Singer says that contemporary minimalist designs continue to be the strongest trend due to the economy.
Ramsland believes customers are choosing “safe” design because of economic issues. “In the past, kitchens were designed based on consumers’ wants. Now they have in the back of their mind, ‘what would happen if I need to sell…what is the safe option for positioning my home for future sale?’” he says.
Mockett believes that the economy affects trends only in the sense that designers and consumers are keeping a closer eye on costs. “In the end, there’s really no substitute for great design. Even in times of economic hardship, consumers recognize a good product with an ageless design and know that it will last much longer in the end than by cutting corners and using cheaper materials,” he says.
Sheets sees a demand for products that are made domestically or in Europe, however the economy creates more pressure for competitive pricing, which sometimes forces people to look to the Far East for product.
Design and Finish
Design demands are different depending on whether the hardware is primarily functional or decorative. For functional hardware, it’s all about discrete solutions, according to Dennis Poteat, marketing communications manager for Blum, Inc. in Stanley, NC. “Concealed hinges and drawer runners have always been the preferred product in any kitchen,” he says.
Jan Fitzpatrick, customer and market relations manager for the Kernersville, NC-based Grass America, Inc. agrees. “In our industry of functional hardware, consumers still like the look of a wood drawer box,” she says. “However, they’re more educated about how the hardware should function and are aware of the difference in the movement of the drawers. They have learned the difference in roller slides versus soft-closing undermount slides. They are more aware of full-extension giving full-drawer access vs. partial extension leaving 1/4 of the drawer under the countertop. The consumer is more educated and wants high-quality, high-performance hardware.”
On the decorative side, while cleaner designs are in demand, there’s more variety in what people may be looking for. Sheets says, “A lot of people are trying to blend looks and designs throughout the home. Hardware can pull it all together.”
Singer sees the shape of decorative hardware changing as well. She states that square, rectangle and oval hardware is fashionable.
As far as finishes go, the choice varies by style, but stainless, satin and brushed finishes still top the list, according to most manufacturers.
Nichols says, “For finishes, the trend is toward satin nickel or white bronze, which is more mainstream. These finishes accent the product well, but can soften the impact within a room.”
Singer says that minimalist designs in combination with texture and different kinds of materials such as Swarovski crystals, leather and brass are very popular. At the high end, she sees “ornate designs of crystal combined with traditional or contemporary styling gaining market momentum.”
Mockett adds, “Darker, antique finishes are a popular new trend that gives an aged appearance. English Antique and Antique Brass finishes in particular are becoming more and more popular on drawer pulls and bathroom fixtures.”
Koskela says, “Coordinating of finishes between faucet, cabinet and accessory hardware remains challenging for designers and drives our development of new finishes. We are seeing the emergence of a finish we call Vintage Brown Nickel and have exclusive high-end products to satisfy this new trend.”
An interesting trend in Europe that Sheets expects to see making its way to the U.S. is that people are using more raw finishes, such as rough sawn wood with a rustic appearance, or unfinished zinc with a clear lacquer for a raw basic look.
While unique pieces can set a design apart, the demand for customized hardware seems to have waned in recent years due to the economy. Nichols sees some requests for custom hardware – either a totally new style or a style in a finish not currently offered – but these requests are less frequent than in years past.