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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

KBIS 2011: Day Two Highlights

My second day at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) began with an excellent tour of the Kohler booth as well as the Ann Sacks tile display. The danger with starting the day off with such a highlight is that the rest of the day risks paling in comparison. While I did find this year’s show disappointingly smaller than previous year shows, there were some very promising new ideas to be discovered.

Console vanities remain a strong trend this year. The unfitted furniture styling lends an air of casual formality to the bathroom. A modular cabinet maker can often create console pieces using the cabinets in his catalogue. But he then runs into the problem of economies of scale. Making one can be expensive; making many is much less so. Hardware Resources is an American based company that specializes in cabinet hardware, kitchen islands and console vanities. They have a wide variety of consoles in many different finishes and their pricing is excellent.

Illumination was another trend I noticed this year. Whether it was using LED lights to illuminate a glass shelf or back-lighting a thin sheet of quartz making it glow, examples of illumination were everywhere. TOTO offers an entire series of translucent sinks that are available lit or un-lit. This is one of my show favourites, the Luminist vessel lavatory; very simple in design, it also comes with a removable false bottom (in black or white) that hides the drain and keeps the vessel looking clean and bright (sorry ‘bout that). I can see this being used instead of a night light in an ensuite.

I previewed Think Glass before the show and was eager to see what they had at KBIS this year. They featured a number of their textured glasses, as well as some art pieces that really belonged in a gallery (or my kitchen). But the stunner for me was an island with a six inch thick glass countertop. The underside of the glass was textured so it resembled the surface of a choppy ocean, and the whole piece was illuminated from beneath with blue LED lights to create a breathtakingly beautiful effect.

Universal Design was featured in many of the booths I visited, as well as one of the courses I took at KBIS (more on that in a later post). At one point Universal Design was only considered necessary when designing for those with physical challenges (e.g. reducing the height of a countertop for a person in a wheelchair). Today it’s more about allowing a room to work with people of many abilities.

The biggest challenge when considering Universal Design is finding suitable, attractive products. A typical shower grab bar for example is often a commercial looking tube of stainless steel; the design effort for most grab bars goes into the function, not the form. Adding such a monstrosity to a carefully planned out tiled shower enclosure can completely compromise the design. Great Grabz has come up with this acrylic grab bar that has at least mad an attempt to design a functional product with pleasing aesthetic qualities. While the pebbles are not a personal favourite, I can easily see this product evolving into something to work with a wide variety of colours & styles.

No threshold showers are becoming more common in the bathrooms I’m asked to design. Entry into the shower is simpler and safer without the threshold, but requires the floors be sloped properly to avoid water running out of the shower and flooding the rest of the bathroom.  Jason International has solved this problem with their TZ3260 acrylic shower base.  It comes with a built in seat and uses a linear shower drain as added protection against flooded floors.

What do you think of these trends?  Are these some ideas you'd consider for your remodelling project, or are the manufacturers just grabbing a straws?  And if you were at KBIS this year what other trends did you spot?

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