Product Trends: Cabinet Connection

Manufacturers afford more modularity and personalization as consumers manage smaller spaces and budgets.

December 10, 2014

U-shaped drawers are just one organizational feature offered by Wellborn Cabinet that helps maximize the amount of cabinet space available.

Before the housing market downturn, many homeowners who sought to renovate their kitchen desired a larger space with extravagant cabinets that featured an assortment of moldings and corbels. With the economy still recovering, more clients have opted for smaller, transitional cabinetry in an effort to create a streamlined look and maximize the amount of space available, says Angela O’Neill, director of marketing and advertising at Wellborn Cabinet.
 
The company’s Smart Design initiative integrates thoughtful cabinetry designs within limited spaces through the use of technology, organization, and lighting. “Some features that can be incorporated into the Smart Design include sliding shelves, drawer dividers and U-shaped drawers,” O’Neill says. “Lighting is another tool that is important to Smart Design because a lack of lighting is often the reason people cannot get the most use out of their cabinets.”
 
Wellborn has extended the Smart Design approach beyond the kitchen with a program called Whole House Design Solutions, which gives customers the ability to coordinate storage solutions throughout their home while utilizing every inch of space and fitting everything into their budget. The cabinet manufacturer also offers several semi-custom options to assist clients in finding functional and stylish products for each room of their house.
 
Making everyday lives easier has led many homeowners to prioritize modularity, or the grouping of multiple cabinets together, and personalization—products configured specifically for each individual’s needs. Robern, a subsidiary of Kohler Co., responds to this growing demand for more freedom in cabinet design by offering multiple heights, widths, and depths in product lines, as well as a wide array of optional features such as adjustable shelves, accessory trays, nightlights, electrical outlets, USB chargers and safety lock boxes.
 
“We focus on the smallest of details so that our customers don’t need to,” says Andrew Lippmann, marketing director for Robern. “We research trends to understand, and then provide exactly what our customers want and should expect from us.”
 
The company’s recently upgraded M-Series bathroom cabinets, for example, contain an automatic interior light for illumination and a mounted magnetic strip that keeps metal grooming tools neatly arranged. A dedicated razor holder and adjustable shelves ensure contacts, glasses, and other daily-use items stay close at hand. Consumers also can program the external LED nightlight in 12-hour increments or control it with a wall switch and—for added personalization—select a right- or left-handed cabinet door. 
 
“We start and end every day in the bathroom at our styling space,” Lippmann says. “Shouldn’t that experience be a graceful one?”
 
The new standard
 
Customer expectations ultimately dictate the user experience and, as a result, custom designs and features have become more commonplace in the cabinet industry. Many aspects that consumers once regarded as convenient or extraordinary have proven to be necessary and normal in today’s marketplace, says Tom Zak, operating officer for Wine Logic, a maker of wine racks. The company’s home storage system presents wine and liquor bottles in clear view, but the horizontal design also can accommodate canned goods for easy accessibility.
 
“Our universal design allows the product to be used in anybody’s cabinetry,” Zak says. “By staying in touch with customers and design professionals, we can adjust our product line as necessary to continue to exceed expectations.”
 
Before the economic recession, new kitchens accounted for more than 75 percent of business for Reborn Cabinets, a remodeling firm based in Anaheim, Calif. Since then the company’s subsidiary, Vianvi Signature Cabinet Refacing, has seen that trend reverse as more clients want to update their cabinets without the major investment of a complete kitchen tear-out, says Vince Nardo, president. “From an investment standpoint, cabinet refacing has the highest return when selling the home,” he adds.
 
Reborn introduced the same colors and finishes available for its new cabinets into the Vianvi product line so customers can achieve their desired look even if they are just refacing existing cabinetry. In the past, the company specified primarily white thermofoil doors and laminate plastic when refacing cabinets. Now, with new technologies driving the change, Reborn can offer clients a wood door with wood refacing in the same colors and options as a new cabinet. “As the technology increases, we will start to see less ‘real wood’ and more overlay type of products available for both new cabinets and refacing,” Nardo says.
 
Flat panel and Shaker have emerged as popular cabinet door styles, especially among younger buyers looking for a clean aesthetic, says Barry Graboski, vice president of product and market development for WOLF. “The trend away from thermofoiled or plastic veneer finishes continues,” he adds. “Painted finishes at all price points remain very popular—White, Antique White, and shades of gray are the leading painted colors. Stained finishes have moved darker with warmer brown tones and dark Espresso colors.”
 
Earlier this year the company debuted Builders Mark Cabinets, which feature a flat-panel door style designed for remodels as well as new construction. The product line offers four colors: White, Espresso, Harvest Brown, and Auburn. Later this year, WOLF will introduce the York door style into its Classic Cabinet product line. The York—a painted transitional flat-panel door with a five-piece drawer head—consists of wood construction and features solid dovetailed wood drawers.
 
The new norm
 
More than 90 percent of drawer boxes ordered today for both new and refaced cabinetry contain plywood dovetail with concealed undermount glides to ensure a soft close, says Reborn’s Nardo. In the past, the company saw the majority of clients opt for inexpensive, white melamine drawers with side-mounted glides because of price. “An investment in R&D for these new products allows our customers to stay on the cutting edge, and it allows our product offerings to fit with the request of clients,” says Nardo, who like WOLF’s Graboski has recognized the popularity of muted tones (grays) and darker colors in cabinetry.
 
Dove, a new variation of gray from Wellborn, can be paired with virtually any other color and has been received extremely well this year, O’Neill says. The company recently launched ColorInspire, a new program that allows customers to select colors from thousands of choices found in Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, and Valspar paint decks. “This gives people the ability to be inspired by whatever they see and turn that inspiration into beautiful cabinetry that can be displayed in their own home,” she adds. Wellborn also added three new door styles (Chelsea, Winslow, and Wellington) with solid wood reversed flat center panels in response to the trend toward transitional cabinetry with clean, simple lines.
 
“It is no longer OK to say, ‘We have the best,’” says Robern’s Lippmann. “Now, our customers ask for products that meet their specific needs. The difference is subtle but it is driven by an increasing desire to personalize and connect.” PR

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