Cabinet Trends on View at Kitchen/Bath Industry Show
Cabinet manufacturers displayed new looks and popular trends at the April 2000 event held in Chicago.
By Helen Kuhl
Although the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in recent years has boasted as much in appliances and plumbing as it has in cabinet displays, at the 2000 K/BIS Show in Chicago in April, cabinetmakers still maintained a strong presence, showcasing their most popular lines and unveiling new ideas and prototypes. An overview of their booths and discussions with personnel revealed some of the past trends which continue to be strong, as well as some of the emerging new looks.
“Hickory is hot” was one phrase heard often, with other highly figured woods, such as natural birch and the least expensive grade of maple, presenting a similar “grainy” look at various manufacturers’ booths. Natural woods with clear finishes were popular. And light finishes continued to be shown, although they were appearing in more mid-tones this year — warm shades referred to as “nutmeg.”
In contrast was the emergence of a few very dark wood tones. At the show, these were predominantly a dark cherry “merlot” or a dark brown “mocha.” Some cabinetmakers showed a black glaze on cherry to create another dramatic dark look.
Staining and glazing are still very popular. And many kitchens were shown combining cabinets in a natural wood finish with cabinets in stained or glazed colors, a continuing strong trend.
One look that seems to be on its way out is the white kitchen. While a few years ago white cabinets were everywhere, at this show they were seldom seen. There is still a firm place for white thermofoil doors, most exhibitors agreed. But softer colors, such as “cream” and “parchment,” are replacing the bright white that previously dominated.
In terms of styling, the “Old World” look is still a winner, accompanied by a continuing demand for decorative elements. These include mouldings of all styles, appliques, carvings, turnings, fluted columns with rosettes and plate racks, with a “more-is-better” mentality prevailing.
Also continuing in popularity is cabinetry with a furniture look. Cabinets feature legs or moulding at the bottom instead of toekicks, or they are freestanding units like buffets and islands. This year there was a new twist — kitchens were being shown with cabinets in a variety of heights and depths. Upper cabinets “stepped” up and down in height at various points, while countertops and lower cabinets “bumped out” in front. This move away from the traditional even rows of cabinets and a straight countertop further enhanced a furniture feel.
One reason why trends such as glazed finishes, “Old World” styles, furniture looks and the use of decorative elements are still on an upswing is that they initially began just at the high-end or custom segment. Today, these looks are incorporated into cabinet lines in all price ranges, becoming affordable to a wider range of customers. Even glazed finishes have become stock items for some companies.
Balancing the elaborate, highly detailed “Old World” or “Country” kitchens were the simpler cabinets in Prairie, Mission or Arts & Crafts styles, which also have a strong following. But even these simpler styles featured decorative elements, such as plate racks and plain mouldings. Beadboard doors and panels were popular, and there also was an Asian touch added to many of these kitchens, with Oriental-looking gridwork patterns added to doors.
Glass doors remain popular, either with mullions or plain panels. Most often, the plain panels shown at the show were opaque, either frosted or textured glass, sometimes with subtle geometric decorative elements in the glass.
One interesting door style attracting attention was a five-part door with wide stiles and rails — said to be a popular look in Europe that is emerging in the U.S. Five-part drawer fronts also are a growing style.
Another trend which continues in full force is the use of “kitchen” cabinets in other rooms. Not only were manufacturers showing home office and entertainment center configurations, but also offering specific modular packages to fit those needs.
Homecrest offers one example with its Hampton line to create a planning center or home office. It includes a desk that is angled in a corner, designed to provide extra counter space to accommodate computer equipment. The line also has a combined corkboard/dry erase unit with attached doors, as well as open shelving, file drawers and a pull-down keyboard tray.
Kraftmaid Cabinetry Inc. offers an entertainment center comprised of three cabinetry units — a central unit and two identical side units. Its options include glass doors, mullion doors, glass shelving, speaker fabric, low-voltage lighting, decorative onlays and several new mouldings, pediments and toekick applications to enhance its furniture look.
Canyon Creek Cabinet Co. and Wellborn Cabinet Inc. offer entertainment center modules in several styles that include features such as VCR shelves, swivel TV stands, pocket doors, shelving and storage items to create a complete unit.
Also on display by Wellborn was a vignette showcasing its new line of accessible base cabinets, designed to help people with special needs achieve independent living. The cabinets are 32 1/2 inches high and have an 8 12-inch by 6-inch toekick, which allows for wheelchair access. There are different units to accommodate dishwashers, sinks, microwaves and ranges, as well as a number of storage options and accessories. The accessible cabinets are available in three of the company’s lines in oak, maple and white thermofoil.
One final trend emerging at the show involves the design and sale of cabinets via the internet. Some cabinetmakers have developed programs that allow customers to log onto the company’s Web site, enter the dimensions for their kitchens and design their own layouts, picking and choosing from the company’s cabinet lines. The programs are detailed enough to discourage use by a casual prospect while encouraging serious buyers to print out their designs and then take them to a dealer.
As one example, Wellborn unveiled its new “Design Online” program at the show, coordinated with software maker Twenty-Twenty. Wellborn’s marketing publication specialist Donalyn Locklear said, “Our Web site is hot, and we are really going forward in that market. Everyone wants to buy via the Internet.”
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