Sleek, European Modernism Forecasted for American Homes

American homes are "finally catching up" to their counterparts in Europe when it comes to seeking sleek, modern kitchen design.

However, the growing desire for modern European styling goes far beyond smooth edges and space-age veneers, with Americans "seeking to combine the ease of use of modern ergonomic design with the warmth of contemporary natural woods, stone and marble – as well as the technology of a gourmet chef's kitchen."

That's the forecast of HGTV's resident kitchen design expert, Arthur Tanturri, a 28-year veteran of custom kitchen design, cabinetmaking, installation and apartment renovation. Tanturri is the owner of Chelsea Fine Custom Kitchens, the exclusive Manhattan showroom for the Italian-made cabinet line Effeti, as well as Plato cabinetry. A regular guest on HGTV's Kitchen Trends 2005, Tanturri shares his design insights with cable TV audiences across the country.

Known as "The Kitchen Connoisseur," Tanturri sees the following contemporary European kitchen design trends crossing the Atlantic in the future:

  • An expanded inventory of custom cabinet colors and finishes. According to Tanturri, the European contemporary style "allows designers and clients to dare to be unique, [so they can] be inspired by an apple green matte lacquer or a fuchsia laminate."
  • Glass, glass and more glass. Frosted-glass wall cabinets are steadily gaining in popularity, Tanturri notes, pointing to his own client base which includes homeowners, architects and contractors in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The cabinets, he says, "add a touch of elegance to the design, and also incorporate well into a kitchen that's open to the dining or living room."
  • Granite and marble remaining the most popular materials for countertops. However, Tanturri says he sees a trend for less polished "honed" finishes. Honed countertops such as Chelsea Kitchen's acid-etched countertops, "have a more natural, warm finish that blend ideally into contemporary homes." Italian glass from Florence is another hot new trend for countertops, Tanturri observes.
  • Stone backsplashes designed to match the countertops. A classic European design element, they help to tie together the countertop and wall space, as well as provide an easy-to-clean surface for spills and splatters, Tanturri says.
  • Convenience. In fact, it's essential, according to Tanturri. Large drawers are replacing the double-door base cabinet, enabling easier access to stored items in the back of a cabinet, he stresses. "Flip-up wall cabinets are also very stylish and convenient, allowing access to the entire cabinet with just one door in one smooth motion, as opposed to opening two doors for the same result," he further observes.
  • More rare and precious materials. European design has also sparked a desire for these types of materials, such as African wenge wood. Recognizing that African wenge is a scarce natural resource, Effeti produces oak-based cabinets with the characteristic rich, dark wenge finish, Tanturri points out.
  • Custom touches. For even the staunchest design traditionalists, custom touches such as fully automated, self-cleaning, built-in espresso machines are the order of the day, says Tanturri.

In fact, he notes that he has also seen a large increase in health-conscious clientele with a growing interest in woks, as well as counter grill units and steam ovens – both of which can be used to prepare healthier dishes, such as grilled fish or steamed vegetables.