You would imagine that pretty much anything totally ‘new’ in the kitchen must have been done by now.
We’ve had stark minimalism, classic traditional – and almost everything in between – not to mention all kinds of ideas on how to mix different materials for the ultimate kitchen look.
And yet just when you think you’ve seen it all before, a designer comes up with a creation that once again treads new ground. This is the Black INO kitchen by Toyo Kitchen & Living of Japan. Its designer, Takao Watanabe, is also the company’s CEO and certainly has form when it comes to breathtaking kitchens. His unique ‘T-shaped’ kitchen island with its similarly sleek look featured in the September 2011 issue of Designer Kitchen & Bathroom.
Whilst that previous innovation challenged perceptions of shape and form in the kitchen, the Black INO takes on the question of lightness and materials. For example, black is often seen as too heavy and dark a colour for many people’s tastes. And yet, thanks to some highly contrasting materials – specifically, heavyweight-looking dark door fronts supported by a beautifully thin stainless steel frame – the overall effect is of an unimposing yet characterful centrepiece. The sculptural feel is reinforced by the stainless steel worktop which sits proudly atop the wood-fronted units and helps to lighten the overall aesthetic.
In contrast to some modern kitchens which are available only as single rectangular blocks, Black INO is also softened with the ability for its layout to be configured according to the user’s needs and the space that they have at their disposal.
Watanabe says that the shape has been specifically designed with multi-function use in mind. It is explicitly not a kitchen solely for cooking – nor is it a show kitchen made just to look good but which never get its worktops dirty. “We think a kitchen must be a space that has its own shape and layout which fits with one’s lifestyle, not just with the traditional idea of a kitchen.
“We call the layout ‘CD land’ as it embraces the two main functions of cooking and dining, but we believe it is also important that it works as a space to relax and live your everyday life.”
The Black INO is also highly versatile. There are six variations in size and combination of units, and the door surface comes in a choice of 21 finishes, although Watanabe reveals that the inspiration for the design most definitely came from the colour black.
“We originally presented the kitchen with two rich and beautiful blacks,” he explains. “One was Metal Smoke, a wood grain texture with black metal. The other was Black Carbon, which has a beautiful woven-carbon effect. Both are high-pressure laminated, making them extremely hard-wearing and therefore especially practical for the kitchen.”
Vertical stainless steel handles complete the look, adding character and definition for greater visual interest on the door fronts – a design touch that helps to safely take the Black INO away from the ‘minimalist’ label. Watanabe adds: “The kitchen is perfect for an open-plan space. We presented and developed Japan’s first ‘Island’ kitchen in 2001. At that time people were reluctant to embrace an open style kitchen. After more than 10 years, almost everyone chooses this style. “The reason why people have changed their thinking over this time is that they understand that kitchens are not only the place for cooking but also the place for living.”
Toyo Kitchen & Living | www.toyokitchen.co.jp/en/