31 January 2011

Special report: kitchen trends from cologne

Here's the trend report I filed with Houzz.com last week. There are a couple of major things I saw that will be here this year, I can feel it in my bones. I'll write more about them later.


The German city of Cologne is rapidly becoming the place to watch when it comes to cutting-edge design. Last week I was honored to attend Cologne's 2011 Internationale Möbelmesse (IMM) design show. A highlight was a kitchen-specific section called the Living Kitchen — the largest kitchen design trade show I've ever attended. As somebody who's been to more kitchen design trade shows than I can count, that's saying something.

I was one of six U.S.-based design bloggers brought to IMM and the Living Kitchen by Blanco, a German sink and faucet manufacturer. What I saw is nothing like what I know is going on in the design scene in the U.S. As a kitchen and bath designer, I'm curious to see how quickly these trends and ideas end up in the U.S.

The photos in this ideabook are images I photographed as I walked around the show Jan. 20-21. There are also some show-provided images that help make the points my own photography can't.

As you look at the photos, resist the urge to reject the ideas outright. European kitchen designers are solving the same problems any designers are, but many of them come up with unique solutions that will end up being used by the rest of the world eventually. Can you see any of these designs working in your own home?

IMM contemporary family room

Kitchens that integrate into the rest of the home are big — huge — in Europe right now. Every kitchen seemed designed specifically to blend into the rooms that surround it.

IMM contemporary kitchen

Can you see this level of kitchen integration ever working and becoming popular in the US and Canada?

IMM contemporary family room

Without a doubt, the biggest trends I saw in Cologne last week were textured, naturally-stained wood and skinny, skinny counter tops. Count on that skinny counter top trend showing up in the US and the rest of the world very quickly.

In two solid days of walking around the show, I could have counted on one hand the number of 3-centimeter "American" counters I saw. There was very little granite but a lot of laminate and a porcelain counter material that's unavailable in North America.

These 1-centimeter skinny counters stood out because they're in such stark opposition to what we see in the U.S. and Canada these days.

What would it take to get you to embrace the 1-centimeter counter?

IMM contemporary kitchen

This sink and faucet combo by Blanco shows something we never see in North America. This is a ceramic sink undermounted in a laminate counter.

The conventional wisdom in North America is that we can't undermount a sink in a laminate counter. European designers do it all the time, and it looks terrific.

IMM contemporary family room

Europeans use laminates in kitchens in ways their North American counterparts never would. It makes sense though. Laminates are sustainable and long-lasting and they look terrific when they're used properly.

The current European version of the Great American White Kitchen is a white-and-wood-tone laminated kitchen. What do you think of this white-and-wood-grain combo?

IMM contemporary kitchen

Most European kitchen sinks have integrated drainboards. Drainboards are a a feature that's utterly missing from North American sinks. Why do you suppose that is?

This mirror-finish counter and integrated sink from Blanco is what's called a floating counter. In a floating counter, the 1-centimeter counter sits on a smaller deck to enhance the effect of the skinny counter.

This is the exact opposite of everything we see in the U.S. right now. I applaud this direction and I wonder how it will play in this side of the Atlantic.

IMM contemporary kitchen

Another interesting think I noticed in Germany last week is that most kitchen sinks are drop-ins as opposed to the undermounts so popular in the U.S.

In looking at this photo, I see skinny counters, laminate surfaces and a drop-in sink.

IMM contemporary kitchen

Integration is the key to European kitchen design. Large, professional-size appliances were no where to be seen. Every appliance. it seemed, could be folded away and hidden when it wasn't being used. A lot of this comes from the smaller average size of a European home, but not all of it.

A bigger presence of integrated appliances is something I know we'll be seeing more of in North America.

IMM contemporary kitchen

The right wall of this kitchen vignette show sliding doors that make the working parts of this kitchen disappear when they're not in use.

IMM contemporary kitchen

For every integrated kitchen design that included a kitchen table and a sofa, there was at least one that tried to fit against a wall and be beautiful for its own sake. A kitchen this minimal and streamlined is enough to make me want to purge all of my kitchen gear so that I could live with this small space.

IMM contemporary kitchen

This kitchen covers all the bases, from the floating, skinny counters to the integrated appliances on the back wall.

The island in the center of the room is as much a coffee table as it is a kitchen island. Could you ever use an island like this?

IMM contemporary kitchen

This kitchen from the appliance manufacturer Gorenje integrates a refrigerator, two wall ovens, a steam oven, a microwave, a dishwasher, a cooktop and a hood. That's a lot of appliances, but this room doesn't feel at all appliance heavy. What do you think about this level of sleek and minimized appliance integration?

IMM contemporary kitchen

What I found most interesting were the U.S. manufacturers who were at IMM's Living Kitchen and showing new appliances they don't sell in the U.S. This is a stack of built-in appliances from KiitchenAid, a brand made by the Whirlpool corporation. Shown here are a steam oven, a small dishwasher and a wall oven.

Can you see any of these trends ever making it on this side of the Atlantic? I'd welcome them, but then again, I'm a designer. I'm fascinated by all of this and I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the skinny counter on these shores. What about you?

28 January 2011

Boy it's nice to be back in Toronto

Image via

I am in Toronto and just back from the Interior Design Show's opening night gala. I have a couple of things to say. First, it's really great to be back in Toronto. I visited here a bunch of times over the years and I cannot get over how much it's changed over the last 30 years. That's all change for the better. Toronto's more a world city than ever and it's incredible to see this many people from this many diverse backgrounds work together to make a cohesive place.

Second, I can't thank Blanco enough for showing me yet another amazing place, another amazing trade show and another amazing operation center.

via Wikimedia commons

And third, I have been coming to Canada since I was about six and I never had poutine until tonight. My life will never be the same.

26 January 2011

Oh Canada

I'm leaving for Toronto in the morning and I'll be there as the guest of my friends at Blanco. As grateful as I am to them, my gratitude pales in comparison to the level of hospitality and generosity they've extended to me over the last couple of weeks. I learned more than I thought there was to know about sinks with them in Germany last week and I'll be touring another sink factory with them tomorrow afternoon.

While I'm in Toronto, I'll be at the IDS gala tomorrow night so come find me if you're there. My sources tell me that there will be big contingent of Canadian design bloggers at the gala tomorrow night and since I know most of you virtually already, let's meet up in person.

25 January 2011

Furniture recap from IMM

Here's the furniture trend report I wrote for Houzz.com. It went live on Houzz this morning and I have a kitchen design trend report coming later today or tomorrow.

I know this was real

I know this was real because I was there. But still. Last week in Germany feels like something I imagined.

There's a recap coming, I promise.

19 January 2011

This is how they see us

This sign was hanging on a display by Gorenje, a Slovenian appliance manufacturer I've blogged about here frequently. If you don't know, the rest of the world calls full-size, side-by-side refrigerators American refrigerators.

This is the model that sign was promoting.

18 January 2011

What is creativity? A Blog Off Post

What is creativity?

This is a 13,000-year-old spear point and it's an example of creativity.

John Weinstein, © The Field Museum

This is a 5,000-year-old, Elamite bronze figurine and it's an example of creativity.

This is a 3,500-year-old Babylonian Cuneiform tablet and it too is creative.

More than 2500 years ago, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras proposed a theorem.

You guessed, it's creative.

This is an example of Roman opus reticulatum and it's around 2,000 years old.

Opus reticulatum was an earthquake-resistant stone construction technique that was creative.

This is 1,200-year-old Chinese paper money, the world's first. It's creative.

This is an 800-year-old Gothic arch from the Cathedral in St. Denis.

It's creative.

This is a 500-year-old Gutenberg bible.

It's creative.

Antonio Stradavari hit his violin-making prime some 300 years ago.

He was a creativity machine.

152 years ago, Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species.

It was and is creative.

106 years ago, Albert Einstein proposed his Theory of Special Relativity and it ushered in the era of modern science.

It was creative.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7034 and established the Works Progress Administration in 1935.

It was creative.

Neil Armstrong took his One Small Step 42 years ago.

It was creative.

A little more than 20 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunited.

The Cold War was over and bringing about its demise was creative.

Ten years ago, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia from St. Petersburg, FL.

It was creative.

Six months ago, four people solidified something called a Blog Off.

It was creative.

Creativity is problem solving, something human beings are uniquely wired to do. Whether it's forging a bronze plow, walking on the moon, composing a symphony or composing a grocery list. Any time somebody uses his or her critical thinking skills, that person is being creative.

17 January 2011

He had a dream

On August 28th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this speech form the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 200,000 people were there to hear it and those words have been echoing for the last 48 years. King provided a vision of a hopeful future to a people who had none. Martin Luther King was a great man and a great American and today is a day set aside to honor his legacy, a legacy for all of us.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Here's the entire text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech. If you've never read it, now's your chance.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

16 January 2011

Ich bin in Deutschland

Actually, I'm not there yet. I leave tomorrow. 

For the next six days I'll be in Cologne and other points in northern Germany on a trip sponsored by Blanco. While there, I'll be touring four different Blanco factories, attending the internationale möbelmesse, or IMM and at long last, visiting the Cologne Cathedral. In what promises to be a lifetime highlight, I'll meet with Blanco's industrial design department on Thursday.

As I mentioned earlier, I'll be at the internationale möbelmesse and I'll be there on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  The IMM is the world's premier showcase of new furniture and products for the home.

Last year's IMM had 1500 exhibitors and had 100,000 visitors from all points of the globe. This year's expo promises to be even bigger and for the first time in the 62 years of the show's existence, there will be a separate exhibit for the international kitchen and bath industry and they're calling it The Living Kitchen.

The Living Kitchen has its own website and from the looks of things it will surpass the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in the US in size and scale.

I'll be blogging and Tweeting from Germany (albeit sporadically) as part of an industry press junket courtesy of Blanco. If you're on Twitter, please follow me as my timeline there will be live from the floor of the show and the other points I cover this week. My Twitter handle is @Paul_Anater. I'll post updates to Facebook and FourSquare as well.

Blanco is a German sink and fixture manufacturer and their products are widely available worldwide. I sit on Blanco's Design Council, an honor I've held for the last year. It's through my involvement with Blanco's Design Council that I'm Cologne bound.

There are five other Design Council members going on this trip. That all six of us know each other already will make this trip even more memorable that it would have been otherwise. My traveling companions to Cologne are Jamie Goldberg, Cheryl Kees-Clendenon, Susan SerraLeslie Clagett and Kevin Henry. Five out of the Cologne Six are are part of the Blogger 19 interestingly enough. What year this has been. Whew!

Needless to say, I'm beyond exited. Thank you again and in advance to Blanco and their representation in the US for this honor.

15 January 2011

Greetings from the International Builder's Show

Greetings from the Orange County Convention Center in finger-splittingly cold Orlando Florida. Actually, I'm already on my way home by the time you're reading this. These last three days have been spectacular. The new stuff I saw, the great people I met up with, it's been a real whirlwind.

Of all the great things I saw, there are a few that really stood out. The first is Brizo's new lavatory faucet called the Siderna. In addition to being really beautiful and sleek, there's a lot of sophisticated engineering hiding underneath it.

Check out this handle.

What's really wild about it is that those handles don't have the typical set screws that lock down a handle. Instead of set screws, the handle's held in place with really strong, rare-earth magnets.

It took the jaws of life to pry this handle off. I never would have guessed that a magnet could hold a faucet handle in place, let alone hold it in place so tenaciously.

Thanks to Brizo's generosity, I have seen that Siderna before, but only as a prototype. The last time I saw it was about a year ago when it was a working model. It's a rare and cool, cool thing to watch a product go from an idea in an industrial designer's head to a real product that anybody can buy.

From Merillat, I saw their new Pantry Corner, corner base cabinet. The cabinet industry has always been a very top-down industry when it comes to innovation. New, interesting products, start at the top of the market and work their way down. Merillat is a budget-friendly, value cabinet line. They're a well-built cabinet and they're sold at a price point that can't be beat. Typically, their notable innovations have come from things like that price point or the fact that they have a five-day production time. Five days for made-to-order cabinets. That's pretty innovative.

Well, this time, they're turned the tables a bit and they've come up with a corner base cabinet that the high-end, custom brands will be following.

This is the Corner Pantry.

It's a corner cabinet with three, very deep drawers in the center.

On each side of the drawers, there's a pull-out storage cabinet that's large enough to actually use.

Very smart and a much more efficient use of a kitchen corner than a lazy susan.

A week ago, I ran a couple of posts on a new series of laminates from Formica, the 180fx series. Prior to Wednesday, I'd only seen samples and a real highlight of the show was seeing 180fx laminates in person.

That they look so spectacular on photos is not a PhotoShop trick, Formica is in the throes of turning the laminate world around and in doing so they are reinvigorating and unfairly maligned product category. So bravo to the Formica Corporation.

I'll probably have another blog post or two about IBS 2011 and then it's off to Germany for IMM and a series of factory tours that have been arranged for me and five of my pals by Blanco sinks.