Going the extra Kitchen Mile

The owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, Trevor Scott, comes back from the annual Hausmesse fair in Germany with lots of new ideas and considers why it’s a must-see event for all kitchen retailers with a penchant for German brands

Last year we flew into Dusseldorf Weeze airport and were closer to Luxembourg than the Kitchen Mile around Lohne, home of Hausmesse fair in Germany. This year, it was Bremen and we were closer to Hamburg.

Hopefully, next year we can get flights to Hanover, or perhaps Dortmund, and spend less time on the autobahn and more with manufacturers, as there’s so much to see. And if you’re into your German brands, then this really is a must-do annual pilgrimage.

Why? Because if you want to get a head start on your competition and a preview of what new door styles and design trends are coming through for the following year, this is the place to do it.

It’s no good waiting for your area sales manager to get around to you sometime in the next couple of months and be shown some out-of-context new door finishes. You need to see them in all their glory as full room sets as only the manufacturers can in their factory showrooms, where no expense is spared.

Decisions can be made about display changes and deals done that are only on the table during this week. New sales bibles can be taken away and new quotes can be started without fear of underpricing or finding out too late that Mrs Smith has chosen a discontinued range.

Perhaps even more than this, though, a visit to Hausmesse, on the Küchenmeile, as the A30 near Lohne is commonly known, makes you realise that you’re part of a massive and truly professional industry. It is also an important one that fulfils a genuine purpose, which means you and your business should also be taken seriously by your staff, installers and customers alike.

This year, we were guests of Nobilia, Europe’s largest kitchen manufacturer, with a turnover of around €1.2 billion. As Nobilia is a bit further south than most of the A30-based manufacturers, it meant we had an even longer drive, but the lunch was well worth it.

After fuelling up, we began our tour of this huge showroom that every summer is completely flattened and rebuilt in time for the exhibition.

An interesting concept this year was the showroom within a showroom – a 3,000sq m concept store within the main showroom that demonstrated what a Nobilia showroom could look like, should you ask them to design one (pictured).

It included an office area, two client areas, a sample room, a living room adjoining a kitchen and a number of well-proportioned, aspirational and everyday displays, including a utility room. Nobilia suggests that displays should be dressed to reflect the target buying group, so designs aimed at younger, first-time buyers had more colour, both in terms of the cabinets and the dressings. Many of these brighter colours reflected national trends in mainland Europe and probably wouldn’t suit the UK buyer.

Designs aimed at more upwardly mobile and financially stable couples were more subtly dressed and were more moody in colour tone and the contrasts employed. Indeed, the Germans take this one step further and have younger designers talk to young customers and mature ones to deal with middle-aged client groups – all engineered to make the consumer feel more comfortable. Worth a thought, eh?

Nobilia was also featuring hobs with integrated downdraft extractors and had as large a selection on display as I’ve seen. But, more importantly, it also had hob drawer pack solutions for every variant and even had these solutions displayed in rotating Perspex cases complete with ducting connected – amazing.

Trend-wise, after also visiting Alno, Brigitte and Häcker, it was clear that low-price-group, soft-touch silk matt lacquered laminates are going to be huge and are definitely going to steal a large chunk of the current gloss market. Black is back in this finish and a number of metallic rust, copper tone accents were to be found complementing this shade to make for a sophisticated and rich
overall look.

Also common to all marques we saw was a new end grain synchro-pore, wood-effect laminate worktop and panel material that made for a really interesting change to the usual long grain wood laminates we are all so used to.

Ergonomics was also a noticeable feature this year, with manufacturers all recognising that we’re not all the same height, offering three or four different worktop levels and with virtually zero to standard 150mm plinths, ensuring that not only can storage be maximised, but that the transition from kitchen to living space can be made as seamlessly as possible.

Open-plan living was, of course, the other main design trend – and the need for a flowing transition between kitchen, dining and living areas. This makes it more and more important that we, as designers, embrace the whole-house concept in our schemes and don’t just narrowly focus on the kitchen.

Certainly, having gone to Germany determined not to make any display changes this season, we’re all now thinking that a couple might have to be done after all.

Home > Opinion > Going the extra Kitchen Mile