In an increasingly global society, examining design trends from overseas can often provide innovative ideas for kitchen and bath designers here in the U.S. Indeed, simply reimagining and reinterpreting European design ideas can often lead to a wealth of creative design inspirations – and solutions.
This was evident at the 2010 EuroCucina Fair, held in Milan, Italy this past April during the same week as the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago. Some U.S. designers attended the show early, planning on returning to Chicago. Others planned to attend EuroCucina after spending a day or so at KBIS. Needless to say, volcano ash changed many travel plans! However, attendance was unexpectedly high at EuroCucina, and the Fair was brimming with creative design presentations.
The Milan Fair was housed in four multi-story buildings. Italian kitchen cabinet manufacturers presented their collections in oversized booths (stands). It should be noted that the show was not just a product exhibition – it was also a showcase of ideas: some shared with the public, others carefully guarded. The exhibits were huge enclosed spaces with some of the new innovative products presented in the public part of the floor space. As much as half of the space was then reserved for design/business firms that represent the company.
In a restaurant-like setting, business was conducted as the details of new products were presented, and display orders were taken. One overall comment: it is amazing how common themes were seen throughout the competitive stands. It was almost as though a memo went out to everyone highlighting what the key design trends would be, or types of product innovations presented.
These enormous display spaces focused almost exclusively on the cabinetry the manufacturer produces. Very few appliances were included in these total room settings. Typically, an oven – or a series of cooking appliances – appeared in some of the displays, along with a cooktop and a hood. If refrigeration was included at all, it was carefully tucked away inside a pantry. Under-cabinet appliances were non-existent. U.S.-sized microwave ovens were not part of any of the displays.
This approach to the displays allowed the cabinet companies to present new and innovative storage systems, functional hardware, decorative hardware, finishes and styles without being encumbered by the limits of a more realistic working room setting.
Therefore, designers visiting the Fair learned to consider how they might adapt a new idea to a space currently under development.
Cabinet Storage Details
At this year’s show, key design details noted by those attending included the following:
- Mechanized, functional hardware within the cabinetry. Cabinet doors that opened and closed themselves were evident, as were televisions that lifted out of a counter, down from a cabinet or moved left to right. Large, oversized floor-to-ceiling glass or veneer doors that bypassed other doors manually or in a mechanized fashion were also seen. Tambour doors that were automated were on display as well.
- Imaginative uses of the backsplash space. Unique solutions to backsplash spaces were highlighted. Sizing deeper base cabinets so a storage ledge can be created in the backsplash area was one solution. Storage units recessed in the backsplash area and then concealed by doors (that lifted up behind the wall cabinets to provide access) were suggested. Storage systems that dropped down from behind wall cabinets, or extended up from behind base cabinets, was another unique approach to use the space between the countertop and wall cabinets.
- An intriguing new approach to accessibility. Several manufacturers introduced small, compact kitchens that were literally concealed behind tall doors (that neatly stacked out of the way in a sophisticated pocket when the kitchen was in use). In other cases, long walls of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry provided accessible storage, offering an alternative to wall cabinets.