Keith Brannon Photographed by Cheryl GerberCabinets with a contemporary look—as well as a dark stain—are gaining popularity.
There’s good news for homeowners tackling a kitchen renovation right now. Never have there been so many options for cabinetry.
Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.
They’re almost too many choices. Inset doors or full overlay? Wood stain, paint or glaze finish? Modern, traditional or European styling accents? The options are endless. And even stock cabinetry now offers countless bells and whistles for stashing away appliances, trash cans, spices and gadgets that it’s no wonder kitchen designers must now use sophisticated schematic software to churn out floor plans.
Even selecting a kitchen designer can be somewhat of a challenge these days. New companies have cropped up to take advantage of the post-Katrina business boom, but existing kitchen and bath designers are so busy that many still have wait lists. Nordic Kitchen and Baths in Metairie has a four-month backlog of clients more than a year after the storm, says owner Randall Shaw.
Take advantage of any wait time you may have by planning your design before you enter the showroom, says New Orleans decorator Penny Francis. She tells clients to start a design file of kitchen styles they like best.
“Look at magazines and tear out spaces that speak to you,” she says. “Pull those things out and let’s take a look at them.”
Most kitchen design shops have at least three cabinetry lines that they carry exclusively. These range from stock, semicustom and custom lines, which get progressively more expensive. Each line usually has a Web site or catalog showing off various kitchen configurations and styles, but these can be dated looks designed in-house. Shelter publications and design magazines tend to feature more cutting-edge kitchens created by industry professionals.
Francis says most clients clip out kitchens with similar themes without realizing it. They may select kitchens that all have simple Shaker inset doors or they all have islands with granite countertops.
If they have several photos of dream kitchens, it’s easier to sift through cabinet door style catalogs and showrooms to select a similar style within a budget.
Back to Basics
So far, most kitchen designers say the biggest trend in the New Orleans market is a return to simplicity. So many lost so much due to Hurricane Katrina that they want a pared down, no-fuss clean look for the kitchen, says Jamie Blossman, kitchen designer for Cabinet Works just off Metairie Road.
“They want simplicity—right now especially. Whatever is going to make their life easier,” he says.
This new restraint is reflected in clean-lined recessed panel doors with minimal detailing. It favors rectangular door styles rather than arched. Flat slab drawers, flat panel doors and Shaker looks are basic enough to be adapted to several styles.
“You can put glass in a Shaker door, or you can install a metal panel in it and that totally changes the look. I think it’s a highly adaptable cabinet,” Francis says. “Again, it’s not a lot of fuss and it’s a design you can live with for a very long time.”
Those looking for a clean and elegant design are opting for beaded inset doors painted in variations of white. It’s a traditional look that’s making a comeback.
“I see a lot of people who are going with inset doors,” Blossman says. “That seems to be really big right now.”
Traditionalists who like the look of a white kitchen are shaking things up a bit by adding a glaze to give the cabinetry more depth. The technique adds darker shades of color to corners and crevices, creating an antique feel.
Cabinets Come of Age
The other major trend in the market right now is contemporary styling. More people are choosing frameless cabinets, slab doors, high-gloss finishes or dark colors to create a much more modern look for the kitchen.
“When most people think of contemporary, they think light woods and whites whereas now a lot of people are thinking just streamlined and sleek,” says Tracy Simoneaux, kitchen designer for Marchand Creative Kitchens in Mandeville.
The new contemporary cabinets are in dark stains like espresso, Wenge and black.
“We’re doing a lot of dark finishes,” Blossman says. “When I first started you couldn’t have put this dark stuff in somebody’s house. They would have looked at you like you were crazy.”
Shaw says contemporary styling represents about 20 percent of the market nationally, but it’s more popular locally.
“We have found since the storm probably upwards of 35 percent of our business has been in contemporary designs. I think more people since the storm do not want the clutter,” he says. “We’re doing it everywhere from the Irish Channel to out here in Metairie.”
Another trend is that cabinetry is getting taller. People are ripping out dated throwdowns and installing cabinetry almost to the ceiling.
“Everyone is doing a minimum of 42-inch-high uppers. That’s for an eight-foot ceiling,” Shaw says.
Some install crown molding to cover the spaces between the cabinets and ceiling while others are leaving it open. More semicustom cabinet lines offer taller selections, giving those with high ceilings plenty of options.
Glass doors are still in vogue. It forces people to be organized as their dishes and glassware are on display. However, many recent renovators bought new stuff with insurance checks and want to put it on display. “They are not so worried about where they put their Mardi Gras cups anymore,” Blossman says. “I do one or two glass doors in just about every kitchen.”
Most offer several different glass styles from beveled to opaque. And for those cabinets strictly used for storage, there are several new bells and whistles to easily hide large pots and small appliances. Semicustom lines now offer slide-out spice racks, specialized storage bins, full-extension drawers and soft-close options. In fact, there are so many options that the lines are blurring with custom.
“The semicustom lines have come a long way. You can achieve a custom look with some of the semicustoms out there,” Blossman says. “There are some kitchens we have done that you walk in and you’d think that it is a completely custom kitchen when all the pieces were fabricated by a semicustom line.”
Photos taken at Nordic Kitchens and Baths.
Typically an option for stock cabinetry. Drawers and door fronts partially overlap frame.
Greater overlap than partial. It covers most of the frame, providing a clean look.
Doors and drawer fronts fit precisely inside the frame. Because the measurements must be exact, this option is requires custom cabinetry. Full inset can cost as much as 30 percent more than full overlay cabinets.
Stock: Off-the-shelf cabinets you may find at chain stores. They come in standard sizes, stains and limited wood types.
Cost: Stock is an option for those on a budget.
Semicustom: The most popular option, these cabinets offer a variety of door styles and finishes in increments that can range from 9 to 48 inches wide and up to 42 inches tall.
Cost: Prices vary depending on options.
Custom: Options are endless. Clients can choose stain, paint color, size and styling to suit their personal tastes. Full inset doors are an option only available in custom cabinetry.
Simple clean, no-fuss designs
Contemporary, modern styling
Rich dark stains like espresso
and Wenge Painted and glazed cabinets
Tall cabinets that reach almost
to the ceiling
Raised paneled door styles
Oak and pecan cabinets