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Kitchen Cabinets: Trends to Watch

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Kitchen Cabinets: Trends to Watch

A look at current kitchen cabinet trends that have staying power, and what’s coming for 2016

By By Ingrid Bush, Content Manager October 27, 2015
Kitchen cabinet trends, Normandy Remodeling
This article first appeared in the PR November 2015 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Photo: courtesy Normandy Remodeling

There was broad consensus among our sources—both manufacturers and industry pros—on current and coming cabinetry trends. To begin with, some trends, such as concern for sustainability, aren’t really trends at all. When it comes to the role of sustainability in consumers’ cabinetry purchasing decisions, most manufacturers we spoke with say that environmental stewardship is just good business and is now assumed to be the norm rather than being a brand differentiator. But, as several industry experts pointed out, consumers are aware of making healthy buying decisions and want products that are low-VOC. Cabinet manufacturer Cabico’s business development manager, Marco Robert, says that environmental considerations are a selling point in the growing popularity of laminates, too.

Though consumers are starting to loosen their purse strings as the economy rebounds, they aren’t necessarily channeling that money into fancier cabinets, remodelers told us. As Normandy Remodeling designer Liz Reifschneider points out, “We’re far from the heyday of 2005,” and rather than splurging on kitchen cabinets, the Chicago-area remodeler’s clients are opting to do more extensive renovations on their homes. At RI Kitchen & Bath, in Warwick, R.I., Tanya Donahue, VP of sales and marketing, says that clients will make concessions on cabinetry quality to afford the overall look they want.

Decora cabinets, grey palette kitchen

Grey leads the way: This "new neutral" is popular with Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. Photo: courtesy Decorá

Top 3 Cabinetry Trends

1. Light neutrals: White is still going strong (for example, Merillat’s Dove White finish continues to be one of the company’s best-selling paints and dominates all markets in the U.S.) and neutral hues continue to be an anchoring color trend in cabinets, with grey gaining more ground as a “new neutral.”

2. Contemporary style: Even in more traditional markets, modern styling, such as slab and Shaker doors, is growing in popularity, reflecting a preference for less molding and a sleeker aesthetic.

3. Rustic modern: Mixing materials and textures, pairing streamlined looks with rustic accents, such as reclaimed wood, to create a clean yet rich, textured effect.


Miralis sleek, modern kitchen

This sleek kitchen with cabinets from Miralis is an example of two of the top cabinetry trends at play right now: white cabinets and contemprorary styling. Laminates and high-gloss finishes continue to gain popularity, and kitchen islands are still a mainstay. Photo: courtesy Miralis


Open shelving combined with rustic accents, such as reclaimed wood, combine to create an open feel in the kitchen and a rich, textured effect. Photo: courtesy Normandy Remodeling

Common Ground

Whether they’re Baby Boomers looking to age in place or budget-focused Millennials remodeling the kitchen in their first home, there’s plenty of overlap in cabinet preferences, though the motivation that’s driving the design choices differs.

Common to both classic and contemporary aesthetics, says Lori Lewandowski, Merillat’s design services manager, is a drive for more symmetry within designs. She says that while large, multifunctional islands are still important, peninsulas are less common.

Homeowners of all ages are favoring open-concept kitchens with visual connection to other living spaces. This, in addition to a desire for more windows to admit natural light, means fewer wall cabinets and, as a result, “more internal accessories and drawers … within the base cabinetry to achieve the functionality and storage that could be missing by not having a lot of wall cabinetry,” Lewandowski says.

Jean-Pascal Fournier, business development and marketing director for cabinet manufacturer Miralis, says that the horizontal trend is being expressed through more drawers, larger drawers, and flip-up doors, as well as floating shelves and sleek lines. Although he sees Millennials demanding more urban-style kitchens with European laminate colors, Baby Boomers are also following that trend when remodeling their kitchens.

But not all kitchen designs are embracing the horizontal. Joan Bostic, Cabico’s VP of sales and marketing, says she’s still seeing plenty of vertical floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, but with more glass for doors, to maintain a light, open feel. In addition to glass doors, open shelving and countertops clear of clutter help maximize the expansive feel, with customers consolidating small appliances, such as coffee makers and toasters, in one place. These “small-appliance stations” (see photo, below) often include countertop workspace but are concealed behind doors to eliminate visible clutter in the kitchen and maintain a unified look. Photo, above, right: courtesy RI Kitchen & Bath.

Reifschneider says that for her clients, it’s not so much about horizontal vs. vertical as it is about optimizing storage and functionality. Blind corner cabinets need to have swing-out shelves or other ways to make them useful; internal organizers are essential in all cabinetry (see photo, above, right). Stephanie Pierce, senior manager of the design studio at MasterBrand Cabinets, says that for today’s cabinets, “a very cohesive and tidy kitchen design means everything in its place and a place for everything. Flush alignment, ‘banked’ work zones, and maximum functionality are high on the list of expectations.”

This focus on functionality holds true both for Millennials, who are adapting their cabinetry choices to what they can afford, and for Baby Boomers, who are looking to age in place and ensure that their kitchen remains practical and accessible through the years. 

Looking for Longevity

Lewandowski says that universal design considerations have become more mainstream within the last five years, citing the growing popularity of roll-out trays, accessible sink and cooktop base cabinets, higher toe-kick space, and lowered wall cabinets as a few examples.      

The aging-in-place cohort prefers easily accessible pull hardware or, for a streamlined look without visible hardware, touch latches, which are also favored by Millennials. Cabico’s Robert says he is also seeing more demand for servo drives. Yes, they’re still relatively expensive, but, he points out, “as more consumers want them, the price is coming down. And we’re definitely finding that more consumers want them.”  Photo, right: courtesy Normandy Remodeling

High-Tech and High-Lights

For Millennials, making sure there’s a place for technology is essential. Smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more at home in cabinetry, with emphasis on easy access and charging out of sight. Cabinet companies are starting to meet this need with tech-specific accessories such as concealed docking stations and iPad trays that slide out and tuck away when not in use.

In terms of cabinet layout, Reifschneider says, there’s something else going on: Say goodbye to the once-common kitchen “office nook.” Mobile technology makes this designated spot for laptop and bill paying unnecessary. “Normandy is ripping these out so homeowners can use that space in other ways,” she says.

Advances in LED lighting are also making their mark, allowing lighting to become a mainstream consideration in cabinet design. Because LEDs come in a range of shapes and sizes, with low-profile options, they can easily become part of specific work zones in the kitchen, whether it’s within glass cabinets, above or under wall cabinets, inside drawers, or in the toekick space of base cabinets. Beyond the customization and aesthetic options this affords, for the increasing number of homeowners looking to age in place, lighting is also a key concern for safety and accessibility.

The Way We Shop

Finally, when we’re talking trends, it’s not just about the product but about how consumers are coming to make those buying decisions. In particular, MasterBrand’s Pierce says, “Millennial shoppers have high expectations for delivery of functional products. This generation is well educated about what they want to buy and what they expect to get out of it before they ever make a purchase.” They have an abundance of information at their fingertips via various magazines, websites such as Houzz, and home shows, and their research about options continues to drive manufacturers to offer more choices to capture and hold their attention. 

John McDonald, owner of Semihandmade, a California company that offers custom cabinet and drawer fronts for store-bought Ikea cabinet boxes, says, “We definitely see Millennials embracing the European, more open and ‘modular’ style of cabinetry—easy to set up and also knock down and move—if needed.” And, he adds, the uniqueness of sequenced veneers is popular: “Despite offering more and more close-to-Ikea-priced doors, many of our customers still love that one-of-a-kind, every piece fits like a puzzle—and-your-walnut-kitchen-is-totally-different-from-your-neighbor’s-walnut-kitchen look.” Photo: courtesy Semihandmade

Looking Ahead 

• Matte finishes will be the new thing in 2016 in different materials and colors. 

• Laminates—already popular in Europe—will offer an even wider variety of finish options at a cost-conscious price—textures, wood looks, metallic looks, stone … anything you can imagine. 

• 2016 will see a shift in stains from darker to lighter. Opaques have great momentum right now; whites and grays have shifted into warmer, more neutral tones.


New Cabinetry Products


Decorá has released three new hand-applied, translucent, brushed finishes to layer over all its painted maple door styles. The finishes—Brushed Pavestone, Brushed Saddle, and Brushed Onyx—can be applied on light- or dark-color cabinets, depending on the desired intensity of the effect, and can be used over any paint color, including the entire Sherwin Williams palette. decoracabinets.com



With the launch of its Every Day Made Fresh selection, Cabico Custom Cabinetry has added six new colors and six new door profiles. The color options meet today’s demand for popular neutrals in gray and white tones, as well as a shade of teal. The new door profiles (five wood options and one MDF) offer clean lines and are all transitional in their styling to meet different design tastes. cabico.com






Released in response to customer demand for strong base colors, Merillat Cabinetry has a new paint color, Shale, which is available in 19 door styles. This “new neutral” offers a soft, warm hue that pairs well with other neutrals and Merillat’s stain palette, as well as various metal finishes. merillat.com




Wellborn Cabinet is bringing the Shadow stain and the Shadow Charcoal stain with glaze to its Select Series of cabinets. Shadow is a dark gray stain with a low sheen; Shadow Charcoal is the Shadow stain finished with a black Charcoal glaze. These two finish options will be available on the company’s cherry, maple, oak, and hickory cabinets. (Shadow over cherry, shown) wellborn.com

A look at current kitchen cabinet trends that have staying power, and what’s coming for 2016


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