To cope with the hectic pace of their busy lives, many homeowners are combating potential chaos by getting organized. An uptick in demand for storage detailing and accessories should be no surprise; it dovetails with the growing preference for calming, clean-lined contemporary and transitional cabinetry exteriors and built-ins.
Suzanne Scott, owner and principal designer of Seattle-based Suzanne Kristine Interiors, says, “Almost every client I speak with wants to increase organized storage solutions, whether it’s for their master suite, kitchen, bathroom, or main living area. A visually clean aesthetic is what clients are looking for, which is provided by designing organized storage specific to their needs.”
What better way to begin creating neatly detailed storage interiors than by presenting cabinet exteriors that reflect a sense of order. According to Tricia Hauser Tidemann, kitchen and bath design manager and lead kitchen and bath designer at Mingle, a kitchen and bath showroom and design studio in Plymouth, Minn., “A transitional, clean look is the most popular style right now. Flat, center-panel doors with a slight ease, bevel, or round on the inside corner of the door is desirable. Frameless cabinets are also popular because the reveals around the doors and drawers are tighter and more consistent between cabinets, offering a cleaner look.” According to Scott, “The Shaker door style has been and will continue to be the most popular. Doing a mix of Shaker and slab fronts in a larger space, such as a kitchen, can help ensure that the design doesn’t look too busy.”
Modern cabinet fronts with sleek lines translate into less visible hardware. “Visible door hinges have decreased in popularity over the years. As full-overlay doors overtake the industry, the focus has moved from decorative hinge features to door-style profiles,” explains Bonnie Schmitz, manager of design, trend, and innovation for semi-custom cabinetry manufacturer KraftMaid. “Visible hinges, in many cases, are used in traditional styles and don’t have the same soft-close functionality or ability to hold weight as the popular hinges of today,” she adds.
Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends for MasterBrand Cabinets, agrees, “Visible door hinges are typically decorative or provide accent opportunities. Today, they are mostly used to create authenticity around period designs.”
Karen Smith, brand communication coordinator at Blum, adds, “Because they’re concealed behind the door front, the focal point of kitchens remains the cabinetry and not the hardware.” And, even when decorative hardware is used, consumer attitudes toward hardware selections has changed. “Consumers are taking more chances when it comes to choosing hardware for their homes,” says Christine Zimmer, product manager at Top Knobs, “and, therefore, styles and design options have exploded. Our clients use decorative hardware as a form of creative expression” (see lead image, above).
New Tech in Cabinet Moving Parts
Developments in hinge technology are allowing cabinet doors and drawers to move with less effort and in more directions than ever.
“With the contemporary movement, hardware such as pulls and knobs is disappearing, giving way to a variety of kinetic touch latches, as well as motorized and remote-controlled offerings, such as automated trash bin cabinets or touch bifold doors that lift up and away instead of opening toward you like a tradition hinged door,” says Marianne White, director of dealer development for cabinet company Wood-Mode.
“Soft-close hinges and slides aren’t new but have recently made the jump from previously being an upgrade to now being a market standard feature,” Sanchez says.
Karen Armour, functional hardware category manager for Häfele America, points out that, while not a new technology, the craze for push-to-open cabinets has made its way to America. “Now you can have the best of both worlds: push-to-open along with soft-close on your undermount slides,” she says. “Hinges are either reverse-spring with magnetic catches of all kinds, or that same functionality can be achieved with free-swing hinges and push latches.”
Interior organization options are all about making homeowners’ lives easier and customizing configurations to suit their lifestyles. “Homeowners are looking for storage elements that accomplish two things, keeping the kitchen neat and clutter-free, and ease of accessibility,” Sanchez says.
The No Wiggle Pullouts from Hardware Resources, for example, allow cabinet contents to pull out for easy reach and accessibility in the kitchen or the bathroom. Tidemann’s clients often request pullouts for oils and spices. White believes the blind-corner cabinet is now obsolete due to accessory options that create usable interior space.
Scott also finds rollout trays to be a necessity. “The sink base cabinet generally seems to be a place of disarray,” she says. “When you add a rollout tray to the bottom of the cabinet, it allows you to easily slide the tray out and view all of the items stored under the cabinet.”
“Trash cans can be an eyesore. Hiding the trash can in a trash pullout is another key storage solution,” Sanchez says. Tidemann agrees, “Everyone wants the recycle bin and garbage bin pullouts to operate with a touch of the knee so dirty, full hands don’t have to touch the cabinetry.”
Pierce sees an increase in the use of drawers in place of traditional shelved base cabinets as a big step up in increasing ease of use. “The full accessibility and interior versatility of a wide and/or deep drawer can make better use of space. Adding interior organization to these products helps with kitchen efficiency and minimizes the chance of creating cluttered storage of items in the drawers,” she says.
White adds that contemporary styling, which can promote the use of open shelving in place of wall cabinets, is further incentive to opt for base cabinets with drawers. Outfitted with organizational elements, drawers can handle items such as stacks of dishes that traditionally would have been stored in a wall cabinet.
In the bathroom, vanity drawers can turn wasted space into useful real estate. “Recently, I’ve designed a lot of vanities with drawers rather than doors at the sink base,” Scott says. “We are able to have a three-drawer base where the top drawer is false, as it’s taken up by the sink, the second drawer is a U-shape, as it needs to allow space for the P-trap and plumbing, and the bottom is a standard full drawer. Often we will design in dividers to section out the drawers, allowing clients to have storage specific to their needs.”
“Powered drawers, such as an in-drawer charging station, are growing in popularity for today’s connected families,” White says. “An in-drawer charging solution keeps plugs, wires, and families’ devices neatly stored in a drawer, preventing cluttered countertops. Charging stations and powered drawers can do everything from charging multiple devices and laptops to powering hair dryers, curling irons, and trimmers in the bath, and many small appliances in the kitchen.” Tidemann adds, “People like pullout storage organizers for the bathroom that house metal bins for heated items like curling irons and hair dryers.”
Toward the top of the popularity list for Schmitz are modular storage solutions. “They allow the homeowner to modify their storage when life changes happen, like with a growing household,” she says.
Cabinet Designs for Easier Access
Organizational storage options are great for everyone, but some have a particularly positive impact on the aging. According to Scott, anything that increases accessibility, by putting items within arm’s reach, is key. Base cabinets with drawers offer easy access to stored goods and improved visibility of cabinet contents, as well as making moving heavier items to the counter safer compared with lifting them down from an overhead cabinet, she explains.
Touch latches on doors and soft-close doors are also musts for clients living with joint issues and arthritis. “Having a touch latch to open doors and drawers reduces frustration on days when gripping cabinetry hardware is difficult,” Scott says.
Wall-cabinet lift systems can be another life-changer. Smith says Blum’s Aventos lift systems allow cabinet doors to move up and out of the way, instead of the door opening toward the user, eliminating the risk of bumping one’s head.
The Mixer Lift from Hardware Resources takes the burden out of raising heavy appliances, such as mixers, to the countertop. “And cabinet pullouts limit the amount of bending and twisting needed to access cabinet items,” Sanchez says.
Häfele offers the iMove Pull Down Unit by kitchen-fittings manufacturer Kesseböhmer, which allows the user to bring cabinet contents down—halfway or fully—with a gentle pull on a handle.
As people age, more light is required to see properly. Today, under-cabinet task lighting is commonplace, but there are also options for interior cabinet lighting that increase ease in locating and identifying stored goods. Small, long-life LED fixtures have broadened applications for illumination.
“Adding brightness in places consumers never thought possible brings a wow factor and functionality, as well as added depth perception and color recognition, to any environment,” Häfele’s Armour says.
Stephanie Straatmann, marketing communications specialist at Task Lighting, says, “LED lighting installed in a pantry, cabinet, lazy Susan, or drawer boosts the effectiveness of organizers in any part of the home, from kitchen to bathroom to the home shop.” Task Lighting’s SempriaLED SS9 series fixtures can be vertically mounted and shielded from direct view inside a pantry; the SempriaLED SF9 series can illuminate mudroom cubbies; and closet interiors can be brightened via the company’s Lighted Closet Rod.
Wood-Mode, in collaboration with Häfele, has created an Integrated Lighting Program that offers LED lighting solutions for cabinet drawers and closet interiors. Base-cabinet drawer lighting options revolve around the company’s wire carriage system, which eliminates the risk of wiring becoming tangled with moving drawer components. A pre-wired light bar, mounted behind the frame, is controlled by a switch at the back of the cabinet that turns the light on and off as the drawer opens and closes.
Cabinets All Around the House, Not Just the Kitchen and Bath
Storage options are not only more sophisticated in the kitchen and bath but built-ins in general are increasing in popularity in other rooms as well, according to Schmitz. “Storage in mudroom and laundry spaces has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years and we continue to see an upward trend in built-in storage in these areas,” she says.
White notes, “For mudrooms and laundry rooms, there is a continued need for larger drawers and heavy-duty hardware to support a family’s laundry load.”
According to Bob Arslan, director of product systems and solutions at Timberlake Cabinetry, an American Woodmark brand, LuAnn Boyd, national account manager at Toll Brothers, and Chris Craig, marketing director at Timberlake, in the luxury segment, cabinetry is more frequently being used for entertainment centers; bench seating and storage at the secondary, or family, entrance; and in wine cellars in the basement.
Schmitz has found that storage built-ins in the living room “are consistently scarce,” and reveals that closets are getting larger in the bath and bedroom. Tidemann says, “Closets are always popular for storing bulk goods, out-of-season items, and bedding.” Apparel closets are becoming more customized and outfitted with accessories, from shoe cubbies to LED lighting above hanging garments.
Though Arslan, Boyd, and Craig see closet organization as a home improvement project after the home is occupied, they agree: “We see that built-ins are increasing in newly built homes vs. closets. There is more visible value for the home buyer to include built-ins.” And, with the range of storage and organization options available today, consumers are even more readily able to fully realize the concept of “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Wanda Jankowski writes about design from her home in New York City.