New color, style and accessory choices allow today’s consumer to customize her kitchen to whatever she wants.

 

Yorktowne presented this eye-catching “think outside the kitchen” display, featuring the company’s new Merlot finish and new Verona door style in cherry, plus its new arts-and-crafts corbels, valences and mouldings, with simpler lines. Real leather was used on the front bar panels.

Today’s consumers are more knowledgeable and more demanding than ever, said several kitchen cabinet manufacturers at the recent Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. So they are doing their best to give customers what they want — more features, good craftsmanship and high-style choices.

“Everyone wants customization and a unique look for their kitchen,” said Kim Dunn, Wellborn Cabinet’s Marketing Publications specialist. “Women know what they want, and they want to be different and have their own style.”

Features that were once available only in high-end lines continue to filter down to entry levels. Choices like glazed finishes and detailed door styles give a luxury look at affordable prices. This also allows for more customization at all price points, giving consumers more opportunities to personalize their kitchens.

Although decorative elements still abound, some style changes have occurred, which was evident in displays at this year’s K/BIS. Items like corbels, pilasters and mouldings have been simplified. Yesterday’s “over-the-top” kitchen with elaborately carved, ornate details has been replaced with details that have simpler lines.

“There are lots of details, but they are simpler,” said Linda Hughes, Marketing Development Manager for Yorktowne Cabinetry, which showed, for example, a new Art Deco-style corbel with clean lines.

A representative from Wm Ohs cabinetry who attended the show concurred, saying, “Lines are less fussy and cleaner now, simpler. We are getting away from some of our previous accoutrements.”

Rich Colors, Bolder Neutrals

Several K/BIS trends could be seen in this Merillat furniture hutch, featuring the company’s Masterpiece line and Irish Creme finish: The corbels are less ornate, with simplified lines; retro cup pull-style hardware is used, and extra storage is tucked into the end panels of the uppers.

The rich brown “espresso” colors seen at last year’s K/BIS were in full force on the show floor this year. Paired with stainless steel hardware and appliances and featured on sleek door styles, these finishes created a beautiful contemporary look that was also warm and inviting. In fact, there was so much dark brown cabinetry displayed, several designers quipped that the exhibit hall looked like a Pier 1 retail store.

This year, there was a continued mixing of finish colors and species within a kitchen setting, again giving the homeowner an opportunity to create individual styling and a customized look. Typically, dark finished cabinets were mixed with an accent of light finished cabinets that provided warmth. But there also were some pairings of dark brown and stark white cabinets, which created a dramatic look.

On the paint color spectrum, several cabinet manufacturers introduced new buttery finishes, ranging from beiges to full-blown yellow. Both mixed well with dark glazes.

One emerging trend was the reappearance of white painted cabinets. ”White is back,” commented several manufacturers. A few introduced new white finishes, such as Kraftmaid’s “Dove White” and Medallion Cabinetry’s “White Icing.” Medallion Design Manager Suzanne DeRusha said the latter has been in huge demand, especially for inset cabinets.

Besides Medallion, several other companies showed white inset cabinets, some with a definite retro look. For example, Plato featured “old-fashioned” cup pulls, latches and other decorative hardware to give a 1940s feel to its white kitchen. Other companies, such as Yorktowne, harkened back to the glamour looks of the ‘40s, using gold and black tones to create a “Humphrey Bogart” styling.

For homeowners whose style preference leans more towards the traditional, several cabinet companies introduced new “distressing” programs for adding prominent gouges, wormholes and knotholes to their finishes. Others showcased distressed cabinets featuring species such as “character cherry” or “character maple,” where the flaws are natural. Most designers commented that the rustic look is more popular than ever across the country, noting that homeowners enjoy the feeling of warmth created by that look.

Looking Inside

Interior storage items, which have been hot for several years, continue to expand. Virtually every drawer and shelf shown by this year’s K/BIS cabinet exhibitors included some type of organizational feature, as manufacturers emphasized functionality, accessibility and ease-of-use with accessories for inside the cabinet.

Items like spice racks, knife holders, drawer dividers and pull-out trolleys were in abundance. So, too, were new accessories to help homeowners squeeze out every bit of usable space in a kitchen, such as toekick drawers, end panel racks and more undersink tilt-outs. What used to be simple decorative elements in a kitchen have now become fronts for pull-out or tilt-out storage.

The Greening of the Industry

Crystal Cabinets’ Green Core Plus cabinetry was shown in this Bamboo Quest display, featuring horizontal grain bamboo and carbonized bamboo veneers finished in natural, with aluminum frame bifold tip-up doors as an accent.

One of the most prevalent trends across the show floor was the heavy marketing of “green” cabinets. With increased consumer awareness about environmental issues and architects and designers going after LEED projects, demand is rising for eco-cabinets, and cabinet companies are responding almost across the board. For example:



• Merit Kitchens introduced its new EcoPLUS line at K/BIS and promoted the fact that it has received a Four Star rating from Japan, which Merit calls “one of the most demanding standards in the world.” The cabinet line uses SCS-certified 100 percent pre-consumer recycled particleboard, which will help achieve LEED credits, Merit said. It is available in maple, oak, alder, cherry and pine.



• Huntwood offers the Genesis line, featuring green materials purchased from local mills. The company is certified under the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program.



• Plato Woodwork displayed Inovae, a Eurostyle concept kitchen in bamboo, which will be available in late 2007. “Bamboo is a fast-growing renewable resource that is a favorite of environmentally concerned homeowners,” said Mark Krueger, vice president of marketing. “It’s an environmentally strong product and it looks good.”



• Koch & Co. showcased its Humabuilt Wheatcore cabinets. Boxes are pressed wheatboard; doors are either A-Grade Select solid wood or A-Grade Select sliced veneers laminated on wheatboard for flat panel styles. The cabinets use ultra-low VOC adhesives and finishes. “We have been messing with green cabinets for five years, starting back when people used to make fun of us,” said Dan Carlson, sales manager. “But green is really picking up momentum now.”



• MasterBrand Cabinets touted its KCMA ESP certification in a special brochure, with its Omega Cabinetry line noting that it was one of the first four manufacturers to earn the certification.



• Crystal Cabinet Works, also KCMA ESP-certified, further emphasized its commitment to the environment with an “Earth Matters” program and Statement of Environmental Ethics that says, in part, “We believe the scope of this stewardship includes human and financial resources, corporate facilities, community, and natural environment and natural resources.”



The company stressed its sustainable manufacturing practices and energy conservation policy. It also showcased its Green-Core products, featuring either Green-Core, a 100 percent recycled exterior-grade particleboard, or Green-Core Plus, a plywood made with a patented soy-based resin, and Green-Core MDF doors or Green-Core laminated particleboard doors. Crystal also offers Lyptus and bamboo options.



• Wellborn Cabinets, also ESP-certified by the KCMA, developed a PR piece discussing its environmental commitment program, “Green Choice.” The brochure describes the company’s efforts to manufacture and manage resources in an environmentally responsible manner.



• Wm Ohs reps who were walking the show said the company has launched new options for green kitchens, featuring materials that comply with LEED requirements. This includes reduced formaldehyde-emitting materials and options for bamboo or Lyptus. Water-based finishes also are available. Any of the company’s lines can be ordered with an environmentally-conscious box.

Interestingly, it was not just wood cabinets that were talking about their greenness. St. Charles Cabinetry unveiled a new line of all-metal cabinets at K/BIS, pointing out the eco-friendliness of these products as well.



“Steel cabinetry results in a very ‘green’ product that is made with approximately 70% recycled content and is nearly 98% recyclable,” the company said in its PR materials. “Due to the use of powdercoated colors, these cabinets do not ‘off-gas’ VOCs into the environment, thus improving the interior air quality of the home. In addition, powdercoating does not emit VOCs during the manufacturing process.



“St. Charles has proven its commitment to the environment by developing an eco-friendly product that is both recyclable and hypoallergenic,” the company added.



More Closets



This year’s K/BIS saw the introduction by several manufacturers of a complete line of closet products to meet the needs of their dealers, who want to expand their sales to their higher-end residential customers beyond the kitchen. They also are for home builders who want to make their closets look as beautiful as the rest of their homes.



Yorktowne, Wm Ohs and Wood-Mode all introduced new lines specifically designed for closets. Wellborn, which has exhibited its Dressing Suite line for three years now, focused on the “man’s side” of the closet with its display this year, introducing new tie rack and pant rack accessories.



There also were a few dedicated closet companies offering their lines to kitchen dealers and distributors. They included Plus Closets, Elements and Pro Closets.

As Yorktowne’s Hughes said, “Everyone is getting into closets.”

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