Every March, the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City draws about 40,000 design connoisseurs who come to interact with luxury brands and designers in kitchen, bath and home furnishings, as well as carefully curated, hand-crafted accessories and art pieces. The show never fails to offer design insights and resources geared toward an opulent target market, and this year was no exception.
Whether your market is that extravagant one or not, the ideas provide great design inspiration. Following are some of the sound bites and trends from this year’s show.
ABOUT THE SHOW
One thing that makes this show unique is that, along with a section devoted mainly to kitchen and bath products and design concepts, it is also very much about home furnishings, art and accessories, and finishing materials and products, from both independent makers and established manufacturers. It’s a great opportunity to source and shop for that unique finishing detail you didn’t know you needed, as well as exclusive offerings from the sources you already know.
The AD Apartment, this year done by Jamie Drake and Caleb Anderson and intended as a contemporary loft, was described as “sophisticated but budget conscious,” and it was a good source of design detail concepts, with deep amethyst walls contrasted with white cabinetry and floors and lots of texture that really made the kitchen the focal point of the apartment (https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/drake-anderson-ad-apartment-architectural-digest-design-show). In addition, there were culinary demonstrations, seminars and special appearances – and because of the emphasis on luxury and bespoke art and accessories, the show also provides an opportunity to see the kitchen and bath from that very different perspective.
THIS YEAR’S THEME
An overriding theme this year was “beautiful, unexpected and extra-functional,” and a somewhat “non-kitchen” example was the amazing little wireless projector (Portable Ultra Short Throw Projector by Sony, $999, sony.com) at 3″x5″x5″, that could stream a picture bigger than most TV screens. Imagine pulling this high definition projector out of your briefcase and presenting your conceptual drawings to your clients, using their wall as a big screen. In the kitchen and bath, the show’s theme translated to recurring messages focused mainly on personalization, with additional emphasis on extreme convenience, connected technology and lighting.
Along the lines of personalization and extreme convenience, appliance options from most luxury brands have increased exponentially, and this was apparent in many of the exhibits. One stand-out was a 30″-wide column that included beverage storage in the upper 2/3, with two drawers behind the door providing one section of refrigerator temperatures and one of freezer (Sub-Zero).
Not a new concept but one with growing options from multiple manufacturers is that of 24″-wide oven offerings, and more than one manufacturer presented ovens with equal heights as well, so that a section of mid-height cabinetry might include a coffee maker with cup warmer drawer, a steam oven with warming drawer and an oven adjacent, of equal dimensions and designed into the cabinetry at comfortable heights.
As designers, we’ve seen that the mantra for cooking appliances, “bigger is better,” is shifting to an interest in smaller, modular elements for ovens and cooking surfaces. When the budget is generous, these modules allow for personal preferences and for multiple locations, which can serve a large or a smaller space. Displays of these products also included ventilation systems sized down to coordinate with the smaller cooking modules. Unforgettable were the leather-faced refrigerator columns (JennAir, limited time offer, supplied by them), and many ranges in saturated colors in addition to the black stainless showing up everywhere.
Beyond the appliances, cabinet vignettes continued to show incredible accessorization for individualized storage, and for the “beautiful, unexpected and extra-functional,” bins and brackets planned into the back six inches of the counter/backsplash, or in the center of an island, something we’ve seen in European design for some time. Also noteworthy were the mechanical or automated moving parts and the frequent use of lighted interiors. The infusion of metals into cabinet aesthetics spread to fittings and hardware as well, with matte black, black stainless and gold making the strongest statements. Open shelves, particularly in these metal finishes, were abundant.
Technology continued to be everyone’s story, and while most features were not new since KBIS, technology continues to show enhanced features. The message at this show was focused on connected smart home systems and voice-activation. The show stealers were intelligent connected appliances, able to communicate with a smart hub, a central spot from which home systems like lighting, security and climate are managed. Speaking of extreme convenience, one smart refrigerator, with a family hub that includes a touchscreen on the front and cameras inside, worked in conjunction with a grocery-related app, making it possible to check the fridge from remote locations, and then order whatever is needed, delivered right to the door. As the name implies, the fridge can also connect to other devices in the home, supporting streaming onto its screen or playing music through its speakers.
Perhaps because this was a place where artists and craftspeople were showing, or where the luxury lighting was created for more than the kitchen and bath, the lighting options were amazing. Predominantly LED sourced, fixtures ranged from pearl-like draped ropes of light on wall or ceiling brackets (www.lukelampco.com) to custom forged steel and glass statements (www.HubbardtonForge.com), The theme of “beautiful, unexpected and extra-functional,” was apparent in much more, such as the London-based paint company, Mylands, with a paint that included ground marble to give it an incredible and scrubable finish (www.Mylands.com), or the indoor/outdoor surface material, WoodForm Concrete (www.woodformconcrete.com), and my personal favorite, a beautiful antique oak wood floor panel, made by hand in Italy with brass and steel inlays (www.pidfloors.com). These choices certainly speak to that desire for the unique, and the exhibitor directory from the show would make a great resource list (addesignshow.com/about/exhibitors/).
Certainly, we need the tools, concepts, products and know-how that we build in our profession. After many years attending KBIS, I am still always picking up new information and ideas, but sometimes I find myself collecting design ideas not from the show, but from the hotels and restaurants because, beyond the basics, good design also needs to be inspired, and hotels and restaurants often offer a new source or perspective. The Architectural Digest Design Show provides a good dose of that motivation, and I hope this taste of it has roused your creative energy. ▪