Last week saw THE event of the interiors calendar Salone Internazionale del Mobile (the international furniture fair) in Milan, and I was lucky enough to go for the first time. Within this mega fair sits Eurocucina, a kitchens-only showcase bigger than most Aussie trade fairs and full of beautiful things (read about the top trends I spotted here).
Freedom Kitchens sent a team of 10 of their designers to Milan to be inspired by Europe’s latest trends, innovations and materials in kitchens. Because they have their own Australian factory, this inspiration can become reality in customers’ kitchen within months — weeks even. This flexibility and freedom to move fast is what keeps their kitchens cutting edge and fashionable, as you may have seen on The Block Sky High.
At the fair, Freedom Kitchens’ national sales director Susan Hasler said the kitchens at Milan were darker and moodier than last year with a lot of highlights in timber veneers and more matt than gloss finishes. “Some of the Dekton surfaces were very interesting and there was a lot of the concrete look and feel. It’s all a lot about texture. Touch and feel is really important.”
Cabinetry was perhaps more vertical than horizontal with taller pull-out drawers containing several internal drawers. Another trend she noticed was for integrated handles rather than a completely handle-less look.
Freedom Kitchens will be able to translate these innovations and trends to the local Australian market very quickly, while remembering that not everything will be popular or appropriate to our lifestyle. “We will be able to update some of our designs within a couple of months due to us manufacturing in Australia. We can do smaller runs, move quickly and see if things work and are popular,” Susan says. “It’s really important for us to come here to things like Eurocucina. Australia is sometimes thought of as being behind the times. You’re going to have a kitchen for a very long time so it’s important we’re ahead of the game. You don’t want to invest in something which is already a couple of years out of date. We have 10 kitchen designers here which is a big investment but it’s worth it for what we can bring back and the level of credibility it gives us. It’s about us bringing that fashion look at a value price.”
It’s not as simple as copying a load of ideas and expecting Australians to accept them as the latest and greatest, by any means. “It’s about adapting ideas to the Australian market and our way of life,” Susan says. “In terms of the differences between Europe and Australia, we entertain outside a lot, with kitchens often leading out onto decks or yards, or other entertaining areas. This lends itself well to the single wall and island design of kitchen.”
While people are often tempted to play it safe on a room which costs a lot of money and they hope to keep for years, Susan says a good kitchen designer can help them to be braver without wasting money or making an unwise investment. Her advice for a ‘safe’ yet fashionable kitchen is to stick to neutral cabinets and be bold with things you can change every couple of years (if desired) like wall colours (wallpaper even!), pendant lights and even splashbacks. You can make a real difference with how you accessorise (the great thing about Freedom Kitchens being that you can pick up Freedom homewares in store too). “We love being able to show customers how to accessorise and style their kitchens with our examples in our showrooms,” Susan says.
In terms of the strong presence of timber veneer at Milan, Susan doesn’t think many Australians will opt for that look in a big way. They may, for example though, choose to do their base cabinets in timber veneer and top cabinets in white, or just their end panels for example. These are all flexible options Freedom Kitchens can offer. “We also have to bear in mind that something that looks great here in Europe may not translate well in Australian light. It’s very different.”
The previous snobbery about veneer is disappearing these days, due to the huge advances in quality. “The new ones are so good you can’t even tell they’re not solid timber. They’re also more durable and hygienic which makes them a smart choice for kitchens.”
Look out for more expert tips on kitchen storage and how to get the most out of working with a kitchen designer on the blog next week.