Last week, I shared what I spotted as the top style trends at the IMM/LivingKitchen trade show in Cologne, Germany. Today, I’d like to share a bit about the hot kitchen technology trends I spotted there. There were some nifty ones that I look forward to eventually seeing in the U.S. There were only a few game changers this time around, and none has U.S. release dates yet. Still, they’re worth sharing as I believe they’ll eventually make their way across the pond.

BTW, I will be hosting a Twitter Chat this week discussing these trends with Thermador.  Tune in on Thursday, Jan 31, 1pm PST.  The hashtag for the chat is #ThermadorDesign.  Five lucky participants will win copies of New Kitchen Ideas That Work, (Taunton Press, 2012).

Now, back to my weekly post…

Customization Trend

The ability to customize your user experience – inspired, I believe, by the increasing popularity of smart phones and tablets – was the number one tech trend at the show. This showed up in a number of different ways and products.

  • Bosch is starting to carry its warranty information, along with education, service info and much more, on iPads for European buyers.
  • Alno created a kitchen island whose work stations could be adjusted, also via iPad, to a user’s preferred height.
  • Gaggenau is offering a cooking center that you can completely customize with your choice of induction, gas, steam, grill, griddle and downdraft modules. It is slated for U.S. release this Spring.
  • GAME CHANGER #1: TPB Barcelona showed off the coolest induction cooking system I’ve ever seen. This manufacturer of porcelain slab countertops has found a way to build the burners right into the top, with no glass cooktop rectangle at all. You choose where and how many burners you want. The effect is unbelievably sleek.
  • A rather clever new firm from England called Recycologic introduced a pull-out bin system you can customize as often as you need to for your home’s trash and recycling needs.  It’s low-tech, for sure, but rather innovative.   The inventor, Peter Forbes, is looking for U.S. partners, so we might see his products here in 2013 or 2014, if we’re lucky.

IMM 2013 - Top Products - TPBInduction burners built right into the porcelain slab countertop
(Photo Courtesy:  TPB Barcelona)

Motion Trend

I found myself intrigued by the new “motion” technologies I spotted around the show floor. Again, these don’t have U.S. release dates yet, but we’ll probably be seeing some form of them coming our way in the next few years.

  • Miele debuted CupSensor, a nifty technology that lets the dispenser on their built-in coffee systems adjust to the height of a cup placed under it. This means less spillage and mess, which is always a good thing. (Plus, it’s fun to watch.)
  • BLANCO* introduced an amazingly cool faucet called Blancosaga with no handles at all; you control it through a sliding sleeve on the spout.
  • Warendorf, a Swiss-owned cabinet company, managed to provide touch-latch, soft-close drawers without pricey ServoDrive technology. Their Grass system is more affordable and gives you both sleek handle-free design with soft-close luxury. Sweet!
  • Hacker, another large European cabinet manufacturer, offered an island with a wonderful moving countertop. When closed, it hides a cooktop. When open, it allows for seating at an overhang.
  • GAME CHANGER #2: Hacker also showed off a very cool wall cabinet door opening system they call Climbing Doors. At the press of a button on the bottom of the wall cabinet, the doors open like Venetian blinds. Another press of the button and they close. There’s no need for petite people to get out the step ladder to close them, or for tall people to duck out of the way when they open outward. They also mean designers can specify vertically-opening doors with no overhead clearance space required. (Unfortunately, it might take a little longer for this technology to reach the U.S., as there are some code issues involved.)
  • S-Box, which I’ve written about before, both here and in print, showed off a flush undermount system for iPod, iPad, iPhone, TV, wine and other devices. These boxes hide below the countertop when not in use and rise up when you want to access them. The system they showed there replaced a stainless steel top with countertop material, creating a much slicker integrated look. Good news: these are available in the U.S., with the wine system coming in the Spring.

IMM 2013 Products - Climbing Cabinet Doors

Climbing Wall Doors – Closed
(Photo Courtesy:  Hacker)

IMM2013 - Top Products - Hacker Climbesr

Climbing Wall Doors – Opened
(Photo Courtesy:  Koelnmesse)

Cooking Trend

When I visited this show two years ago for the first time, I was knocked out by Gaggenau’s new cooktop, the first one ever offering full-surface induction technology. Full surface means that the entire surface is usable for cooking, rather than just four burners. B/S/H, Gaggenau’s parent company, released the technology in the U.S. last summer under their Thermador brand. It sells for about $5,000 US.

At IMM this year, there were many more full surface induction offerings, from a wide range of manufacturers. One was even priced (wholesale) below $1,000. I can see this being a real boon to apartment and condo developers. The Spanish company that developed this discount model is working on getting U.S. distribution for 2013. I’m keeping a close eye on this!


Next week, in a Top Products from IMM/LivingKitchen post, I’ll share the third game changer I spotted at the show. It doesn’t fit into the trend category, but is definitely worth mentioning! Stay tuned…

*BLANCO sponsored the trip to Cologne, Germany and IMM/LivingKitchen for its Design Council.  They did not pay me or my Council colleagues to write about their products, but they did cover all of our travel expenses.  I highly recommend clicking on the link and visiting the blogs of my fellow Council members for their perspective on the show.