After the holidays, bid your home a vibrant "Happy New Year!" -- or "Felice Anno Nuovo!" -- by bringing a little Italy into your kitchen.
America's midcentury modern movement is making a comeback with the flowing curves and dramatic angles of Italian design that never went out of style in Europe, says Amir Ilin, director of North American sales for Pedini USA, based in Paramus, New Jersey. "Italy is the country that brings the world the sleek design of the Lamborghini and Ferrari automobiles, and that same design principle is found in the home," he says. "There is a small faction of Italian design that is traditional and rustic -- with carvings and gold leafing -- but today, when we talk about Italian design in America, it is contemporary and refined."
American kitchen trends, as released by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, forecast design principles with streamlined spaces, which are emulated in Italian kitchens.
A clutter-free culinary space appeals to not only millennials, but active baby boomers -- or "zoomers," says Ilin. "As design in the home becomes more open, many people want the kitchen to look like the rest of the home, which is becoming more contemporary in design," he says. "This kitchen design style isn't new in Europe, but it has been catching on in the United States for the past five years."
With countertops and an island more akin to fine furniture than traditional American kitchen cabinetry, contemporary Italian style is often unadorned, featuring flush doors, natural materials and rich monochromatic colors.
Cabinets built by American manufacturers traditionally use framed construction, in which the rails and stiles form a "frame" on the cabinet front.
Conversely, Europeans employ frameless cabinet or "full access" manufacturing techniques, which offer greater accessibility by eliminating the front stiles and frame. In a technique that uses "thicker box construction" for stability, flat door and drawer fronts create a sleek, simple aesthetic.
Ilin cautions that not all installers are built the same. "It's important to not warp cabinets when installing on hanging rails," he says. "Also, larger standing cabinets need to remain square when adjusting legs."
Cabinet finishes can range from lacquer to high-gloss, using exotic woods or veneer. Shelving often rolls out for greater accessibility, with glass fronts that open at the touch of a hand.
If your home's floor plan is a vast sea of space, the kitchen shouldn't be uncharted territory for an island.
"An island can act as a buffer between the rest of the room and the kitchen itself," Ilin says. "Italian-inspired islands don't have corbels, but can be sculptural with angled legs and clean lines."
Countertops range from stainless to stone. Ilin says slabs of porcelain are the most popular countertop in today's Italian kitchen, which can be fabricated in all shapes and sizes, without the ongoing maintenance of sealing stone.
Ilin is a big fan of vented range hoods -- another sculptural element often set above the kitchen island -- that really clear the air in kitchen design. Also, a range hood is essential to remove moisture, grease and particulates from the home, and prevent these things from being breathed in and adhering to walls, cabinets and furnishings, which is especially important in an open floor plan.
The idea of creating a breakfast bar -- stocked with conveniently located first-of-the-day foods, dining ware and appliances -- makes it easier for families to break-the-fast. Stocked and stored behind closed doors in an Italian-inspired kitchen, countertops pull out when in use and push back into a large cupboard when finished.
Often, this cupboard can house a complete coffee station, which can also be pressed into service at the end of an evening. The specialized cupboard is also the perfect place to house the blender, toaster and espresso machine.
To raise a glass to toast stylish epicurean endeavors, Ilin says a wine refrigerator is becoming a must-have appliance. Self-standing, temperature-controlled cabinets or credenzas made especially to store wine can start at $1,000, based on the design and the number of bottles they will hold.
When creating a sleek design in a thoroughly modern monochrome, an exciting way to color your kitchen is to allow small appliances -- such as a stand mixer -- and cast iron cookware in bright tones to reside on the corner of a countertop or cooktop.
In a more daring move, the kitchen island can be fabricated in a color -- such as a warm, yellowy "dune" hue. Ilin says the trend is shifting away from colorful islands, which are harder to swap out than kitchen accessories.
"Italian design has a timeless quality to it, in that it is pared down," Ilin says. "Good design should have beautiful form, but it must first be functional -- especially in the kitchen."
A Contemporary Kitchen
To find one of 20 Italian-inspired kitchen showrooms near you, go to PediniUSA.com and select SHOWROOMS.
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at email@example.com.)