Homeowners expect a lot of cabinets -- not just in the kitchen but all throughout the home.
Cabinet makers are responding to the consumer demand for design flexibility and decorative utility with unique door styles and new finishes, expanded cabinet sizes and pullouts, open shelves, and collections of embellishments.
This attention to details comes from a relative increase in spending money, says Jeff Kida, owner of DDS Design Services in Villa Park.
"When the recession hit in 2008, everyone was looking worried about resale and looking for plain white cabinets," he says. "Now they're looking to personalize it a little more looking for something a little more long term."
Modern cabinets boast of aesthetics, easy access and innovative space and storage solutions.
"Cabinetry is becoming increasingly thoughtful in its design, delivering accessibility and functionality to homeowners more than ever before," says Andy Wells, vice president of product design and trends at MasterBrand Cabinets in Jasper, Indiana.
How today's consumers live, work and play within the home continues to transform cabinetry, from ease of installation and operation to making the most of space with customization and enhancing clean, modern looks.
"Everything got a lot more clean-lined, not as heavily detailed," says Patricia Dunlop, owner of Fine Kitchens and Baths in Boise, Idaho. "I think we want our homes to be simple and not as busy, because life is complicated enough."
Many designers espouse a "whole-house" concept, using cabinets to unify design throughout a home, be an entryway, craft center, baking area, home office, bathroom, laundry room, living room or entertainment center, says Wells.
Think of an entryway unit with a bench for putting on shoes, compartments for stowing shoes and bags, and hooks to hang coats. Or a utility or laundry room with wall and overhead cabinets for storage.
New cabinetry can feature thicker shelves to prevent sagging, adjustable hinges and additional cabinet sizes. They offer design flexibility with backlit inserts and interchangeable door panels to transform looks without costly upcharges.
More accessories and options mean more possibilities to solve timeless kitchen dilemmas. Today's cabinetry optimizes counter space -- hiding small appliances while displaying kitchen treasures -- and eliminates having to reach deep into dark cabinets.
"There are more windows in the kitchen now, so there are fewer wall cabinets where we used to store glassware," Dunlop says. "So we have to store more and more in cabinets."
Pullout mechanics for pots and pans, bins for trash and recycling, and built-in microwave cabinets help maximize storage possibilities, while keeping design streamlined through a space, Wells says.
"Traditional methods of bending over and reaching up to access items are not natural for people," Wells says. "The way homeowners are using their kitchen environments plays a big role in new design introductions. The concept of universal living is still prevalent today, helping deliver solutions into which homeowners can grow."
Now, space-efficient cabinets with multiple drawers are taking the space of the model with a top drawer and free space underneath. Kida says this is yet another sign of growing confidence in the economy. "People can spend a little more money on that," he says.
Designers continue to find ways to minimize the intrusion of cabinet doors into a homeowner's space, Wells says. Wall open, mullion, and prepped-for-glass cabinets let homeowners customize looks.
Gray is still a popular color for kitchen cabinetry, but designers are seeing the hues warm up in temperature, Wells says. Oak cabinetry and techniques such as cerused finishes, which highlights the wood's natural grain, are seeing a resurgence because of homeowners' desire for more natural, authentic design in the kitchen. Trends that have been popular in Europe for years, such as high-gloss and heavy texturing on cabinetry surfaces, also have captured the imagination of U.S. homeowners, Wells adds.
Yet nothing stays quite like white. "Some people are very brave and know what they want and use bright colors, but white will always be there with lighter woods for cleaner, simpler cabinetry," says Dunlop.
Functional, yet decorative
In the bathroom, dark wood finishes are the No. 1 choice for bath cabinetry followed by medium wood and white paint finishes. Popular design trends include open, airy designs, base cabinets with open areas, floating wall shelves, and decorative mirrors and moldings.
Other bathrooms have added extra drawers under the sink. These can be rollout contraptions or U-shaped, flat drawers for toothbrushes or curling irons, says Dunlop. Larger vanities might even be able to fit extra cabinetry on top. "You're trying to keep the counter space clear," she says.
Homeowners are incorporating wall storage and open shelves into laundry rooms, too, for basket, hampers and base storage, sorting, storing and folding areas, and utilizing space under and over the washer and dryer. This space can store crafts, decorations, cleaning supplies and more.
Other innovations include shelves that pull down to eye level for easy access, incorporating more drawers into cabinetry design, and providing places for tablets and other electronic gadgets.
"Homeowners are also embracing technology more in the kitchen, using their tablets and smartphones as cookbooks," Wells says. The company's Diamond Tablet Holder, a arm that swings out from underneath a cabinet to hold up a tablet for reading recipes, helps free up countertop space and protect the electronic device from splatters.
Consumers want cabinets that serve dual functions for decoration and organization. Backlit insert panels and open shelves have become especially appealing to homeowners looking for fresh, exciting ways to store and display.
"Open shelving offers the great ability to express personality and show off ornamentation of valuable items," Wells says. "When plates and cups are displayed, this can also increase the amount of light and color in the room, adding to the overall mood of space."