Highlights From My Visit to the World’s Biggest Kitchen Fair In Germany
Although fall is a time when images of Germany bring thoughts of Oktoberfest, another large celebration takes place in Germany in September attracting visitors from all over the world. The world’s largest kitchen design tradeshow/design fair is known as KuchenMeile or Kitchen Mile. Here is where European kitchen design style and appliance technology are introduced to the world.
German Kitchen Haus Fair Tour: The Kuchen Meile or Kitchen Mile.
Manufacturers of various kitchen, bath, and closet-related products from across Europe come to the fair to present their newest innovations and showcase the latest in European kitchen design style and engineering. I was invited by the National Kitchen & Bath Association [ NKBA ], as part of their Global Connect initiative, to attend the #NKBAGermanHausFairTour with 20 of my professional colleagues.
This initiative was spearheaded by Suzie Williford, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the NKBA. Our amazing trip was sponsored by Nobilia North America, Poppenpohl Kitchens, Miele Appliances, and Hettich hardware. Modenus Media organized this trip and I was so honored to be included.
We were given an insider’s view of the latest innovations, some of which are available now in the US and some of which we will hopefully see soon.
Here’s a rundown, by category, of what I found for you.
EUROPEAN KITCHEN CABINETRY:
Kitchen cabinetry in Europe is known as kitchen furniture. Unlike here in the United States, when you move, you take your kitchen with you. Just like furnishings, kitchens are designed to be portable. You can imagine the variety of cabinet finishes you can choose from. The question of kitchen furniture in Europe is more than simply painted or stained.
European Kitchen Design Style
The European kitchen style was the epitome of luxury in kitchen design during the 1980s and early 1990s. Sleek, high gloss cabinets with integrated hardware was the look everyone wanted in their homes. Smallbone, a UK line, changed the look of kitchen design simultaneously here and in Europe when they introduced their English Country design style. Eventually, styles change. Once again, highly sophisticated, minimalistic European kitchen design is in vogue for homes across the world.
Here are the cabinet design trends I spotted for you.
Flat panel doors were shown in a variety of materials including laminate, glass, and metal. Since hinged doors, generally speaking, can take up space and be a nuisance, sliding door panels were used everywhere on cabinets and room dividers. Basically, they concealed and revealed everything from pantry storage right down to the kitchen itself.
Now that clean lines are once again dominating European kitchen design, decorative hardware has been replaced by touch latch systems including the drawers.
Metal door and drawer fronts are a strong design element in European kitchen cabinet design. We saw it displayed as door edge details as well as the entire door itself.
Organized storage for everything you can think of was integrated into the cabinetry to perfection.
Color Is King!
Cabinets were shown in bold high gloss lacquers, textured laminate finishes, as well as color cues, were taken from nature. Soft taupes, light wood finishes, and dark walnut with perfectly matched grain patterns were everywhere.
Equally important are Sustainability, Reliability, and Wellness.
Sustainability, reliability, and healthy lifestyle cooking are all evident in the offerings from manufacturers like our sponsor Miele, along with Beko, Smeg, and others.
Every manufacturer at the show integrated the concept of sustainability into their products. From low water consumption, product reliability, and longevity to the quality of ergonomics.
One of the first things I noticed was the advance in ventilation. Obviously, I know this is not a very sexy topic but wellness in design as related to healthy air quality is a big concern not only in Europe but in the United States as well.
New buildings are well equipped to handle the by-products of cooking, especially with gas burners, but older buildings are limited in their ability to vent appliances to the exterior. Recirculating ventilation at its finest was on display. Easy to use and clean, these next-generation ventilators have fabric filters that you simply replace once a year.
Steam, steam, and more steam cooking from every manufacturer. From moderately priced appliances to very high-end steam ovens, steam is king in cooking. It is healthier, easier, and faster than conventional cooking. Miele is introducing a steam oven that “steam cleans” itself when cooking is complete. Now that is a great innovation.
Ergonomics and Health
Dishwashers are stepping up, too. Raised dishwashers (this goes back to the European kitchen design concepts of the 80’s & 90’s) are back in vogue in Europe.
One more thing about sustainability. I found out that Miele keeps parts for their appliances for 20 years after a particular appliance has been discontinued. I do not know of any other manufacturer that stands behind its products like that. Fortunately, they do not seem to believe in value engineering. Miele is proud of its long history of innovation and quality.
Lighting is key in every design for all rooms. Nowhere will you see more lighting to make everything better than in the designs we saw displayed.
LED lighting is built into drawer sides in closets to see the contents more easily. Toe kicks as well as interiors of cabinets all have integrated lighting. Here in the US, we do use under-cabinet lights as well as lighting inside of cabinets. Unfortunately, it is not a standard in many designs, although I believe it should be.
One detail I love is integrating the lights into the back of shelves and right into the shelf supports creating a cloud of light that the furniture floats on. I hope to see more of this here at home as it is a beautiful detail.
In Conclusion: Some Final Thoughts
- Seeing the innovation in design without worrying about the next trend was refreshing.
- The textures and materials used in homes built in the 16th century are a perfect visual juxtaposition for the beautifully crafted, modern kitchen furniture we saw during the #GermanHausFairTour.
- Experiencing firsthand how these products are built was very impressive. Automation was in much use, but the final quality control is still done by the human hand and eye.
- Manufacturers are committed to sustainability. Not only in the products they produce, but in reusing waste materials to power their plants. I found this extremely impressive and I hope all US manufacturers will follow suit.
Sharon L. Sherman, ASID, NCIDQ, CID, CKD
Sharon is the founder of Thyme and Place Design, headquartered in Wyckoff, New Jersey. She’s been practicing kitchen and bath design for the past 40 years and is a Past President of the American Society of Interior Designers – New Jersey chapter. She is a current member of the editorial board of KB&B Magazine, the official magazine of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Her award-winning designs and editorial comments have been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Design Milk, Bergen NJ magazine, Kitchen & Bath Design News, Woman’s Day, Country Decorating, Design NJ, New Jersey Home Magazine, 201 Magazine, The Best of Bergen, Savvy Living, The Vue, The Record, The Star-Ledger, and Aspire as well as several books.
Her blog “Tips from the Trade” appears in digital form on DesignNJ.com and KBBonline.com. She has also appeared on HGTV’s My Big Amazing Renovation and episodes of House Smarts with Lou Manfredini. In 2022, she was a featured *Voices From The Industry* speaker at the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s international convention and is available for further speaking engagements nationwide on all topics related to running a successful kitchen and bath design business.