I must admit that sometimes it’s hard to convince my friends that panel processing can be incredibly interesting. Even exciting. They’ll ask me to explain again what I’m doing these days and what exactly Surface & Panel covers.

I’ll give them a basic summary, and then the question inevitably comes: And that’s interesting?

Heck  yes, I’ll say, and I’ll proceed to explain how cool today’s panels can be and how the new textures and finishes make TFL, HPL, 3DL and the other materials beautiful, realistic and functional as all get out. And how panel processing is huge in Europe and has been for decades. Now, it’s North America’s turn, I’ll continue, and the growth in production and use of panels is reflecting that relatively newfound acceptance on this side of the pond.

The next time the question comes up, though, I’m going to forgo the speech and simply hand my friend a copy of this issue of Surface & Panel. The cool factor comes through in spades.

I can’t talk cool without starting with 11 Ravens and its off-the-charts awesome game tables. Yes, they are expensive, but each and every one is such a statement that I can see folks of means deciding they must have one for their bar or game room. And some of the most eye-popping tables contain Chemetal brass and aluminum surfaces and Treefrog veneers, all on composite panels. My story on 11 Ravens begins on page 20.

A little closer to mainstream, though still innovative and so cool, is the furniture from Europe that Resource Furniture sells in the United States. Much of it is “transforming” and space-saving furniture that maximizes the limited space in today’s popular small houses and apartments. Resource seeks out the best and most interesting, much of it Clei furniture from Italy, and then makes it available here. Rich Christianson’s story on Resource starts on page 10.

Speaking of Europe, we’ve also got a feature on Italy’s ILCAM, Europe’s leading manufacturer of cabinet doors and drawer fronts. ILCAM’s vision involves new ways of thinking, planning, working and living, and it works to give value at all levels through design research, technological innovation and continuous improvement while focusing on the environment, as well as economic and social sustainability. Suzanne VanGilder’s story on ILCAM begins on page 24.

As if that’s not enough, I’ve got two words that put this issue over the top: cracked ice. That’s how Wilsonart describes the inspiration for a new collection of designs that emerged from a collaboration with designer, TV host and magazine editor Danny Seo. In a Q&A starting on page 36, Wilsonart CEO and President Timothy J. O’Brien details what’s next for residential interiors, including the glacial-inspired patterns.

Lastly, Stevens Industries has so much cool stuff going on with its manufacturing and panel business that the 580-employee company in Teutopolis, Illinois, is attracting “strategic partners” who previously would have looked overseas for production help. In my story starting on page 38, President Todd Wegman maintains that the staggering improvements in TFL’s designs and textures have played a critical role in helping bring that business on board at Stevens.

Very cool.