At the International Home Builder Show in Las Vegas last week — as I toured kitchen and bath-oriented booths — it occurred to me that plumbing fixtures have come a long way in both design and description. Three companies caught my eye and ear with innovative and appealing products. Take Danze’s 3-inch, Parma Three-Function Showerhead.
Sleek and versatile, it combines regular shower flow, massage (pulsating spray) and what’s called “aerated drench.” It seems to me that an aerated drench is just what is required before or after long hours of walking the show floor with 60,000 other visitors. (And one day everyone received an aerated drench, otherwise known as a torrential downpour/gullywasher, as we returned to our hotels.) Danze is known for its innovative modern — even sculptural — showerheads, like the 8-inch Sunray,
with its radiating arms, or the Danze 305 Low Flow,
resembling a flying saucer, that uses only 1.5 gallons per minute.
High tech and high touch are united in Delta’s new Pilar™ Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet with Touch2O™ Technology, which won various industry awards in 2009.
Touch anywhere on the faucet and water turns on or off, which is pretty cool; they call it “Proximity Sensing Technology” which could be another way of saying “Let’s shake hands” or simply, “skin.” I also like how Delta describes the unit’s pull down sprayer as a “wand” with “MagnaTite™ Docking” to keep it securely in place. Harry Potter, time to climb off the broom and wash the Dementors’ dishes! Another Delta product of interest is their Zero Threshold Shower Base, consisting of a grill over a “trench grate” (drain grill) instead of a lip, allowing barrier-free
entry that’s also wheelchair accessible. Its prosaic and rather plainly described — though I like the use of “trench” — but very useful.
The Kohler booth is usually the largest at the show and this year was no exception, with seemingly hundreds of products on display; gushing, spraying, bubbling water everywhere; and enthusiastic and knowing descriptions of flushing efficiency. Though, no doubt in deference to the economy, this year there were no acrobatic or singing acts. Kohler is extremely good at what they do and has been doing it as a private company for 130 years. They pretty much reinvented the modern vanity. I like their newest versions — part of the Persuade line (a very effective, not so subliminal message!)
with its simple lines, space for soap and a water glass on the rim, and drawers that flank and hide the drainpipe or trap. A simpler model in the same line
turns the trap into a handsome object in its own right. For smaller bathrooms where creating an airy feel is especially important, this unit would be ideal. The full Persuade line
includes three vanities and a dual flush toilet.
Big news at the show was the fact that for the first time in the 27-year history of The New American Home program, the annual idea house was not completed in time for touring. The builder’s financing fell through. (Frankly, knowing how complicated such projects are, I’m surprised something like this hasn’t happened before.) However I attended a useful press conference showcasing the house’s key sponsors and suppliers. New to me was the eco-friendly building system using Apex Blocks from Lacuna Inc. The blocks are made of 100% post-industrial/consumer expanded polystyrene (EPS) and cement and do not contain formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), or known carcinogens. Here’s how the block system works:
Foundation with rebar.
Form the corners; frame window and door openings.
Place horizontal rebar, then attach roof ledgers.
Pump in the concrete. Cut grooves for electrical and plumbing. Smooth the surface and add stucco or other siding material. It’s a fascinating building system that resembles RASTRA block.
There appears to be more choice in sliding and accordion doors — a market that Nanawall revolutionized some years ago. Marvin’s new Lift and Slide examples
virtually disappear into the wall. The new S1E Eco Screen by Centor
offers retractable insect screening and solar control.
I attended Sarah Susanka’s informative seminar on remodeling where she talked about features that bring value and personality to a home without adding a lot of cost, like varied ceiling heights to make a room seem more spacious, and window seats to create cozy retreats within a small space — which are good things to look for as you explore new home plans as well. I also saw her elegant round-within-a-square window
with its rounded window
in the master bathroom.
The parking lot at the show usually has a range of model homes to tour and I thought the prefabricated Osprey,
by Eco Cottages was newsworthy: 513 square feet
with living area, galley kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, for a basic house price of $60,000 — though the example shown here had Gaggenau kitchen appliances
(including a sexy floating Lift Oven with trays that rise and fall at the push of a button) worth $35,000. In short, the show was worth a trip through the storm.