From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

If the biannual High Point Market held in North Carolina is regarded as the furnishing industry’s equivalent of New York Fashion Week, then the Salon del Mobile in Italy is the counterpart to Paris Fashion Week.

Held every April in Milan, the weeklong show is a harbinger of future driving design trends and is attended by close to 500,000 design insiders from across the world. Among them this year was Pittsburgh-based interior design Lauran Levant, who also took over Kitchen and Bath Business Magazine's Instagram account for a day during the show.

“It’s like a weeklong party and it’s open to everyone here,” Levant says of her time at Milan Design Week. “Everyone at the very, very top of the game from around the world is here. I don’t know if it gets any bigger than this.”

A past Pittsburgh Magazine Home of the Year winner in the Best Renovation category, who also helmed two winning entries in the 2018 Best of Design contest, Levant reveals some of the biggest kitchen trends to emerge from the show.

From smart counter worktops to “disappearing” kitchens, these are the design concepts you can expect to eventually make their way stateside from across the Atlantic.


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Motion and Flexibility

Flexibility in kitchen design is game changer, according to Levant. Some of the innovations seen at EuroCucina 2018 — the section of the show dedicated to kitchen installations — were countertops that flip up and down, hiding the appliances that aren’t in use, or that serve multiple purposes. Italian brand Scavolini featured a stainless steel kitchen island with sliding panels that reveal a sink and cooktop, while Laboratorio Mattoni showcased a hinged kitchen center that folds in on itself.


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Appliances also served multiple duties, such as the DualCook Flex oven (available in the U.S. later this year) by Samsung Home Appliances, which allows consumers to utilize the whole oven or to heat up only half of it. What’s the point? Using the half of the oven for smaller dishes consumes less energy and it also has a faster preheat time, Levant noted on Instagram.

Levant adds most kitchens in Europe’s older buildings are small, forcing designers to come up with creative storage and cooking solutions. These designs also are a plus for local homeowners, particularly for Pittsburgh’s city dwellers, where space is more of an issue.

“In smaller spaces, every inch of the countertop is important to utilize,” Levant says. “There are some beautiful solutions that are being shown.”


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Major Metals

Brass is having a moment. From accent pieces to shelving to hardware in the kitchen and bathroom, Levant says the metal was everywhere during the 2018 show. Also part of the conversation was copper, which Levant particularly loved when it was mixed with brass, as it was on a show-stopping oven range by luxury kitchen and appliance brand Officine Gullo. Sleek black stainless steel appliances also were in abundance at the show, Levant says.


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Organization Made Easy

Mise en Place is a French term that means “everything in its place,” and it’s a concept Levant says chefs often embrace because it means all of the tools they need to make preparation easier and faster are at hand. The concept also was celebrated at EuroCucina 2018, primarily through centralized kitchen design.

For example, backsplashes were utilized for hanging tools and shelves. Organization units made out of metal, wood and, in some cases, leather, were as beautiful as they were functional.

Levant says organization can be a powerful tool in the kitchen — and in life. She adds most of her clients stress their desire for convenience in the kitchen, resulting in a more effortless experience.

“I think this is a really good approach to take in kitchen design,” she says. “If you solve the problem, and solve the stress, that’s a very powerful thing.”  


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Porcelain Countertops

Think you can’t afford a marble or a quartz countertop? You might want to give porcelain a try. Porcelain slab countertop surfaces, such as the ones created by SapienStone, give the look of natural stone, but are more environmentally friendly — and more economical, Levant says. The scratchproof, stain-proof surfaces are available in a variety of colors and finishes. As opposed to stone, the porcelain comes in much thinner sheets, which means it also can be used to clad walls. Levant suggests using lower sheen porcelain in the kitchen. For the bathroom or powder room, try a glossy finish.  


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