Kitchen Cabinet Trends: Style and Storage
January 31, 2024
Kitchen Cabinet Trends: Style and Storage
More than ever before, kitchen cabinets convey the quality of the space as much as they supply storage. Here, we take a close look at this core design component.
The results of a new Freedonia industry forecast indicates a positive market for cabinetry. In 2026, demand for kitchen cabinets is projected to rise nearly 3% annually to $21 billion, with unit demand totaling 92 million. This growth will be bolstered by significant moderation in prices for lumber and associated wood materials, a welcome change from the inflation- and supply chain-related highs that occurred in 2021 and 2022.
According to the study, these gains will be supported by two sectors. A rebound in large-scale construction, including new multi-family projects and conversion of commercial properties to residential use (in select urban markets), is underway. Also, homeowners are investing more in home improvement projects and opting for high-end materials, using cabinets – in the kitchen and in other rooms – as both aesthetic and functional elements of their residences.
A Frameless Future
Freedonia reports that frameless cabinets are gaining popularity as an alternative to face-framed designs, with demand expected to grow more than twice as fast as that for face-framed cabinets. Installations of frameless kitchen cabinets will be boosted by design trends, which have lately gravitated toward open kitchens with clean, modern lines.
Another reason for the predicted rise of frameless cabinets: new-build housing stock is increasingly fitted with frameless units, meaning that over time, homeowners will opt to continue using this type of cabinet when they upgrade or remodel their kitchens and homes.
A third factor identified by Freedonia favoring frameless cabinets is their generally lower cost, which is an important consideration not only for budget-conscious consumers, but also home builders who are often guided by the bottom line.
The Stock Market
While demand for custom and semi-custom cabinets is forecast to see above average growth, stock cabinets will continue to account for the largest share of sales. This is due to a number of factors, including the ready availability of stock cabinets in comparison to semi-custom or custom cabinets, which take longer to design, assemble and install.
Stock cabinet manufacturers are also making efforts to make the product more aesthetically pleasing by offering a wider array of color choices and finish options. This deepens the appeal to do-it-yourself homeowners, who already appreciate the ease of installation and lower price point of stock cabinets compared to semi-custom and custom units.
Beyond the Business: Design Trends
With the business outlook for the cabinet industry promising, what’s happening on the design side?
In its forecast for 2024 Kitchen Trends, the National Kitchen & Bath Association calls out some of the changes underway. Increasing use of color – specifically, warm neutral tones in pigments as well as woods – applied to simple, clean-lined designs are the top techniques to achieve a welcoming, wellness-aware ambiance.
While cabinet door styles are leaning toward modern, flat-panel designs and the “slim Shaker” look, designers are noting that homeowners are becoming more adventurous in their quest for a personalized kitchen – and cabinets play a central role in achieving that goal.
“Our clients have been more willing to push traditional style boundaries in their kitchen cabinets,” said Katie Bacon CKBR, residential designer for Dallas-based Kitchen Design Concepts. “We have primarily seen this through the inclusion of arched cabinet doors and two-toned cabinets. The inspiration that clients find on social media gives reassures them that pushing traditional style boundaries is a possibility and leads to more unique and individualized design.”
In the NKBA study, 43% of respondents indicated that all-white kitchens were slipping in popularity. This was bolstered by the 30% who anticipated an uptick in wood-look and natural materials as well as the inclusion of colorful cabinets, which was mentioned by 17% of those surveyed.
Bob Bakes, head of design at Bakes & Kropp, said, “We’re continuing to develop our palette of colors and finishes. What began as white with a twist has developed into a comprehensive range of thoughtful colors and finishes. We like colors that are striking yet reserved and very much create a blended and balanced texture with the rest of the design scheme.”
The largest cabinet manufacturer in North America, MasterBrand Cabinets, has shared its annual look at design and trends, the “2024 Cabinetry Framework”. Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at MasterBrand, points out that white is now seen as complementary to other mid-tones. She notes that consumers’ desire for “a fresh yet timeless aesthetic” in the kitchen is reflected in the popularity of the muted and moody palette of blue, gray, black and warm brown tones; green is undergoing what she calls “an evolution.”
As an increasing portion of peoples’ daily lives exist in the virtual world, the appeal of literal touch points in everyday spaces for comfort is on the rise. These surfaces, reminiscent of the organic world, inspire a holistic approach to kitchen aesthetics, where practicality seamlessly melds with the beauty of nature.
Andreas Gommeringer, president of Häcker Kitchens North America, said, “Raw finishes are taking center stage, not only on cabinet surfaces but also on countertops and backsplashes, harmoniously integrating with contemporary design styles. Specifically, there’s a burgeoning interest in the use of natural wood and textured details.”
In addition to natural textures, reeded or grooved cabinet panels in wood or metal provide a sculptural surface that’s compatible with soft modern styles.
Cabinets are critical in the top kitchen layout trends through 2026, as identified in the NKBA survey. Following dedicated beverage centers (named by 60% of respondents), kitchen-based dining areas, islands, pantries and concealed prep spaces will be features that showcase cabinets. In particular, floor-to-ceiling cabinets and increased use of drawers are on the rise.
The NKBA trend report finds that islands have become the heart of the kitchen. In fact, large islands for serving and dining is the number one design trend for the coming three years, cited by 49% of respondents.
A gathering point for the entire home, islands are serving many purposes. A magnet for socializing, homeowners are willing to reconfigure their kitchen layout to accommodate larger islands that provide seating, storage and meal prep tasks.
Islands are also a favorite focal point of the kitchen, the site for introducing fresh colors and base cabinet designs that contrast with the perimeter cabinets.
Pantries with a Purpose
With the rise of open shelving in kitchens, there is a need to compensate for the diminished storage capacity in the room. This has led to an increase in the use of pantries. As named by the NKBA survey, while the top three pantry types – walk-in, butler’s and built-in – all work to keep clutter off the counters, each utilizes cabinets in different ways.
• A separate room off the kitchen, the walk-in pantry is dominated by cabinets designed to store dry goods.
• Also a walk-in space off the kitchen, the butler’s pantry is detailed for prep and entertaining. Because it is typically equipped with counters, drawers are common features.
• A built-in pantry comprises full-height cabinets fitted with customized shelving. Sometimes called a larder, these units are located inside the kitchen.
Designer Charlie Smallbone of Ledbury Studio is seeing the “breakfast cupboard” becoming a mainstay of his custom kitchens.
“One of the main benefits of having a breakfast cupboard is that it saves time – a huge plus for families during the morning rush,” he said. “Storing the kettle, toaster and coffee machine all together means they’re easily accessible. Plus, you have tea, bread and cereals readily at hand. You can quickly grab what you need, shut the cabinet doors when finished and get on with your day.”
Enter the Back Kitchen
As open-plan kitchens have evolved into extensions of the living room – with floating shelves and windows replacing upper cabinets, and kitchen islands looking increasingly like furniture rather than utilitarian work stations – the pantry has been given an increasingly bigger role, too. Reimagined as a fully-appointed place for prepping, cooking and cleaning, it has become the back kitchen. It preserves and elevates the social atmosphere of the main kitchen by containing the clutter of cooking.
Asked about how cabinets in a back kitchen should relate to the cabinets in the main kitchen, founder and CEO of San Diego and Spokane-based Blythe Interiors, Jennifer Verruto draws a parallel with bathroom design. “Prep kitchens are like powder rooms – it’s a space to go a little wild and make some fun design choices that clients may not want in their main spaces,” she said. “We often use dark tones, heavily printed tile and wallpaper in them.”
Bakes agrees, saying, “As indicated in its name, a prep kitchen is primarily focused on function and less on aesthetics, so its design does not necessarily need to relate to the central kitchen in this case.”
As priorities have shifted to appreciate a home-based lifestyle, cabinets have come into their own, giving the kitchen character that reflects and supports their occupants’ personal culture and values.
—By Leslie Clagett, KBB managing editor
Photo credit (top): Courtesy Bakes & Kropp
February 27, 2024 | Trends & Inspirations
James Herriot Launches ‘The Essence of Kitchen Design’
February 1, 2024 | Sponsored
Improving Life at Home Through Appliance Innovation