Of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen seems to be evolving the most rapidly, especically when it comes to technology. We reached out to Alberto Snaidero to get his take on the changes taking place. As the operational manager at Snaidero USA, he's got a front row seat to the new kitchen. From smart tech to materials, there's a lot going on.
For cabinets, soft close systems on all doors and drawers are a must. Software technology is drastically different than it was a decade ago—you can immediately design a space and make changes on the fly, when it used to take hours to draw out the floor plans. It has increased productivity and efficiency significantly. Material technologies are allowing us to use materials we never considered for kitchen in the past: leather, bronze, concrete, carbon fiber, zinc, and other industrial materials. Our ventilation hoods clean the air and can hide out of view when we aren’t using them, and they have become design elements in their own right.
Touch controls instead of knobs are now popular on ovens and cooktops, and we’re seeing remote control settings and timers as well. Ovens have eliminated all the guess work—you basically scroll through a menu of food items (as you would on your smartphone) enter the weight and hit ‘start’. The oven technology is advanced enough to cook it to perfection, determining exactly the right amount of heat, time, and energy to use, allowing us all to appear as if we’re seasoned chefs. Refrigeration is the same way, storing our food at optimal temperature and humidity levels to keep food fresh and tasting great for much longer.
How will technology continue to evolve in the kitchen?
The use of technology is allowing us to take universal kitchen design to a whole new level, making the kitchen a completely personalized, safe and functional space for all, regardless of age and physical/mental abilities. Snaidero has recently partnered with a network of universities, research centers and companies in different fields to explore industrial research and development for a universal design project called LAK: the “Living for All” kitchen. The goal of this universal kitchen design endeavor is to develop the prototype for an “intelligent” environment that utilizes home automation devices, sensors, smart outlets, and innovative remote control systems. These different technologies are integrated into a single platform with an easy-to-use interface that helps you “program” the kitchen to act as you wish. It will consider security, comfort, energy efficiency, and design to create a kitchen that literally adapts and transforms depending on its user. With features like adjustable workspaces and countertops, sensors that let you know how food items should be stored and when they will expire, and facial recognition software that will adapt to your personal specifications for lighting, temperature or personal reminders, etc., this is just the beginning.
The result is a solution that improves the quality of home life for everyone. This concept that is especially useful for multi-generational households where different users have distinct functional needs. This home automation allows more flexibility as we grow older. If someone in the home is dealing with memory loss or if you have small children, the oven and cook-top can be locked remotely, if they are home alone, to avoid accidents.
Kitchen technology will also continue to evolve in environmentally friendly ways, given the ubiquitousness of things like LED lighting and environmentally-friendly wood and manufacturing processes. I think particleboard, while industry-standard, will be even more prominent, given its durability, and the fact that it requires less deforestation than solid wood.
One of the bigger design and aesthetic changes in recent memory occurred when dishwashers were developed that had the controls located on the inside of the door so an outside panel can be integrated to look like the rest of the cabinetry for a clean, European look. The cabinets will continue to integrate technology seamlessly but will also advance the design conversation. Snaidero has been influential in setting the standards for European cabinetry, including introducing the first handle-less kitchen, commissioning notable designers to design our kitchens, and demonstrating how new materials can provide classic style, while maintaining modern appeal.
On a smaller level, many of our designers have added adjustable spaces into cabinetry for people to place iPads, docking stations, and TV screens that help them manage the household. They can pull up recipes and family schedules as well as control things going on in other sections of the home. The keyword here is adjustability. Technology improves so quickly, you do not want to spend money creating a niche for something that will be smaller, thinner, and smarter a year later.
Despite changing tastes and trends, Snaidero’s designs have stood the test of time. What do you attribute that to? In what ways have you adapted or tweaked them?
Snaidero never designs to be trendy. We try to consider classic designs, then adapt them to modern life, while introducing new and unique elements to help evolve the kitchen in a meaningful way. A tremendous amount of thought, design, and engineering goes into our cabinet styles so they CAN stand the test of time. You cannot manufacture a kitchen to last 30 years in someone’s home, but design it so that it is only current for 5-10 years. That is intentional and what makes Snaidero truly special. We further update and stay relevant by evolving wood and lacquer colors and updating the styles every so often to accommodate advancing technologies.
Intelligent design will always stand the test of time. The overall concept of IDEA today is based on the same design principals as it was over 40 years ago; elegant balance and unified lines. The adaptions come from updated drawer systems and modern engineering. Small details like door profiles and finishes will be streamlined to keep the style fresh, but the beauty is that the IDEA installed in 1975 still looks as current and innovative as the one installed in 2014. That is the Snaidero difference.
What are some design trends on the kitchen horizon?
Different materials for door finishes like porcelain and glass are becoming more popular. While grey will continue to be a huge trend in interior design as a whole, I think we’ll start seeing more rusts, bronzes, and warmer, golden tones on the horizon. Both dark and neutral woods (like Walnut) and raw, textured wood have some staying power as well. They revisit early kitchen design in a new way, and are often integrated with more contemporary elements to stay interesting. More industrial elements like stainless open shelving and brick will also continue. As for function, we’ll see more double islands, double ovens, specific ‘work zones’ and unique pantry storage. White kitchens are timeless and open floor plans are definitely here to stay for good.
Design can simplify life—people like materials that are easy to clean and appliances that are “smart” and intuitive. Streamlined design that reduces clutter, integrated appliances and handle-free cabinets and appliances.
Are there things that folks aren't as interested in now?
We’ve seen diminished interest in granite countertops and in medium toned and warm woods (like cherry).
Double bowl sinks, tambour appliance garages and trash compactors are also losing their appeal a bit. I think people are growing more of their own food, trying to create less waste, reusing things and repurposing for the environment, which can only be positive! People are also requesting the removal of a desk area in the kitchen, possibly as a way to remove the pleasures of food and company from the concepts of work or homework. People are gravitating towards induction cooktops and away from bulky professional style appliances. The elimination of microwaves has been interesting—people want to make their food fresh or reheat it more traditional ways. There is always value in the past—it’s interesting to revisit concepts that once were old and are now new again. It keeps things interesting!