A Place For Everything

A Place For Everything

Sophisticated storage systems go upscale in the kitchen and throughout the house.

By Daina Darzin Manning

The configuration of the kitchen and homes in general has changed in recent years, and with that comes changes in storage systems. New houses are larger, more opulent and more conducive to the coccooning activities people so cherish these days. The kitchen remains the hub for family life, and imaginative accessories to make that life more pleasant and efficient continue to flourish in the marketplace.

Additionally, with today's stressful lifestyles, consumers have a greater desire for order within their own controllable universe. More elaborate and complex storage systems are the result, according to manufacturers surveyed by Kitchen and Bath Design News.

Emphasis on Value
"Everything has been taken to another level," declares Joey Shimm, director of marketing for Outwater Plastics Industries, in Wood-Ridge, NJ. "Individuals want to take advantage of every nook and cranny of their surroundings."

"People are looking to organize as much as possible, and they want to have the latest thing to wow their neighbors," adds Philip Martin, director of marketing for Hafele, in Archdale, NC. "They're [also] looking for ways to ergonomically retrieve items from the cabinet."

Double-bin recycling pull-outs, shelf roll-outs, pull-outs and pull-downs have joined such traditional mainstays as cutlery dividers, spice racks and lazy susans as kitchen musts, manufacturers report.

"In many areas of the country, recycling has become mandatory," adds Melanie Calabria, product manager, storage, for Amerock Corp., in Columbia, MD. Consumers are also becoming more environmentally conscious, so the recycling pull-out typically containing two waste bins, though four smaller bins in one pull-out are also available has become the norm in base cabinets near the sink. Calabria adds that smaller recycling systems can also be located in other parts of the home, such as the bathroom or home office.

That kitchen standard the lazy susan has also been revamped via Knape & Vogt's segmented model, wherein each "pie slice" pulls out individually, according to Phil Sheridan, director of kitchen and bath OEM sales for Knape & Vogt in Grand Rapids, MI.

Additionally, cheap plastic organizers are a thing of the past in the mid- to high-end kitchen. "Consumers are more knowledgeable and savvy regarding their home d├ęcor options," says Calabria. "They require that form and function meld together. They want something that looks good and is high quality, even though it's for the most part hidden."

"People are excited about anything that's made out of wood and chrome," stresses Sheridan.

Plexiglass is also a quality option that's well suited for a spice rack, where a see-through material is desired to facilitate reading labels.

"Chrome and brushed aluminum components mirror the trends [in] appliances," agrees David Noe, general manager and v.p./sales and marketing for Rev-A-Shelf, in Jeffersontown, KY.

However, kitchen interior storage doesn't go as far in aesthetics as the master closet. "People want all wood storage organizers," notes Noe. "But, if you have a wine rack on the exterior, it would have to be the same [wood] species and [finish] as the rest of the kitchen. If you put a lazy susan inside a cabinet, it could be a birch or maple, a light generic color that goes with whatever the exterior might be."

Sheridan adds that flexibility in drawer organization is a major consumer desire, with systems that feature easily adjustable compartments leading the pack.

Advanced functionality is increasingly important, believes Martin, who cites his company's full-extension pantry pull-out, which features a soft close stop. "A gas air piston softens the closure, so when it gets to 1/2" of the cabinet, it closes really softly so you don't have that slamming," he explains. Today's upscale consumers are demanding storage with these kinds of luxury extras," he adds.

Similarly, Accuride has focused attention on making storage easier to use. "We added a self-closing mechanism on our full-extension slide," explains Deborah Kniegge, director of marketing communications for Accuride, in Santa Fe Springs, CA.

"It pulls [a drawer] closed and keeps it closed."

While traditional storage methods, such as the ornamental hanging rack over the island remain popular, the new trend is the deep drawer, many manufacturers say. Sheridan cites his company's "turtle" two-platform product both the bottom base and the top slides out, providing storage for lids as well as pots and pans.

Noe cites base cabinet pull-out storage for pots and pans as a hot trend. "Our product allows you to either have a door that you'd open in the conventional manner, and then the pull-out would come out from the base cabinet, or you could put the door or drawer front on our product, and have it pull out and function just as you would a drawer," he says. This also works for plates, bowls and glasses, he notes.

The trend toward large drawers has also affected the hardware market. For instance, Martin cites Hafele's rack-and-pinion system: "When you get a larger drawer, you get racking," he explains. "One side will move in while the other side stays out. This system prevents that motion so when you're pulling out your drawer, [it stays] parallel."

"Everything seems to have gotten bigger, wider, more heavy duty," agrees Kniegge. "We've taken some of our popular heavy-duty slides and added some bracketry to them that makes the variety of applications more flexible. The brackets allow for platform mounting, bottom and side mounting."

Noe mentions Rev-A-Shelf's heavy duty mixer lift as a response to the burgeoning gourmet cooking market. "People are using industrial grade mixers, and nobody really had a component that would work with [those]. So, we built a bigger, beefier mixer lift, and did it with chrome instead of white epoxy, to hold it from a strength perspective and give it the look that matches the Viking range," he says.

Space Solutions
With the advent of more of a furniture look in the kitchen, the walk-in pantry is enjoying renewed popularity, especially in new construction. So, too, are pantry cabinets, manufacturers note, providing a large and varied storage space.
Customers want different options, new ideas for their pantry applications, believes Noe.

"[Consumers] want to use every inch of space," states Bill Burke, president of ProClosets.com, in Newington, NJ.

"There's a greater use of pull-out baskets and drawers so you can have easier access [to items]. We can also introduce drawers and dividers so you can separate spices and packages. We have wine racks for the pantry storage area."

The trend toward great rooms, which combine the kitchen area and family/entertainment room, has also led to an increase in computer stations designed to coordinate with kitchen cabinetry. And, the desk is now likely to include a computer even in a small space, those surveyed report. "The kitchen is becoming the general operations control of the home," states Sheridan. He cites monitor lifts, keyboard trays and CPU holders as part of a computer station package.

Filling Every Need
Computer stations aren't the only component of kitchen entertainment. Now, it's possible to have a TV, Internet access with a touch screen, a DVD player that plays music CDs and radio, and a connection to the home security system, all contained in one compact unit, reports Heidi Austin, spokesperson for Salton, Inc., in Seattle, WA. which makes the iCEBOX kitchen entertainment center. "The kitchen is the hub of the house, so we're taking all of these electronics and putting them there. If you want to look up a recipe [online] while you're in the kitchen, or send an e-mail while you're waiting for the water to boil, [you don't have to run] down the hall," she offers.

A popular item that has migrated from the bathroom is the warm floor, adds Mike Winter, national sales manager for EGS/Easy Heat, in New Carlisle, IN. Appropriate for tile, marble or stone flooring, the heating cables are embedded in the cementatious material that adheres the tile, and create a warm touch for cold or damp climates.

Other Room Storage
In other rooms, storage systems have reached new heights of opulence, especially in the master bedroom closet an area dealers have increasingly become involved with especially as the demand for a "master suite" continues to grow.
"People like to dress up their closets with better finishes cherry, maple, brushed nickel and brushed brass [hardware], crown moulding much more high-end than you would imagine for a closet," says Burke, who cites hutches, deeper drawers and shelf dividers as storage trends here, along with accessories such as belt and tie bars. Even the more utilitarian closet systems are available in a choice of white, light or dark wood tones, he reports.

Mara Villanueva, brand manager, new business development for Whirlpool Corp., in Benton Harbor, MI, adds that, in larger homes, people are installing a breakfast bar for coffee or juice in a master closet, so they don't have to walk to the kitchen. "People will also put a chaise lounge in their closet," she adds, and use the closet as a refuge "where [they] go read a book and get away from the kids."

Inventive new time savers are also available for the laundry room, reports Villanueva. Her company's drying cabinet allows the user to consolidate air-dry items instead of hanging and laying them around the house. The large-sized cabinet will accommodate items such as comforters, wet sports gear, pillows or sweaters that need to lie flat.

The Personal Valet, on the other hand, removes wrinkles and odors from dry cleanable clothing. "About two-thirds of the things we dry clean aren't really dirty," explains Villanueva. The personal valet can be located in the laundry room or master closet, and has different settings for lighter or heavier duty.

Whirlpool also features an ironing station that, along with a jetted sink in the bathroom for handwashing, completes an ideal clothes cleaning set-up. Contained in a cabinet, the new ironing board can be pulled down with one hand; a metal container enables users to put the iron away while it's still hot, making quick ironing much easier and more convenient.

Whatever the room, today's consumers want more organizational options, manufacturers and dealers agreed. "Cabinet organization is a great way simplify storage," concludes Calabria. "People are looking to simplify their lives, and that trend is going to continue." KBDN