August 23, 2017

The New Face of Kitchen Cabinets

Over the past several years, there has been rapid evolution in home design in the kitchen. For kitchen floors, first ceramic tile took the place of vinyl, then hardwood took the place of ceramic tile. For countertops, granite soared to the lead, replacing solid surfacing and laminate, and now quartz is making big inroads into the granite market.

The most recent acceleration in this evolution is in cabinet styles and finishes. Flat panel doors, while long considered a low-cost option compared to raised panel doors, have now gained greater acceptance and represent more than a third of new single-family home installations and a large majority of multifamily installations.

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles in New Homes, 2016

Source:  Home Innovation Research Labs, Inc.; Annual Builder Practices Report

Rapid change is also underway with cabinet finishes. Historically, wood finishes have been dominant in kitchen cabinets; while they still command about two-thirds of the new home market, they are beginning to lose ground to painted finishes. Laminate cabinet finishes, likewise, have lost a lot of ground in recent years to painted finishes—especially in single-family homes.

Kitchen Cabinet Finishes in New Homes, 2016

Source:  Home Innovation Research Labs, Inc.; Annual Builder Practices Report

As with many style trends, painted cabinets followed the traditional path beginning with luxury homes and then migrating to move-up and starter homes. The fact that 40% of luxury homes now have painted finishes, as do 30% of starter homes, means the trend is mature and will likely slow in the future.

There is also, of course, the comparison between cabinets used in single- and multifamily homes. With most other building product categories, materials used in multifamily homes tend to be similar to single-family—there are typically just more lower-end finishes used in multifamily. However, this pattern is doesn’t hold true in the kitchen cabinet market. The graphic below is an illustration of just how dramatically different the residential sectors are. One item of note—the “Other” category, primarily steel, is almost non-existent for single-family detached homes.

Cabinet Styles & Finishes in New Homes, 2016

Source:  Home Innovation Research Labs, Inc.; Annual Builder Practices Report

Modern designs are now dominating kitchen cabinets in apartments and condos—flat panel both with and without frames—while traditional styles, such as the raised panel, still rule in single-family homes. In multifamily buildings, cabinet boxes are more likely to be made of MDF or particleboard (two-thirds) than in single-family homes, where half rely on engineered wood and the other half on hardwood or plywood boxes. Surprisingly, wood finishes are equally common in multifamily as in single-family, and both are dominated by, and equally as likely to have, face-framed cabinet boxes.

Looking into the future, I see single-family continuing to be dominated by more traditional wood finishes and raised panel door designs. We’ll continue to see moderate growth of flat panels in frame door designs, and likely more painted cabinet finishes. In multifamily, designs will continue to be reflective of more modern and urban themes—e.g., frameless flat panels—but still dominated by wood finishes. One possible off-shoot to this trend may be an influx in euro-style, frameless boxes that have failed to make big inroads to date.
At the present, the multifamily market is almost totally apartments built for rent and in high-density suburbs and urban areas. As this moves back to a more historical mix of for-sale and for-rent units, and possibly from high population density areas to lower density, this could lead a swing back to more traditional designs in multifamily. Also, the multifamily market rebound has matured and stabilized, while a single-family rebound is still underway. This portends a residential cabinet market that favors the traditional in the immediate future.

Interested in more details on the kitchen cabinet or other product/material markets? Let us know what questions you have, and we can help you plot your best marketing and/or development path forward.