Design Inspiration: Innovations in Fabrications

You know the rules right? Wood + Water = Bad News, meaning design-wise things have always been somewhat limited in the world of kitchens & bathrooms, unless money was no object of course. Which isn’t the case for most of us.

In bathrooms, slow growing dense woods like teak or cedar are much more resistant to moisture than younger pine, trendy open grain reclaimed pieces or pale wide grain woods like oak or ash. Water is wood’s worst enemy, causing it to stain and swell – not a good look for your expensive new bathroom. Those Pinterest images of textured planks under trendy sinks are all very well but don’t show you the mould six months down the line.

Likewise in kitchens. Even though there isn’t as much airborne moisture, continuous water splashes wreak black mould havoc with butchers block worktops around sinks and greasy oils stains can ruin a walnut or oak surface. Choices in the natural timber kitchen world have been fairly limited, especially for lower price point spaces, to the following: 1) oak butchers block worktops or walnut if you’re feeling flush, 2) so-so laminate copies, 3) smooth oak/maple/walnut doors real or fake, 4) very expensive solid timber doors from high end brands.

So…. not much there for Scandi / industrial / pale loving’ / tactile / rustic fans on a budget. But guess what? All that is about to change. I saw it first a couple of years ago at a specialist surface show, then recently Ikea launched two new ranges Hyttan – a ‘rough’ veneer with a tactile feel and Torhamn – another veneer with an ever varying grain making each door unique. Ikea Hyttan and Torhamn.jpgAnd the link? The astonishing developments in timber effect veneers, cladding and surfaces, making them look and feel superbly real. There have already been leaps forward in copying the usual suspects – oak, walnut & maple – but recent innovations in manufacturing techniques mean we can now have the wood look in wet areas without fear of ruination a couple of years down the line. The paler, textured surfaces at KBB 2016 this week looked so authentic they blew me away.

Here, have a look at my images and you’ll see exactly what I mean…KBB16 Moregeous Panel Co 1Companies like Panel Co above are creating sheet effects which would have most people fooled, meaning worktops, doors and panels can go as pale as the design scheme dictates. I don’t need to tell you lot about the current passion for all things grey, and grey kitchens demand interesting wood textures in the same tones. Something not available… til now. You wait, all the design blogs will be featuring gorgeous kitchens with textured not-really-woods very soon.

I adored the PanelCo textured worktops. So, SO much more affordable to most people than granite, marble, quartz or corian. As brilliant as they are, not everyone can afford them. Can’t you just see the very clever laminate below with whites, greys, a huge range oven and a pile of s’mores?KBB16 Moregeous Panel Co 2

KBB16 Moregeous ProNormWhether Scandi hygge is your thing or a more sleek contemporary look like the ProNorm kitchen above, these paler and incredibly realistic slabs were everywhere at KBB. They looked superb!

Slightly more industrial in styling and feel is this Scavolini kitchen below. The wood veneer is more textured and grainy, working brilliantly with the metros and solid dark iron handles. More of this one here if you like it. I did :)KBB16 Moregeous ScavoliniTo the cameras eye this looks a bit yellow but didn’t in ‘real life’, so my apologies. There were three different ‘timbers’ used by Sachsen Kuchen: worktops, cabinetry and wall cladding, of which although the latter was my least favourite in shading, it was still stunningly real. KBB16 Moregeous Sachsen Kitchen 1The texture of the cabinet fronts was perfect and looked just like planks of reclaimed wood, except these won’t rip your shins and are super easy to wipe down.KBB16 Moregeous Sachsen Kitchens 2It was the texturing which I found most exciting. Photographically it’s been easy for manufacturers to replicate the look of wood for a while now, but getting the feel of the wood grain was always missing. Obviously you don’t get the smell or physical warmth of real timber, but the point is that you’d be foolish to insist on that in food prep or washing areas anyway. Finally in 2016 it appears we can have the best of both worlds!!

The contrast between the smoothness of some surfaces and the sexiness of textured areas felt new and innovative for kitchens. I’m a big fan of those contrasts, they’re surprising and effective. Putting it out there, I predict this rough with smooth trend will be huge in coming years and will truly dominate design in the kitchen.

KBB16 Moregeous Caple KitchenI wasn’t keen on the curve in the Caple kitchen but they nailed it by using a paler grained veneer with smooth white glass appliances and a slender worktop. There’s a lot of talk about super slim worktops coming back into fashion, what do you think? Like? Not like?

KBB16 Moregeous Ezy KitchensThere we go again – gloss with grain all on one wall at Ezy Kitchens. Spot the one I liked the best? Yep of course, the very cool OSB door which had been finished and lacquered to make it smooth to the touch. Very clever.

With all these interesting innovations, if you want a fantastic timber effect cladded wall in your bathroom which looks real but won’t rot in the moisture, you can now design one using all this new-for-2016 panelling. Frontline bathrooms really went for it with overhead beams and bath backdrop darks. There was even a green wall, heavens above, how on trend? I didn’t check this wall so I’m unsure if the plants or the timbers were real but that’s the point, they could be real or fake and no-one would know 😉KBB16 Moregeous Frontline BathroomsInstead of the sole choices of oak or walnut, expect to see some really interesting textures and finishes to bathroom cabinets in the future, allowing homeowners to create much more interesting sanctuaries styled for 2016. Sexy, tactile cladding for cabinets, bath panels, sink mounts and who knows, even shower areas!KBB16 MoregeousEven tiles get the textured timber treatment. I loved these ones from British Ceramic Tiles designed for floors or walls and I’m sure you’ve seen this tiling trend gather momentum in recent months.KBB16 Moregeous British Ceramic TilesSo there you go, the first of my trend spot posts from KBB. Maybe not so much a trend as a development though, and one which has been much needed to allow designers and homeowners the freedom to get the look of gorgeous wood in kitchens and bathrooms, without all the previous water related hassle. Excellent news!


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