Design Without Borders
The culture of Europe is rooted in art and architecture, so it’s no surprise that designers often find inspiration there. But in a world where the internet makes any place on the planet just a click away, international influences have increasingly transcended borders, and that’s impacting everything from design and technology to energy efficiency, wellness trends and more.
Designers, long used to taking fashion cues from Europe, now find inspiration worldwide, and that continues to have an impact on the kitchen and bath industry. Of course not all global trends translate to the U.S. and Canadian markets, but savvy designers are finding ways to interpret global trends to best suit the needs of their fashion-conscious clients.
Most recently, the Hackettstown, NJ-based National Kitchen & Bath Association has jumped on the global bandwagon with a newly created international community of kitchen and bath industry professionals, called NKBA Global Connect (see related story, Page 52).
There’s no question that international influences are increasingly inspiring designers here. Indeed, California-based designer and author Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, sees Europe as a goldmine for design ideas, and says global trends have long had a powerful influence on her. She notes, “I’ve been traveling to European trade shows for the past eight years, and am always impressed by the level of design, quality and innovation I see there.”
Gold believes that following global trends is also a good way to “preview” the future, explaining, “Many of the products on display by the larger brands do make their way to the U.S. in six to 12 months.” However, she admits, “new trends and materials tend to take more time to catch on here. An example would be thin porcelain slabs for countertops and shower walls, which I first saw in Europe on my earliest trips.”
Robin Rigby Fisher, CMKBD, CAPS, of the Portland, OR-based Robin Rigby Fisher also likes to travel overseas to find design inspiration. She says, “I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Europe for the last three years. Each time I attended some sort of design event – the Cosentino [event], EuroCucina (and Milan Design Week) and next week I leave for a week in Valencia, Spain attending Cevisama (Spain’s tile and stone show). What I’m most influenced by in my travels is the European comfort with using multiple materials in the same room. I have always embraced this philosophy, but the Europeans bring it to an even higher art form.”
Rigby Fisher also cites “the higher use of man-made materials (laminate and quartz) and using natural materials as an accent” as global trends that influence her work here in the U.S. She says, “Since natural materials are a resource that’s becoming more challenging to obtain (i.e. clear grain wood, granites, marbles), it makes sense that we use these products more sparingly. [And] it’s easier to sell this concept to our clients as man-made materials are easier to maintain and keep looking fresh. The global influence I have retained and applied to my work is that each material is precious and should be used accordingly.”
Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, NCIDQ, CKD, CBD, and owner of the Vero Beach, FL-based Patricia Davis Brown Designs, LLC also takes a global perspective into her designs, stating, “I am influenced by the world.” She is passionate about applying shapes and textures to her designs, and is always looking for inspiration – which makes travel an essential part of her design journey.
She explains, “Global travel offers me the chance to see old architecture that influences today’s trends. Most trends begin in Europe, which is where design began.” For that reason, she feels it’s important to attend the international shows and keep an eye out for trends that will come to the U.S. so she can stay ahead of the curve.
“As a designer,” she continues, “it is my job to stay on trend for my clients. I never want to finish a design on a new project that isn’t fresh.”
However, she also works to apply the trends she sees in a unique way, explaining, “I never repeat a look over and over again; that’s boring. I let trends inspire me, but I do not copy them.” As an example, she cites a coastal design project where she created back-painted glass and mixed it with mahogany panels for a featured wall. “Mixing unexpected materials that are trending is a way to do that.”
She notes that her next planned trip will be to the international tile show in Spain “because tile trends influence my designs in a big way. Tile adds textures and color to the space that I play off of with other elements in the room.”
TRENDS THAT RESONATE
While every market is different and not all global trends will resonate with consumers in the U.S and Canada, some trends seem more likely to bridge the international divide, designers agree.
Davis Brown notes, “Warm tones are running rampant in global design trends and I think they will continue to do so. I am seeing golds and bronze in lighting fixtures and furniture. All the luxury appliance brands are showing graphite stainless appliances, which are a huge indicator [of where things are going].”
Gold also notes, “The international market is ahead of us on wellness.” Gold, who at press time was headed off to IMM Cologne, said, “I expect to see quite a bit of that at the show, as I have at past European shows. I also expect to see new storage innovations, which are always hot there. And I expect to see some innovative new uses of LEDs, too, which will especially appeal to my fellow Californians.”
Rigby Fisher cited smaller appliances as one global trend that she expects to resonate with designers and consumers here, along with more energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Other global trends she sees as having universal appeal include “using precious materials as a place of honor, i.e. a small amount of stone in a prominent location (an island and quartz around the perimeter) or clear grain wood as an accent.” She adds, “One of my favorite things I saw at EuroCucina was the use of hardware (knobs, pulls and towel storage) as jewelry! It [was] so incredibly pretty! I also liked how open shelves were used sparingly and not like they are still being used here – again, used as an accent to showcase our clients’ precious items.” She also noted “art in the kitchen and bath” as a favorite trend that’s gaining traction here, along with greenery/live plants used in the kitchen or bath. ▪