New Products from the 2013 Home Builders Show

Karaoke Showers: Or How Home Building Is Picking Up the Beat

A new tune wafted through the convention hall at the Home Builder Show in Las Vegas last week: it was a little bit Adele, as in “Let the sky fall/When it crumbles/We will stand tall/Face it all together/At skyfall” and a little bit Christina Perri, as in “I have died every day/Waiting for you/Darlin’ don’t be afraid/I have loved you for a thousand years/I’ll love you for a thousand more.” In other words, everyone seemed tempered by the downturn yet recommitted to the future. Keynote speaker and former Disney chairman Michael Eisner captured that spirit by showing clips from the film Cool Runnings about the improbable Olympic bobsled team from Jamaica who suffered a disastrous crash but then picked up their sled and carried it over the finish line to wild applause. Here are the products that caught my eye (and ear), with more to come in the next post.

Kohler launched their very cool, clever, and sleek Moxie shower head: it has a built-in wireless speaker and plays up to 7 hours of music and news (you should

be very clean after that…). The magnetic speaker pops out of the shower head for easy recharging of its lithium-ion battery. It pairs with Bluetooth-enabled

devices and  you can even leave it on the vanity — just don’t confuse it with a bar of soap. The shower head has 60 angled nozzles for an even spray.

GE showed renewed vigor with a strong line of new developments including French door refrigerators with a variety of new functions including a hot and cold water/ice dispenser in the left hand door — called the GE Cafe Refrigerator, available in April. There are four pre-programmed temperature settings, from lukewarm to hot. As a GE executive told me: “Consumers don’t know they want hot water out of it but it makes their life easier.” One model has sensors that allow for a hands-free auto-fill function (no more leaning on the button when you’d rather multitask!), and there’s also a “precise fill” function if you need an exact number of cups for a recipe. Easy operation extends to replacing the water filter — just lift up a panel in the door and pop the new one in. According to GE this filter removes trace contaminats like pharmaceuticals and lead. GE has re-imagined several other appliances, including the clothes washer. Their new High Efficiency Top-load Washer boasts the industry’s largest capacity at five cubic feet for top loading models while using less energy and water than a traditional washer. It has no agitator so there’s more room for clothes; it can hold a gallon each of detergent and fabric softener, dispensed automatically. I like the glass lid so you can check the wash cycle: science in motion! But then I am easily mesmerized…The new GE Cafe dishwasher has a an innovative “Steam Prewash” function to loosen baked-on residue. GE has reinvested heavily in their appliance division — hiring a new team of industrial designers and bringing manufacturing back to the US from offshore — and it shows in the genuine pride of GE staff and in the expanding product line.

Velux launched what must be a first: their Solar-Powered Fresh Air Skylight. It’s


remote-controlled — the solar panel is at the base of the unit and a sensor automatically closes the skylight if it rains. This is one of those ideas that seem so simple and inevitable  you wonder why nobody ever developed it before.

I heard more talk of contemporary design this year than in the past, and companies like Formica made it evident with their eye-catching

Anniversary Laminate Collection of designs by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, Abbot Miller, and Daniel Weil (image courtesy Pentagram). This fan deck shows the array of patterns celebrating the modern era’s long interest in overlapping geometries.

A spare modern look is part of the new Revo Direct Vent Gas Fireplace Series

from Heat & Glo® (photo courtesy Heat & Glo). The thin flame line uses Heat & Glo’s patented Razor technology and heat output reaches 24,000 BTUs. The slender 7-inch deep profile in so-called vertical, square, and linear shapes makes it easy to install. The unit is hung on mounting brackets; no exterior chase is required.

One product I was a little disturbed to see: a model bomb shelter. Oh well I guess that’s part of the continuing Mad Men/Mid-century Modern craze. No matter, I believe Adele: We’ll stand tall and face it all together! And things are looking up in any case.

For reviews of products at the 2012 Home Builder Show click here.

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