Trends from Living Kitchen - Pondering Appliance Innovation
After having just gotten back from one of the world’s largest international kitchen shows, it’s very difficult for me to say just those six words quite simply because the Europeans are light years ahead of the United States in terms of creative thinking where appliances are concerned.
I attribute most of this stunt in US innovation to the various codes and regulatory groups out there that determine how, what, when, and why anything is allowed to do, well… anything. That is a story for another time of course.
Living Kitchen, one of the largest shows devoted entirely to the kitchen industry and part of the famously wonderful IMM, was a shocker of epic proportions – opening my eyes to just what could be possible with enough caffeination.
After Miele’s press conference, during which the Generation 6000 line of appliances became the oooo and aaaa of the morning, I spoke with a group of individuals from Miele who gave me the low down in terms of just which of the new technologies would not be coming to the United States – the LED, in-shelf lighting announced to the German public, for example. Blanco’s retractable faucet as well as their in-faucet hot water system are two other examples.
It really became a bittersweet feeling of titanic proportion to walk through showroom (I feel as if I can’t call any of their displays booths) after showroom and be stunned by yet another technology, another design effort, another minute detail that may or may not translate stateside.
An example, the introduction of color. Luckily for us Miele has made the choice to translate one of their newest product innovations to the US market – something we’ll start seeing stateside as early as next month. For years (try decades) we’ve shunned any sort of color in the kitchen as it related to appliances. Stainless steel became the norm and that was that. We’ll call this the dark ages of the kitchen. Yet Miele, Gaggenau, and a number of other manufacturers are slowly edging us back – making white stylish, in a way to “eliminate visual clutter”. I concur to their argument.
The surprising facet is that Miele is not only playing with white but also a surprise color – a chocolate version of brown. I’m a bit skeptical about the color choice but considering the lighting atop the prototype wasn’t the best, I can’t wait to see. The jury is out as to whether or not we’ll see this particular color cross the seas. Either way, this could be the start of a color revolution. Will we see Avocado make a come back? Maybe not, but this could be the leveling off of stainless steel as we know it.
Another such innovation on the side of technology was the abundance of touch screen capabilities integrated into appliance controls. Personally, I feel that Miele’s new Generation 6000 line of modular appliances had the most perfected version of the still young technology, though a number of well-known-in-Europe lines were also experimenting with iPad-esque capabilities.
Though I can be rather against the kitchy trends that do tend to appear in appliances (think LG’s in-door television that was priced for the wrong market), I don’t believe that touch screen controls fall within that category. Ponder the ease of scrolling your iPhone or Droid combined with the features of a convection oven. Scrolling capabilities, strong monochromatic color palettes, and even the ability to save user favorites were just a number of the features available within these new control panels that cannot be translated into the usual tactile set-ups.
Through the show, we also found that translating typical technologies into non-traditional forms was quite popular, especially in the category of ventilation. Who hasn’t yearned for something other than the three most popular shapes in stove hoods – the rectangle, the arc, or the hailed arm. Sirius and Elica, both Italian lines available in the United States, attempted a redesign of the island hood as a light fixture. Though one bore the resemblance to an Ikea fixture and the other, I’m afraid, would not accommodate high-capacity situations, I applaud both for working to provide something other than the normal. Quite refreshing.
It all leaves you thinking – what else are European designers attempting to innovate? The last foray really – the door. For years Gaggenau has been hinging the door from the side rather than the typical bottom swing. It’s been popular but has met with some criticism and still continues to evoke a bit of vintage enthusiasm. I’m sure an executive deep in the bowels of Neff lost his coffee when the designer in charge suggested a disappearing act of Houdini like proportions. And yet, there, in all its stainless beauty, was an oven with a door that removed itself entirely from the picture.
Those of us that jump into kitchens devoted entirely to persons with disabilities – think of it this way – no door to potentially scald a user. No door to reach over to remove the oven’s contents. No door. No door. No door. Your new mantra. I’m in love with the Neff not because it’s a perfect cooker but because their design team has translated a need into a real, feasible, to-market feature and though we won’t see it stateside anytime soon (Neff is strictly a European brand) it stands to reason that this should be an innovation into which US manufacturers should put some thought.
With all that is happening in Europe it will be interesting to see the trickle down in upcoming 2013 and 2014. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the mean time…. I ponder when the Steam Oven will be arriving at my door.
Do you hear that Miele?
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