Fitzpatrick adds that the trend toward larger doors and drawers affects both functional and decorative hardware. “The larger drawer is becoming increasingly popular," she says. "The lower cabinets are switching from doors to drawers. In many cases, drawers allow better access to the interior contents and utilize the space better than a cabinet, and the accessories for drawers seem to be endless.”
Mockett says that while there’s a move to make everything smaller, or at least low-profile, the hardware still has to maintain the same basic functionality. In some instances, he says, designers are using hardware that can hide away when not in use, offering a clean, modern look. With the rise in demand for power and data connections in more areas of the house, particularly the kitchen, he adds, “Soft touch, spring-loaded and pop-up designs are all extremely popular, mainly because they hide away when not in use. The added presentation value of the pop-up design has some allure as well, but mainly convenience and accessibility features drive the market.”
Functional hardware is all about ensuring that products work the way a customer needs them to. On doors and drawers, that means movement – whether sliding, swinging open or lifting up and out of the way.
In design, movement is key to the role of functional hardware, says Fitzpatrick. “One wants to feel the drawers glide in and out with a slight push/pull, or they want to watch as their cabinet doors close smoothly and softly without slamming,” she says. “As our consumer base becomes more and more aware of the various options available, then the movement systems [hardware] will play a greater role. A potential client may love the way the interior of a drawer is outfitted with storage accessories, but if it doesn’t close smoothly or is noisy, interest is quickly lost.”
Using lift mechanisms for upper cabinets is a trend coming out of Europe, says Fitzpatrick. “Bi-fold, parallel and standard flap lifters are all being utilized more in the kitchen environment, opening up all types of design opportunities,” she says.
Another trend that has to do with movement is the rise of sliding doors. Tripp says that sliding doors have come and gone and are now coming back. They aren’t used everywhere in the kitchen, he says, but in a couple of key places where they can help access and keep the work flow going without doors or drawers out in the work space. In the past, he says, sliding door hardware has been co-planer, with one door sliding in front of the other, which didn’t always work aesthetically. Now, new hardware has been developed that keeps the doors on the same plane when they are closed, and when opened, slide out one on top of the other.
Technology has had an impact on hardware, primarily in opening and closing mechanisms for drawers and doors. Manufacturers agree that soft-close technology is now expected in drawer and door hardware, and touch-open is also on the rise.
Tripp says the demand for soft close is finally reaching the consumer level. Now, however, he says soft close is standard to the point that manufacturers don’t want to bring a product out if it’s not available with a soft-close mechanism,
Fitzpatrick agrees that the soft-close feature continues to dominate the market. “This popular feature is driving more manufacturers and cabinet makers to make the soft-close function a standard rather than an upgrade. In the beginning, everyone wanted a soft-closing drawer but now the attention is focused on the doors.” She says that adjustments to the soft-closing feature, in addition to height, depth and side adjustments, are increasingly important to the installer.
Stephanie Lowe, decorative products manager for Hardware Resources says, “We are seeing more and more movement toward soft-close hinges as well as soft-close undermount drawer slides. People really like the look of the concealed undermount slides.”
Wheeler sees dampening as becoming standard on all drawers and doors. “This feature is more important on drawers than the actual extension of the drawer,” he says.
In addition to the soft-close features, push-to-open is also on the rise, some manufacturers say. Lowe notes, “Push-to-open slides are being requested more frequently in certain applications (i.e. double cutlery drawers, trash pull-outs, etc.) where hands-free operation is desirable.”