21 June 2011

SENSIBLE STYLE: Missed in America

In January of this year, I was extremely privileged to be one of six American bloggers brought by Blanco to visit the LivingKitchen trade show in Cologne, Germany. It was my first European industry event, and it was a revelation!

There were so many terrific products and trends that I would love to share with my American-based clients. These are a few of the Sensible Style items I saw there that I hope will be brought here in the not-too-distant future! A few, as noted below, are slowly starting to make their way across the pond!

Porcelain countertops

Porcelain countertops offer the same durability and ease of maintenance as quartz, but with a different look. I would not only specify these for my clients, I would use them in my own home.

Top Porzelanik Barcelona would be ideal for North American kitchens, too!

I've only seen porcelain tops in the US so far with Italian Modulnova kitchens, custom-fitted for their cabinets and shipped from Europe.

Retractable faucets

It would be great to hide away the faucet in a contemporary kitchen installation when you don't want to see it, especially on an island. A faucet that drops down to the countertop level can achieve that for you, but I haven't found one here yet!

Blanco's BLANCOELOSCOPE is perfect for the "un-kitchen" look.

High-end laminate cabinets

These are starting to make their way to the U.S., often via international producers like Allmilmo, but the beauty of the styles available in Europe was striking. Some were textured, some glossy, all distinctively different than the laminates that builders plugged into tract homes for years that gave the medium a bad name.

German cabinetry brand Allmilmo is one of the international firms making laminates look good.

Turn-lock kitchen sink drains

We have this style drain on tubs and bathroom sinks here, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a turn-lock drain on an American sink. They were widely shown at the German show. (By the way, turn-lock is my descriptive name for them. The Europeans call them cable-driven waste systems.)

Considering how practical they are, it doesn't make sense to me that they're not widely available here. (One German manufacturer told me that they haven't been widely embraced by the plumbing community.)

Not having to store a drain insert in your sink cabinet would be a nice little benefit! Right now, Duravit USA's website has this technology on their attractive Cassia sink. More manufacturers should follow!

Other kitchen drains don' t hold water compared to this style, shown here on Duravit's Cassia sink

Stylishly-integrated drainboards

These are available with Corian countertops, but not everyone has or wants those. There were numerous styles, materials and configurations to choose from at the LivingKitchen show. They looked great and offered practicality with pretty good looks.

Duravit brings the integrated drainboard stylishly to the US market with its Starck K model

Full-service induction

Gaggenau showed off some fabulous new induction technology I hope crosses the ocean very soon! Anywhere you put your pot or pan on the cooktop worked, not just a few specific burner areas. There were other bells and whistles, too, like a setting memory, but the whole surface approach to cooking was what really won me over. Hopefully, this will be available in the US when I'm ready to replace my dated, gas cooktop.

Gaggenau takes induction cooking to a whole new level


  1. Hey jamie,
    I was wondering if the porcelain countertops are made differently than porcelain sinks, because in my experience, they stain and chip easily. I'm assuming the countertops are made differently.

  2. I believe they are made differently, Karen. I also think a lot of what folks consider porcelain sinkware is not really porcelain at all. Consider how durable porcelain floor and wall tiles are and you have an idea of how tough these countertops are.

  3. They're an entirely different, far more durable animal. Think of how hard porcelain tiles are and you've got a better idea about these tops. I'm really looking forward to them becoming available in the US!

  4. I am in France and starting the kitchen redo planning so it is great to see this post about what is new over here. Actually, it is hard to keep up and I find that looking at search engine images helps - especially when you can use the names in other languages (German, Italian, French, Spanish...just do a translation and use the country code such as co.uk, .fr, .it, .de, es). This eliminates the American sites and you will find many sites are also in English.
    I was looking for a drop-down kitchen faucet and found some good ones on yacht sites but what you showed is really new and great. My reason is the very reason such sink faucets exist outside boats - large double French etc. windows open into the house...and my sink/counter.
    I must say I don't like the "turn lock" drain - hard to keep seal around it clean and the under sink wire that does the work tends to come loose/break.
    While on a roll...the term "French door" refrigerators crack me up! Most French fridges are tiny (many people who have space use under counter fridge in kitchen and keep separate 5'h fridge and freezer in pantry). The expensive big ones are called "American."
    I've read all your terrific posts and will keep coming back for more. Thank you, Jamie.

  5. Kathy, Thanks so much for "stopping by" and sharing your ideas and observations. It would certainly be interesting to know how the term French Door refrigerator came about. Do any of my other readers know? I do hope you'll continue to visit Gold Notes and share your European perspective.


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