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27 Mar, 15

Is high gloss furniture set to be succeeded by softer, matt décors?

High gloss has long been the default choice for kitchen design as it suits the hard, geometric and frequently clinical look of contemporary furniture. But for consumers who have been there, done that, is the softer décor associated with matt finish furniture the natural alternative? In fact, taking it one step further, could it in fact become the next big trend? Certainly, matt finishes seem to be a significant part of furniture manufacturers’ portfolios. Sales and marketing director of Mereway, Graham Jones points out: “The latest additions to our Trend Interior Kitchens are predominately matt lacquer and woodgrain and have been flying off the shelves.”

Matt on rise

In fact, overall kitchen manufacturers seem to be reporting sales of matt kitchen furniture are on the rise, accounting for anywhere between 10% to 20% of their sales, depending on the market they serve. Managing director of Crystal Doors, Richard Hagan comments: “Presently, matt finishes account for around 20% of sales. Whilst we offer a selection of matt foil doors, matt painted MDF doors are steadily increasing in sales.” Whereas, design manager at TKC, Jitendra Mistry comments matt sales are at 10%, although growing in popularity: “In 2012, matt furniture accounted for 2% of TKC’s door sales and high gloss accounted for 98%. In 2013, it was 5% and 95% respectively and currently matt furniture is accounting for 10% and high gloss 90%. So matt sales are definitely on the increase.”

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Broader price spectrum

The growth in matt finishes could be partly attributed to its broader availability, having at one time only been available at the top-end of the market. But it is also available on a wider choice of materials from glass and gloss, through to painted finishes, melamine and foil. UK franchise director at Mobalpa Cyril Raberin points out: “It was popular for the top-end of the market for two reasons. In 2012, only top-end manufacturers were producing this product and secondly, design and trends were more accessible to the higher end of the market, whereas today it is a key interest for everybody.” Now, furniture manufacturers report the matt finish is now available at many levels of the market. Raberin continues: “Matt colours are currently available across two of Mobalpa’s ranges which vary in price, making it more accessible to consumers”. And his view is echoed by echoed by regional sales manager South West & Wales of Nolte Kuchen Eddie Streader who points out: “Nolte Kuchen’s offer of matt lacquer finishes starts with Price group 4 and our Soft Lack range. This door represents a mid-priced choice within our total of eight price groups and is a very popular one at that.”

Creating warmer aesthetic

To capitalise on its popularity, designers should take a look biggest selling decors in matt furniture, which just like its gloss counterparts, are from a neutral or earthy palette. UK managing director of Bauformat Bodie Kelay comments: “The most popular matt lacquer colours are neutral earth tones such as san beige or moonlight grey and both reflect the latest fashion and living trends.” And

Commercial director of Crown Imperial, Tony McCarthy agrees but points out combining matt lac: “The most popular colour choice for matt finishes are neutral tones, with grey continuing to rise in demand, coupled with consumers choosing to pair with wood effects or more vibrant colour choices. To achieve the most up-to-date kitchen look, pairing two colours helps create contrast and definition.” And sales and marketing director of Mereway, Graham Jones agrees, adding: “Matt lacquers work really well when matched with other finishes, in line with the trend for kitchens that have variety and interest rather than one uniform colour finish.”

And with an advent of bold colour splashes in kitchen furniture, through use of accent pieces, the softer, tactile matt lacquer also plays a role in helping to create a cohesive and warmer aesthetic. Product expert at HPP, Mark Smith ad: “Matt kitchen allow consumers to create a subtle, more delicate look to their kitchen, which is warmer and more subtle than many of the gloss alternatives on the market.”

Importance of light

Matt lacquer also has the added advantage over high gloss in that it won’t fingerprint mark or create glaring reflections. But, here’s the crux, it is this ability of high gloss, to reflect light, which industry experts says seals its popularity, particularly in small UK kitchens. Managing director of Siematic Bernard Otulakowski comments: “Lots of kitchens can suffer from a lack of natural daylight and space, and so high gloss finishes can be a useful tool for a designer to employ. High gloss finishes bounce light around the room and make it feel brighter and create the illusion of a grander-sized room, which is not possible with matt finishes.” In fact, such remains the popularity of high gloss that Eddie Streader reports: “Out of the top ten kitchen doors, solid gloss takes up eight places.”

Sales stripping gloss

So is it inconceivable to suggest the increased sales of matt furniture are actually at the expense of high gloss (See Expert View)? Here, opinion in the industry seems to be divided. Mark Smith of HPP comments: “High gloss is without doubt the main area that is losing sales to the matt finishes, but as sales of this style are still relatively low compared to that of high gloss, the impact only very slight at this moment in time.” While Graeme Smith, senior designer at PWS counters: “Matt continues to grow in popularity but I don’t think it has overtaken high gloss or is likely to in the foreseeable future.” In fact, it may simply be the upturn in the market which is increasing sales across the board, so all furniture finishes are experiencing growth. Jintendra Mistry explains: “TKC’s sales are increasing generally so, whilst sales of matt furniture are on the up, this is not at the expense of high gloss. As the economy begins to recover, we are seeing increased sales across the board.”

Perhaps it’s still too early to tell the impact of matt on the high gloss door, although there are indications that in time, this could be the way the market trends. Sales director of Lubina, Emma Rose comments: “I agree satin matt finishes won’t take over from high gloss for the immediate future, but we have found that some consumers are now requesting matt because they’ve had gloss previously and see this as the next step. Therefore there may be the possibility for those who perhaps bought a gloss kitchen and have moved house, now wish to opt for the matt option because they still want a modern finish but not gloss again.” And her view is echoed by Barry O’Brien of Vama Cucine who states: “Matt lacquer is definitely of noticeably growing interest. We are currently quoting for our first new build contract which has specified matt lacquer.” Although he adds “ I think we currently one have one studio actually displaying matt lacquer.”

Certainly matt finishes are going to be the ones to watch in the future for designers and kitchen showrooms alike.  As Eddie Streader of Nolte concludes: “There is definitely a future for matt lacquer within the industry and this will grow over the coming years’ ahead in line with interior trends.”

The full article appears in the October 2014 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News.