When it comes to design and product selection for the home, consumers are heavily influenced not just by shelter publications, but also by the styles showcased by home furnishing and décor retailers such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.
Reflecting these influences and others, cabinetry styles throughout the home are diverging down two different paths. Middle-of-the-road cabinets with little architectural style or detail are being pushed aside in favor of slab and profiled contemporary looks or very ornate, traditional styles, according to Sal Abbate, vice president of marketing for Armstrong Cabinets.
The drive toward modern looks is building as lofts and condos in cities nationwide become the hip new places to live. “Those places tend to have more contemporary architecture, and because of that, we've had to give more contemporary looks to our product offering,” says Rod Brewer, product manager for Mid-Continent Cabinetry.
Typically, large metro areas are the hot spots for contemporary cabinets, but even smaller cities that have been more traditional markets are starting to shift to a modern look, says Mark Johansen, marketing manager for Canac.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lot of homeowners and buyers, mostly concentrated in the suburbs, are steering away from unembellished profiles, instead adding decorative moldings and accents, such as corbels, rope, pilasters, and feet, to achieve the look of furniture. The mitered door is a growing feature in traditional styles, according to Pat Gutgsell, director of product development for Aristokraft.
On both modern and traditional styles, stain finishes are leaning toward darker, warmer brown tones. Many manufacturers have introduced deep chocolate or espresso finishes in the last two years. Glazes are still popular with consumers, and stock manufacturers continue to introduce specialty glazes to their lines, according to Faith Allen, senior product manager for Merillat.
Long the most prevalent wood species, oak has faded into the background as others, such as maple and cherry, have surged ahead. “Dealers tell us every day that consumers do not want the grain of oak,” says Angela O'Neill, director of marketing for Wellborn Cabinets (circle 107). “They want the rich look and smooth grain of maple and cherry, with a little character.”
Whether the focus is on wood species or finish, door style or configuration, personalization is key. “I've never seen a time in my life when people expected more personalized design than they do now,” observes Connie Edwards, CKD/CBD, director of design for Timberlake.
Overall, current trends span geographic regions, rather than being limited to a few. “It's amazing how homogenous the U.S. has really become,” says Tim Shaw, marketing director for Quality Cabinets (circle 109). “There are some regional preferences of course, but we're finding that a lot of trends to popular wood species, finishes, and treatments like glazing—based on research and sales figures—really average out all over the country.”
Regardless of national appeal, filtering out the best trends for your market will help you give your customers' clients precisely what they want.