Exclusive annual cabinet trends survey
By Karl D. Forth, karl.forth@ccimedia.net, Will Sampson, will.sampson@ccimedia.net
September 10, 2011 | 7:00 pm CDT

Dark colors are still popular in cabinets, but the overall trend is away from the darkest hues and toward muted colors such as grays and beiges. Maple, cherry and birch cabinet doors are the most common.

We visited the International Builders Show in Orlando and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas and did our annual cabinet trends survey. We saw 10 companies displaying cabinets at IBS. At KBIS, we spoke to or viewed displays from 26 companies. Fourteen of these companies at KBIS, a slim majority, sold imported cabinets.

Wood species 

Maple was the most popular wood species used for cabinet doors, but it wasn’t as dominant as the year earlier. Maple accounted for 36 percent of doors, with cherry second at 29 percent, birch somewhat a surprisingly third at 16 percent, and oak gained ground at 12 percent.

About 83 percent of cabinets seen at IBS and KBIS had face frame construction, with about 7 percent using face frame with full overlay. Frameless only accounted for about 10 percent, and a few displays had inset doors.
Wood finishes 

Companies with multiple displays typically showed dark, medium and light colors. We did see a number of grays and beiges, some in matte and glazed finishes.
Perhaps reflecting the lack of vibrant colors, medium finishes were the most common with 33 percent of displays. Dark finishes comprised 28 percent, and light finishes reached 23 percent. White finishes accounted for 5 percent, and glazed doors declined to less than 3 percent. Matte and high-gloss also were seen in 3 percent of displays each. Pickled/whitewashed, distressed and other colors made up the rest.

Bruce Sauer of Kitchen Kompact said at KBIS that his stock cabinet company’s customers have been moving more to lighter colors from dark finishes over the past two years.

At IBS, Forest Kimmel of Graber said he sees more Shaker style, white finishes and light-colored glazes. Perry Miller of Kountry Wood said at KBIS that he was seeing more dark colors and more brown shades. At KBIS, Kevin Gray of Custom Wood Products said that customers want more exotic wood species and specialized finishes.

Door options, drawers 

More than half of door options (57 percent) included wood/glass doors. Soft-close doors accounted for 25 percent of the door options when options were used. Wood, metal and mixed colors and/or species each accounted for 11 percent of options.
Looking at drawer sides, solid wood accounted for about 75 percent of material used. Plywood could be seen in 11 percent of drawers, and a few were laminated.


There were a wide range of accessories seen in the kitchen and cabinet displays. Crown moulding (11 percent) and open shelves (10 percent) were most common, followed by spice racks/drawers (7 percent), glass racks (5 percent), wine racks (5 percent), wood hoods (5 percent), spice racks lazy susans, plate racks, cove mouldings, corbels, garbage cans, and fluted columns (all about 4 percent). Other accessories seen less frequently were arched valances, rosettes, galley rails, pantries, sink drop-drawers, oversized drawers, baskets, appliance garages and work desks.

Sean Ray of Heritage Cabinets said at KBIS that customers want to purchase everything for their kitchen in a single package. White glazed is popular in his area (Memphis) and 80 percent of his business is remodel, 20 percent new, a reversal of a few years ago.


Granite and engineered stone (often quartz surfaces) were the most common countertop material, with 41 percent and 30 percent respectively. Granite gained in popularity over 2010. Solid surface was next with 17 percent of tops. Wood tops accounted for 6 percent, and laminate tops 4 percent.

Tom Craig of Merillat, said at IBS that he sees a new trend of shipping granite, quartz and solid surface countertops with the cabinets, and smaller kitchens, more open shelving. He said there is more aging in place where people are building in their 30s, but asking themselves how long they will be in the home.”

Domain Cabinet sold European-designed contemporary cabinets. They buy cherry from Pennsylvania, ship it to China, cut and process the wood and ship it back to the California HQ knocked down and ready for sale as a high-end RTA product.

Chris Wood, western sales manager and director of the green program, Executive Cabinetry, said at IBS that two big trends he sees are Shaker style and growth of mass discounting. He said traffic is picking up. He sees semi-custom frameless and waterborne finishes as growing.

At KBIS, Wood commented that Shaker and slab styles were growing, and paint accounts for a growing share, something the company is taking advantage of with its waterborne capabilities.

How was business? Overall, companies reported sales a bit stronger in early 2011. Most of the importers seemed especially happy. A few commented on the trend of homeowners doing remodels for houses they are trying to sell.

After KBIS, we heard a number of positive comments about the show, and a number of online discussion groups commented on the number of imports. One exhibitor observed that imported cabinets have been a factor for seven or eight years, and may actually been easing off somewhat.

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