contributed by Temenouzhka Zaharieva [freelance writer / interior design student / resident of Sofia, Bulgaria]
Eurocucina, the international kitchen furniture exhibition held biannually in the molto specializzato city of Milan, is the benchmark event for the kitchen furniture industry and the highlight of the glamorous Salone Internazionale del Mobile. The event features leading Italian and foreign manufacturers, the latter coming primarily from Austria, France and Germany. The most important outcome from the last Eurocucina” Manufacturers and designers both agree… the kitchen has moved to a whole new level. Once merely a place to prepare food, today’s kitchen has developed into the place for people to congregate and socialize, and more and more, design innovations contribute to this evolution.
The kitchen is truly the center of the home. It is a transitional space for cooking, working, learning, growing, bonding, and gathering. Due to these many functions, kitchens are no longer isolated or hidden away, and this concept has inspired designers and manufacturers, shaped trends, impacted the future, and influenced quality of life.
“It’s a crossroads-sanctuary-meeting place-workplace-study,” concluded Raffaella Pollini in a press release for the event. There’s nothing remarkably new in this idea — it is familiar to most people’s childhood. Especially in smaller homes, the cucina has always been where the whole family would gather for dinner and talk, where children would do their homework, and where mothers would spend a large part of their day. (Hopefully the last will never be revived.)
What is new, however, is in the design: thoughtful and elemental spaces based on soft colors and natural materials, all of which meet homeowner’s requirements for a comfortable living space. In a time when our homes are turning into connected, highly sophisticated, controlled entertainment centers, when we increasingly prefer to stay in and invite over friends, kitchens need to become part of the living room, and this idea is reflected in many new designs. So the kitchen as living room is back, except that today it is an attractive meeting place not only for family but also for friends. A place where our social circles enjoy meeting, talking, cooking, and eating together.
- High tech: Technology is right at home in today’s kitchens, and its presence will only grow in the future. For maximum efficiency and aesthetics, multi-functional kitchen appliances and control systems hide in custom closets, allowing them to assimilate into the overall kitchen design.
- Integration: Both a functional and aesthetic revolution is enabling homeowners to reduce – or even eliminate – hanging wall units, transforming the kitchen into a refined extension of one’s living room.
- Comfort: Relaxing atmospheres are becoming ever more important, and they are brought about by highly functional details that make cooking seem less like work and more like entertainment.
- Division: There is a sharp division between the many tasks of the kitchen. Washing and cooking remain the job of the base units: stoves, ovens, sinks dishwashers. Storage, whether it be of food, cookware, dishware, or accessories, tend to be located in large closets or pantries. Rather than standing alone, refrigerators are now often concealed behind customized doors, integrating them into the surrounding architecture.
- Materials: Revival of traditional wood is evident, but in interesting combinations with steel and laminate, or paired with alternative materials like glass, ceramics, and plastics, and even high-tech materials. Like richly decorated furniture elsewhere in the home, natural materials now play a similar role in the kitchen: the wood used is dark, veined, and valuable — ebony, Indian apple tree, wengè, and anthracite stained oak, with the occasional appearance of natural or stripped oak or elm. These are paired with stone countertops, such as Jerusalem Gold, Cardoso granite, porphyry, and basalt — the last two being trend-setting options this year.
- Color: Color at the last Eurocucina revealed an abundance of grays and natural shades. But vivid primary colors remain a popular choice — like the high-gloss lacquer fronts in deep gray in one of the kitchens that Miele showed — colors that arouse the emotions.
I Nuovi Stili
Tecna by Varenna
High-tech yet relaxing atmospheres are becoming ever more important, while the strictly modular, classic approach to kitchen furnishing is taking a back seat. The distinctive trait is “hidden quality” — details give drawers extra finesse and flawlessly beveled edges finish counter tops. Technology is right at home in the kitchen: multi-functional appliances hide in closets, which are the real innovation in kitchen furnishing. These closets are linear and simple, but at the same time fully equipped, and made for custom installations.
It’s a functional and aesthetic revolution, which is enabling us to reduce or eliminate hanging wall units, transforming the kitchen into a refined, efficient, multi-faceted space. Yet the obvious display of technological achievement is not the main focus — this is a new kitchen. The choice of materials is the result of in-depth research and includes many high-tech achievements. But everything is organized as a “soft space,” and makes the kitchen the perfect place in the contemporary home for sophisticated socializing.
Fusion — Ernestomeda
Fusion by Ernestomeda, created by Castiglia Associati, is a new program for the kitchen environment that has the characteristics and personality of a domestic piece. Simple elements compose the base, to which important details are added, such as a particularly unusual door design and partitions in soft shades.
Convivium — Arclinea
The Convivium kitchen that A. Citerio designed for Arclinea combines all of the previously mentioned characteristics: an island with an integrated teak table that allows everything to be on hand, that blends hosting with cooking, and that allows each area to maintain its own distinct function. Next to the island we find the closet — a large, functional, walk-in cabin that keeps the kitchen’s busiest elements, including appliances and dishwashing and food storage areas, out of sight. Large, lacquered, fully opening side-hung doors allow the closet to be partially closed without obstructing the work path. Part of the closet serves as a pantry and may be fitted with an aluminum trolley, benchtop, and shelves.
Solaris — Ernestomeda
As the name, reminiscent of the novel, suggests, “Solaris” — again by Ernestomeda — is the model that takes us directly into the future. The counter-cum-table looks like an elegant office writing desk, even though the sink and the burners are built within.
Place — Dada
Another kitchen that’s already stepping into the future is Place by Foster and Partners for Dada. Originally created for a London locale, the design is an open and flexible system that is almost frosty in its white-glass finish. Its name is derived from the specific location of London — “the place to be” in the new millennium. A true star of contemporary architecture, Lord Norman Foster, designed it. The new system is composed of a single wall unit, free of cabinets, with a plasma screen for online connections, a series of tables with counters that can be raised or lowered electronically, a functional island, and a column with integrated appliances. Corian and glass, the featured materials, were selected to adapt to the compositional simplicity and the formal rigor of the design.
Zone Line — Boffi
Keeping in mind the new role of the kitchen as a place for social interaction, several European companies are creating “hidden” kitchens, areas that either blend seamlessly with adjoining rooms, or ones that can be completely cut off from the remaining living space without the addition of walls. Boffi’s new Zone line is a modular kitchen system that stores appliances, shelving, and so on, behind co-planar doors that either slide open accordion-style or pull open. The kitchen is concealed behind wood veneers or high-gloss polyester doors that give the room uniformity.
+INTEGRATION® by Poggenpohl
The concept of Poggenpohl’s +INTEGRATION redefines the kitchen. The system is distinguished by innovative design fronts and impressive architectural features, allowing the system to blend in easily as an extension of other living areas. Most impressively, it is intelligently networked. All building services can be controlled from a central point, including telephone communication and Internet access. Operation from an unobtrusive touch panel couldn’t be easier. Functions can also be controlled using any combination of laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs). With this new planning concept, Poggenpohl presents an idea that creates a completely new awareness of the function of a traditional kitchen. The once utopian vision of integrating design, architecture, technology, and media has now become reality. With +INTEGRATION, Poggenpohl is letting a dream take shape, once again writing a new page in furniture history.
Skyline by Snaidero
An important issue at the exhibition, as in the rest of the design world, was design for people with disabilities. This year Snaidero presented Skyline by Roberto Lucci and Paolo Orlandini. This flexible system can be adapted to any user, any space, and any need. Skyline can even be adapted to increase the independence of people with a variety of disabilities, such as wheelchair users. The kitchen has lower countertops with easily seen red profiles to ensure that everything is in easy reach. There are no wall-mounted cabinets, and base units are deeper than standard. The distinctive feature of this model is its soft form, obtained by eliminating corners and sharp edges, creating a wrap-around, single-piece countertop that provides greater safety and mobility to users. By eliminating unreachable wall cabinets and obstructive base cabinets, and by using corner turntables and multifunctional carts, this light, dynamic design ensures greater accessibility and universal use.
Single by Boffi
Compact kitchens are another notable trend. Designed by Alberto Colonello for Boffi, Single is a freestanding or wall-mounted unit with fixed dimensions that can be equipped with a sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, and cooking surface. The body is made from wood-particle panels in several finishes with an inside cover of stainless steel. The bottom portion is available with a door or a drawer, and the cover closes to create a compact block ideal for offices or small apartments.
The main design characteristics of the modern kitchen that emerged at the last Eurocucina can be summarized thus: understated elegance, hidden quality, and flexible design. Countless other interesting ideas about the kitchen of the future abounded, but they all led to the conclusion that the kitchen remains the heart of the home, yet in a whole new way. The perfectly designed, highly functional kitchen is not only a place for meals but also a space for living in and receiving guests, and can be a communications hub, a home office, and so much more.
Note: A version of this article by Temenouzhka Zaharieva first appeared in the second issue of the online interior design journal E-merge.