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Survey: Flexibility is key for clients

Traditional styles and designs are more popular in these tough economic times, National Kitchen & Bath Association says

This maple kitchen with traditional-style cabinetry is in strong demand today, according to an NKBA design survey.

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The results are in from a recent survey of designers conducted by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, revealing the key design trends for kitchens and baths in 2010.

In regards to what the findings mean for custom woodworkers, Mark L. Karas, president of the trade group, says that traditional looks are popular because of their comforting effects and their statement of timelessness. However, he advises that woodworking professionals should be prepared to be flexible because, collectively, homeowners want anything under the sun to appease their unique preferences.

"There are so many choices out there today, that if you're a custom woodworker, don't just offer your clients run-of-the mill products. You have to be flexible today. With today's customer and today's economy the way it is, we can't pigeonhole ourselves to one area and lose a potential customer over it."

Last year, the trend report indicated that homeowners were unique in their choices, that 'keeping up with the Joneses' was a thing of the past. Karas says homeowners are still trying to avoid that mold of remodeling their homes like their neighbors.

"In the area of cabinet styles is where we're seeing this the most. One person may go for a contemporary look and the next person wants traditional. And traditional has come back stronger than before."

Traditional styles, along with darker hues and warmer tones like maple, are among the top findings in the kitchen. Karas explained that in times when the economy slumps like it has recently, homeowners like to decorate in ways that help them reminisce about more comforting times. Basically, many homeowners associate traditional looks with a more comfortable, familiar surrounding that helps ease worrying about financial woes.

"Many times we look back and say 'When times were simpler.' We like to relate back to the good times. So a lot of people, depending on your age bracket, want to go back to what they grew up with."

But another reason traditional is popular is because it's got a timeless, everlasting appeal, says Karas.

"When people ask about what's hot and what's new, I tell them there's nothing new. We reinvent and we repackage things, but they're not truly new. We've been going through a trend for the last 10 years where clients wanting cabinetry come in and say they want an inset door - people think the inset door is a new style. I live in Boston and, at the Plymouth Plantation, every piece of furniture has an inset door. That goes back to England in the 1600s."

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue.

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