INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects

This January, 142,000 visitors from 137 countries descended upon Germany's fourth largest city despite the wintery weather. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, Cologne was the focal point of the furniture and kitchen industries as imm cologne and LivingKitchen opened their doors for seven intense days. Stacey Sheppard reports on the highlights and latest trends.

The International Furnishing Fair, along with LivingKitchen, is a highlight of the German interior design calendar. With 1,250 companies from over 50 countries exhibiting their latest product ranges and design innovations, imm cologne is seen as a trend barometer for the industry.

Das Haus by Luca Nichetto

The highlight of the show was an installation by Italian designer Luca Nichetto who presented his vision of the house of the future. An experiment in green living, "Das Haus - Interiors on Stage" reflected Nichetto's keen interest in sustainable design and focused on solutions that enable residents to live in direct co-existence with nature. Nichetto compared the house to a small planet, explaining how the living room is as important to the home as the Amazon Rainforest is to the Earth.

Das Haus was made up of a series of semi-enclosed walls and large windows, which really emphasised Nichetto's attempts to merge the inside with the outside and bring nature into the home. He also filled the various rooms in the house with a selection of plants which were best suited to the environment of that particular room. The furniture included in Das Haus was taken from the various collections that Nichetto has designed throughout his career. Various pieces designed by his friends and colleagues accompanied his own work, alongside a selection of iconic products created by the masters of design. Also featured in the house were ten new products designed by Nichetto.

Whilst Das Haus was a major attraction at the show, it was only a tiny part of what was to be found at the exhibition centre. Occupying more than 280,000 square metres of space, imm cologne and LivingKitchen presented a comprehensive snapshot of the trends we can expect to see permeating the market in 2013.

Colour Trends

Notably, there was a distinct lack of Emerald Green at imm, this year's colour of the Year as identified by the Pantone Colour Institute. Obviously, the hue is yet to make its mark on the market, still in transit between catwalk and showroom. Tangerine Tango, the colour of 2012, made its presence felt although was not the prominent colour at the show.

Bright and bold candy colours were popular and featured throughout the fair. Lighting, furniture and kitchens all sported eye-catching colours that made for a cheerful walk through the aisles. Yellow was particularly present and its long term popularity shows no sign of abating. It does seem to have paired with petrol blue to great effect. The duo has replaced the more muted coupling of yellow and grey.

Grey was a staple colour, particularly in furnishings where it was present in every possible shade, tone and hue, proving that grey still epitomises class and sophistication.

This is good news for those who want to jump on the latest colour trend bandwagon of pastel palettes. Those that made a particular impression were the more calming, muted, softer shades of powder pink, coral and mint.

We can expect to see these pretty pastels making more of an appearance in the coming months.

Material Trends

The trend for sustainable materials pervaded the show and there was a distinct preference for natural materials. Provoking an authentic, honest and emotive reaction from consumers, wood was by far the most popular material choice for furniture, with oak being a particular favourite.

Other materials such as wool felt, cardboard, paper and leather were used interesting and innovative new ways. Reinforced corrugated cardboard was used by one exhibitor to make both seating and storage pieces, whilst concertinaed paper was used to create elaborate lampshades.

Wood was also a popular trend for kitchens at the show with many manufacturers using it in more interesting ways to add texture and geometry to cabinetry. But the use of glass and ceramics also stood out. The white colour trend that we have seen previously has made way for grey and beige tones in the kitchen, except for kitchen appliances. Here white seems to be continuing its ascent in the popularity stakes.

Technology Trends

Enhanced comfort and ease of use were also attributes that permeated throughout LivingKitchen with many manufacturers providing responses to consumer demand for kitchens that are easier to clean, and less awkward to work in. As a result, integrated lifts to raise or lower work tops have been devised, hobs lay flush with the worktops and appliances were seamlessly integrated into the cabinetry.

One thing that really stood out was the number of intelligent kitchen appliances that can be networked to other appliances and smart devices. Designed in response to the smart generation of users, many kitchen appliances were seen to incorporate multimedia touch displays as well as intelligent, user-minded,smart applications.

Being exhibited were Wi-Fi ready ovens that can be controlled directly via smartphones enabling the user to access a rich selection of recipes and pre-set cooking programmes. Also shown was intelligent sensor technology that is incorporated into hobs to allow the appliance to monitor and control the cooking process preventing pans from boiling over, boiling dry or burning the food.

Refrigerators can also be networked to a smart phone or tablet allowing the user to view the contents of the appliance in realtime, create recipes that use the available ingredients and create a shopping list that can be shared with other users and updated in real time.

imm cologne and LivingKitchen certainly presented a wealth of exciting trends and innovations that will certainly make their way into our homes. However, the classic combination of good design and good quality remained the driving force.

Stacey Sheppard, Freelance Writer