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Merge & Mix

The Sunday Age

Sunday March 27, 2011

REPORT: ZINTA JURJANS HEARD

Kitchens are leading the move towards multi-functional rooms. Here are Europe's top 10 house trends.The Internationale Mobel Messe (IMM), one of Europe's oldest and largest furniture fairs, held annually in Cologne, Germany, launched a sideshow this year - a kitchen expo, Living Kitchen.The most imaginative contribution came from French designer Philippe Starck, who took out the Interior Innovation award for his design, a library-kitchen. Starck reported that the kitchen was becoming an amalgamation of rooms and that boundaries that defined the function of rooms were disappearing.Held in January, the fair listed the 10 top house trends in Europe as identified by the Association of German Furniture Industries. The changes in home design are remarkably similar to what's happening in Australia. 1. Blurring boundariesMerging rooms are breaking down traditional boundaries: the computer in the kitchen; the dining table as a communication centre. The kitchen-dining-living areas have become one and the bedroom and bathroom are converging; inside-out is a given. The hallway could become a bar? Or, as Starck showed, the kitchen can merge with the library. What better place to read up on those recipes? 2. Personal expressionHomes are being revamped to express the personality of the owners. In furniture, the peripheral areas of interior design are playing an increasingly important role with a wide variety of cushions, wallpapers, accessories and carpets. Nevertheless, furniture is, and always will be, the focal point of interior design. 3. Sustainability Sustainability is vital to modern design. There's a growing demand for solid wood furniture, and furniture sales staff are increasingly being asked about materials. People are becoming more sensitive to resources. We are about to see a huge green craze. 4. Shapes and sizesUpholstered furniture is getting smaller. The collections still feature big sectional seating arrangements but the industry is also catering for people with less space available to them - downsizers, empty-nesters and single-person households, and exports to countries with less living space. Contemporary wall units are getting slender to enhance the impression of spaciousness. 5. Colour chartsWhite remains the mega trend for furniture. The whitewash means that expressive colours are being used to create accents on cushions, accessories and feature walls. Neutrals are big on kitchen cabinets. The new-colour combinations to make a statement are: * Greens plus - an earthy olive-green dominates over lush and pale shades, joined by powdery ros to brown.* Greys plus - cold-grey is big teamed with ash-grey and black, and brightened up with vibrant dashes of citrus-yellow and mandarin-orange. A light taupe sits between grey and white to add softness.* Reds plus - rhubarb-red adds warmth. It is being combined with creamy-white, corn-yellow and tans, ranging from light brown to terracotta.* Blues plus - a dark, plum-blue is the dominant background for lavender and dove-grey with a violet shimmer. Caramel goes metallic. 6. New patternsFlorals, stripes, abstract graphics. Many fabrics have snuggle-in appeal. 7. Hard surfacesNatural materials: glass, stone, wood and metals are popular. Glass for doors on kitchen cabinets, wall units and wardrobes; thick glass for table-tops and satin-glass for translucent cabinet doors. Veneered or solid stone for work surfaces; leather for furniture and also as an inlay for drawers or table tops, although the use of leather will be restricted by price increases. 8. Lighting upLEDs are highly energy efficient, cooler to touch and have a long life. The furniture industry is using LEDs in display cabinets as shelf or cabinet lighting, or edging for sideboards. 9. Living kitchenEnergy and water efficiency are the major themes for appliances. Kitchen design is shifting towards simpler designs, elegant yet unobtrusive. The latest trend is towards open shelving, and glass on cabinet doors, work surfaces and splashbacks. 10. A bit of bothThe either-or model of interiors is being replaced by a "we'll have both" approach. Anything goes, and interiors are no exception.

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