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Private Preview 2003: Lean Machines that Cook and Clean

Linda C. Lentz

Aman’s home is still his castle—his priorities have just changed. The kitchen has taken over from the great hall, and the bathroom has become the royal chambers. You need only compare the floor plans of a luxury house built 25 years ago with those of a 21st-century one to see how these once-humble rooms have exploded in size—and status. High-powered appliances have the name-dropping appeal of the latest supercars. Cabinetry and surfaces, once given just cursory glances, are being chosen with minute attention to detail. Even lowly sinks, tubs, and toilets are being revamped by top architects and designers.

“Walls are breaking down in the home,” says Jon Spector, Dornbracht’s director of U.S operations. “People are expanding their kitchens into more public spaces, such as family rooms. And there is less transition from bath to bedroom to exercise room. Because of this, designers are looking for products that will unify all of these areas.”

In the kitchen, this translates to sleek, contemporary furniture-quality cabinets that alternate between traditional built-ins and leggy freestanding units raised high off the floor. Finishes range from high-gloss lacquer to stainless steel and aluminum to natural woods such as walnut and cherry.

“A mixture of materials is popular,” says bulthaup communication director Ute Mack. “For instance, stainless steel with wood cabinets and a glass backsplash.” New for 2003, bulthaup’s hand-applied bamboo veneer is as exclusive as it is naturally beautiful. And a proprietary touch-latch system eases the tedium of opening and closing doors during food prep and cleanup. It also obviates the need for handles, providing a pure minimalist aesthetic.

Snaidero’s Time, a kitchen designed by Lucci/Orlandini Design, uses glass to maximize light and space—most unusual is a transparent glass-topped work island that neatly stores cooking tools within visible reach. For an even more fundamental look, Boffi collaborated with designer Piero Lissoni to refine the commercial-style kitchen. His Case System 5.0, a spare grouping of modular stainless steel base cabinets, sans pulls, features integrated appliances and an ultralean vent hood. Nothing is extraneous or heavy.

Appliances, too, have slimmed down to bare essentials yet offer the sturdy performance of restaurant equipment. The ubiquitous stainless steel has been joined by brushed aluminum as a finish of choice—not least for its resis-tance to fingerprints. And technology is being incorporated in ways that make it easy for consumers to use.

Ovens and cooktops by Küppersbusch, an established German appliance manufacturer new to the U.S. market, are among the most innovative. The company’s new Zoom Cook Center extends forward at the touch of a button to expose two additional burners (five in all). An electronic sensor prevents it from retracting if there is a pan on the back burner, and its slightly lowered height is ideal for stirring and sautéing. Gaggenau’s robotic Telescopic Swivel Ventilator is a step above typical downdraft hoods. It automatically ascends from its inconspicuous housing in the counter to hover over the cooking surface so that rising smoke and odors are pulled directly up into it. Finally, for techno-geeks who love to eat, LG Electronics has just introduced a web-enabled
26-cubic-foot Digital Internet Refrigerator in a space-age titanium finish that houses its own integrated LAN port, a door-mounted 15.1-inch TFT LCD monitor/television, and two-way videophone.

On the surface, designers are turning toward man-made materials such as concrete and other composites, even plastics. “There is a trend toward taking modern materials and creating something that is real for our time,” says California artist, designer, and builder Fu-Tung Cheng, whose Cheng Design studio is renowned for sculptural concrete countertops and metal hoods for the kitchen. “Concrete is a practical, expressive material that I could manipulate and cajole into doing different things,” he continues. Taking his cue from shallow lab sinks, he treats all of his work like art, with embedded found objects and such details as changes of elevations, trough-like sinks, and built-in drain boards.

F.A. Porsche, grandson of the legendary car designer, has simplified this worktop approach with Teutonic efficiency and style for Franke. His Mythos sink system is made of an extremely durable composite of fired granite and resin in tones of white or graphite. Designed for the serious cook, it is composed of multitask areas—a large sink, a small scrap sink, and a drain board—and various practical accessories. His stainless steel extended-arc faucet has a simple pull-down spray head and a single ergonomic “squared” ring control. For the ultimate in countertop appliances, this prolific designer, who got his design feet wet on the Porsche 911 in 1963, upped the ante for Bosch with a superbly engineered collection in brushed aluminum that includes a coffeemaker, blender, citrus juicer, and hot water kettle.

As for bathrooms, “they are coming out of the closet,” says New York interior designer Clodagh, whose clients are demanding spa-like sanctuaries with steam showers and soak tubs.

“At the same time, there is a demand for the therapeutic, functional advantages that technology brings,” adds Jacqueline Marquardt, Kohler’s senior product manager of whirlpools and baths. This technology is becoming increasingly seamless and unobtrusive. No complicated controls, no in-your-face design. The more innovative plumbing products are ideal for open floor plans. Kohler’s Purist bath cabinet, for example, has a faucet that extends out of the mirror and produces splash-free water that falls gently onto a shallow fireclay surface.

Chromatherapy—color therapy for relaxation and rejuvenation—has arrived in the shape of Ondine’s Electronic Light Shower and in Kohler’s latest bathtub, which takes the company’s popular s¯ok tub and envelops it in a wash of eight colors trans-mitted from LED light ports within the bath.

Dornbracht’s eMote hands- free electronic faucet by Sieger Design is all form and function, with an ad- vanced infrared device that, unlike the standard airport variety, is programmed to recognize running time, temperature, and flow. By design, it suspends elegantly over countertop basins in polished chrome or matte platinum.

In the shower, the touch-control panel of Hansgrohe’s Pharo Prestige Sensotronic Shower Panel, in brushed aluminum, drives its aerodynamic overhead shower, hand shower, body sprays, and halogen lighting.

Not to be outdone, Toto delivers the definitive state-of-the-art indulgence to that most basic of bathroom fixtures—the WC. The Jasmin Washlet toilet seat doubles as a mini bidet, with front and rear warm water sprays that can be regulated—via remote control—for preferred water pressure, temperature, and massage. It even has a warm air dryer and seat warmer.

Man-made materials are showing up in the most cutting-edge designs. Sensuous Zen-inspired water vessels made of resin-based composites include Boffi’s Gobi tub by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and Soap II basin by Sacha Winchel, named for its pristine white rectangular form.

If man can be certain of at least one thing in 2003, it is this: The once-rigid dictates of high tech have morphed into a clean-lined, gentle style with plenty of room for self-expression. “Without being facetious,” reflects Fu-Tung Cheng, “I think the trend in design is moving toward no trend. They have all really been done.” 

Boffi, 212.431.8282 and 310.458.9300, www.boffi.com
Bosch, 714.901.6600, www.boschappliances.com
Bulthaup, 800.808.2923, www.bulthaup.com
Cheng Design, 510.849.3272, www.chengdesign.com
Clodagh, 212.780.5300, www.clodagh.com
Dornbracht USA, 800.774.1181, www.dornbracht.com
Franke, 800.626.5771, www.frankeksd.com
Gaggenau USA, 800.828.9165, www.gaggenau.com
Hansgrohe, 770.360.9880, www.hansgrohe-usa.com
Kohler Co., 800.456.4537, www.kohler.com
Küppersbusch USA, 800.459.0844, www.kuppersbuschusa.com
LG Electronics USA, 800.243.0000, www.lgeus.com
Ondine, 800.423.9485, www.ondineshowers.com
Snaidero USA, 310.516.8499, www.snaidero-usa.com
Toto USA, 770.282.8686, www.totousa.com

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