Uncluttered Interiors

The outward appearance of kitchen cabinetry is a critical element to the design, but equally important is how these cabinets function to maximize space, convenience and accessibility. Additionally, there is increasing demand for interior storage that can be customized to fit the homeowner’s needs and personality.

“Innovative storage solutions are one of the key considerations in any modern kitchen design,” says Billy Peele, marketing/PR representative for Doug Mockett & Company Inc. in Torrance, CA. “Utilizing and maximizing all usable space while still maintaining a minimalist look is the biggest challenge any designer faces when it comes to kitchens.”

In addition to making the most of the space available, top trends in cabinet storage and interior fittings include clean and simple design; motion and easy access; lit interior spaces and unique combinations of cabinets and drawers that offer convenience and flexibility. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.


Maximizing Space & Value

Interior storage is essential, which means the design must include enough cabinets to hide everything away, but also incorporate the right kinds of organizers to create a distinct spot for each and every item.

“Designers are looking for simple storage solutions. They want to organize the items that have not typically been organized in the past,” says Dave Hall, owner of Glideware LLC based in Grand Junction, CO. These items might include mops and brooms, cookware, cooking utensils and plates. “They also want to be able to specify these items easily and know that they can be adapted to existing cabinet sizes and technologies,” says Hall.

Veronique St. Cyr, training coordinator for Richelieu based in Quebec, Canada says that designers are looking to include products that are versatile and multifunctional, as well as those that increase storage capacity without requiring a lot of space.

“Designers are not only looking for add-on items, they're also looking for cabinets that are solutions. What I mean by that is, they want to choose cabinets that have been designed to store and organize specific storage goods, and they want cabinets that utilize every inch of storage space,” says Debbie Cannon, marketing services & communications manager at Stanley, NC based Blum Inc.

Storage items that address the desire for more open and minimalist spaces are also in demand, says Shari McPeek, public relations & advertising manager at Rev-A-Shelf, LLC in Jeffersontown, KY. Pull-outs for items like knife blocks, utensil caddies and appliances can clear the countertops for a cleaner look. “Customers want more things hidden away and look for products like our RAS-ML-HDSC Soft Close Mixer lift which not only provides hidden convenience but expands your workspace by leaving the appliance on the pull-out and off the counter when in use,” she says.

When it comes to taking advantage of all available space, corner units are essential, manufacturers say. Claus Sagel, managing director of Vauth-Sagel based in Germany says the firm’s new corner cupboard solutions, CORNERSTONE, were met with great interest at Interzum 2015. “We see space-creating corner cupboard solutions like the CORNERSTONE or Flex corner as important fittings that use difficult-to-access space in the corner in a practical way and make it easy to access,” he says.

Daniel Tripp, product manager for kitchen products at Hafele America Co. based in Archdale, NC notes that the company’s LeMans blind corner unit shows up in 80-85% of cabinet lines. “As far as accessories, it’s as standard as they come as far as being so widely accepted in the market and how many of them get put in every day.”


True Value

Along with wanting to get the most out of the space, consumers are looking for products that offer a good value, say manufacturers. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily looking for the least expensive options.

“Organization and ease of use are features people are willing to invest in,” states Marisa Sanchez, product manager, cabinet & closet organizers for Hardware Resources in Bossier City, LA.

Peele adds that value is a key element in budgeting and decision-making. “Smaller kitchens have the most to gain with custom concept cabinetry and space-saving initiatives. People are willing to spend more on cabinetry and fittings that incorporate the features they need to accommodate their specific user requirements.”


Flexible Convenience

Because kitchens are moving toward both smaller spaces and open concept design, interior organization is more important now than ever before. Homeowners are looking for both flexibility and convenience in function and design alike.

St. Cyr says consumers are looking for products and solutions that will increase their quality of life. “They’re looking for product features that will wow them, that will differentiate their designs from others, that will make them unique,” she says. But these interior fittings and accessories must also be functional and customizable to make the most of the space and meet different needs.

Some of the biggest trends shown at Interzum were based on the emphasis of personality and authenticity, with consumers looking for ways to express themselves, says McPeek. “Consumers both young and old are looking to maximize the space they live in,” she adds.” People want convenience, as well as clear definition of the space. “The adage of ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ isn’t new, but still rings true today,” notes McPeek.

No longer are designers defaulting to drawers over base cabinets all the way across, says Hall. Variety in the cabinetry, including the use of full-height doors, allows the space to be used most effectively. These spaces accommodate accessories that require more height and give the kitchen a different look at the same time.

With busy lifestyles, time saving products are in high demand. “People are busy, and space is valuable. Cabinet organizers allow for everything to be put away but still be easily accessible,” says Sanchez.

Cannon agrees: “We are an overly busy society. Efficiency and convenience are important for those of us who are always on the go and rush through making meals – as well as for those of us who find solace in cooking.” When designers can create a kitchen that exudes efficiency and convenience homeowners are happier, she adds. “Organization is no longer an add-on in the back of a spec book. It’s part of the package when cabinets are sold,” she says.

Specific products selected vary widely depending on the homeowner’s lifestyle, but some are becoming more and more popular, including pull-out pantries and waste separation systems. “Waste separation systems are becoming increasingly important, particularly from a global perspective,” says Sagel. “More and more countries and municipalities are introducing waste sorting. Solutions have to be presented that combine easy separation, no smells and simple disposal and transport in one system.”

Jan Fitzpatrick, customer and market relations manager for Kernersville, NC based Grass America Inc. sees the U.S. following European trends toward larger drawers, upper cabinets with lifters instead of doors and small reveals between doors and drawers for a look with a seamless flow. “Functional hardware now has to be able to adapt to these trends. Drawer slides must have a higher weight carrying capacity and the stability to fully extend in a 46” drawer without a lot of movement,” she states.

Hall believes that as people expand their living space to include outdoor kitchens, there’s a need to be filled. The accessory market has not kept up with the challenges created by outdoor kitchens, he says. Putting the grill into the countertop eliminated the ability to hang the utensils on the side of the grill. Glideware has introduced an Outdoor Kitchen Organizer to meet this need.


Drawer Organization

The popularity of open design concepts and desire for clean aesthetics bring drawer storage into play more often. With that trend comes a need for organizers within these drawers.

“Another trend that requires unique storage solutions is the reduction in wall cabinets within designs. It looks great but where do you store your dishes?” says McPeek. “Enter drawer peg systems that allow you to access, store and organize your dinnerware.”

Drawers are highly functional and work better than they used to, adds Tripp. There is a lot of nontraditional storage happening in drawers, he says, including horizontal storage of wine, oils and sauces, or specialized storage for flour and sugar. “Things you used to have up on the counter you might see down in the drawer keeping everything nice and clean,” says Tripp.

Peele adds, “Drawers are becoming highly functional storage facilities with specific task oriented construction – trash pull-outs and segmented storage for pots and pans or custom utensil trays are just a few examples of how custom creations can enhance the workflow.”

In drawer slides, there is an increased demand for full-extension soft close slides, says Fitzpatrick. “This will allow the homeowner complete access into their drawer interior. You don’t really know how great this feature is until you compare a full-extension drawer beside a standard-extension drawer to see the difference.”


In Motion

With easy access high on the list of in-demand features, products with movement are on the rise, from soft open/close to items that swivel, slide, pull up and pop-out.

Sanchez says there’s a big trend toward having everything within reach. This means adding items like pull-out drawers, trash can systems, and spice racks to the mix.

St. Cyr sees a growing trend toward items that can be pulled out when needed, but hidden away when they aren’t in use. These include tables that pull out from a drawer and islands that hide the cook top and sink underneath a sliding countertop. These hideaway features are particularly in demand in smaller kitchen spaces, and help maintain an uncluttered look when not being used.

Aligning with the trend towards clean, smooth lines is an increase in push-to-open mechanisms that reduce the need for decorative handles or pulls, says Fitzpatrick. “The functional hardware itself becomes even more important – it becomes the focus rather than just taking what is offered,” she notes, adding that the soft-close function is quickly becoming standard at any price point.

Since introducing its Glideware with Blum units, which feature the soft-close motion, at KBIS, sales of those units have far exceeded sale of their units without that feature, says Hall. “Most don’t even ask the price. The motion in accessories is necessary to stay consistent with the soft-close on the doors and drawers in the kitchen,” he notes. Additionally, he sees automation coming to accessories. “The automatic doors and accessories seem as futuristic today as the soft-close did 10 years ago. The technology and cost will soon make it ‘standard,’” he states.


Light it Up

Under-cabinet lighting is no longer enough to light up the workspace. Equally vital is the ability to see what’s inside the cabinets and access items quickly and easily. As a result, manufacturers are seeing interior LED lighting come into play more and more often.

McPeek says that consumers and designers are adding LED lights into a design not only for task lighting but to accentuate a space, like toe-kick or soffit lighting.

Not only is lighting functional, adds St. Cyr, but is aesthetically pleasing and increases value in the kitchen. She says that lighting is increasing as an accessory in design, as people place it in drawers and under cabinets, in toe-kick spaces, and even recessed into floors.

Hall believes all cabinets will include lighting within the next five years. “As the spaces become more organized, the consumers are not afraid to show what is in them and in many cases they want to show off the inside of the cabinet,” he says. There’s less of a barrier to interior lighting, he notes, due to the cost and simplicity of installation of LED lighting.

More people are also putting lighting inside drawers, says Tripp, allowing the user to both easily see everything inside and appreciate the beauty of the wood.


Clean, Minimalist Design

In addition to maximizing space, visual clutter needs to be eliminated. As designers create clean, simple lines throughout the kitchen, accessories and interiors need to be aligned with this goal as well.

“It seems the trend is moving more toward the minimalist look,” says Fitzpatrick. This look means clean simple lines, smooth surfaces and 90° angles, she notes. Color options have broadened from white, stainless and metallic to include graphite, brown and black, she adds.

Sagel says people want system solutions that are not over-engineered and embody a clear, pure design approach. From a visual perspective, he says, storage space systems should be able to fit seamlessly into the kitchen design.

Peele says that a key factor in aesthetics is presentation. “Creating custom concepts based solely on function can easily overlook the essentials, and if the overall design does not match the flow of the room or is not appealing to the senses, its function is lost in the mix. The design itself is equally as important as the specific need it’s catering to,” he says.

Hall sees a desire for the accessories to match the interior of the cabinets. “Our maple organizer didn’t work for contemporary white and grey interiors [common to] urban areas, so it pushed us to offer our organizer in grey,” he says. With the clean, simple aesthetics, people don’t want to see the hardware, he adds, so there’s a move toward hidden mechanisms and undermount slides.

Tripp sees a trend toward modern design, not only in appearance, but with up-to-date usability as well. Interior fittings can’t just be pretty, he adds, they must also be functional. Cleaner designs are in demand, and designers are matching the finishes of accessories throughout the kitchen. “It’s important to have a family of products that will allow designers to be able to have a complete design,” he concludes.

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