Article written by Jamie Gold, The San Diego Union Tribune
Salone del Mobile.Milano is a massive design industry trade show held in Italy’s fashion capital every year. Every even-numbered year — including 2018 — it features kitchens and baths in two shows-within-the-show that are larger than any comparable design expo held in the U.S., and its producers sponsor a press tour to see these latest releases from across the globe.
The products shown here are from this tour, including some already here, some coming soon and a unique prototype. Local kitchen and bath professionals who work with these products share their thoughts on what San Diego area homeowners might find interesting and beneficial about them.
1. Leicht — Bondi finish
Imagine cabinets with a soft velvet finish that welcomes touching, while also being fingerprint resistant. Now imagine that finish on a sophisticated European kitchen near the category’s entry level price point. “It is a new look, extra matte not reflecting any light, and designed to not show fingerprints,” says Eva Clemens, president and senior designer at Little Italy-based Studio Europa, about Leicht’s new Bondi finish. Bondi is a laminate with a lacquer layer that gives it its fingerprint resistance.
While cheap kitchen and bath products from decades past gave laminate a bad name, it’s a surprisingly stylish and durable finish for cabinetry. Add in new features to the line like a door in the same finish that can pass through to a prep kitchen or pantry, app-driven LED lighting (both shown at Salone), and 90 years of German design engineering, and you have the makings of a sophisticated family-friendly kitchen.
Price: Pricing varies widely by room size and features selected.
2. Smeg — FlexiDuo dishwasher rack
There’s no shortage of dishwashers on the market, or dishes that need washing in our kitchens. For those who entertain often and those who feed large groups on a daily basis, having a machine with flexible capacity is a real bonus. Smeg, an Italian appliance company, has come up with an innovative rack that can help these homeowners.
“The FlexiDuo is a great space saver for the consumer,” comments Larry Dreiling, a manager at Kearny Mesa area Aztec Appliance. “It allows you to free up space for the larger items below by removing it if necessary.” It can also be configured in several ways to accommodate hard to fit items like serving utensils, sports bottle caps, measuring spoons, etc., saving the homeowner from having to hand-wash them. “This is one of the most requested features on a dishwasher — a very smart idea,” Dreiling declares. It comes on Smeg’s stainless steel and Italian color series.
Price: Dishwashers featuring FlexiDuo racks range from $799 to $1,099.
3. Aran Cucine — Sipario kitchen
This Italian kitchen manufacturer exports globally, including to its Solana Beachshowroom. Sipario is one of its latest contemporary kitchens, shown at Salone last month and coming to our area this summer. Kris Garrett, the locally based vice president of Aran World USA, notes that the line will appeal to “bold and contemporary clients that embrace a more minimalist lifestyle.”
Aside from its sleek metal legs and integral handles — a major trend at Salone this year — one of Sipario’s most striking elements is an 8-foot-wide wall door Garrett calls “fantastic.” It operates with a servo drive mechanism that makes opening and closing it easy for even the most petite person. It’s “unique to see such a long horizontal element,” he notes. Also unique in the line, but not yet approved for American use, is the vent hood above the wall cabinets. While it may never come here, it does point to the minimalist trend seen widely around Salone and embraced by coastal and downtown homeowners here.
Price: Pricing varies widely by room size and features selected.
4. Victoria + Albert — Rossendale basin
The company name may evoke Old World charm and vintage-inspired fixtures, which they definitely make, but Rossendale is V+A’s delightful New World offering, updated for contemporary and transitional tastes popular in the San Diego area. Allison Fey, showroom manager at The Bath & Kitchen Showplace on Miramar Road, sees it being a potential client favorite for its versatility. Rossendale comes in three sizes and can be under-mounted or installed as a wading pool style drop-in sink. She anticipates that the under-mount will be more popular with local homeowners; it’s also more timeless.
“The larger sizes are particularly appealing as they can be under-mounted in a vanity with two single-hole faucets to create a trough style sink.” Troughs are extremely popular for multi-user bathrooms, combining a long basin with a separate faucet for each user. “It is a great solution for Jack and Jill bathrooms,” Fey notes and also “makes a greater impact in master bathrooms that have a long vanity run.”
5. Hansgrohe — PowderRain shower technology
What do you enjoy in a shower experience? If the soft, gentle spray of a summer downpour is more appealing than the blast of a carwash, Hansgrohe’s new Raindance heads with PowderRain may be your next bathroom buy. “The spray is unique in that it offers a soft rain, yet powerful spray,” comments Lorin Moch, showroom sales director at International Bath & Tile. IBT has showrooms in Clairemont Mesa and Solana Beach.
German manufacturer Hansgrohe introduced this new technology at Salone, and it will be coming here in a couple of months. “Instead of having an individual node, each node has multiple holes. The water adheres to the skin instead of bouncing off,” Moch notes about one of its benefits. It is also quieter than most, she says, (perfect for open master suites) and “extremely useful in low flow areas” like ours. It’s always nice when you don’t have to sacrifice performance for sustainability.
Available: Third quarter of this year
Price: Shower heads featuring PowderRain range from $206 to $793.
6. Vola — T39ELUS towel rail
Luxury lovers and homeowners with winter properties both appreciate the benefits of a towel warmer. It’s absolutely delicious wrapping your cool, wet skin in a toasty bath sheet after a shower, soak or swim. Vola, a Danish company you probably never heard of, is making this a more personal and stylish experience with its new customizable towel bar system. “The bars are modular, so it allows for individual design solutions, with the use of as many bars as the space allows,” International Bath & Tile’s Moch shares.
The product is available in both electric and hydronic (water-heated) versions, she adds. You choose the heat level and warming time, as well as the number of bars you want and their finish (to coordinate with the others in the space). “The versatility and simplicity of design make this product attractive,” Moch says. Even though it rarely gets very cold in San Diego, the chill of surfing, diving and open water swimming can make this a premium amenity for local beach homes, as well as those Tahoe or Big Bear vacation spots.
Price: Pricing starts at $2,238.
Modern European design may be your personal taste, or you may prefer more traditional American-inspired looks. The beauty of a place like San Diego is your style will fit in whichever direction it takes. And the benefit of a show like Salone is that it shows not just the latest looks but some of the world’s finest engineering and innovation to benefit everyone, whether in Italy or Imperial Beach, Milan or La Mesa.
Gold is a San Diego-based, independent kitchen and bath designer and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work.” Her website is jgkitchens.com.