RANGES AND COOKTOPS AND SINKS, OH MY
It’s an annual orgy of appliances, fixtures, cabinets, faucets and all manner of folderol for the design-obsessed among us. I’m speaking, of course, of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, which bills itself as the largest convention of its kind in the world. This year, it fills three exhibit halls at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
Today, I conquered South Hall with my trustworthy companion and arbiter of all things architectural and luxurious, Dean Larkin, AIA of Los Angeles. Dean designs hotels and custom homes for clients we watch on TV and in the movies. He also has the distinct advantage of living and working in Southern California, where so many of our design trends start their long march across country. I’m on the near-Eastern end of that march, in Tampa, Florida. Happily, we come together in the American heartland this week for a few days of product introductions and kitchen and bath dialogue.
We started our day at the Electrolux press breakfast. The manufacturer best known in the U.S. for vacuum cleaners is actually a high-end appliance producer. They have two lines, Electrolux and Electrolux Icon. We liked their new dishwasher that features interior lights. What better for cleaning up after that midnight snack? Dean came to Chicago considering the Electrolux line for the new Hollywood Hills home he’s building for himself and his partner, Paul. Happy to share, he still is.
We left the Electrolux booth, well-fed and ready to take on the show. I came to KBIS looking for what I now call “game changers.” Game changers, a term I picked up from a GE rep, are those products that bring something completely new to the industry.
GAME CHANGERS I â€“ NEW POT FILLERS
Most of you have seen pot fillers, those handy faucets that hover over cooktops and ranges to make pasta boiling more convenient. Today’s exhibits featured several pot fillers of a different flavor. Countertop-mounted units bring that same level of convenience to island and peninsula burners. So you’re no longer limited to having a wall behind your cooking surface to avoid lugging a pot full of sloshing water across your kitchen floor. Great idea, guys! We spotted our first countertop-mounted pot filler at the Hansgrohe booth, but happily discovered more of them at various plumbing firms around the building. This gives homeowners choices in style, features and finishes. Bravo, fixture folks!
GAME CHANGERS II â€“ SENSOR FAUCETS WITH STYLE
You’ve no doubt experienced sensor faucets in public restrooms. They skimp on water use, as your hand movements turn them on and off. Unfortunately, until now their home versions skimped on style, too. I liked the concept at last year’s International Builders’ Show, especially for kids’ baths, but detested the clumsy looks. This show featured numerous models of sensor faucets with gorgeous lines, both contemporary and classic. Many, like Hansa’s, are designed for showy powder rooms. I’m glad to see the evolution and salute the producers for being both water-conservative and liberal in style. (That’s my sole political reference in this election year. Promise.)
GAME CHANGERS III â€“ INDUCTION RE-INTRODUCTION
Induction cooking isn’t new, but after a long lull, it is definitely resurgent. This could be due in part to the overall move toward contemporary lines in kitchen design. Induction cooktops are decidedly sleek. More likely, it’s because of their extreme energy efficiency, which trumps gas and electric. I like their speed and safety creds. An induction cooktop will boil a pot of water faster than a high-BTU burner. It will also stay cool, except under the pot itself, which makes it family-friendly and adds to your usable countertop acreage. Finally, it cooks very evenly. It only works, though, on pots that are conductive. (If a magnet won’t stick to your favorite fryer, you’ll have to replace your cookware before you replace your cooktop.)
Until recently, induction cooking was a surface-only sport. Now it’s showing up on ranges, too. Dean and I spotted them today at the Electrolux and Viking booths. This innovation is great news for space-challenged kitchens that can’t accommodate a cooktop and separate wall ovens.
Other cool stuff we spotted included LED lighting tracks that can be mounted under cabinets for task lighting that won’t task your electric bill or heat up your cabinets… Tempered glass-front Viking appliance suites in great new shades that will heat up your kitchen’s style… And an outdoor Viking wine cooler so you can chill in the summer sun with your cabernet or Chianti… But no glass by the pool please.
Check back tomorrow for more game changers from North Hall (tomorrow) and Lakeside Center (Sunday or Monday.)