03 February 2011

An interesting idea from Germany

Blanco sinks had me in Germany last month to attend Cologne's annual furniture show, the IMM. A big part of the IMM is the kitchen category and this year, it had its own name for the first time, The Living Kitchen.

The Living Kitchen was an extravaganza and its size and scope dwarfed its US equivalent, KBIS. My job at the Living Kitchen was to walk around, take photographs and report back the things I saw. It was a tough assignment but somebody had to do it.

I saw a lot of stuff in Cologne, too much almost. But there were a couple of overarching trends I have a feeling we'll start seeing in the US eventually. The most noticeable one I saw was a move away from fat, chunky counters.

The counters on fully half of the kitchens displayed in Cologne were a centimeter thick. At first I was jarred by how thin they were but the more I saw them, the more intrigued I became.

In the US, the desired counter thickness is 1-1/2" and you get close to that by using 3cm counter material. Sometimes, a given stone only comes in 2cm and when forced to use 2cm material, I'd always felt as if I were cheating my clients.

After seeing an entire trade show filled with 1cm counters I'm a convert.

What do you think? Could a 1cm counter ever make you happy?


  1. I'm definitely a lover of this look which I think works because of the sleekness of the designs. I'm not so sure thin counter tops would look quite so attractive with more traditional styling that tends to have more detailing and bulk. Did you see that combination?

  2. The 1 cm counter works because it is part of the whole design. A lot of the cabinetry available in the US is scaled to the 1 1/2" counter. And culturally, we're conditioned to think thicker is more sturdy, more valuable, longer-lasting, etc, etc.. I give you huge slabs of granite everyone wants...

    It would be a slow sell to a "bigger is better" culture like America. I like European scale as it always seems to be just the right size; not bigger than it needs to be to add perceived value. But I;m a tiny sliver of a huge market :-)

  3. Margaret: In six days in Germany I didn't see one kitchen design that would qualify as "traditional" in North America, not one. I saw one kitchen display that used a raised panel door but even it was so streamlined I can't see it selling on this side of the Atlantic. North American kitchen design stands alone.

    Rufus: I'm in the same sliver of the market you are.

  4. I do like the last picture with the contrasting "skinny" top paired with the thicker wood top... Interesting looks, for sure.

    Good thing I like them because like you, Paul, think we'll see them quite soon on this side of the pond.

  5. Are 1cm countertops more prone to cracking? That's the first thing that comes to mind. The reason these are cool is that it's different. That's why those Apple "Think different" ads are so appealing. 20 years from now if everyone's using 1cm, those chunky countertops will be cool again.

  6. So - higher toe kicks instead? Or we all shrink 2cms? I like that idea I saw somewhere of the floating 1cm counter.

  7. Adam: They would be if there were made from stone but I can count on one hand the number of natural stone tops I saw over there. I saw a lot of laminate, quartz and porcelain. The porcelains were amazing and it's a category that not available in North America yet.

    Sarah: It's that tall European toe kick height that's driving these thin tops. Most of them were also build up from underneath and appeared to float.

  8. Very interesting.

    I'm excited for the porcelain countertops.

    When I first started in the stone industry I'd see 2 cm countertops without a laminated edge and think "cheap". Now we're doing them much more often and I think "modern"!

  9. I used to think the same thing. Used to.

  10. I love the look. I would have gone thin quartz when I replaced the tile counters in my existing kitchen, but I needed to keep that same width since I wasn't redoing the whole kitchen.

    It wouldn't have been wise to go thin for the cantilevered bar section.

  11. The interesting aspect of this is that most often the 1½” countertop is really just ¾”, but they use an extra piece on the edging to give it the appearance of being 1½’ thick. It’s something that is so engrained in us as the proper look for a countertop that we even do it with Formica! I’ve seen any number of edging methods for Formica and have used wood myself for the edging to give it a thicker appearance. The only place I actually had a Formica covered top that was a full inch and a half thick was when I made the work tables for my shop. In that instance I very much wanted the strength I got from the extra thickness.

    Beyond a special application like my shop, the only countertop material I know of that really should be 1½” thick is wood because the extra thickness helps keep the wood from warping. So, really, we’re just talking about an aesthetic decision. As for actually using a countertop that appears that thin in my own kitchen… I don’t know if I would or not. I probably would not. Or maybe I would, because the pictures you posted show it with a most interesting look. Truthfully, it’s the kind of decision that a happily-married guy like me tends to leave to She Who Must Be Obeyed. That’s why I’m happily married!

  12. I agree that it looks best when "floating", and also when it doesn't overhang the door/drawer fronts. I've seem this done with 2cm in modern kitchens with square edge profiles and it looks great. I've also seen a 2cm quartz top with a profiled edge in a traditional kitchen and it looked cheap. So I think the modern style, square edge profile, and overhang (or lack of) are critical elements.

    I'm curious about the strength of 1cm material though?


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