Design & Construction Week came back to life in February, with 70,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors spending three jam-packed days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The mood was celebratory, with friends from the industry delighted to be reunited in person after an extended absence. While a few of the big brands stayed away, there was plenty of eye candy and innovation from companies big and small. Here are some of the top trends spotted at the International Builders Show and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.
Home appliance connectivity isn’t new, but it’s getting smarter, with manufacturers finding new ways to make technology more efficient and useful for homeowners. Sending upgrades for cooking air fries, turkey, and steaks to stoves and ovens that make cooking easier is one example that GE Café presented. Miele offers an app-connected camera in its new ArtLine 7000 oven that lets you turn off the heat to prevent burns. (It also opens the door at the end of the cooking cycle, so food does not continue to cook after the timer expires.)
Broan-NuTone has taken a technology several manufacturers have introduced previously that allows their induction cooktops and ventilation hoods to communicate for optimized performance and makes it brand independent; it’s a boon for owners and designers. And, if you want or need help with your cooking skills – or want to easily share your dishes on social media – the Cooksy smart device makes it easy for the beginner or experienced home chef.
Rev-A-Shelf’s Tresco range has launched its revolutionary Swidget, a modular plug that allows you to change out the inserts, depending on what you want to plug in. It’s a smart, affordable answer to the challenge tech companies like Apple create when they continually change their connector formats. (Swidget also offers indoor air quality modules that might come in handy in kitchen and bathroom environments.)
There were also whole-home wellness solutions, like Broan-NuTone’s Indoor Air Quality System, Moen’s Smart Water System, and the new handleless hands-free faucet. Look for more options in these categories as wellness homes become more widely available at more affordable prices.
More adults are entertaining at home, and there were plenty of offerings to meet that need. Signature Kitchen Suite and LG Studio both offer artisanal ice cream in their new refrigerators. (As this cool upgrade becomes more popular, I expect to see more mainstream brands adopting it as well.)
Convertible refrigerator drawers also make entertaining at home a breeze. Frigidaire Gallery and Signature Kitchen Suite offer flex drawers in their fridge/freezer models, and Signature introduced an undercounter model. Dometic, known for its sleek outdoor bar carts, introduced DrawBar, a compact wine fridge that converts a cabinet drawer into a mini cooler.
If you prefer coffee to wine, there were also trendy offers for you. Wellborn Cabinet introduced a new cabinet deployment that makes it easy to create a coffee center. If your budget doesn’t allow for GE Café’s sexy new countertop coffee makers, this option could be ideal for storing the owner’s Mr. Coffee or Keurig when not in use.
Flexibility was also the name of the game in cooking appliances. Monogram introduced a new oven with an interior rotisserie. KitchenAid introduced a new multi-cooker oven. Combined air frying and steaming are still trending in the multi-purpose cooking appliance space. The same goes for what is called “vacuum air”, which uses airflow instead of water. Frigidaire includes it in its 15-mode wall oven and 30-inch line. Sister brand Electrolux also has one, as does LG Studio. LG showed off a full-range microwave that also steams. For the home chef who is short on space, this is a great innovation.
Among the bonuses for home artists (and families in general), there are two dishwasher trends worth noting. The first is the inclusion of a third rack, which is now almost as ubiquitous as stainless steel interiors (even on more moderately priced models). Another is the prevalence of quieter machines that don’t sacrifice performance. It’s easier than ever today to find a model for your kitchen-turned-home-office-turned-classroom-turned-gathering-place that still lets you hear someone from across the room or of the screen. GE Profile introduced a 42 decibel model with built-in Microban. LG Studio introduced a 40 dcb model. Beko’s 39 dcb model has a handy self-cleaning filter that cuts down on an unpleasant chore.
Still on the “making chores less nasty” front, Moen introduced a trash can with a built-in UV-C cleaner. If this introduction is successful, the company could add the feature to other releases in its product line.
The outdoor entertainment space continues to grow in importance. John Michael Homes won a KBIS award for its stylish indoor/outdoor metal cabinets that include Bluetooth capability, hood function and marine-grade construction. Perlick also offered a marine-grade option for its under-counter appliances, as well as a Tobin Ellis Signature Series Limited Edition restaurant-grade designer bar that can unfold onto the deck for cocktails, complete with moveable faucets for fun. outside. True Residential has added a top-loading beverage dispenser and freezer drawers to its outdoor lineup.
Laundry appliances have also become smarter, more versatile and user-friendly. LG’s washer lets you control the stacked dryer for better visibility. Whirlpool offers a smart soap dispenser with a removable agitator for added flexibility and a combined washer/dryer model that fits naturally into the growing trend of accessory living units.
Wellness was in full bloom in bathroom trends. Moen launched its very first line of toilets with a bidet model. Brondell and Bemis introduced new affordable bidet seats, including heated models (because who really wants an unheated one?). Brondell also introduced DIY-friendly shower filters for purer water. RainStick has integrated water purification into its sustainable recirculating shower system.
Infinity Drain made cleaning easy with a hair catcher for its linear drain. Airmada has introduced a system for drying the cabin after a shower or bath and the Spanish brand Valiryo has introduced a system for drying your body afterwards; this is great for someone with sensitive skin or flexibility issues. Speaking of shower enclosures, Corian’s M|R walls have upped the solid surface trend with sleek dimensionality. These panels look good enough to use elsewhere, but their ease of cleaning makes bathroom use feel natural.
Kohler introduced its sleek new digital shower system and Maxstow, a smart medicine cabinet that makes it easy to store tall items. This also allows them to be charged indoors.
One of my favorite trends at the show – and I really hope it continues – was the widespread adaptation of stylish athletic shoes! It’s like we’ve all decided that more than two years of physical challenges is enough! If we had to spend three days covering 750,000 square feet of concrete floor after two years of mostly virtual shows, we’d be fine! If there had been a prize for most stylish, it would have gone to a dazzling pair of Dolce & Gabbanas spotted on day three (but I wouldn’t spend $900 on a pair of sneakers!).
By the way, if the event wasn’t big enough for you this year, next year’s Design & Build Week will host a new partner exhibit at the National Hardware Show. A quick look at the NHS 2022 exhibitor listings indicates greater appeal to builder and contractor types. Maybe our friends at NKBA can bring the international housewares folks for all the kitchen goodies in 2024 (Just sayin’!).
Note: Miele, Rev-A-Shelf, Wellborn Cabinet, LG and Signature Kitchen Suite have sponsored book-linking programs with Jamie Gold over the past few months completely separate from this and/or any other KBDN cover. ▪
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an author, wellness design consultant and NKBA Chapter presenter. His third book, Wellness by design (Simon & Schuster), published September 1, 2020. Learn more about his presentations, books and consulting services in the wellness market at jamiegold.net.