Should U.S.Cabinet Makers Copy Europe?

By Bill Esler | Posted: 05/23/2013 8:11AM


Grass Interzum 2013Minimalist 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.


About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at or follow him on Google+.

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Evolevent lateral    
Moscow  |  May, 29, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Good evening! Why Me, too?, Because such a lot of dimensional coincidence, were incompatible with the hand, and now still shaking minds! in parallel, offers on tiles and tile afset that same-Chinese businessman was amazing to me relevant.!

Amy Thomas    
Madrid, Span  |  June, 04, 2013 at 12:04 PM

As an American living in Europe and working in the closet industry for over 20 years, it has never ceased to amaze me that the general American style remained “frozen” in time. I think that this might have been because there were not many alternatives. Everyone has their own style, and of course, whatever that individual style is, is perfectly acceptable and admirable. But, in the US it seems that there has been a lack of options, which has had the effect of maintaining the styles available to more classic, rather than contemporary styles. While many other continents are going for sleek, clean looks, there doesn’t seem to be anyone offering those looks in the US, especially in doors. Now, is this because the consumer does not want these alternatives? Or is it because the suppliers do not want to take a chance in offering something different?


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