Minimalist white on white design display by Grass at Interzum 2013.
Minimalist white on white design display by Grass at Interzum 2013.

Traveling wood products trade shows in the U.S. and Germany, I experienced once again the marked distinction in style and product offerings between Europe and the U.S.

Despite the fact that the U.S.cabinetry manufacturers are using largely the same equipment and hardware components in production, our style of cabinets remains very traditional. Likewise in furniture production.

High Point (furniture) and KBIS (cabinetry) are distinctly American in design and, ultimately, production. European cabinetry and furnishings, as represented at the Milan show and at Interzum, are more out-of-the-box, futuristic even. And dramatically different at each successive show.

For Europeans, interior design and furnishings are fashion-based, changing style in each season – sparking a steady demand for makeovers. Cabinets that featured bright glossy colors at Interzum 2011, appeared in neutral grays and spare whites at Interzum 2013, with a dash of color from plentiful tuned LED lighting.

What do Americans want? Designers say they are actually more venturesome than they have been given credit for. Northern Contours' design consultant Annette Wildenauer recaps her experience at a number of European shows, and says the American consumer is ready for change.

This was reflected in Northern Contours' KBIS offerings – much more Euro, very little moulding and millwork - and very much at the edge of the envelope. Likewise, Wellborn Cabinets took an artful approach to integrating these evolving features into

During the Stiles 2013 Executing Briefing Conference (a great resource, by the way, for advancing new industry ideas), a stream of the conversation suggested it is in our business interests to move furniture and cabinet design to a more fashion-based approach.

This also came up at a great presentation at the KCMA convention, on the generational changes we are seeing among consumers: the incoming generation is trending away from the "heirloom" furnishings built for the ages. They are looking for sleek clean designs - and we should give them what they want, as Tony Battah is attempting in his cabinet start-up.