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Trends from LivingKitchen 2019

This year’s LivingKitchen event showcased non-traditional surfaces, customization in everything from storage features to faucet colors, integrated technology and plenty of greenery.

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The first LivingKitchen trade show of kitchen products and trends took place at the large imm cologne show in Germany eight years ago. It was a successful odd-numbered year counterpart to Salone del Mobile’s popular EuroCucina show every even-numbered year in Milan.

With the addition of this European show, global specifiers, designers, contractors and builders can now gorge on kitchen gear every year, and 150,000 of them from 145 different countries did in January, despite frigid German temps.

This year, in a nod toward increasing its ties to the international kitchen and bath industry, the National Kitchen & Bath Association, led by Executive V.P. Suzie Williford, took a Global Connect group of design professionals and press (myself included) to Cologne for the show and meetings with German manufacturers.

Here are the trends spotted in LivingKitchen’s four exhibit halls, including some that will be familiar to those who attended the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show this past February in Las Vegas. That is not a huge surprise. German sink and faucet maker BLANCO’s U.S. executive, Tim Maicher, observed in one of the manufacturer meetings that trends are crossing the ocean faster these days – in both directions. Asked for an example, Maicher responded by noting the increasing popularity of farmhouse sinks in European kitchens. Those could pair very well with the first trend noted below.

Modern country was a big trend at LivingKitchen.

Styles

Among the modern gray kitchens seen throughout the show floor were some lovely transitional offerings, many in glossy cream. Some brands called it “modern country,” others “modern shaker” or “modern classic.” Lacquers were extremely popular for these.

Open contrasting drawers and shelves built into cabinetry were also popular this year, and gave their kitchens a fresh, unique look. These could easily find their way into North American showrooms this year or next.

Natural inspirations

Plants made a strong showing in Cologne. They were built into islands, peninsulas and wall shelves. Drainage and lighting were accounted for, as well. Nobilia, one of the largest cabinet companies in Germany, showed off wall shelves with grow lights for plants. Italian manufacturer Aran Cucine brought its unique, multi-functional island concept with a dwarf lemon tree in the center to the show, as well. (It debuted at EuroCucina last year.)

Plant features are trending strongly this year.

German brand Leicht was also showing plants in its cabinets. (Not at the show, but also showing plant features in their cabinetry are notable European brands Scavolini and SieMatic, pointing to a powerful trend.)

Expect to see more of this type of offering in the U.S. and Canada, as wellness-oriented millennials – a growing segment of the domestic home-buying market – are a strong component of the plant-buying market, as well.   

Non-traditional surfaces

European brands are boldly playing with non-traditional cabinet materials. It’s not unusual to see porcelain cabinet fronts, as well as tops, and ceramic brands Neolith from Spain and Italian Florim showed these in their booths. (These showed up at KBIS the next month, too.)

German kitchen companies Nolte and Ballerina Küchen were blending concrete into their surfaces for contemporary cabinet styles. Finished cabinet interiors were also popular at the show, with an emphasis on dark gray tones.

Fenix, a velvety surface blending high-pressure laminate with solid surface (imagine Formica and Corian having a high-tech love child), also showed up in the Ballerina booth, as did the company’s new writable Smart Glass surface that can clad cabinets with gloss and creativity. Glass showed up on countertops from both Nolte and Leicht, as well.

Nolte also displayed a lacquer finish with metal pigments for magnet use. It’s exciting to see a wider range in materials for cabinetry and tops, especially those that offer low maintenance and durability.

Customization gets playful in an urban faucet and accessories suite.

Customization

Writable surfaces weren’t the only evidence of creativity or customization at LivingKitchen. Nobilia showed off a peninsula that could be easily raised or lowered to a user’s preference at the touch of a button. This has huge potential for accessibility and family members ranging in height from young children to super-tall adults.

Ballerina showed off an ingenious base cabinet drawer box that can be lifted out of the cabinet as easily as a storage bin from a cubicle. This is a very creative way to store kids’ toys or ingredients you might want to have on the counter while you prepare a meal. It also looks really cool.

Customization also showed up in BLANCO’s booth, with a playful series of faucets that can wear green, yellow or orange cladding, and coordinating accessories.

Induction goes high tech with burners built into the countertop.

Technology

European brands, like their American counterparts, are looking at technology integration. SapienStone and Fiandre, two Italian porcelain tile brands, were showcasing Spain-based TPB Tech’s built-in induction technology in their booths. This innovation, which incorporates induction burners right into the porcelain countertop surface, is finally making its way to the U.S. after numerous visits to European shows. (It was on display at several KBIS booths the next month, signaling imminent availability.)

Ballerina dedicated a section of its booth to a Digital Kitchen, with cameras in the pantry, as well as the refrigerator, and voice control for lighting and cabinet doors. These could be helpful for those with vision or mobility limitations. The company is looking to offer a kitchen drone next year to potentially simplify meal prep. This, too, can have tremendous potential for someone with physical challenges (but might be, shall we say, challenging for parents with playful children or teens).

Last words

If you haven’t yet, it’s worth the splurge to visit a European design show. It will give you ideas and inspiration for your projects, and some of the exhibiting brands export to the U.S. and Canada, so you can start specifying what you see on display. EuroCucina (and its companion bath show) will be held again in Milan from April 21 to 26, 2020. LivingKitchen will be back in Cologne from January 18 to 24, 2021. ▪

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