Liebherr Appliances Interviews Acclaimed Designer, Michael Schluetter, On The Future Of Kitchen Design
Miami, FL, November 2017 – Liebherr Appliances, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium refrigeration for more than 60 years, discusses the future of kitchen design with acclaimed designer, Michael Schluetter, co-founder and lead designer at SCHWARZMANN European Kitchens, LLC. This enlightening Q&A explores trends in kitchen design and the important role appliance selection has in the design process.
Q: How has the kitchen design changed over the past decade?
In the past decade we have seen a drastic change in the United States towards use of simple clean materials with less decorative elements. The evolution of international design is often influenced by urban city design and the use of raw materials inside the house such as concrete and untreated or even refurbished solid woods.
Just 10 years ago we saw a massive use of high gloss lacquers and exotic veneers such as makassar or Indian apple. However, the design language in the last two years has changed to using matte surfaces such as ultra-matte laminates and matte lacquers as well as rough finished wood veneers and solid woods such as wild oak, walnut, refurbished driftwoods or core ash.
This more natural approach creates a much more environmentally friendly kitchen that is perhaps less chic but more harmonic and soothing for the eye. We have also seen more appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and freezers hidden behind these natural materials.
Q: Is a “smart/connected kitchen” necessary in today’s modern homes?
Yes and No. This depends on how we manage our food and storage needs. The necessity can be dependent on homeowners being willing to share their cooking habits and try out new ways of preparing meals and managing their shopping habits.
Connecting multiple appliances with each other, such as cooktops with range hoods and ovens, brings a practical automatic control that can adjust seamlessly while making changes during cooking such as searing to simmering and all the way to serving.
Managing one's appliances also comes in very handy when we leave our homes for work or extended travel. We can now monitor if the refrigerator is closed or if we need to change the temperature in the food storage to accommodate certain foods and beverages. This can be especially critical for wine refrigerators.
Designers welcome each new development in technology and would like to see more appliances being able to connect to one single control application. At the same time it is also important to keep appliances practical and simple to use so guests and all family members can use the kitchen easily.
Q: How do you like to approach kitchen design?
We meet with our client in their home to see the current design and layout of the house and living environment. Based on the architecture and usage of materials in the house, we make the initial selection of materials and designs for consideration. We then work in all design ideas into our BIM software and create a photo realistic 3D model including all appliance data as well as lighting and material simulations.
Q: How are baby boomers “aging in place” and millennials entering the market changing kitchen design?
In Europe these standards are well known in the kitchen design community, and are already a part of the kitchen design process. However, aging in place is a concept that has come to the forefront in just the past several years. We work closely and recommend a professional Aging in Place Certification that teaches the detailed basics of how to plan a house and kitchen design for multiple generations.
Not only is it important to optimize bathrooms, stairs, storage spaces and bedrooms to be accessible for wheel chairs and other mobility aids -- the Kitchen plays the most critical role in this equation as the heart of the house and the center of communication in the home.
Clients need to be made aware of their choices such as selecting the right working height for counters, considering a raised dishwasher and oven, smart storage such as extra deep pull-out drawers, and the use of under-counter refrigeration options.
Millennials enter the market with many ideas that are very different from other generations. Highly influenced by extensive travelling and communicating with other cultures worldwide, their opened-mindedness in regards to new technologies and design is refreshing and bold. They appreciate the design process and like to develop their own ideas and material combinations.
Q: How do you determine which appliances are the best fit for your clients?
We have a look at our clients’ current appliance set-up and make a detailed list of what they would like to add or reduce from that. We then go with them through showrooms and see appliances such as refrigeration, wine coolers, cooktops and steam ovens. This process of seeing and touching is the key to understanding what will be needed and that has a great impact on the design.
Q: When would you recommend a refrigerator that is concealed and integrated with cabinetry, or when it is exposed? Is this dictated more by the designer or homeowner?
This is actually highly influenced by the design and the style that the client wants to achieve in the home. If the client loves to cook on a professional level then the appliances are mostly more industrial looking with more stainless steel showing in the refrigerators, cooktops, and ovens. On the other hand, if the client desires a clean European design with only minimalistic lines, we utilize the fully integrated appliances instead.
Q: What are the three most important features when specifying a refrigerator?
We consider our clients and ask ourselves three important questions. 1) What size do they really require for their food and beverage storage needs? 2) What percentage of space do they want to dedicate as freezer space? 3) Does the refrigerator’s form, design, and function complement the kitchen’s materials and design language?
Q: What are your thoughts on mixing materials in the kitchen?
Mixing materials is a great way to create a vivid design that takes off the edge of just using a single material. A much more comfortable living environment can be created by mixing a solid color material with a warm wood such as a solid oak with a light grey. This enables for stark contrast designs such as black doors and drawers mixed with a natural core ash veneer that create a more dramatic and interesting feeling.
Q: Do you find homeowners are installing multiple refrigerators throughout the home?
Yes, we see the usage of additional refrigerators not just in the kitchen but also in bars, coffee stations, outdoor kitchens, or in the wine room.
Q: For people on a budget, what are small updates that can make a big difference in kitchen design?
For a small budget, our recommendation is to use materials such as a European laminate with laser sealed edges that closely resemble a lacquer material but at a fraction of the cost. You can also work with book matched textured wood design laminates that look very similar to solid wood but are also much more affordable. Also, a new clean countertop out of manmade quartz in matte finish can also make a huge difference on a small budget.
Q: Do you think paneled appliances will eventually replace the stainless-steel trend?
Yes. We already see our designs progressing for three years to utilization of a fully integrated look and putting the kitchen materials into the spotlight. A seamless fit also allows the usage of multiple refrigeration units next to each other and offer a great freedom to combine different sizes and types next to each other.
Q: What projects are you working on right now?
Right now we are working on a new project on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, where we are designing the interior cabinets and wall paneling for a ultra-modern Mountain Home. For this project we are using Liebherr Refrigerator/Freezers in the kitchen and wine room.
We are also working on a penthouse in the Bentley Bay Building in South Beach, Miami, where we are creating a stunning natural kitchen and bar design in smoked oak with matching entertainment furniture and dining table.
Our Schwarzmann Outdoor Kitchen has gone to prototype phase, where we will be testing the design in the Florida environment. Using a new 12mm thick outdoor material that is fire retardant, waterproof, and salt water resistant, we can achieve intriguing designs matching the outside of a modern house design while integrating appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and outdoor grills.
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