The idea of open shelving as an integral part of base cabinets was seen repeatedly with the use of exposed roll-out shelves.
Designers often conceived of the kitchen in two parts: one, the more public area; and the other, a more closed off work area. One example was at Poggenpohl, where a “lounge atmosphere” was dominated by a media tree. The “tree,” made up of vertical elements in the room, provided space for a modular system of socket outlets, i-Pod dock, charging station for mobile phones and a touch-screen monitor. Power LED spotlights in the floating canopy illuminated the working area. With a loudspeaker unit for the i-Pod and atmospherically colored light shining through the translucent underside, it did resemble a lounge.
As a walk-in workroom in the background was the Back Box. Folding-sliding doors opened to reveal a kitchen with the appliances, storage capability and countertops needed to prepare meals.
In the lounge area, a “dining desk” split open when needed, revealing a concealed full-length function area housing various elements such as a tray, teppanyaki grill, chopping board and containers. Two trolleys fit into the open areas at the two ends. These trolleys park under the suspended worktop of the Back Box and provide space for Corian containers, champagne coolers and teapot warmers, toaster and trays in a standardized grid.
This was just one example of the overall theme in Milan of placing much more importance on the mechanics of the room, rather then the cabinets. This was evident in the new appliance configurations, the new use of lighting systems and the continued focus on cabinet interior storage systems, as well.
The concept of protection from infection or bacteria was a highlight in several parts of the show. One European solid surface manufacturer introduced a sink that was antibacterial. Alno introduced a cabinet interior and pulls that had a similar treatment.
One very intriguing appliance introduction was a built-in water and ice dispenser as a separate unit that could be combined with a coffee maker or a wine refrigerator in a refreshment center, moving this convenience feature away from the full-size refrigerator itself.
Another appliance of note was a modular television placed on a moveable post within a frame sized to match companion ovens and other appliances
The hottest new item in cooking equipment was the sleek, smooth teppanyaki Asian-style grill built into counter surfaces.
Elongated cooktops with the burners stacked next to one another along the front edge of the countertop, rather than front and back, offered a unique solution to a small kitchen in that the cooktop (with a down draft ventilation system) could be placed in a narrower countertop.
COUNTERTOP AND SINK TRENDS
There was less marble and quartz used on countertops, but much more stainless steel and painted-back glass.
Countertops were either very thin or very thick, with square or slightly eased edges featuring a minimal overhang. Many of the overly thick countertops were simply placed on standard cabinet heights, making these tops too tall for a petite cook. For example, one top finished off at 39.5".
The most interesting new innovations were motorized tops that were suspended off the floor at 30" but could be raised to 36", providing table seating or counter work surfaces. The second approach to movable countertops were surfaces that moved to the left or right, providing a table when needed but floor space when not.
Sink combinations often featured one deep sink and one exceedingly shallow sink with some type of pull across or sliding butcher block surface.
Another sink configuration consistently seen was a very elongated oversized (but shallow) trough sink.
Lighting systems were a new and integral part of the design statement. Specialized lighting arrangements along the backsplash were common. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights were effective when built into the hood canopy. Overhead “starlight” ceilings added drama to kitchens. Changing colored lights defined the edges of countertops.