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Form meets function when it comes to cabinets in homes today. From kitchens to locker spaces, design is tailored to the purpose the storage solution serves.

Customers are looking for “good, simple, functional storage,” says Nick Arnoldussen, owner of Arn’s Custom Cabinets in Little Chute.

Gone are the 1970s blonde tones and the dark oaks of the early ’80s, adds Mark Hameister, sales and design for Der Meister Cabinetry of Appleton.

“The trend now is that everything has to match, colorwise, stylewise,” notes Erik McClintock, owner of McClintock Cabinets, Inc. just outside of Appleton. “When we started 20 years ago, you could have hickory in one room, oak in another.”

“It’s more of what we call a ‘timeless look,’” adds Hameister. “It just lightens the space. You see much more neutrals in the colors and accessories you can put with it.”

Greys, whites — ranging from antique to cream — and stains in medium to dark tones are the three major color requests that are particularly seen in kitchens.

“Those earth tones help to keep it a little more neutral, are easier to work with and help with resale value,” says Arnoldussen. “I think the classic white will always be a staple.”

“People are comfortable with a white because they know anything is going to go with that,” adds Laurie Dorn, kitchen designer for Der Meister.

Textures in wood with stains, glazes or a combination to create a depth in the wood also are popular, Arnoldussen notes.

The style of cabinets also is leaning toward a more simplified design esthetic.

Seventy-five percent of the styles Der Meister is creating is flat panels, says Dorn. The European, frameless style features clean lines and has the doors covering the entire face of the cabinet.

The simple, square, straight lines is in line with a Shaker style that seems to be resonating with McClintock customers as well. Dan Thomack, owner of Thomack’s Custom Cabinets in Appleton, also is seeing this style in new home construction and the desire to match the look of the home.

Arnoldussen says his customers are looking for a more timeless design which will also stand up as long as the life of the product.

Thomack is skilled at doing intricate handwork, carving and custom turning. Posts with carving and moulding with detailed designs remain requested from his customers.

“The glaze picks up and highlights the details,” Thomack adds. Of course, the additional “frills” as he refers to them, do add to the overall project cost.

Despite the style of the rest of the kitchen cabinets, cabinetmakers agree it is not uncommon to see statement islands that differ in color and design from the rest of the room, but serve as a complement with a distressed, furniture-like feel.

“That’s our niche. When people can’t find what they want, we’ll build it for them,” says Hameister. “There’s value built into it.”

“It’s more elegant, they’re looking for a showpiece,” echoes McClintock.

Glass fronts with specialized lighting also is used on occasion.

“Most people like to add a little flair. Decorative glass, I think, will always be there,” says Arnoldussen. “I think it’s a nice little touch in some areas.”

Soft-close door glides and hinges remain noted features in cabinets as well.

“You don’t have to worry about them slamming,” Thomack says. “I’ve always just made that a standard.”

Built-ins from wine storage to pullouts or rollouts for organization, garbage and recycling, pots and pans, and spices, along with places to keep tablets or a niche for small TVs also are requested on occasion. Thomack believes in using solid wood, dovetail design as well.

“They like all the little bells and whistles,” says Hameister. “We live in a convenience-oriented society.”

Maintaining beauty without the upkeep also is important to today’s homeowners as they opt for durability in non-porous materials like granite and quartz that are easy to wipe down, keep surfaces sanitary and provide more bang for their buck, Arnoldussen shares.

“With quartz, you can dump a glass of red wine on it and not have to worry about it,” McClintock says.

Thomack fabricates his own countertops and works mostly with laminates in new granite patterns, which are frequently purchased and swapped out later for stone easily by screwing them into the tops of the cabinets. He also builds sinks right into the countertops so that no lip from the sink is exposed.

“They’ve come out with some nice finishes and they are really durable,” he adds.

Cabinetmakers will either install countertops themselves or subcontract the work to be made, delivered and installed on the same timeline.

One thing you’re likely not to find in the kitchen any longer is a home office space.

“Now when I go into a kitchen, if there’s a desk unit, those get torn out,” Thomack says, adding that workspaces are going back into separate rooms or finished basements.

Bathrooms and laundry rooms aren’t without their share of cabinets as well. Stackers or “basically dedicated space to put your baskets,” says McClintock also are sought after, while powder rooms have become the place for a pop of color and more adventurous design choices.

“Now we’re seeing cool, fun finishes. We’re creating a one-of-a-kind, furniture-like feeling,” Arnoldussen says. While barnboard is currently popular, Arnoldussen notes that he is able to use newer materials without having to source original boards, which also saves on cost while achieving the same high-quality look.

Vanities with turned legs and open storage in powder room vanities also are trending, shares Dorn.

Coming in from the garage or front entryway, a place to drop things, including boots, backpacks and more is a newer way to use cabinets, too.

“The locker in the last 10 years is probably the big thing. Everybody has to have a place to hang their coats,” says McClintock.

Thomack has made lockers with doors on top, hooks for hanging, bench seating and open or drawer storage on the bottom. He’s also getting requests for “drop centers” or 30-inch basic cabinets that serve as a place to keep keys, garage openers and other things you might need to grab on your way out the door and keep somewhere consistently when you come back.

There is less of a need, however, for the days of big, bulky entertainment centers since televisions have gone the way of sleek flat screens. Dorn sees more credenza-style cabinets being used to store DVDs are other items.

Whatever your cabinet need, the typical design process starts with drawings and a discussion of how the space will be utilized, style preferences and budget. Customers who bring in at least a few ideas from either a website, such as Pinterest or Houzz, on their phone, ripped from a magazine or parade of homes tours help to narrow down the process. It also can be a reality check when the cost of a project is revealed.

Purchasing custom versus store-bought cabinets will influence the price, explains Thomack noting that a factory may be able to turn out 100 pieces in the time that he’s able to do one. Therefore, quality and the ability to design non-cookie cutter looks comes into play.

Before building begins, the site also is physically marked and drawings tweaked for any adjustments. Sit down meetings and timeline discussions also occur. Knowing wall color and flooring material selections ahead of time can be helpful so everything coordinates together. Depending on the scale of the project and whether or not it is new construction or a remodel may change the process.

“I think people forget how many things they have to pick out,” says McClintock.

“Not many people come in and say, ‘I want it just like this.’ There is opportunity to make it your own,” Arnoldussen adds.

However, like a jigsaw puzzle, it’s up to the cabinetmaker to come up with just the right fit.

“We truly like to listen to what people want and then take their ideas along with our expertise,” Hameister says.

—FC

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