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Despite the impact of the global financial crisis and the grounding of planes from volcanic ash in April this year, some 329,563 exhibitors and visitors from around the globe flocked to the biennial Eurocucina Kitchen and Bathroom Exhibition in Milan, the largest in the world.
Eurocucina is to kitchens what the Paris catwalk is to fashion and everyone in the industry is there to see the most innovative and exciting developments in kitchen design and manufacture. A-Plan's senior designer Catherine Young joined the throng.
One of the most notable trends was the increased use of natural materials such as timber and natural stone. While the popularity of solid surface products and stainless steel remained high, the replication of nature was everywhere to be seen even including the design of fresh herb gardens within the working space of the kitchen.
Floating cabinets were another emerging design trend. Whereas, kitchen cabinets have traditionally filled the void from floor to ceiling, floating cabinets lend themselves to an open plan providing a greater sense of room space. Already popular in Australian bathrooms where space is at a premium and style is important, it will be interesting to see if this trend takes hold in kitchen design in the Australian market.
Eurocucina saw the continuation of the fashion of integrating kitchens with their surrounding living areas. This was reflected through the use of similar colours and textures and the adoption of "soft boundaries" between kitchen and living spaces.
The exhibition also provided the opportunity for kitchen designers to play with shapes in the form of curves and angles as well as solids and voids. The results were often surprising with the development of a range of kitchens that didn't look like kitchens - with more display areas, more personality and more theatre.
So what were the take outs from such an extraordinary display of design and manufacturing ingenuity and how can we apply these ideas to Australian kitchens? Well, there's no doubt that kitchens are better planned and more sophisticated than ever - but this doesn't have to be at the expense of a sense of lightness, a sense of playfulness. If Milan can teach us anything, it's to be more adventurous and less constrained in our thinking and to let our kitchens express our personalities. Go on, give it a try!