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Dish & Design speakers offer readers ‘A Taste of Italy’

Jodi Noding
The Detroit News

Ever wonder about the difference between modern and contemporary styles?

That’s easy, explained Carol Stambaugh of EuroAmerica Design in Troy. “Modern design was a specific style made in the 1920s through the ’50s,” she said. “But contemporary is ever-changing. What is contemporary today will not be contemporary 20 years from now.”

More than 100 readers gathered Wednesday evening to hear Stambaugh and other speakers during “A Taste of Italy,” Homestyle’s latest Dish & Design event, held at Hillside Contemporary Furniture in Bloomfield Hills.

Stambaugh described the nuances of Italian cabinetry and how it differs from American design: American cabinets are framed while Italian cabinets are frameless, for example. Stylewise, Italian cabinetry “runs the gamut. Italian makers lead the industry with textured door styles and high-gloss cabinets,” Stambaugh said.

Modular style is very popular right now in kitchens, Stambaugh said. “It’s very functional and versatile.”

Other trends include incorporating textures into kitchens. The appliances are often hidden, but the glassware and dishware are exposed. “Chrome is coming back,” Stambaugh said, “and nobody does it better than Italy.”

When planning, “Color is probably the most difficult decision people make,” Stambaugh said. Whether to add a red countertop stymies homeowners, who can be afraid to put in what they really want. Stambaugh encouraged people to take the plunge when it comes to pops of color. And she reminded visitors, “Black and white never goes out of style.”

And while many people worry about the cost of Italian cabinetry, Stambaugh says the prices are competitive with American manufacturers. “The real difference is time. You are looking at 16 weeks to get European cabinetry,” a time line consumers often don’t figure on.

Reader Ellen Blair of Royal Oak was happy to hear Stambaugh’s take on style. “I love Italian design. And I’m happy to hear white matte is coming back. HGTV was making me feel bad about my kitchen,” she laughed.

What stands out to Jeff Selik, general manager of Hillside, is the details in Italian furniture.

“The Italian difference is the cache, it’s the materials, it’s the craftsmanship.”

Mini caprese skewers with fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes.

From the top-grain leather that covers the sofas to the “innovation and ingenuity in gravity-defying designs” of loveseats with no center legs, Italian design has striking features that attract buyers, Selik said. A few examples are glass tables featuring mechanisms that allow them to expand, and a compact high-gloss speaker cabinet that has a ceramic yellow horn that connects to Bluetooth technology.

At the core of “A Taste of Italy” was, of course, food.

Caterer Annabel Cohen of Annabel Cohen Cooks Detroit set out an Italian spread of mini-Caprese skewers, Italian cheeses, marinated olives, caponata with baguette rounds and biscotti. She also prepared a rich, flavorful recipe of fresh Pasta With Arugula Basil Lemon Walnut Pesto with in less than 20 minutes while visitors watched.

“You can make pesto out of anything,” Cohen said, encouraging cooks to experiment and use their imagination. “Green beans, cilantro with squash seeds, parsley with lime and red onion,” all will work, she added.

Sheri MacDonald of Jacobsen’s Flowers told readers how to create beautiful and economical arrangements from what they have in their own gardens. “You don’t have to use tons of flowers to make it effective. Even six will work. Any foliage in your yard you can use. Hostas come in such fun colors,” she said, describing how she adds various leaves to her flower arrangements. And she uses willow branches to shore up heavier flowers like sunflowers.

“There are no rules. Make sure the flowers speak your personality — you don’t have to use traditional florist flowers to make good arrangements.”

jnoding@detroitnews.com