If you have already reached an impressive collection of pictures gathered from Pinterest, Instagram and other places on the internet, and you already have an album with massive ideas for your future kitchen, you probably are in a situation where instead approach a decision, you go deeper into the search, and things seem more and more confusing to you. This research is pleasant to a certain extent, but from a certain moment we know that it is already becoming tiresome and even stressful.
What is the perfect design recipe for your new kitchen and your new home?
All the pictures with modern kitchens and modern interiors that you see on the internet are rooted in three styles, respectively three design “schools”, each with its own principles. Even if you borrow elements from one style or another, it’s advisable that the “foundation” of your project to be build healthy, on a single style, which means that every element, every material and colour you consider must respect the design principles of that particular style.
1. Scandinavian style
Scandinavian design (or Nordic) is characterised by its practical minimalism, based on utility considerations and does NOT emphasise aesthetic values.
Natural wood (especially pine and other softwoods) is the predominant material, especially associated with black metal structures or elements (metal has always been a material within reach in the Nordic countries) and large white surfaces that benefit from natural light – so precious in the Scandinavian area.
The shapes are reduced to their strict functionality, there are no ornaments or crafts made for purely aesthetic or decorative reasons. Any component will have exactly the shape, size and processing strictly necessary for its proper functioning, without taking into account the aesthetic side.
There is generally a tendency to associate the Scandinavian style with the image of the IKEA colossus, but it is not exactly correct as the Scandinavian design emphasises however the robustness and durability of the objects.
Interestingly, Scandinavian design returned strongly to the public’s attention in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crisis, when purchasing power declined, which also led to a – somewhat – consumer awareness towards excessive consumption.
In the meantime, it has been associated with the industrial design – an American movement whose goal is to reconvert old industrial spaces into residential or public spaces – with which it shares a number of common values. From this fusion resulted the Urban Style, considered a trend rather than a style itself, which became representative of the Millenials’ generation.
For the kitchen furniture, we recommend super-matte white or black (FENIX Bianco KOS or Nero Ingo are an excellent choice), which goes great with wooden floors of a look as natural as possible. Natural wood elements can be found in moderate quantities in the secondary elements of furniture or accessories, it is important not to abuse them; for example, avoid wooden-looking kitchen countertops and choose a material in the same colour as the fronts, or a metallic or slate finish or even a black composite. Solitary furniture units on metal structure give the simplicity of the Scandinavian style, and if you want to enter the territory of industrial design, you can introduce large concrete or exposed brick background surfaces.
2. Japanese design
Japanese design is characterized by essentiality and a total assimilation of interior design in the house architecture. “Essentiality” may at first seem similar to the practical-minimalism of the Scandinavian style, but the major difference is that the essentiality of the Japanese style places great emphasis on aesthetic harmony, where details are carefully studied to give a sense of subtlety and ” visual silence ”.
Minimalist design is also deeply rooted in this philosophy, which it applies in-extremis by studying constructive solutions to the complete exclusion of unwanted details and obtaining a volume as close to perfection as possible.
A feature of Japanese design are the communicating spaces, often separated by large sliding panels, as well as wooden panels that completely cover the walls, corrugated partition panels (screen type) or central furniture with a semi-transparent, light look that ensures a discreet division of their spaces and respective functions.
The prevailing materials are wood and stone, as well as natural-primary materials such as clay and argil – or other “earthy” materials. The materiality and essentiality of natural finishes are defined mainly by their texture and not by their colour. Solid, well-defined colours are not welcome in such an environment.
Streamlining common areas serves to make some sense of movement, a feeling of space in constant transformation, nothing is fixed and everything can adapt to every moment of the day depending on your mood.
For Japanese-inspired kitchen furniture, I recommend materials that are natural or have a natural look, for example light walnut fronts, or with a slightly smoky look, with limestone countertops in which the sink and hob must be perfectly integrated (INVISIBLE even!). It is very important to find a light dialogue between materials; use the textures of the materials and avoid contrasts.
The colour should generally appear as a shadow of the volumes, so avoid bright colors and look for “ghostly” colors and tone-on-tone combinations. You can discreetly underline a certain design line with metal profiles in accordance with the other materials, again without creating a colour contrast.
The floors must be continuous as a finish, so especially in the case of an open-space, the floor in the kitchen must be the same as in the living room.
If space allows, try to find relationships between the interior and exterior of the house; the harmony of Japanese design also means a close connection with nature.
3. Italian design and European "Lifestyle"
The very term “design” was born in Milan in the late 1950s, and very interesting is that interior design was born in correlation with fashion design (!).
The principles of Italian design have their foundations in the Roman period, but democratically borrow and reinterpret elements from various other cultures, including Nordic and Japanese design.
Italian design means first and foremost attention to every detail. Each element must surprise you, tell your own story and evoke a unique feeling – an emotion. The materials must always be prestigious and every time you come in contact with them they must transmit to you the mastery and passion with which they were created.
Very often, in Italian design the materials are used contrary to all expectations, totally unconventional, so that, for example, the stone is used as furniture fronts while stainless steel – in almost invisible thicknesses – is used for countertops. These design tricks change the volume and visual “weight” of the furniture elements, thus opening up new possibilities for approaching spaces.
Italian design inevitably means LUXURY, and as we wrote in “Luxury has died … long live luxury kitchens!” even if no one declares “officially” that he wants luxury, it is in our nature (… in our sin) to want the superlative.
I complete with a quote from Marcel Wanders that I think can be considered a correct definition of luxury and implicitly of Italian design: Luxury begins where the functional ends and where the value is strictly personal, without design or reason considerations.
There are countless options for kitchen furniture, a first recommendation would be glass or glossy colours associated with wood of exotic essence or heat-treated wood. A “timeless” choice in this regard is glossy white (or even matte) glass and natural heat-treated oak veneer, with natural marble countertops (Carrara – Statuario) and / or brushed stainless steel.
If you don’t like white, it’s up to you to choose from either the beige range or the grey range. In Italian design, colour really matters and matters to that extent that each colour has its natural name in Italian language. For example: Camoschio (black goat), Corda (rope), Canapa (hemp), Tortora (grey-dove), Fumo (smoke), Piombo (lead) or Polvere (dust).
Showcases and open spaces / shelves play an important role, as they enrich or disguise the environment with different plans and perspectives, while offering exhibition spaces for objects that will bring personality to your kitchen.
Italian design does not focus on a direct relationship between space, architecture and furniture; for example, do not look for the kitchen countertop to be (almost) identical to the parquet, or the colour of the furniture identical to the colour of the carpentry. In Italian design, each element has its own personality and is highlighted through an energetic dialogue with the other materials and elements with which it coexists in the environment.
First, you need to ask yourself how you want to feel in your own kitchen and in your own home.
- If you are a practical and efficient person, the Nordic style is probably the most suitable for you.
- If you are a peace-oriented person and seek introspection, the Japanese style will provide the balance that at the same time will give you enough dynamics when you want to escape.
- The Italian style is suitable for sophisticated people, who want to enjoy all the best in every moment of their life, without putting in the foreground the practical or rational aspects.
- And last but not least, no matter how much you resonate with a style and want to use it in your home design, you must take into account the location of your home (city, cottage in the mountains or at sea) and architecture.