woods and colors of kitchen cabinets and islands is popular
now, says Terry Ripple of Cabinetree.
From Dave Heiglís perspective, the
hottest thing in kitchen cabinets and kitchens in general is
functionality. "The overall look and feel of a kitchen is
usability," says Heigl, director of CabinetWerks Design Studio in
the Third Ward. "You donít have to worry about the kids running
through the kitchen and hurting something."
In functional kitchens, cabinets can
take a beating. Finishes arenít pristine. Everything is low
"The last couple of years people
have gotten back to their homes and the kitchen is the center of
it," Heigl says. "Some kitchens will have comfortable
furniture in or next to them. The whole area is just more lived
"People are doing a little more
nesting and investing in making the kitchen the way they really want
it," says Colleen Thompson, interior designer and showroom
coordinator at the Milwaukee CabinetWerks. "People are very
educated and have a lot of different needs."
When making an investment in kitchen
cabinetry, the options are as varied as individual preferences.
Wood cabinets with their inherent
warmth are still the first choice for many home remodels and new
construction. Maple and cherry are the most often requested although
alder and quarter-sawn oak are also fashionable.
"Weíre actually doing a lot of
cabinets in dark cherry," says Sue Chapman, kitchen designer with
The Kitchen Center, Brookfield and Glendale. "They predicted two
years ago that the dark colors would come back. We didnít believe it
at the time, but it has happened. If you stay in it long enough, it
Terry Ripple, president of the
Brookfield-based Cabinetree, also gives the thumbs up to cherry.
"Cherry and maple are strong in the traditional homes," he
says. "Thereís a movement away from the oak and birch from
"The natural tones of cherry are
popular, but knotty cherry is being introduced," Thompson says.
"Newer woods are fun and unexpected."
Alder has been used in the cabinet
arena only for the past two years. Itís very consistent in its
ability to take stain. "It takes stain evenly and with a real
depth," says Ripple. "Alder is a closed-grain wood with a
likeness to cherry without the light and dark graining."
is a key component of todayís kitchens, says Dave Heigl of
CabinetWerks Design Studio.
Hickory has been used for kitchen
cabinets in the past, but its grain deviation is not to everyoneís
taste. "Hickory can be very severe unless you stain it with a
very dark stain," he says.
Ripple has seen some demand for red
birch that comes from the core of the tree. "Itís really
unique," he says. "We put a light stain on it called ĎAutumní
which is almost not a stain."
Peruvian farm-raised eucalyptus is an
option for those who want a really unique set of cabinets. "Itís
harder than any domestic hardwood," says Ripple. "If you cut
it, you get flour, not sawdust. It looks like cross-cut oak in its
In many new kitchens dark woods are
being trimmed with lighter colors.
"Thereís a call for one species
of cabinet with a different species and stain for an island,"
says Ripple. Think of ivory cabinets with cherry trim and a cherry
island. "Itís a fairly radical move, but it looks very
Despite the prevalence of wood choices,
thereís still room for painted cabinetry. "I find them in
homey, soft colors," says Thompson. "Neutrals that offer
warmth are a good choice."
"Iím seeing a lot of glazing
where you wipe a stain on and then wipe another color on top of
that," says Chapman. Glazes are typically done in woods without
heavy grains, such as maple, alder or cherry.
"On the coasts, yellow is a hot
color. In samples and in photographs painted cabinets are coming out,
but weíre not seeing that push for color here," she adds.
Eclecticism seems to be the norm when
it comes to cabinet styles. Two or three years ago, French country was
in demand. Now CabinetWerks sees requests for English country,
American Traditional and Arts and Crafts. "The traditional style
is still popular, but in downtown Milwaukee customers want simple,
clean lines," says Thompson.
Heigl, Thompson and Ripple report that
Asian and Arts and Crafts styles are influencing the dťcor in many of
the new loft projects in the city.
Cabinetree recently completed the
kitchens in a series of condos in the Cathedral Square project.
"All of them have gone contemporary and virtually all have taken
plain, solid wood, square doors for their kitchens," says Ripple.
And for those who think everything new
has to come from either the East or West coasts, hereís a news
flash. Milwaukee is ahead in the Arts and Crafts style. The coasts,
with the burgeoning interest in Frank Lloyd Wright and the Asian
styles that influenced his designs, are now just catching up to the
Arts and Crafts look.
So you like the contemporary look but
donít want an entire kitchen devoted to it? Donít worry, mixing
styles is encouraged. "You can throw a curve ball in there like
an antique piece or a piece that doesnít match," Heigl says.
"It gives it a handcrafted feel."
"Weíre still seeing a lot of the
classic touch," says Chapman. Her customers are asking for raised
panel doors or are adding character with fancy moldings. Inset doors,
ones that sit flush with the cabinet frames, are also a frequent
Door styles are pretty much all over
the board, says Ripple. "Contemporary wooden doors are much
stronger than they have been for a long time. Thereís lots of call
for Prairie and Missions styles." Also in demand are routered
doors with glazing giving a very ornate feel to the room.
With form comes function. Cabinets are
being asked to do a whole lot more than they used to. There are
shallow cabinets built into an island to store childrenís cereals at
a level accessible to the little ones.
"Appliance garages" where you
can slide a coffee maker into when itís not in use help keep
countertops uncluttered. Pots and pans, those favorite old-time kidsí
toys, are being stored in deep drawers rather than on a pull-out
shelf. Shelves with spring loaded brackets that pop up when pulled out
can now support the heaviest of mixers. Roll-out and pull-out shelves
with adjustable baskets near the cooking surface keep important
ingredients within reach.
Model homes are showcasing walk-in
pantries but they are not necessarily a "must have" detail
for many homeowners. "The problem (with walk-in pantries) is that
you gain more space for people to stand in, but no room for
storage," says Ripple. "We do a ton of pantry units with
full, adjustable roll-out trays that come out past the cabinet doors
and have 120 pound capacity slides. You could put six of them in in
lieu, of a walk-in pantry, and one would hold more than the entire
"Weíre not seeing a lot of call
for walk-in pantries," says Chapman of The Kitchen Center.
"What is more popular are cooking hearths with big, fancy hoods.
Itís an area to show off and make a focal point of the stove."
"I see a lot of builders doing
them but I donít hear a lot of clients asking for them," says
Thompson. "They may like the space of a pantry, but they donít
want a dry-walled, special room with a door that you walk into."
Cabinet functionality means many
homeowners can do more with fewer cabinets. The desire to fill the
entire kitchen with cabinets has passed. But with todayís options
you donít have to sacrifice convenience for style or vice versa.