Saturday, October 24, 2020
 Napa Comes to Vegas

Luxury connected-home technologies and top-shelf kitchen concepts happily co-existed in the Signature Kitchen Suite (SKS) outpost at the 2020 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas this winter. The multi-vignette booth, in showcasing LG Electronics’ SKS luxury brand, proved beyond a doubt to show-going designers how Artificial Intelligence (AI) smarts in today’s connected kitchens are a perfect fit with the best in kitchen design.

“When we decided our theme for the show this year, we said, ‘We’re going to bring Napa to Vegas’ – and that’s what we did,” Zach Elkin, general manager of SKS and the LG for Builders Division, told Connected Design.

For the booth design, SKS worked in collaboration with the Chicago-area-based firm Better Kitchens, Inc. …Better by Design. The Better Kitchens team includes President Alan W. Zielinski – who was also the 2012 president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and its Vice President and Head of Design, Margaret Sherman.

The result was more than a grouping of vignettes, said Elkin. “They created different experiences. It’s very Napa-esque, with a lot of the same themes and elements you’d have if you came to our Experience & Design Center in Napa.”

 The Designer Speaks

One vignette in particular that quite pointedly evoked Napa in its design execution was what Zielinski told us he references as “the ‘wine room.’ Even though it’s a kitchen, it’s darker, masculine, with a traditional feel. The refrigerator has a fitted look with panels on it, and nothing but the range is in stainless steel, which really stands out.” At one end of the kitchen’s island sat three wine barrels from Napa. “That round-barrel look was integrated into the glass in the cabinet doors, with a radius on one side and on the other, which picks up the radius of the barrels,” he explained. These and other elements were deliberately incorporated to evoke certain sensibilities among visitors about the design aesthetic.

“We see our job, as designers, as helping clients to ‘edit’ the choices available in a very complex marketplace,” he said. This means highlighting the sophistication of the appliances – making their versatility and connectivity features truly shine, when synergistically combined with the aesthetic that a designer’s eye brings.

“SKS is a luxury brand,” Zielinski continues, “and we brought a bit of dimensional focus to the products.” This approach, when successful, is effective when “people are seeing it subliminally – they’re drawn in without knowing just why. That’s what designers are looking to do.

“The key to any successful design [for those viewing it],” he continued, “is if you look at it and look away, and then immediately look back to catch additional details – and then the next thing is to touch it. All through the show, we observed from afar how many designers came in, drawn to one element, and then, they were captured by maybe a dozen aspects of the SKS product line. It’s almost the way a magician works: you draw them in, and then you create the focus and the excitement around the products.”

 Unique, Luxury Feature Sets  

The KBIS vignettes also highlighted specific SKS product features that are making the four-year-old LG brand’s unique mark in the luxury space. One such product is the SKS range, available in 36- and 48-inch sizes, with sous vide cooking capability – which gently cooks vacuum-sealed foods in a water bath. It stood out as a cooking method that was certain to appeal to the Technicurean consumer – a term coined by SKS that combines the concepts of technology with epicurean. “We were the first with sous vide; we have extended that modality throughout the kitchen,” Elkin said. “We’ve brought to the kitchen restaurant expertise where you can perfectly cook that perfect edge-to-edge porterhouse steak, that perfect chicken breast, or 182-degree carrots that don’t have all the nutrients boiled out.”

That function, in addition to features like induction cooking and built-in superheated steam cooking, are the result of consultation with SKS’s own Design Council. “Napa brings to life the lifestyle and our brand values, so Technicurean is not just a word. We have lived and breathed it as we birthed, launched and are nurturing this luxury brand. Our mantra is ‘True to Food.’”

Two months into the brand’s life, Elkin brought in designers to look at mockups: “Our concepts came from engineering, but all the refinements came from designers… Every rivet, every turn, ever piece of material – everything was touched. We knew what the pain points were because we’re in the industry, and we engineered them out… It was all about getting the design community to give feedback not just once, but several times. We have a saying: feedback is a gift. And the design community has been very generous when it comes to that gift.”

Elkin keeps the idea pipeline filled with designer input, staging brand immersions at the SKS Experience & Design Center that typically occur at least once a week. The NKBA also holds events there.

SKS products, in line with their luxury status, are offered with “white-glove-on-steroids” support; via Wi-Fi, they are monitored for consumers who opt into the Concierge Service for an extended period, and LG can detect operational issues before the appliance owner does. With the company’s wine column refrigerators, the AI-driven True Sommelier App will even begin to learn the owner’s preferences and then recommend other labels. “So our ‘True to Food’ mantra also applies to wine,” added Elkin.

The booth’s other vignettes featured such design-forward elements as LED lighting dangling from ceiling-mounted wires of varying lengths in a kitchen area replete with stainless steel appliances, white cabinets and a backsplash with a concentric-circle pattern meant to also evoke Napa’s wine barrels. And the vignette outfitted with an embedded herb garden in its central island provided the chef who conducted cooking demos there with a handy supply. “This created excitement for visitors while introducing them to SKS,” said Zielinski.

Elkin said visitors to the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York in March will be able to view SKS’s latest products – “our collection of ‘bests and onlys’ – a continuation of launches of these luxury products. And for the future, we plan to stay focused on Technicureans, and being ‘True to Food,’ helping clients to be that better home chef.”