Showed Up

Smaller, KBIS still offered plenty of trends
By Alice Liao
June 23, 2011

With nearly 600 exhibitors located in one hall and the number of registered attendees topped out at roughly 32,000, KBIS this year, held April 26-28 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was a little more intimate than previous editions. But traffic seemed to hold pretty steady for all three days, and the show, despite its modest appearance, did yield its share of trends, many of which are not new, but still bear mentioning.

• Tech-savvy toilets. Let’s just get this out of the way first. Yes, Kohler’s new $6,400 Numi toilet (top right) was at the show and received a fair bit of attention. And why wouldn’t it? With technology becoming increasingly part of life in not only the kitchen but also the bathroom, it does everything one would expect a “techy” toilet to do and more—such as playing music from your iPod, incorporating a glowing virtual pedal and warming your feet. Don’t need a complete toilet? Porcher debuted its line of electronic bidet seats, and TOTO extended its Washlet series with a more wallet-friendly model, the Washlet B100. Brondell’s Swash 1000 bidet toilet seat was marketed inside the women’s restrooms in addition to being displayed on the show floor.

• Diverse applications. As to be expected, many in the k & b industry are diversifying to help weather the economic slowdown. Kitchen cabinet companies, such as Wellborn, showed bath vanities and furniture, along with other-room vignettes in their booths, and Eldorado Stone debuted a line of fireplace surrounds. Similarly, Enkeboll’s booth (above) went big and dramatic with a luxury bath vignette conceived by Los Angeles-based designer David Dalton to illustrate creative ways in which to incorporate the company’s new and existing products. Corbels, rosettes and molding in wood and metal added flair to everything from oversized mirrors to pieces of furniture, doors and, of course, walls. The result was a splashy mix of Old and New World details, which together felt very current—and perhaps a little Art Deco-inspired?

• Softer transitional. Speaking of which, transitional looks have been going strong for the last few years, as homeowners shy away from both ends of the style spectrum to settle in the cozy, comfortable middle.

However, while past shows seemed to favor a softer, yet clean-lined take on the contemporary sensibility, this year yielded some products that seemed to tip the other way. Curves were more pronounced, finishes were warmer and, as Angela Wellborn, of Wellborn Cabinets, noted during a press event, earthy browns are gaining in popularity in kitchen cabinetry. Moen introduced Weymouth, a faucet line with unmistakable traditional roots, and Brizo’s Charlotte, shown in a new cocoa bronze finish, channels the Art Deco period—and Erté?—with an elegantly curved spout and lever handles.

• Next generation. The inching toward a more traditional-inspired aesthetic may reflect an attempt by manufacturers to respond to the new generation of homeowners. Kohler’s Tresham bath line, which emphasizes mix-and-match versatility and gives a nod to Americana, was presented at the show with a youthful spirit—bringing to mind past consumer studies that pegged Millennials as being more conservative than Gen Xers—and Masco Cabinetry, which recently released the results of its GenShift 2011 survey of generational and societal influences on kitchen design, devoted much of its booth to a hip, modern vignette illustrating some of its findings.

• Talented kitchen sinks. Finally, much is afoot in the world of kitchen sinks. Kallista unveiled its collection of multifunctional Kitchen Sinks by Mick De Giulio, and Lenova had its Entertainer Sink, a well-accessorized prep and bar sink rolled into one. Glastender showed a drop-in version of its cocktail station, while Houzer took the occasion to formally introduce its new partnership with Schock, a German manufacturer that, according to Peter Shim, of Houzer, makes granite composite sinks not only under its own name but also for several other well-known brands.

Couldn’t make the show? There’s always next year, when KBIS returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place from April 27-29.

Click here for images of the products mentioned above.

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