Kitchen accessories and interior cabinet fittings aren’t generally at the forefront of consumers’ minds when beginning a design project, but their importance shouldn’t be overlooked. These added features help make the kitchen work more efficiently, maximize storage and accessibility and contribute to optimal use of space and time.
The most important things consumers look for when it comes to interior cabinet fittings are products that add convenience, are easy to access, allow creative use of space and maximize the use of the space. Interior fittings that can be customized for the specific organizational needs of the user are also critical, while accessories that add a touch of luxury are also key, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
The kitchen is central in the home, whether being used for meals, entertainment, homework or relaxation, says Jan Fitzpatrick, customer and market relations manager for Kernersville, NC-based Grass USA. “Any item that adds convenience, keeps things organized and makes frequently used items accessible will be in high demand. These items don’t have to be expensive upgrades, they just have to make the homeowner feel that everything has a place and everything is in its place,” she says.
“Developing products that increase efficiency and convenience is a given in today’s market,” says Susan Kearns, creative services specialist at Accuride International Inc., based in Santa Fe Springs, CA. “Continued development of products in this vein will further stimulate creative and innovative designs as well as new applications. Related to this, there is a growing demand from the multi-tasking, on-the-go consumer and the aging segment of the population for products that are easier to use.”
Daniel Tripp, product manager for kitchen products at Hafele America Co. in Archdale, NC, says that companies that have truly embraced interior organization, and thought about things like efficiency and convenience instead of focusing only on aesthetics, are experiencing strong and profitable growth. “When you find companies that are really embracing this, it has had a really positive effect on their business,” says Tripp.
Innovative & Multifaceted
Accessories and fittings that offer a creative approach to storage or a new solution to an old problem are what designers are looking for, manufacturers say. Products need to work for the specific lifestyle needs of homeowners. Designers must think not only about practical cooking needs, but also the type of storage and organization their cilents want for dishes, pots and pans, pantry items and even wine.
“More and more storage is taking place in either base cabinets or tall pantry cabinets, but not as many wall cabinets. The wall space is being used in a different way,” says Tripp. Heavier items are being stored down low, in easier to reach areas such as drawers, he says. He also is seeing more creative uses of space, where common items are used in different ways.
Fitzpatrick says, “Drawer organization is still popular since there are more drawers and fewer wall cabinets in open plan kitchens.” Increased island usage creates more storage space, but only under the counter, she adds. “Deep, heavy-duty drawers can handle bottles and boxes but only efficiently if there are adjustable dividers to keep everything in place,” she notes, adding that linear, cube-style drawer boxes were very popular at the Eurocucina show in Milan and are making their way to the U.S. market.
Kearns says designers are also seeking specialty storage solutions geared to specific customer demands. She cites a new approach to interior storage where layers of shelving units are installed inside cabinets or pantry closets. These sliding units are built more narrowly than the width of the space. Sliding back and forth on linear tracks, they reveal access to shelves that are stacked one behind the other. “This approach can significantly increase storage capacity and can be used to conceal items deeper in the cabinet,” says Kearns. “In open shelving designs, the front sliding unit can hold decorative items, while concealing stored items that may not have aesthetic appeal.” Accuride offers a wide range of slides that speaks to this demand, Kearns notes.
Shari McPeek, marketing manager for Rev-A-Shelf LLC in Jeffersontown, KY, says her company is also seeing a need for accessories for frameless cabinets emerge. “Mostly used in Europe, frameless cabinets are starting to gain acceptance in the U.S.” Another increasing demand is for products that are not just functional, but also attractive, she adds.
Dave Hall, owner of Glideware LLC based in Grand Junction, CO, says, “The market is begging for organization of cookware.” People have long accepted the limited options for storing cookware, he explains, from moderately priced kitchens to the high end. The best option, a double pull-out drawer, didn’t address the two important functions of protecting cookware and accessibility. The Glideware pan organizer, with seven hooks for storing pans and lids, was created to fill a need in Hall’s own home, he says, noting that the product protects cookware, increases storage capacity, is flexible to consumer needs (since hooks can be added or removed easily), is sustainable, is made in the U.S. and improves accessibility.
Wine storage is becoming more important as interest in wine explodes, says Charles Malek, president/owner of VintageView Wine Storage in Denver, CO. “Wine storage has increased synonymously with the wine industry,” he says. As with other accessories that have gained ground as kitchens have become more multifunctional, he says, “wine storage is keeping up with the trends and it’s becoming more of a standard instead of the exception.” Rather than storing wine away in dark cellars, people are incorporating it into their kitchens. “It’s less of a destination, and more a part of your everyday use,” Malek explains. Label forward wine storage is more aesthetically appealing, adding more physical and mental engagement with the wine, Malek adds.
Maximizing Space & Function
Space is at a premium in the kitchen, and every inch counts. “Designers are on the lookout for ways to tuck storage solutions into a variety of places in the kitchen,” says Kearns. “Vertical spice racks or slide-out boards used to mount utensils take advantage of narrow spaces that are too small to store dishware or appliances. Drawers installed in the toe kick space under cabinets are another example where space can be maximized. Installed with a touch-release slide, access is achieved by pressing on the drawer front with your foot.” She adds that creative design and fittings are vital in allowing consumers to take full advantage of the space they have available.
Functionality and aesthetics play an important role as designers strive to find the most creative and well planned use of the space possible. Tripp notes that a lot of design is going on inside the cabinets as well as on the outside, with much thought going into how the interior space is organized. “Interior cabinet design has taken a more prominent role to support both the design as well as the total life of the kitchen, especially as it relates to Universal Design, and supporting all users in the space,” he says. The Lavido pantry system that Hafele introduced at KBIS allows for access from three sides, and has non-slip surfaces inside, completely adjustable shelves and many finish options to complement the overall look, says Tripp.
In addition to using space in the most efficient way, accessories and fittings need to allow for multiple uses and extended functionality. “Designers are looking for accessories that are multi-generational,” says McPeek. Beyond aging-in-place considerations, multigenerational accessories are functional for those households that have several generations using the space simultaneously. A Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) study showed the need for “stations,” she says, such as beverages, and medical storage solutions. The 5UPD from Rev-A-Shelf fits the bill, says McPeek. It pulls down from the cabinet for easy access, and the scalloped inserts allow for storage of varied prescription bottles.
Value and quality are particularly important in accessories and interior fittings, as this category of products is more specific to individual consumers needs. “People are willing to spend more on items that improve their lifestyle,” says McPeek. “They are staying in their homes longer and are adding items that not only help organize and maximize their space, but that also add longevity to it – in short, products that make day-to-day items more accessible.”
“Items that can be easily removed for cleaning and can be rearranged to the customer’s specification are a plus,” says Fitzpatrick. “Interior fittings and accessories for drawer and cabinets are very attractive now – it’s not hard to find something that looks good. But functionality is the key; it ranks very high in value.”
“Kitchens are working harder now than in the past,” says Tripp. People are staying in their homes longer, and using their kitchens more, he states. “People are willing to spend more on their functional accessories in order to get a good quality item that’s going to last,” he adds.
Hall says consumers are looking for more, but want the perception of paying less. “In the end, they will pay for an accessory if there is a lifecycle cost that shows savings,” he says. They will also pay more for convenience, as well as having the next best thing. “They want to save money by not paying for wasted space. If you can do this, then your products have an appeal in the marketplace,” Hall says.
Functional hardware can’t be forgotten either. Although hidden, it’s an important part of the design, says Kearns. “Although today’s consumers are more cost conscious than ever, it’s important that designers communicate to their clients that using quality hardware ensures long-lived performance and reliability,” she says. “Designers should follow through with their cabinetry sources to confirm the hardware originally specified is used in the final construction to ensure the integrity of the design.” She adds that people are looking for unique and customized solutions that are going to be reliable and last a long time, especially when they have remodeled or upgraded and plan to stay in their home through retirement.
Being affordable is especially important when the product is not factored into the original budget. Wine storage, for example, is often not budgeted for in the beginning of a project, says Malek, so affordability is key.
Homeowners are better educated on what they are looking for, and sites such as Pinterest and Houzz allow them to explore options quickly and efficiently. This allows for the market to grow, says McPeek. “We are seeing more consumers coming to the design table with specific product requests that make their homes more efficient, functional and convenient,” she says.
This knowledge of the marketplace prompts consumers to seek out the best deals, while still getting the functionality they want. Hall says, “They have a good understanding of what things cost, what they want their kitchen to look like and how they want it to perform. To get all of the features they want, they shop to get the best ‘deal.’”
Sometimes, a feature is asked for so often, it becomes an industry standard rather than an add-on for the luxury market only. While these items may begin as high-end luxury items, with the education of consumers and the ability to research quickly and easily, elements such as soft-close are soon considered necessary rather than just preferred.
“Soft-close is becoming more standard,” says McPeek. “Once seen as a luxury add-on, more customers today see it as a necessity – or as we like to call them, ‘Necessories’ – and this is why we have been focused on creating more innovative items featuring soft-close.”
Fitzpatrick says that the demand for soft-close requires manufacturers and cabinet makers to rethink what the standard is to the consumer. “In some cases, the cabinet manufacturer will use all soft-close hardware in its kitchen displays and present them as a standard," she says. “That is hard for anyone buying a new kitchen to refuse. For the installer, these hardware items have the benefit of adjustment so the closing action can be consistent no matter what size the door or width of drawer.”
The pull-out shelf is another accessory that was once an upgrade, but now appears to be an industry standard, Hall says. “We are trying to educate consumers to show them that Glideware will take the place of pull-out shelves when it comes to storing cookware efficiently and providing the best aging-in-place solution.”
Tripp says that some items formerly considered luxury items – such as blind corner solutions, waste bin pull-outs and interior cabinet lighting – are now becoming standard items for a lot of people. “Interior cabinet lighting is very hot,” he says. This demand has grown, in part, due to the fact that LED lights can now easily integrate into cabinetry in ways they could not previously, he says.
McPeek agrees that LED lighting is on the rise, not only because of its multiple uses such as display, task and atmosphere, but also for the green aspects of this kind of lighting.