KBIS 2012 Trends Revealed

May 30, 2012

At the recent KBIS 2012 show, kitchen and bath design bloggers participated in a panel exploring trend spotting in the design world. The 2012 National Kitchen & Bath Association's annual show and conference brought together 550 exhibiting companies with 16,091 industry buyers and specifiers, a 10 percent increase from 2011.

“KBIS provides the unique opportunity to network and gain critical insights into a changing market, and this year’s show had an array of innovative and inspirational products and designs from our exhibitor partners,” said Jim Scott, managing director of KBIS. “KBIS 2012 showed that our industry is reinventing itself and utilizing insights from the marketplace to develop new products and designs that change how we interact in both the kitchen and bath.”

The panel experts included Caitlin Grogan, digital content director of and; Leslie Clagett of; Susan Serra, of The Kitchen Designer; Brandon A. Smith, LEED AP, principal of, and Marilyn Russell, president/principal designer of Design Magnifique. The panel participants cited the following top industry trends based on their experience at KBIS 2012.

With the economy improving, homeowners are more likely to spend on products that add to the beauty of their home, including a shift in color palettes throughout a variety of design mediums. Sinks and tiles were draped in color, while black faucets and other earthly hues experienced a resurgence in both the kitchen and bath. Exhibitors also embraced the exploration of lighter shades. White and gray were popular in natural stone tile and quartz surfaces, as well as appliances. “We’re also seeing what I like to call ‘smart texture’ which includes products that are outside of today's clear trends, yet easy to adopt into any kitchen design for a more personal design alternative,” said Serra. “For example, updated granite-like countertops with pops of color in the pattern or a fresh take on the use of stained glass or retro tile for the backsplash speaks to today's aesthetic and is offered by both small and large manufacturers.”

KBIS 2012 strongly emphasized the impact of colliding generations in the marketplace through the unveiling of its UNcontained exhibit. Products at the show reflected the unique desires and characteristics of each generation, including exhibitors striving to make aging-in-place easier for the Zoomer (ages 45-65) and Prime Timer (ages 66-plus) generations. Designs included cabinets that opened at the touch of a button, shades controlled by a handheld remote, walk-in tubs with digital technology and hardware in extended sizes. These products also fit right in with the younger generations, who appreciate technology and products that make their busy lives easier. “Hand-in-hand with the aging-in-place trend are products designed to last,” said Grogan. “More products encourage the homeowner to design with taste, rather than resale value, in mind. Black matte finishes, for instance, offer the homeowner an opportunity to showcase their personal style.”

This year’s show presented a unique shift toward a fashion aesthetic. Many exhibitors debuted fashion-forward styles and partnerships with designers reflecting society’s fascination with the cutting-edge. From ovens with fire-engine red exteriors to bathroom mirrors that function as works of art, many areas of KBIS reflected the feel of a fashion runway.

As consumers try to do more with less space, exhibitors took storage to the next level in 2012 by integrating products seamlessly into the home. From refrigerators that blend right into cabinetry to drawer inserts that provide quick access to hard-to-reach spots, these new storage solutions generated new, unexpected openings for work spaces. Concealed kitchen shelving and extra-wide sinks boasting functional colanders and cutting boards within were also heavily featured, as storage possibilities spread from not only closets and the garage but to the kitchen and bath as well.

Many exhibitors debuted advanced technology in their booths, from products that include smart phone applications to designs that mix light and sound in the bathroom. Toilets can now determine how long you’ve been sitting, or open the lid as one walks toward it, and even wall sockets are built smarter to incorporate direct USBs plug-ins for consumers using laptops and charging their phones in the hub of their home, the kitchen.

Although environmental sustainability has evolved to become standard in the industry, exhibitors are now making it easier than ever to go green. High-efficiency toilets and showerheads are the norm and can easily be installed or retrofitted in any home. Recycling has even become easier, with compactors that can silently crush cans installed right into kitchen cabinet space. Technological advances like motion sensor faucets and lighting have become more sophisticated, helping to save both water and energy.

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