What a question! A few weeks ago I returned from a whirlwind trip to Germany for the IMM Cologne International design fair. My role as a designer on the Blanco America design council team landed me the trip and it was a fabulous opportunity to see first hand European design trends in furnishing designs as well as attend the Living Kitchen show which was a part of the IMM. Not only was the show eye opening with a multitude of ideas and trends that will inevitably make their way to the U.S. but what truly was unique to this trip was the chance to sit down with European industrial designers and exchange ideas about what trends were unfolding here in the states, how things differed in most of Europe, and what we could learn from each other.

Color was big especially when blended with white!

It is clear kitchen design will continue to evolve into an extension of the family room and focus on multi functional use for multi generations with an eye towards simplicity in appearance yet with well appointed function. Layers of texture, organic materials and (finally!) a keener interest in the importance of lighting design will play an important role in shaping what we will be seeing in the coming months.

In European design, multi function and multi generational living has been a prerequisite for years due to the smaller living spaces and the tendency for families to stay close by and rely on family for living support. Here, we are now seeing this more often as adult children are living at home longer to save living expenses and baby boomers are experiencing a squeeze from having to care for aging parents as well as younger children. Thus, the trend to design living spaces and most importantly, the kitchen, as a multi purpose area and to accommodate varying ages of the primary cook and the resulting specific needs, is a serious reality. And if it has not impacted you, consider that it very well might in coming years and plan for this in any future remodeling. This might translate into one level islands, varied heights of work areas, and specific use appliances such as steam ovens.

This IS laminate! I cannot wait to use this in a project...but we do not have as much of interest in laminates as there is in European design
This is NOT wood but laminate!

At the IMM show, as you might imagine, much of the design was clean and modern in style. I can honestly say I did not see one “French Country”, “Tuscan Villa” or “Shabby Chic” look anywhere. While I still have clients who embrace this aesthetic, I think that more people will begin to allow designers to introduce some sleeker organic materials into the mix. So that not every design element is rough, rustic, shabby chic, damaged and/or made to look old and worn.And about time. There is a definite life span to the contrived looks of “old and weathered” and while without a doubt, there can be great style in this comfortable realm of design, I think the trend will become to intermix these elements with more modern design features to really create a unique and individual space,and not one that has simply jumped off the pages of Restoration Hardware!

More white, modern, sleek mixed with wood tones

The importance of lighting has long been neglected in kitchen design. Homeowners often lack a strong knowledge base about the layers of lighting and the specific uses of each type of lighting, general, task and ambient, and how each can create moods that enhance the “living kitchen” concept as well as performing various tasks inherent in a productive and ergonomic kitchen space. In European design the concept of layering lighting is not new. But what was overwhelming at the show were the many ultra modern fixtures designed to be artistic in nature and not simply a source for light. Again, we can talk about multi purposes! Some of the fixtures I saw might be considered a bit eccentric for American tastes, but this is an excellent way to introduce a bit of “lighting art” into the kitchen space or bath, and the modern interpretations could be that bit of unexpected in a more typically American traditional kitchen. Food for thought!

The use of what I term “targeted” storage is a necessity in European design and desirable in American kitchens as well. One of the highlights of the show was seeing the  multitude of space saving storage options from the highly innovative company, Hafele, the biggest player in the storage world. Many people do not realize their existing space does not have to be larger to be more functional but is more about good space planning and multi tasking storage options.

Great storage options for small spaces from Hafele
Blanco sinks are solution driven for both US markets and European markets

German sink manufacturer, Blanco also rolled out more styles of their ultra functional and popular, in Europe, drainboard sinks. I love this design and am not sure why we cannot get more American consumers to venture away from the desire for the biggest sink they can fit in. The drainboard option would be such a functional feature in most homes. I learned from the Blanco design team how in tight quarters, hiding the sink with a sleek cover or fitted cutting board can extend your countertop space. An obvious benefit even in our larger spaces.

Look for new skinny countertops to also make their way here, 1cm rather than the 2 or 3cm we see most often in granite or quartz. White is still everywhere with bursts of color in a classically modern interpretation. Extraordinary laminates were the rage used for tops, cabinetry,and wall decor and from my conversations with the European designers, this is the primary countertop choice. If I could have these laminates, I might never touch granite again! Truly not your grandma’s laminates!  There were so many ideas and products that it is difficult to mention them all but be certain the trends you see in European design will surely make their way to our homes one day!