In the future, it may be what’s outside of the cabinet box that attracts customers. They may be focused more on creative uses of LED lighting than they are on cabinet door species and finishes.

We attended the 2012 version of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Chicago and saw many new designs and products, but few new cabinet developments. And there were fewer cabinet displays than there at the last two shows in Las Vegas in 2011 and Chicago in 2010.

Once again, we surveyed 20 cabinet manufacturer displays. Only four were made in the United States. At Las Vegas last year we surveyed 26 cabinet company displays, with 14 companies show  imports.

Our style survey showed that maple continues to be the most popular wood species for cabinet doors, with cherry strong and birch seen frequently. Dark colors gained in popularity, although companies with multiple displays showed medium and light finishes, especially white-painted doors. Medium and less colorful finishes were more common a year ago. common. And no surprise -- most cabinets shown were face frame.

Wellborn was the largest North American exhibitor, and deserves special mention for its award-winning Active Living design. Wellborn is offering more options to compete with custom cabinets. Overall, wood/glass was the most common door option.  There seemed to be more wine racks, more spice rack and narrow drawers, and more open shelves.

A few observations

A few other thoughts:  fewer cabinets meant fewer trends, affordable cabinets were an ongoing trend, LED lighting is coming into its own,  and some cabinet manufacturers teamed with a hardware supplier to show new features. Hafele hosted a few cabinet companies in its own booth, including Rutt’s center-lift design.

NKBA design trends noted for 2012 included symmetry in design, repeating and complementing shapes, traditional technology in non-traditional spaces, interior use of concrete, color infusion behind glass, and glossy finishes and fixtures.

The KBIS show also featured full-size examples of five consumers at different stages in life, each displayed in a shipping container. Living spaces were organized by age, from the “new hip home” of the young gen now single, gen now culinary curators, gen x family, forever fit zoomer, and the caregiver. (I was unhappy to learn I belonged in the second-to-last container.)

As stated, with fewer companies displaying there were fewer trends to quantify. No one seemed to have an answer for lower number of cabinet exhibitors, especially with Masco and MasterBrand, the two largest manufacturers, not displaying in 2012. One person we talked to suggested that perhaps cabinets could be part of the show every other year instead of annually. Next year the show will be in New Orleans, so maybe that will provide some colorful inspiration.

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