Design week in Milan was in full force April 16-22 with 20 exhibit halls at Salone del Mobile, 1,841 exhibitors, 434,509 visitors and 500-plus installations and events stationed across the city.

Salone del Mobile highlights the evolution of architecture, interior design, furniture and kitchen fabrication. This year included Eurocucina, a biennial subsection of Salone del Mobile with a focus on everything kitchen, showcasing modern collections from Europe's elite manufacturers including Fendi, Poliform, Dada, Lube, Scavolini and more.

 

Salone del Mobile is a driving force of innovation in European furniture and interiors, while Eurocucina provides a platform for global leaders in kitchen fabrication to show off the industry’s evolution and newest advancements in design.

The show was exceptionally well attended.  Architects, designers, kitchen dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, local distributors and students from 188 countries flew in from all corners of the globe for a sneak peak of the future of design, hoping to grasp a handful of inspiration to bring back to local markets. Every attendee had its own focus, but for this article, the emphasis will be on the innovation, trends and ultimately future of surface and panels, including an overview of prevalent materials, wood grains, colors, textures, finishes and combinations of panel products.

First Impressions

The congruence and similarities of finishes among the booths were startling. The majority of exhibits included a combination of super matte shades, low-sheen textured wood grains and marble or stone finishes. These three elements were versatile and mixed-matched across designs in many possible combinations of upper/lower/open cabinetry, backsplashes, countertops and island cabinets. Instead of only for marble countertops and backsplashes, concrete and stone finishes were prominent for cabinet doors. This married well with super matte finishes, primarily dark grays and earthy tones that added a soothing sensation to the complexity of the stone finishes. As for wood grains, white oak, eucalyptus, walnut and rustic red oaks made for beautiful, sturdy, extra thick (2- to 3-inch) countertops, usually embedded with smart and stylish shifting hardware to maximize space.

The consistency of these three elements across Eurocucina’s 115 booths was overwhelming and nearly comical, as if the Eurocucina exhibitors shared notes. I had an open discussion with Roberto Caspani of CLEAF, an Italian company that produces innovative surfaces and solutions for the furniture and interior design industries. Caspani explained that material trends emerge from the close relation and the continuous exchange of ideas between production companies and architects that spans across architecture, fashion, automotive and much more.

At Salone del Mobile, CLEAF’s surfaces were found across more than 70 booths.  CLEAF produces a coordinated system of products–faced panels, laminates and edges–with excellent technical performances and striking tactile and visual sensations, giving life to innovative products. The exhibitors at Eurocucina lean on these products and trends to allow visitors to easily compare booths within a narrower scope. The exhibitors’ goal was to emphasize their craftsmanship and technical capabilities while supporting the global acceptance and evolution of trends in design.

Trends – Surfaces

Marble, cement and stone veneers are bold elements that added life to the exhibit, and they are no longer constrained to countertops and backsplashes. These elements had a wide range of finishes, including ultra matte, low sheen, medium sheen and high gloss. Carrara and Dark Emperador marbles broke through as key elements of most exhibits, highlighted with large slabs on 9-foot-high cabinet doors. The authenticity of the stones came through in the texture, especially in matte or low-sheen finishes as a buffed lacquered panel was finished smooth with a mirror-like finish. The cement and stone veneer surfaces continued from the 2016 Eurocucina as we see this trend start to develop more and be accepted in mainstream offerings, adding an industrial feel to a modern design.

Super matte is here to stay. High-gloss finishes were shown in less than 5 percent of Eurocucina exhibits, while no- or low-sheen surfaces were featured on the most highly desired countertops and cabinetry. Super matte finishes were prevalent in dark, earthy or neutral tones, with white maintaining a classic presence. There was a lack of deep or wild color in these finishes, with hints or specs of blue, green and red with silky, warm aesthetics. High-gloss finishes are not over and may never fully subside, but the growth of super matte is upon us.

Low-sheen wood grains added identity and natural comfort to the exhibits. The most common species included light white oak, gray eucalyptus, colorful quarter-cut walnut and character-filled rustic red oaks. Wood countertops of 2 to 3 inches were strong and sturdy, completing this transitory illusion of wood and stone.

Color overall was subtle, with many shades and neutral finishes. In the vast majority, bold explosions or fusions of color were rare and stood out in the few exhibits with enough courage to emphasize them.  Color will undoubtedly play an important role in Eurocucina 2020.

General Trends

The craftsmanship of the exhibits was inspiring and masterful. The degree of detailing generated a sensation of elegance as each exhibitor produced finished displays of pure excellence.

Clean lines define modern kitchens. Angular cabinetry and open shelving were dominant across exhibits with beveled finishes to eliminate handles and decorative hardware. As well, many exhibits included sliding or hidden door systems, adding transitional properties to the kitchen.

Lighting had a larger emphasis than in past years, illuminating cabinet interiors and adding more value to interior finishes. Linen, leather and soft colors or shades complemented the faced exterior panel finishes.

Texture is resurfacing with tone-on-tone finishes and textured glass surfaces. Stamped metallic doors result in a wide range of tones brought on from stretches in the metal and reflections of light. As well, linen, textile and abstract finishes have been added to glass to distort the clarity and reflection of the glass inserts.

Overall

Salone del Mobile and Eurocucina 2018 did not disappoint. The 115 Eurocucina exhibitors continue to define their own identity with ideas, colors, combinations and craftsmanship. It’s our hope that this overview provides new concepts, opportunities and inspiration to help bring European-inspired design to North American markets.