Offering clean lines, high-level function and contemporary
styling, singular and modular kitchen and bath products from Italy
are now making headway in the U.S.
BY BARBARA CAPELLA LOEHR
Europe has always been fashion-forward, innovating products and
designs that make the whole world stop and take note. Italy, in
particular, has been a beacon for not only fashion trends, but for
design trends especially those in the kitchen and bath.
Italian kitchen and bath products offer the contemporary look
and clean lines that have been increasingly embraced over the past
few years by the U.S. kitchen and bath market, note Italian
manufacturers. As a result, it’s no wonder that at the recent K/BIS
in Chicago, the companies exhibiting their wares within the Italian
Trade Commission’s (ITC) pavilion made a huge splash.
Other European companies, such as Silestone by Cosentino, Abet
Laminati, Zucchetti, Mobara, Valsan Bathrooms, Porcher, AGA and
Enterprise Ireland which represents such Irish firms as Vitra Tiles
and The Tipperary Furniture Co. also exhibited at the show in
response to this growing demand for European kitchen and bath
products. These companies, and those companies under the ITC
umbrella such as Lady Cucine Srl, Jetair s.r.l., Mina, Brandoni, La
Torre and PDP Box Doccia S.p.A., to name a few are enjoying a
greater demand for their sleek, minimalist products, say European
Their products, along with many others that are coming out of
Europe, showcase contemporary styling that features design
simplicity and high function.
And while many of these singular products can be mixed and
matched for an “unfussy,” eclectic look, many more are being
grouped as modular products, and as product suites.
For years many companies
stateside have been importing an increasing number of Italian and
other European products such as cabinetry, faucets, plumbing
fixtures and tile. Still many others have been bringing their
contemporary-style products directly to the U.S. The number is
now becoming greater due to the increasing demand for kitchen and
bath products that are contemporary and streamlined, note Italian
Indeed, an “understated modern look with clean lines, natural
woods and finishes or natural countertop materials” from Europe,
and especially from Italy, is gaining ground stateside, notes Lisa
Nemrow, principal with Boston-MA-based Bis Bis. The company offers
such kitchen and bath products as cabinetry, countertops and
plumbing fixtures that are all designed and produced in Italy by
companies such as Vetraria Toscana 2 (VT2).
However, adds Nemrow, “traditionalism is creeping back
in.”Giorgio Ameri and Annabella Ameri of Melbourne, FL-based
Maverick International Trading and Consulting, Inc., concur, noting
that while “contemporary design and minimalism are what the
European trends are presently showing strongly for kitchens and
baths the traditional-style kitchen and bath have always had their
Maverick, which also has offices in Italy and Russia, represents
seven Italian kitchen and bath manufacturers Caleido/ Co.Ge.Fin.
Srl., Rubinetteria Giulini Giovanni SNC, Nouve Linee Bagno, Red
Line SRL, I Valentini SRL, Speedy Idee Casa SNC and Zappalorto SRL
in the U.S. Giorgio Ameri is Maverick’s CEO, while Annabella Ameri
is the firm’s president and director of marketing and trade.
The Ameris add: “The bath, on the other hand, is recently living
a new life, thanks to a very modern design, which is getting closer
and closer to the aesthetics of the kitchen’s.”
The ITC also sees the interest in both the traditional and
contemporary segments, noting the latest tile trends for each.
“Clean, modernist spaces are enhanced by state-of-the-art,
through-body porcelains in a wide range of modular formats and
colors. Cool neutral shades, elongated rectangular formats and
rectified edges create simple, sophisticated looks,” says the ITC,
which cites Ceramica Viva’s XiloBlack, Casalgrande Padana’s Meteor,
Fap Ceramiche’s Vision and CO.EM’s Lab-One tiles as examples of
As for traditional tile looks, the ITC points to a range of
styles that encompass everything from “classic terracotta looks to
intricately patterned surfaces in warm blues and yellows.” It lists
Vietri Antico’s Puolo and Paipo, Eco Ceramica’s Villa Romane,
Astor’s Cotto d’Epoca and Cerim’s Ricordi-Cuoio tiles as
The overall trend toward contemporary-style Italian products, in
particular, can be attributed to the appeal of the creativity
contemporary design allows, states Antonio Musso, president of
Marblehead, MA-based Italbrass/Mondo Brass, Inc., which offers
faucetry and sinks from Italian companies such as EVEN Design,
Confalonieri, spa, and OPEN Kristallix, spa.
For example, he cites square design as a new trend making
headway in the U.S.: “It’s very big in Europe now, and it’s
becoming big here.”
This sleek, contemporary look is something that Italy and the
rest of Europe have been showcasing for years in kitchen and bath
products to varying degrees, say European manufacturers. They
believe the growing affinity for this contemporary style stateside
can also be attributed to the fact that consumers are seeking less
clutter in their lives.
Most of the hot looks out of Europe, and Italy in particular,
are characterized by a simple, compact, minimalist design that
“features smooth lines with attention to detail,” says David
Burchnall, v.p. of Wilmington, NC-based Danesmoor USA, LLC, which
represents three Italian cabinet component companies Mobilclan
Industries Spa, Friul Intagli Spa and 3B and one Italian lighting
company DOMUS Line.
Amy Napoleone agrees with that assessment, adding: “The U.S.
market adds a retro look to the minimalist qualities of the
European market. This well-edited ‘retro’ look adds the warmth
Americans seek.” She represents EX: Inc., a New York City, NY-based
firm that offers a variety of Italian kitchen and bath
That retro look Napoleone cites is taking “two to three routes,”
says Richard Moss, American Standard’s and Porcher’s U.K.-based
communication manager for Europe. “For one, there’s a simpler
version of what we saw years ago, and another direction it’s going
is characterized by the mixing of 1950s and 1960s styles and
colors,” he explains.
Going natural also seems to be
going hand-in-hand with the majority of the hot contemporary
European kitchen and bath products, say manufacturers.
According to Napoleone, in terms of tile and other surfacing
products from Italy and the rest of Europe, the natural look is in.
In particular, she points to “natural stone in softer brushed
finishes, glass mosaics in a variety of colors, sizes and finishes,
natural colors, glass tiles and tongue-and-groove plank cork
flooring” as popular products.
“In general, we are doing a lot more with natural materials, in
both custom and semi-custom production,” adds Nemrow.
Overall, Nemrow is seeing the increased use of metals, woods and
glass combined in natural applications, along with more natural
finishes and more earthy or spicy color palettes as leading trends
in Italian kitchen and bath products. More specifically, among the
leading trends in Italian countertop products that she sees is the
use of stone in unique applications, as well as the use of
concrete, lava stone and glass in unusual applications.
Moss points to an increased interest in lighter woods and
metallics. And “stainless steel that has been in the kitchen for 10
years is taking off in the bath now,” he adds.
As for color in the bath, Moss believes that while white is the
preferred color for plumbing fixtures because it represents the
color of simplicity, “colors are beginning to emerge mainly from
Italy that are a little 1950s-ish, but are combined with beautiful,
“Great attention is devoted to sink (washbasin) novelties, both
[with regard to] contemporary/ modern and the traditional/classic
styles that contribute to the set-up of the character of both the
kitchen and bath. Resins are [frequently] used, but so is real
stone, or a mix of various materials recalling the production of
years past that is reworked in a modern manner,” note the Ameris,
who add that there’s increased interest in designer faucets. They
point to the growing popularity of the Giulini brand as an example
of this trend.
Nemrow also notes the current popularity of cast and cut-stone
sinks. However, Musso sees glass as a still-popular choice for
In terms of cabinetry, Nemrow says the mantra of clean lines and
natural finishes and colors reigns supreme now. While there are
more traditional elements such as beadboard being applied to the
cabinetry Bis Bis is producing today,
Nemrow says that “cleaner lines are in playWe are not seeing a
lot of frills or embellishment.”
Based on the reception of the Italian cabinet components
Danesmoor offers, Burchnall believes there is an interest in not
only natural woods and natural finishes, but also in high-gloss
finishes and wrapped cabinet components that mimic the look of
For example, he says, while there’s a demand for solid wood
components, which Mobilclan currently offers in popular wood
species such as “knotty” European oak, there’s a demand for
five-piece doors and drawer fronts wrapped in foils, PVCs and true
veneers that Friul Intagli offers in looks that mimic cherry, dark
and light walnut, and European oak. Burchnall also points to the
interest in high-gloss finishes that mimic woodgrains, such as
those from 3B that mimic the look of cherry and birch.
While singular European kitchen
and bath products that exude simplicity and high function are hot
stateside, many modular products and product suites from Europe are
gaining ground because they make creating one cohesive design
easier, note European manufacturers.
For instance, “we are getting good response on modular
[cabinetry] units, with free-standing columns and appliance units.
These have a contemporary look with traditional accents,” offers
Nemrow. These also feature lighting, countertop and tile options.
In terms of showers, Bis Bis is “also doing a lot more with
integrated systems” that include, for instance, a Corian shower pan
paired with an Italian-made glass enclosure and showerhead.
In addition to the modular design Nemrow cites, Musso also sees
product suites becoming big in the U.S. “In Europe we are matching
everything, from accessories and sinks to faucets and lights. It’s
the very trendy thing right now,”
he says, noting that, in response, Italbrass/Mondo Brass, Inc.
offers a suite design.
In the same vein as suite design, Moss notes a movement toward
offering a range of products divided into categories defined by
lifestyle. As he explains: “There’s a movement toward designing
more by customer lifestyle, as evidenced by those designs coming
out of France and Germany. So, we are designing a range products
that fit different lifestyles and tastes, such as Feng Shui, loft
living, classical and retro.”
Moss cites “criss-cross design” as another result of designing
for customers’ varied lifestyles. “Marc Sadler, one of our
designers, would design a tub or a lav or faucet, and give
customers choices for what they want and make that into a
collection,” he says.
Moss also believes there will be further experimentation with
modular bath design from Europe in the future, with individual
shower, lavs, etc. that can all be mixed and matched.
As for future trends,
European manufacturers say they are noticing an ever-growing
for European kitchen and bath products in the U.S., due to their
design and advanced
In fact, Moss believes that five years from now, European bath
design, and bath design overall, will “probably be driven by
technology. There is a lot of experimentation with that now. There
will be showering done through technology, faucet design will
incorporate new technology and even the way lighting is done and
materials are worked will be influenced by new technology.”
There will also be a move toward even more ergonomic design in
the bath, he adds, with larger tubs and showers being designed
exactly for the person using them.
While Musso and Burchnall both believe the crystal ball is a
little too cloudy to truly predict the next hot European kitchen
and bath products and trends, they do also offer some thoughts.
Musso believes that the most innovative designs from Italy, in
particular, will continue to make headway in the U.S, and, more
specifically, he ventures that “square design will last for a
couple of years.”
Burchnall believes that the next new design challenge the
Italians will take on is reconstituted leather as a finish for slab
cabinetry doors, but whether it will be the next “hot” item still
remains to be seen.
But while individual trends may vary, it seems clear that
European products will continue to make headway in the U.S. as
American consumers continue to value the kind of high style most
often associated with European design. “Americans have always been
fascinated with Europe for the high quality of European products
and the history behind them,” note the Ameris.
It is because of that fascination that Italian products, in
particular, will continue to punctuate the U.S. kitchen and bath
landscape, the Ameris note. In fact, they believe, over the next
five years, Italian kitchen and bath products will penetrate more
of “the top fascia of the market.” KBDN