The 2012 version of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Chicago featured many new designs and products, but few new cabinet developments.

There were fewer cabinet displays than there were at the Las Vegas KBIS show in 2011, or at the last Chicago show in 2010.

That said, there still were interesting things to see and a few trends that if not completely new, were confirmed.
We surveyed 20 cabinet manufacturer displays, and of that group only four were made in the United States. (At KBIS is Las Vegas last year we surveyed 26 cabinet company displays, with 14 companies showing imported products.)

Maple continues to be the most popular wood species for cabinet doors, and dark colors gained in popularity. Some observed that very dark colors are popular. Last year, medium and less colorful finishes were most common. Most cabinets shown were face frame.

Wellborn was the largest North American producer, and deserves special mention for its award-winning Active Living design.

Wellborn’s Angela O’Neill said that the company makes cabinets for five different price points, and many customers want to spend about $10,000. She said Wellborn is offering more options to compete with custom cabinets, such as a one-unit wide cabinet with no seams, or components with a metallic appearance.

O’Neill said that Wellborn is also offering a new program that provides one-piece vanities out of the box to compete with imports. She said that Wellborn can offer any color in 13 days, and provides a wide variety of finishing techniques (for different distressed appearances) in addition to colors. One new color of note is a soft brown-gray.
“People are looking for affordability and availability,” said Bob Mason of Kitchen Kompact, an Indiana cabinet manufacturer. “We all know that shoppers want it now.”

Kitchen Kompact’s display was like last year’s, with one new hard maple door style with a red tint.

Kountry Wood, another Indiana manufacturer, also had a similar display to last year, with two new colors and one new door style. The company’s Greg Shank said that darker colors were more popular, including shades that are almost black. He said that affordability for customers is continuing to affect design.

Door species and finishes 

Among wood species used for cabinet doors, maple was the most popular, accounting for 32 percent of displays. Cherry was next at 26 percent, and birch checked in with 22 percent. Several companies had multiple displays and offered a variety of finishes on birch doors. Oak made up 16 percent of doors displayed.

In finishes, dark stains were the clear winner, with 49 percent of displays. Medium finishes accounted for 32 percent, and light stains made up 15 percent. Also, 7 percent of doors were painted, usually white.

Most cabinets displayed were of face frame construction (83 percent), with frameless accounting for 17 percent. Most drawer sides (80 percent) were solid wood, with plywood accounting for most of the rest.

Door options and accessories 

In door options, wood/glass was the most common (67 percent of door options), with wood/metal accounting for 20 percent and mixed colors and species 14 percent. Most doors and drawers had soft-close features.
Looking at accessories, the most common seen in KBIS displays were open shelves—20 seen; crown moulding—15; wood hoods—14; spice rack/drawer—12; wine racks—9; rope moulding—8; dentil moulding--6; cove moulding--6; glass racks—6; rounded columns—5; spice rack—5; plate racks-—4; oversized drawers—4; corbels—3; arched valances—3; fluted columns—3; and garbage can pullouts—3.

Speaking in general terms, there seemed to be more wine racks, more spice rack and narrow drawers, and more open shelves.

For countertops, granite was dominant for residential kitchens, with 72 percent of displayed tops. Engineered stone accounted for 18 percent, with few solid surface and laminate tops shown.

NKBA top interior trends 

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, top trends from 2012 included:

--The increased use of glossy finishes and high-sheen fixtures with stainless steel, wood veneer, marble island tops and floor lighting.

--Use of interior concrete, including bathroom décor and countertops. A concrete surface brought to a high sheen masks the true material.

--Color infusion behind glass. A painted wall with glass panels overlaid creates a smooth sheen of color.

--The white kitchen has never gone away as a design option, but has been reinvented for future interior design.
--Suspended lighting is another design trend, allowing dangling focal points of light for kitchen countertops, dining surfaces and flooring.

--Enhanced symmetry in room design creates stability and balance. The interior space should have components and pieces that act as counterbalances to one another.

--Repeating and complementing shapes is another trend. Starting with a particular shape and repeating it in various sizes, colors and textures adds a reassuring appearance.

--Designers are being encouraged to use traditional technology in non-traditional spaces. The non-traditional space may be an appliance or obstacles of plumbing and venting that can’t be moved.

--Tile is making its presence known in contemporary bathrooms on walls, floors and backsplashes.

--Open-plan bathrooms are becoming more common, with the design centered on the efficiency of the bathroom space with little in the way of walls or partial walls.

Uncontained and display trends 

The KBIS show also featured full-size examples of five consumers at different stages in life, each displayed in a shipping container. Living space included the “new hip home” of the young gen now single, gen now culinary curators gen x family, forever fit zoomer, and the caregiver.

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. Another trend worth noting was also seen at the Hafele display: more LED lighting.

As stated, with fewer companies displaying there were fewer trends to quantify. No one seemed to have an answer for the fewer exhibitors, especially with Masco and MasterBrand, the two largest manufacturers, not displaying in 2012. Several other companies had booths but no cabinets displayed.

One observer suggested that perhaps cabinets could be part of the show every other year instead of annually. There were plenty of new designs and creativity shown at KBIS, but cabinets and wood products played a smaller role.

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