Kitchens are becoming increasingly open spaces, not just in terms of their layout but their functional roles as well. That’s the sentiment visitors would have had walking past the various booths at EuroCucina 2016.
The bi-annual kitchen exposition, part of the highly anticipated Salone del Mobile Milan furniture fair, is where internationally renowned kitchen system and appliance makers unveil their latest collections.
The fair’s 55th edition this year drew over 372,151 attendees, and more than 120 exhibitors were solely focused on offering new kitchen solutions at EuroCucina.
While kitchen system developers, such as Valcucine, Varenna and Boffi, dished out their respective kitchen design concepts, a key theme that brought the various looks together was an emphasis on evoking a sense of luxury through textures and materials.
Unnecessary details such as patterns and prints were eliminated, replaced with flat surfaces in premium wood, marble, stone and quartz composites. The designs of the counters and islands, too, assumed a more understated and sophisticated aesthetic reminiscent of a professional kitchen. Doubling as a way to separate the cooking zone from the living area, the kitchen counters also provide space for casual dining and interaction.
Out of sight
In line with the open living concepts put forth by system developers, kitchen appliance brands are also serving up products that not only impress with their performance, but surprise with their ability to adapt seamlessly into any open-plan kitchen environment.
At its 760 sqm pavilion at EuroCucina, Miele presented several new collections and product ideas contributing towards its theme of providing the “Best Solutions For A Better Life”.
One of its highlights, the ArtLine series, was unveiled as the perfect solution for integrated kitchens. The handle-less look of the series’ built-in appliances allows the equipment to adapt seamlessly with the surrounding wall panels and cabinetry, creating the impression of an uncluttered space. This smooth and effortless look is essential for homeowners hoping to inject a sense of calm and serenity into their domains.
The function of the handle on a conventional model is replaced and assumed by a sensor integrated into the fascia (Touch2Open).
Designed with smooth glass fronts and integrated displays, the ArtLine design is sleek and blends well with all types of cabinet fronts. Technically, ArtLine’s models are based on current built-in appliances from Miele’s Generation 6000 series. However, the function of the handle on a conventional model is replaced and assumed by a sensor integrated into the fascia (Touch2Open). Gently touching this sensor opens the motor-assisted door in a soft-opening and closing manner.
“Where kitchen and living room meet, there is always a call for elegant and clear forms,” says Miele’s chief designer Andreas Enslin. “And as spaces become smaller in apartment homes, even the sight of handles can disturb the seamless look of an interior. We figured it’s better to just look at flat surfaces so we replaced the handle on appliances of the Generation 6000 series with an integrated sensor in the fascia.”
“It’s not just an issue with small apartments. The modern lifestyle is such that the kitchen is open towards the living room and the dining area is part of it. The kitchen is not hidden or closed away, so it’s very important how the kitchen cabinetry is designed and there is a clear trend towards concealing kitchen appliances behind a wall panel or within nice cupboards,” reasons Reinhard Zinkann, co-proprietor and joint executive director of Miele, who, like fellow joint executive director Markus Miele, is a fourth-generation heir to the business founded by their great-grandfathers Carl Miele and Reinhard Zinkann (Senior) in 1899.
Customers can choose between two ArtLine model versions: price-entry models that feature Miele’s DirectSensor controls, and top-of-range models that boast an M Touch display, which is reminiscent of a smartphone in the way it interacts with its user and offers a search function for automatic programmes.
When it comes to creating the perfect finish, Miele also took things a step further by developing various colour options for its equipment to complement any home kitchen setting. Built-in appliances in the ArtLine design are available in brilliant white, obsidian black and a new graphite grey tone.
Central to the ArtLine are features that cater to the modern homeowner’s need for space optimisation and a multi-functional space that can be an effective cooking zone at mealtimes and transform into a living area at others. Yet Miele takes this concept a step further by adding top-notch performance and an intuitive user interface to the mix.
For the German kitchen brand with a 117-year history, surpassing user expectations by using innovative technology and user-centric designs is a key part of the company’s ongoing success. Zinkann says, “Our motto is Immer Besser, which means forever better in German, so each generation of the company’s founders strives to think about what could be different about the Miele product in terms of being better in quality and durability but also technology. It’s about being different. Also, quality is priceless, and we never talk about the price of the product. We do not talk about washers. We talk about taking care of laundry, taking care of what you wear because your garments are your second skin. If we talk about cooking appliances, we think about the most positive cooking results and the easiest user interface. So we always think in terms of value.”
Miele is keenly aware of new trends and lifestyle evolutions, a quality seen in the thoughtful touches included in its new lineup in response to the popularity of cooking enthusiasts wanting to experiment with new cuisines at home.
The combination steam oven range, along with the built-in vacuum sealing drawer offers the necessary features required for home chefs to cook using the sous vide technique with ease.
Zinkann points out that while Miele’s steam ovens already offer a sous vide cooking programme, it wasn’t until this launch that the team decided to include a vacuum sealing drawer into the design.
“We originally thought that users preferred to use vacuum sealing units that could be stowed away when not in use, but it wasn’t in our philosophy to offer a sous vide cooking programme that wasn’t accompanied by its own vacuum chamber. We introduced it so it could fit perfectly with our design approach,” he explains.
At the same time, Zinkann also notes that the move to provide a full-fledged sous vide solution came partly from the growing popularity of home cooks using sous vide to prepare their meals.
“Sous vide cooking was introduced to home cooks about four years ago, when professional chefs and recipe books began promoting the cooking technique. As such, demand has grown exponentially and it made sense for us to provide a solution to meet this demand,” Zinkann says.
Similarly, the TempControl induction hobs were developed to offer homeowners greater convenience and solve the problem of food being overcooked. Sensors embedded in the ceramic screen maintain the temperature throughout the cooking process without the need for special pots or pans. Three different temperature settings are available (160°C, 200°C and 220°C), allowing users the freedom of preparing a whole gamut of foods. The Simmer and Keep Warm Plus settings help in the preparation of sauces and gravies, and are useful for keeping food warm or when reheating dishes.
When it comes to cleaning up after a meal, Miele’s new G 6000 EcoFlex dishwashers offer as much thoughtful features as its cooking appliances. The new range of dishwashers boasts low energy consumption and shorter cleaning cycles (the new QuickPowerWash programme washes and dries crockery and cutlery in only 58 minutes), in addition to the patented and adjustable 3D cutlery drawer for enhanced loading flexibility. Two hinged rows of spikes in the central section can be lowered to create space for long items, such as a large ladle. The new spikes also ensure that slender kitchen utensils, such as cook’s knives and salad servers, are securely positioned and thoroughly washed and dried on all sides. A lower basket design, consisting of fibre-reinforced plastic surfaces, features height-adjustable FlexCare glass holders. Tall stemware can be held securely in place in the openings by new silicone rests.
Moving into the digital age
Another point Miele asserted during EuroCucina was its determination to keep its appliances relevant to modern users through the inclusion of wireless technology. The G 6000 EcoFlex dishwashers are equipped with WLAN connectivity, so that they can be monitored and controlled with a smartphone or tablet using the Miele@Mobile app. Furthermore, the ShopConn@ct function, once activated, automatically reminds users when tablets, rinse aids or reactivation salts need replenishing. From there, convenient reordering through the webshop is only a few clicks away.
However, it was Miele’s off-site presentation in Zona Tortona during Milan Design Week that really demonstrated the brand’s commitment to research and development. The Invisible Kitchen showcase comprises a real-time cooking demonstration of a three-course meal around a digital cooking counter where intuitive technology meets timeless design.
The Invisible Kitchen fuses Miele’s existing innovations, such as the digital cooking hobs, with new ideas for utilising smart technology. Serving as a source of inspiration for now, presenters brought the audience around a circular glass-clad counter that could assist users through every step of the cooking process, from selection of ingredients to cooking and even offering plating suggestions, too.
“Our conventional notion of a closed-in kitchen comes from the Frankfurt kitchen style adopted by German housewives in the 1950S and our lifestyles have evolved tremendously since then. Now that the kitchen and living rooms are coming together, there is a serious need to find out what the kitchen of the future should look like. For that, we had to understand the cooking process before developing a cooking cycle with the design department. That helped us to generate scenarios for the future. It’s a conceptual visualisation of what we think is going to happen in the future,” Miele says.
According to Zinkann, this new-age kitchen vision is not far from reality and may even be rolled out within the next decade. Over 23,000 visitors attended the presentation.
“For the first time ever, we are showing the public a glimpse of the things we’re developing inside our laboratory. We want to share our vision of what cooking will be like in the future,” Miele says.
“The long-term success of a brand, such as Miele, depends not on its product characteristics but on their ability to fascinate and inspire. This is what we’re looking to do in Milan with our ‘Invisible Kitchen’,” says Axel Kniehl, managing director of marketing and sales.
For Zinkann, one of the goals with The Invisible Kitchen is also to reach out to the community of potential Miele customers who are young, internet-saavy, engaged in social media and form the core of the digital generation. “We want to get reactions from the worldwide social media community, because this is a segment of the population that never gave much thought to investing in home appliances. By engaging with them, we hope to establish a connection and, in time to come, introduce them to Miele.”
Markus Miele on how technology is likely to change the way we interact with our kitchens:
“Wireless technology will be a big trend. Our focus is on how to incorporate it into our designs so it can benefit the user.”
“Smart kitchens of the future need to be able to help home cooks to achieve cooking standards similar to those of professional chefs. In addition, smart kitchens should allow users to connect with other users as well. This means being able to exchange information and recipes when cooking.”
“A high-tech interface needs to be easy enough for anyone to use. In the same way that drivers don’t need to know the technical details of an engine in order to drive a car, kitchen users shouldn’t have to grapple with the technology to use their kitchen appliances. That’s the level of convenience we aim to provide our customers.”