Just as in the world of fashion, the 1980s came alive again in kitchens at the 2006 Eurocucina Italian Furniture Fair, held in Milan earlier this year. The dominant theme seemed to be retro – with looks reminiscent of design styles ranging from the 1950s to the 1980s. However, these looks were also punctuated with up-to-the-minute modular appliances such as independent ice and water units (sans refrigerators) and Japanese Teppanyaki grills.
Indeed, while everything old might be new again, technology was well represented, not only in the various displays, but at the FTK Technology for the Kitchen, located alongside the show and featuring some 16 exhibitors.
With 141 exhibitors from 20 countries and Italy, the biannual kitchen event drew nearly 225,000 trade visitors – more than half from overseas – as well as a host of major European kitchen product manufacturers, showcasing a wide array of exciting design and product trends. Additionally, a new International Bathroom Exhibition with 135 exhibitors was added to make the event even more appealing to kitchen and bath professionals.
What we Americans still call European styling – that is flat slab doors with C-channels and J-channels – was one of the newest looks evident throughout the exhibits. Doors with ribbed acrylic and scored woods were reintroduced, reminiscent of the first white Allmilmo cabinets that came into the U.S. 25 years ago.
Along with the reintroduction of the ’80s look came a general return to glitz in finishing materials. Gloss laminates and acrylic were reintroduced, and stainless steel and glass were used in both countertops and cabinet doors.
One intriguing novelty cabinet finish was soft leather, introduced by Snaidero.
Cabinetry colors included white acrylic or laminate with charcoal washed oak; beiges and taupes combined with highly figured woods; lime green and orange as seen in past years, plus black and white gloss acrylics.
Cabinets featured large integrated hardware, the C-channel and J-channel, rather then surface-mounted pulls. However, such integral hardware is not readily transferable to the North American market because of custom cabinetry sizing.
Cabinet door styling continued to be full-overlay slab construction. Many doors were finished with an aluminum framing to allow center panel material flexibility.
Cabinet finishes featured the look of highly figured woods including ebony, zebra, horizontal cherry, horizontal European oak and burled wood. Upon close inspection, it appeared that many of these were reconstituted woods for environmental concerns. This type of highly figured wood worked very well with thick PVC edge tape or an aluminum frame around the slab door. Often the woods were scored.
Taking conservation even further, Alno introduced a door program based on a patented ink-jet process that prints exotic woodgrains onto a controlled-growth wood substrate. The Alnoart Woodline program offers three book-matched veneer grain patterns – Brazilian Rosewood, Zebra and Beech Heart – all on an aluminium-encased, controlled growth, natural beech foundation. This technology can not only print from over 150 stock images and graphics, but also from personal photos or images provided by the consumer.
The general shape and configuration of the kitchens themselves tended toward minimal use of wall cabinets, with storage provided in long, continuous walls of tall cabinets. A common design motif was an open square metal frame with eased corners holding up an extended counter or attaching a hood to the ceiling.
Crisply designed, commonly sized appliance modules of ovens, coffee makers, ice/water dispensers, microwaves and even televisions, were often incorporated at eye level like building blocks into a clean horizontal line within tall cabinet elevations. Even a small “undercounter” modular refrigerator was used in this type of application. Similarly, these appliances were also aligned in mid-high cabinet sections typically 60"-64" tall.