By Monika Grzesik
An explosion in appliance innovation has served to place the kitchen at the forefront of contemporary design. With manufacturers battling to produce the very latest in home automation, a surge of domestic devices has entered the market, many of which seem destined to irrevocably transform the shape of the kitchen forever. Focus on style is paramount with a myriad of designs, finishes and materials to choose from.
|~|kitchen-body-1.gif|~||~|An explosion in appliance innovation has served to place the kitchen at the forefront of contemporary design. With manufacturers battling to produce the very latest in home automation, a surge of domestic devices has entered the market, many of which seem destined to irrevocably transform the shape of the kitchen forever. Focus on style is paramount with a myriad of designs, finishes and materials to choose from. As K.W Kim, president, LG Electronics, MEA Operations points out: “Traditionally appliances were known as ‘white goods’. Not anymore — these are designer products now.”
Despite the added costs, top-of-the- range appliances appear to be all the rage as developers seek to invest in the cutting-edge kitchen. Ralph Kobsik, Siemens explains: “As the construction industry in the Middle East is experiencing an unprecedented growth, potential home buyers are becoming more selective. In turn, developers realise that choosing the right type of appliance plays a vital role in adding value to the home.”
So what’s on offer for the designer looking to create the ultimate high style, high-performance kitchen?
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Consistently at the forefront of appliance design, LG Electronics has been responsible for creating the internet fridge, the TV and DVD fridge and the internet washing machine (designed to allow users to download pre-programmed washing schemes for different laundry loads).
Last month LG launched the latest in home automation into the Middle Eastern market. HomNet or Home Network is an intelligent networking system designed to connect all home appliances enabling access and exchange of information via the internet and home server. In the kitchen this will mean appliances communicating with one another, working in sync for maximum kitchen efficiency and convenience — from fridges that can receive video messages and order shopping online, to ovens that download recipes and co-ordinate with the fridge to check that ingredients are available. The possibilities appear endless.
LG is currently in talks with major developers in the region and is confident that the future for kitchen design in the region lies in these digital solutions. “We have come to Dubai to make the digitilised home network happen here. This will be the future for kitchen design. Appliances will be talking to one another; it will take a couple of years but by 2008 we expect to see massive installations in the region,” says Kim, LG.
Other manufacturers are also making an impact with ‘intelligent’ technology. According to Francesca Squadroni, from Indesit: “Smart technology is becoming very important in our business. It’s the future for creating high performance and time saving appliances.” ||**|||~|kitchen-body-3.gif|~||~|Indesit has introduced the Ariston digital oven with smart cooking functions. The oven interacts with the user, displaying recipe recommendations, which can be downloaded from the internet, and is programmed to provide the appropriate heat and ventilation automatically assuring the correct cooking temperature.
Kitchen design companies have also picked up on smart technology as the way of the future. Winner of red dot design award, the +Integration kitchen from German company Poggenpohl blends contemporary architecture with futuristic technology. +Integration comes with a single, unobtrusive touch panel, which allows the user to control and operate all kitchen appliances as well as building services and media such as alarm systems, lighting, air conditioning, heating and internet. Functions can also be controlled with a laptop or infrared remote. +Integration allows the user to retrieve information such as traffic news, weather forecasts, world time and recipes, transforming the kitchen into the communication centre of the home.
Some skeptics question the viability of ‘smart technology’ and wonder how realistic or affordable these concepts actually are. It appears that not everyone in the Middle East is entirely ready to embrace the concept of the intelligent kitchen. At the recent Dubai launch of LG HomNet, the point was raised by one male attendee that the system would surely, “destroy the integral values of a culture in which a woman should always remain in charge of the house, as women were incapable of mastering technology”. However, despite some misgivings it appears that we are heading towards a digitalised kitchen. Kopsik, Siemens insists that: “Some designers may be reluctant to opt for ‘smart’ technology due to higher costs. However it’s being considered more and more often nowadays, as there is most definitely a growing trend and demand for intelligent products. It’s only a matter of time before smart technology becomes the norm in kitchen design.”||**||ARTY APPLIANCES|~|Kitchen-body4.gif|~||~|ARTY APPLIANCES
While there is no doubt that convenience and efficiency rank highly as important features in a kitchen appliance, modern kitchen equipment is becoming increasingly design-focused. The era of the simple ‘white goods’ appears to be over as appliance designers integrate function with style.
Electrolux has highlighted the shift toward design-led appliances by declaring ‘War on White’ in a range of highly stylised appliances. The designer line reflects the demand for greater individuality in the kitchen and a need for personal expression in today’s society. Inspiration for the ‘War on White’ range comes from fashion, interior design and architecture. According to Henrik Otto, senior vice president of Global Design, Electrolux: “The home is a reflection of who you are. As the kitchen is becoming the new living area, it should allow people to individualise more. It’s not just about function anymore. We want people to become as opinionated about their household appliances as they are about their clothes, furniture and cars.”
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An important decision for the kitchen designer is whether to select integrated or freestanding appliances. According to Kobsik, Siemens: “Although freestanding appliances are still dominating the market — from a design perspective, integrated appliances are all the rage for the perfectly homogeneous look they create. There’s nothing worse in a kitchen design than appliances that appear like they just don’t belong, protruding out of place.”
The built-in kitchen with integrated appliances is hugely popular for the much-coveted commercial kitchen look that it generates. Slick, industrial lines with a seamless integration of all units create a professional look. Smooth surfaces elongate the kitchen and create the illusion of space by keeping materials and finishes to a minimum.
The newly launched Pininfarina range from Gorenje illustrates this perfectly. The entire range is fashioned in brushed aluminium, with vertical top to bottom black glass disguising a myriad of technology. Pininfarina has done away with all buttons, handles and knobs, ensuring that there are no protruding elements to take away from the elegant lines of the appliances. The designer has instead incorporated display screens and touch control panels which illuminate only when touched.
“Another trend is to disguise appliances completely by having their exteriors match the cabinetry for an integrated, uninterrupted look,” says Anamika Priyadarshi, marketing and retail manager, Better Life. Gorenje has gone one step further with the launch of its brand new product at this year’s 100% Design Show in London. The innovative Smart Table is a dining room table with a built-in pop-up refrigerator. The product has attracted corporate and commercial interest as well as being practical for the home.
||**|||~|Kitchen-body6.gif|~||~|The growing trend for built in appliances could have as much to do with creating a polished look as it does with the decreasing size of the average kitchen. For a developer, installing kitchens in a new tower block, it makes sense to keep appliances as compact as possible. Suresh Nair, general manager, Jacky’s explains: “For all new projects in the region, appliances will be fitted because the consumer wants greater accessibility and convenience. The developer needs to concentrate on space utilisation to a maximum.”
Indeed, as kitchens get smaller, appliance designers increasingly focus on space saving. The LiftMatic Oven from Siemens, for example, opens up new design possibilities. Unlike conventional ovens, LiftMatic mounts the wall like a cabinet and is filled from below. At the touch of a button, the floor moves gently down and then returns to the upper position. As well as saving on space, the ergonomic design allows convenient access to dishes with no need to bend down or stretch as with regular ovens.
As with much technology nowadays, modern appliances have the tendency to shrink in size but still explode with power. Manufacturers are succeding in incorporating top of the range innovations into the most compact kitchen space. The revolutionary 48cm oven from Indesit focuses on managing kitchen space. It fits the standard 58 litre volume into a height of only 48cm instead of the traditional 60cm. The front control panel is incorporated into the handle becoming an integral part of the oven and freeing up space.
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Making a statement
If space is not an issue, a freestanding appliance can be used as an accent in the kitchen, to make a design statement. The giant, flamboyant, all singing, all dancing fridge is often perceived as the coolest appliance in the kitchen and comes with an undeniable dose of the ‘wow’ factor. The ‘Eye-catcher’ from Gorenje is a lustrous black fridge-freezer decorated with 3,500 hand-embedded Swarovski crystals. The hi-tech 2m high appliance is controlled by a touch screen panel on the door which also incorporates a built-in radio, recipe book and voice recorder.
The crystal embedded fridge may seem somewhat indulgent, but Rok Jenko, from the Gorenje Design Team explains: “Customers are becoming increasingly demanding and are paying more attention to emotions. In an overcrowded market with an enormous choice of household appliances, we need to offer something extra. What we are doing is raising the quality of our appliances above the average. This is the main reason why design is important. We can have a direct impact on emotions.”
Siemens has created a freestanding cooker as an alternative to the built-in appliance called the Siemens Standalone Cooker. The 70 litre gas oven has 5 flames and a wok burner for large pans. Its large elegant proportions form a eye catching feature for the open plan kitchen.
Some designers choose to abandon the contemporary look altogether and bring a retro feel into the kitchen. Brightly coloured Smeg fridges and appliances with their classic 50’s inspired design can make a striking addition to kitchen design. Their generous fridge space ranging from 270 to 400 litres and bold style proves that built-in is not always best.
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When not in use, it sits in the kitchen lit up like a huge glowing egg. But at the touch of a button, the upper hemisphere lifts off like the lid of a space ship, and attaches itself to the ceiling on telescopic steel rails, transforming itself into a powerful cooker hood and revealing an awesome, cooking machine. The highly technical and multi-functional Sheer kitchen from Italian company Sheer is created from carbon fibre, a unique lightweight material. The design incorporates a cooking range made out of ceramic glass with four infrared burners, regulated by an electronic unit. A natural lava stone is also provided for cooking. The highly innovative design is fitted with a raft of appliances including three bottle coolers and an anti-bacterial and anti-odour electronic device with UV technology, which is inserted into the recycling bin. The quirky design is a masterpiece in kitchen technology, integrating the latest in cutting-edge innovation with high style.
Design visionary Zaha Hadid has turned her talents to kitchen design and come up with the futuristic Z.Island, launched earlier this year in Milan by DuPont Corian. Z.Island creates an ‘intelligent’ environment consisting of two freestanding units. One unit is devoted to all kitchen functions associated with ‘fire’ and the other with ‘water’.
The design provides an envelope for multi-media equipment, sound activators and LEDs within a flowing shell of Corian. Users can surf the internet, listen to music or create a particular ambience by means of a centralised touch control panel which incorporates nearly 2,000 LEDs.
Z.Island’s built-in appliances are from the ‘Attitude’ line by Scholtes, designed by David Lewis. Included in the kitchen are an oven with side door; an induction hob and a dishwasher. The most immediately distinctive feature of the line — its 45 degree control panel — helps make the working surfaces safer and the control functions more accessible. The central cooking area also includes an innovative heating plate to keep food warm over a period of time. As futuristic as the Z.Island sounds, Ernestomeda has plans to put this kitchen concept into production soon. ||**||