few years, lending cabinetry a depth and variety, particularly with ornate, high-end, Old-World styles.

Today, "glazes are [still] hot, and are coming into the stock category at a more universal price point," notes Steve Mangin, marketing communications manager for MasterBrand Cabinets, in Jasper, IN.
Glazes remain strong, agrees Wellborn's O'Neill, who cites cherry tones as new additions to her company's line. "Glazes are getting darker and warmer. Even in the standard finishes, [we're] moving to the mid- to darker tones," she says, citing a miter door style, Savannah, that takes glazing particularly well.
Luttchens explains that the trend towards darker colors reflects a desire for a comforting feeling, part of the increased move towards cocooning post-9/11. Several manufacturers noted pewter, charcoal and other grey shades as a fresh new glazing option that goes particularly well with the ever-popular stainless steel appliances, as well as metal onlays. Hommis also cites black glaze as an up-and-comer.

But Laurie Galbraith, sales coordinator and training manager for HomeCrest Cabinetry, in Goshen, IN, believes that the mainstreaming of glazes might cause high-end consumers to go for something different. "People who have been there, done that [are] going to a sleeker contemporary look," she notes, adding that simple doors often indicate a simple finish.

"The multi-step finishes aren't as popular with [contemporary looks]," notes Butler. She adds that consumers who go for modern often complement their cabinetry with dramatic natural elements such as granite countertops, "so they're going to go with more of a straight finish [on their cabinets]."

Other high-end customers who like a more ornate look might differentiate their kitchen by going a step further with multi-step finishes, opines Butler, for instance, adding distressing for an heirloom look.

Mix and Match
Another new, high-end adventure pick is metal onlays, manufacturers report, making for a dramatic, upscale look that coordinates beautifully with stainless steel appliances.

"[That's] starting to hit the consumer level now," notes Sarah Reep, ASID, CKD, CMG Chairholder, and director of design for Starmark Inc., part of Norcraft Industries LLC, in Sioux Falls, SD. Metallic resin, which mixes real metal with other materials, provides that look in a lightweight, easy-to-install material that has a wide variety of applications.

A fresh take on a more traditional furniture look can also be achieved by mixing and matching one's cabinetry options, manufacturers agree. "We're seeing people being more creative with different species," says Luttchens, who cites "natural cherry and a cherry tone two or three shades darker not necessarily extreme contrast, just blending together of different tones."

Similarly, she notes a mixing of heights and depths of cabinets for more of a furniture feel, with free-standing pieces along with built-ins.

Mangin also cites mixing colors and wood species within a kitchen, for instance, a painted door with natural wood accents and mouldings. When consumers choose paint, Mangin adds, white remains the most popular pick; specialty colors in the higher end include green and yellow, with black gaining popularity as an accent color. Paint with glaze over it remains a popular variation, he notes.

When it comes to wood species, the news is the advent of cherry, which is increasing its market share and becoming available even at a moderate price point. "It's a warm look that gets richer with time, so we're seeing a real interest in it," says Galbraith.

Red birch is really catching on, adds Ducharme. "It's a beautiful hardwood, but it's the core wood of the birch tree, so it's available in limited quantities," he elaborates. "It gives you the richness of cherry with the pearlescence of maple."

Hickory is also an up-and-comer for those desiring the rustic look, especially if the dramatically grained wood is left natural. "It's a real midwestern look," says Galbraith. "You probably couldn't give it away in Boston," she laughs. The wood also lends itself to distressing.

"Consumers are looking for something new, and they're moving into textural patterns," says Reep. For instance, Charles Bearman, program coordinator for Sokee Corp., in Monroe, WA, cites his company's exotic veneers featuring the Japanese woods, tachidamo and tamamoku. The majority of customers leave these woods natural, though Bearman does report an increase in tinted finishes in "Italian colors," such as oranges, yellows and greens.

Similarly, Kim Craig, marketing manager for KraftMaid Cabinetry, in Middlefield, OH, notes her company's new glaze, Chiffon, in a soft, buttery yellow tone.

Other high-end picks from Sokee include a stainless steel door, which is frequently used as an accent amid beech cabinetry, and a high- gloss black piano finish.

Many consumers, of course, are operating at a lower price point, and Ducharme reports new looks for high-pressure laminate as well, with a lot of warm colors coming to the fore. "They're doing earth tones, a muted palette," he notes. White thermafoil remains the biggest seller, however.

Hommis also cites laminates in wood grains as newly popular, as better imaging techniques have made the wood look more realistic.

UltraCraft has also recently introduced a new line, Vision, which features micro wood fiber veneer over MDF, providing a real wood door look at a lower price point. The thinness of the veneer allows it to be used in many door styles, including more elaborate ones, proving elegance and style in cabinetry that can be obtained at any budget. KBDN