This past week in Las Vegas, two trade shows combined (the International Builders Show / Kitchen and Bath International Show) to pull off an epic event in the home improvement world, bringing together 1,700 exhibitors and over 75,000 attendees, making it once again Earth’s largest annual light construction event of the year. Over three expansive convention rooms, presentations were given, industry changing products were highlighted, existing professional relationships were strengthened, and new business opportunities were born. Porch threw our hat into the ring, buddying up with our friends at Lowes to run a booth complete with free chocolate chip cookies, a speed drilling competition, and a custom slot machine that shelled out over $50,000 worth of giveaways over the 3 day show. We had a great time engaging with national homeowners and professionals of all backgrounds, and every once in a while snuck away to see what was happening around the medium sized city that was this year’s convention. Here are some of the trends and companies that had us saying, “Now that’s cool.”
Space was a major theme this year. If you have it, you’re showing it off. If you don’t, companies want to make sure that your home’s minimalist kitchen can look just as glamorous as those 3,000 square foot houses in the suburbs. This notion had many appliance manufacturers championing new, smaller kitchen standards to help make one’s time in their culinary haven more efficient. Bosch, for example, is running out a line of dishwashers, stovetops, ovens, washer / dryer units, and refrigerators that are all 24” wide. When observing the models, the sizing did come off as smallish, but I also concluded that these 24” versions would complete the tasks given just fine. “Having to unload the dishwasher a few more times a month is still better than having no dishwasher at all,” says everyone who ever lived.
On the contrary, if you have a surplus of square footage, more than a few companies at the show wanted to help you flaunt it. There were industrial stovetops from La Cornue that could’ve been transported from an 18th century French kitchen, custom hand painted bathtubs like those of Aquabrass that exuded swank, and back lit automated closets that made you feel like you were in the first row of a New York Fashion Week runway.
Modernity ruled all things design at the convention. Vintage sports jerseys may have an emerging market with all the romantic demand for throwbacks, but home design and everything in between is fully committed to the future where clean lines, subtle color accents, and right angles rule the day. Throughout the show, I only saw two companies that were offering a more, let’s say, cabin-in-the-woods themed line of products as opposed to the white, grey, and glossed black culture of design (think Ikea on steroids) that’s been trending this century. This even applies to keeping those countertops clutter free and as spotless as possible. For instance, that cumbersome countertop espresso machine that’s serving as an expensive paper weight for junk mail? Ship that dinosaur out and make room for Gaggenau’s sleek in-wall option that can produce two shots at a time. Not into coffee? Colored LED track lighting was another way manufacturers were offering ways to customize the home, allowing for the mood to be just right for any occasion, like, I don’t know, maybe a soft Seahawks blue for game days?
It was a big year at IBS for automation and motor skills. Arms full of dirty dishes? Sweep that foot near the base of your dishwasher and abra-cadabra, you’ll find the door slowly opening for you. Don’t feel like touching your marinara coated hands to the kitchen sink’s faucet handle? Simply move your paws left or right (not too hard or you’ll get some on the walls) to find the perfect temperature for washing. The cupboard world has gotten in the action too with plenty of manufacturers like Bauformat making that hidden wine glass a mere pressed finger away from being filled with that Chardonnay you’ve been saving until after the remodel was done. The only decision needed to be made is should the cupboard doors swing out or slide up?
Sorry Gramps, it looks like these app things are here to stay because not only is the cellular phone a major player in today’s business operations, it’s becoming the focal point for The Connected Home. The mobile phone was easily the most popular tool of professionals I interviewed at the convention, and now, they’re not just booking jobs and managing their teams via the mobile route, they’re installing appliances, lighting fixtures, shower-heads and tiles with speakers built-in, and even home locks that are all being powered by a trusty cell. Dupont is even doing us, the battery-life starved masses, more of a solid by producing countertop surfaces that charge your devices while they comfortably rest atop. Now, there’s no excuse to be losing battery power just because you’re following the recipe for Gale’s Gameday Green Chile via your phone.
There you have it. The future is now. It’s a place where a house will run itself, fully functional appliances exist in all sizes, and a homeowner’s imagination can most certainly be fulfilled by down to the last detail, even if that detail is bringing back some old color palettes.