Each year GRASS organises a traditional Guided Press Tour. This autumn, at the Küchenmeile A30, the specialist for movement systems also accompanied journalists once more on a visit to renowned kitchen manufacturers. This year the motto of the tour was “Masterpieces”. The beacon products of the various companies visualised the latest trends of the industry – and the importance of the role of suppliers in this sector became very clear.

“We chose the motto of this year’s A30 Tour very carefully,” comments Harald Klüh, Global Brand Manager at GRASS, who accompanied and moderated the GRASS GUIDED PRESS TOUR. “Masterpieces are outstanding achievements that are regarded as the pinnacle of the work of an artist.” The list of companies that GRASS visited with the international circle of journalists included a host of familiar names: Häcker Küchen, LEICHT, Störmer Küchen, Ballerina Küchen, Rotpunkt Küchen and Sachsenküchen are all established representatives of the sector. “The greatest challenge as an established company is having to prove yourself time and time again, constantly reinventing yourself,” adds Harald Klüh. “It is important to anticipate market demands and make sure that products are geared to the future. The “masterpieces” that we get to see are not only innovative kitchen furniture on the technically highest level – they are also proof that the companies earn their master titles in the long term.”

One thing is sure: The kitchen industry has been undergoing a period of radical change for many years. The heart and central meeting point of the home has opened itself up to other rooms. It is becoming – as other living areas of the home before – a reflection of the personality of its owners. “This often described individualisation has many faces,” explains Harald Klüh. “It starts with the colour but also includes the structure and material – as well as functionality. Standard white kitchens in which users solely focus on high quality interiors also express the personality of the user.”

“The kitchen doesn’t stop at the front'”

Christoph Fughe, CEO of Störmer Küchen, has also made the same observation: “The interior organisation of contemporary kitchens has become increasingly important. This means that kitchens don’t ‘stop at the front’. On the contrary: Pull-outs, storage space and functionality are just as important in today’s kitchens as an appealing visual design and top quality workmanship.” At Ballerina Küchen everyone shares this opinion: “The latest trend is modular kitchens that can adapt to various functions and living areas,” comments Heidrun Brinkmeyer, Managing Partner, Marketing and Sales at Ballerina Küchen. “From our point of view, customisation of furniture interiors is constantly gaining in importance, as consumers want to use the storage space in interiors as effectively as possible, especially in small kitchens.” For Ballerina, the masterpiece is the “ultimate cabinet”, as “for many years it has been the basis of the very varied customisation options of the range.” It is also the basis for the most important product of 2017, die Y-kitchen, withwhich Ballerina is appealing to a new, young target group that “has a young mindset and doesn’t want anything conventional, but a kitchen for optimum communication.”

Variety is also the hallmark of Sachsenküchen’s collection: “The trend is what appeals!” says CEO Elko Beeg. “In addition to innovative materials and surfaces, the trend towards holistic living concepts will continue.” This is also what the kitchen manufacturer from the Ore Mountains has focused on as its “masterpiece”: “We have developed our lifestyle concept further and have a special showcase area of 90 m2 which features a complete apartment designed in line with the holistic living interior design concept. In addition, appealing to customers with a lifestyle orientation, distributors can gain a first-hand impression of how our company is gearing itself up to mastering the challenges of the future.”

Variety is also one of the standards in the kitchen sector with regard to surface design. For Andreas Wagner, CEO at Rotpunkt Küchen, the functional improvement of materials is one of the trends: “We see considerable potential in the development of new materials and technical surfaces such as ‘indestructible’ coatings or lotus-type nano-materials.” Andreas Wagner regards the further development of the drawer system as a masterpiece: “We use the Scala system in the special colour “Zircon” and use a dark shade for all interior accessories. This customisation of interiors gives our distributors a unique selling point that makes them stand out from competitors.

For Häcker Küchen the trend is towards the combination of various materials, colours and textures. “We are showing striking surface structures in the wooden front range and in the premium range new materials such as stone veneer and real concrete surfaces,” explains Markus Sander, CEO Sales/Marketing/Controlling at Hacker Küchen. As its masterpiece the company exhibited the SlightLift, a new system that is a combination of a top cabinet and shelf. It is also focusing on another topic that is important for all furniture manufacturers: Sustainability. “With PURemission Häcker Küchen has now switched to using wood products with a low formaldehyde content. In making this decision we are demonstrating that our products comply with the high US standards for formaldehyde emissions and as a result we are considerably below the European guidelines. With PURemission Häcker is setting a new standard that is exceptional in the kitchen furniture industry.”

Not only sustainability and individuality are among the greatest trends that the sector is currently experiencing. Another is the “smart home” movement: “Digitalisation of kitchens will evolve further over the next few years. This includes the inclusion of intelligent devices that are networked both with one another as well as with other systems in the house,” says Christoph Fughe from Störmer Küchen. The LEICHT exhibit centres on a room concept: “At the Küchenmeile A30 we are presenting an architecturally formative ‘room in room’ concept and with this masterpiece are showing the competence of LEICHT that extends beyond the kitchen itself to include the entire interior fittings,” adds Stefan Waldenmaier, Director of LEICHT Küchen AG. LEICHT thinks that the unpretentious is a major trend: “Authentic surfaces, honest materials and finely structured areas,” that acquire an even greater exclusivity with the interior accessories of the kitchen: “For the end customer movement systems are a component that sheds a different aesthetic light on kitchens. A handle-free row of cabinets that opens automatically is a smart solution,” comments Stefan Waldenmaier.

What will be important in future

With the Guided Press Tour, GRASS is following an ambitious goal: Showing how the sector is developing. What will the kitchens of the future look like? How are manufacturers and suppliers, manufacturers and distributors working together? To do justice to this demand, additional experts expressed their views on the bus trip from station to station. This year, Kirk Mangels, Director of the working group Die Moderne Küche e.V., made the trip seem shorter with his knowledgeable observations on what makes a masterpiece. Another highlight was the presentation of Ralf Jackels from the IFH Cologne. The institute recently examined the potential of product customisation – and presented its findings on how this affects the kitchen industry. As in previous years, the tour was rounded off with the joint press dinner at which participants also had the opportunity to find answers to their detailed questions.

Sector trends from the GRASS viewpoint

The tour and the ancillary exhibitions also acted as a trend barometer again this year. Harald Klüh, responsible for the GRASS brand, has observed a series of developments that are summarised below:

Openness: It used to be normal to conceal the contents of furniture behind doors and drawer fronts. Kitchens were dominated by a strictly monolithic design. Handles were even done away with to ensure that the clear geometry of the rectangular furniture units is not spoilt. These times are over. It was apparent at the Küchenmeile that openness is experiencing a renaissance. “‘Stowing away’ has been replaced by a kind of ‘showcasing’,” comments Harald Klüh. “The furniture interior opens up to the viewer. You could regard this trend as a new, open minimalism that literally lets the kitchens in East Westphalia breathe freely.”

Classic top and base cabinets are replaced by open shelving or are at least broken up. Glass cabinets reminiscent of grandma’s days are returning to the homes of today in an updated, purist version. In both kitchen blocks and full-height installations, the continuity of large front surfaces is disrupted to create open, easily accessible presentation areas. Even the good old shelf drawers are back. As a result, the stored goods are upgraded to become an integral design element of the kitchen.

Modern kitchens are room concepts

Walls are regarded as part of the furniture and designed to match the furniture. The room and furniture therefore complement one another perfectly – and merge into one. Kitchens only really come into their own in the context of the ambient room. Emotionalisation is the buzzword of the hour. “Visitors to the MOW were able to experience dozens of times over what fantastic options are available to showcase brands and products in an emotional manner,” says Harald Klüh. “As in other design-oriented industries, many of the large and small manufacturers have now stopped selling products and have become sources of inspiration. Famous brands and those with the same ambition are emphasising emotional presentation. The kitchens on show included their surroundings in the design; rooms adapt, ceilings, floor and walls either harmonise or contrast with one another. Everything flows together. Materials, colours, surfaces, accessories – seldom have the ingredients for interior design been as varied as they are today.

Individualisation “Made in Germany”: Offering individual furniture does not mean being able to supply 3,000 different shades, but creating concepts that make it possible to be able to customise the character of a kitchen to suit individual tastes by means of minor interventions. Basically it is very similar to the classic platform strategy. Along the lines of “If you change a single parameter you change everything”, contemporary kitchens become modular systems with components that resemble the ingredients of a menu. Highlights are often enough to create the right effect. You change the wall graphic, the material of the worktop or use a striking drawer front – and the result is unique. This trend could be called partial individualisation. “It sounds simple. And it is,” reveals Harald Klüh.

The new trend colours are metallic: After visiting this year’s Küchenmeile you don’t have to be a fortune teller to predict that more metallic surfaces are sure to feature in showrooms in the future. All exhibitors without exception used steel, stainless steel, brass, copper and/or aluminium. These were mainly matte, with a slightly roughened, sometimes irregular, natural-looking patina. Not only furniture, but also accessories and show stands reflected this trend. This means that the next few years will be matte metallic. “This is highly interesting as there has been a certain trend towards heaviness for some time,” observes Harald Klüh. “The past decade was hallmarked by ‘lighter, thinner, smoother’, a maxim which now seems to be developing into a ‘more solid, heavier, rougher’ vision.” Weight and mass convey a sense of stability and become a sign of quality. It is therefore no wonder that metals are on the threshold of a experiencing a heyday.

A unique material mixture: Without doubt one of the new design trends that became apparent was that one single kitchen can combine matte and gloss and in particular different materials, that monochrome fronts with large patterns can be mixed with graphic elements. To be precise, the new design rule is that there is none. Classic materials such as wood, glass, stainless steel and aluminium have been faithful companions in the kitchen for years. However, as part of the new design freedom, completely different materials and patterns have now been added. For example, ceramics are growing in popularity, supplemented with stone, mineral or textile elements. Surprisingly, different metals play a leading role.

GRASS Movement Systems

A globally successful group of companies, a fresh brand with tradition and an extraordinary diversity of perspectives – that’s GRASS in a nutshell. With sales revenues of 330 million euros in the financial year 2016 (up 4% compared with 2015 excluding the Automotive Division), some 1,800 employees at 18 locations and more than 200 distributors in 60 countries, GRASS ranks among the world’s leading specialists in movement systems. As development partner and systems supplier to the furniture industry, GRASS has been creating products which inspire its customers for almost 70 years. GRASS slide and drawer systems, hinge, flap and corner cabinet systems are brand-name products that move the furniture of prestigious brands.

Internet: www.grass.eu

GRASS Group Factbox

Owner:                                   Würth Group

Management Board:        Thomas Zenker, André Stiller, Thomas Müller

Employees:                           about 1,800 employees worldwide

Sales revenues 2016:       330 million euros

Production companies:

Austria: Höchst, Götzis and Salzburg

Czech Republic: Krumlov

Germany: Reinheim

USA: Kernersville NC

Sales companies:

Australia: Melbourne

Canada: Toronto

China: Shanghai

Germany: Ofterdingen, Verl

Italy: Pordenone

South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg

Spain: Iurreta

Sweden: Jönköping

Turkey: Istanbul

USA: Kernersville NC

UK: Bromwich