An exciting decade lies ahead for manufacturers of composite panel-based residential and office furniture, kitchen cabinets, store fixtures and organizational units.

This issue of Surface & Panel offers plenty of support for that view.

In the Ahlstrom-Munksjö feature that begins on page 56, Executive Vice President of Décor Norbert Mix points out that while Europe and North America have similar populations, the demand for décor paper in North America is only one-tenth of the demand in Europe.

Wait a minute, I thought when I first saw the story. Did I read that right? I read it again. I then asked Editorial Director Scott Angus to double check with Norbert to make sure that’s what he meant to say in the interview. Sure enough. North America has only one-tenth the demand of Europe.

So what’s the connection? Composite panel products (read particleboard and MDF) are almost always surfaced in decorative laminates—at least 95 percent of the time anyway. Printed décor papers are used to make high pressure laminate and thermally fused laminate, and Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s base papers are used to make other paper-based surfaces, such light basis weight papers and their higher basis weight cousins, finished foils.

Think about what that means. In a world where panel processing is the fastest-growing process to make furniture, cabinets, etc., North America has been slow to adapt. The bottom line: We’ve got room to run.

I predict we will be using more décor paper than Europe on a percentage basis in the years ahead. Panel-processed products with printed décors will surge. Demographics, style preferences and manufacturing efficiencies all support panel-based products over solid wood.

In the same feature, Norbert kindly refers to the previous generation as being conservative when it comes to furniture. I’ll say it bluntly: Older Americans (like me) are slow as molasses to adapt to style changes. The thinking is “if it ain’t solid oak, I don’t want it.” It used to take 3 to 5 years for European style trends to get to my back door here in the heartland. Not any longer. Information travels quickly these days. A train is coming, and it’s coming fast.

Want more evidence that we’re ready to run? Check out “Grayling’s the Spot” beginning on page 26, which details ARAUCO’s commitment to the largest panel production plant in North America with an annual capacity of 465 million square feet. That’s a lot of board, and it will require a lot of décor paper.

Panel processing is positioned to grow like never before in North America. Architects and designers are specifying panel-processed products as laminates and other surface décors make quantum leaps in style and design. Even older Americans are embracing the beauty and contemporary nature of panel-processed products as they move from the homestead to condos and vacation homes. And it’s just the beginning. Room to run, indeed.