Winds of Change in Kitchens, Bathrooms & More
The current economy has certainly made the annual product showcase that is the International Home Builder Show smaller but it has not dampened the spirit of invention — in fact it may have had the opposite effect. Take the range hood, a fairly prosaic appliance. That is, until the Italian designers for Best S. p. A. blew
cooking odors into a galaxy far far away with models like their space ship-shaped Fusion, above, which is wall-mounted and made of stainless steel and glass. Or
how about their racetrack-curved Shelf, or their ceiling-mounted Sphera,
which is camouflaged as a pendant globe light from the 1950s. The website for another Best line, the Sorpresa collection, offers a “Visualizer” that shows how different models look in the same kitchen, which is very useful. All these products dominated the Broan-Nutone booth (Broan, Nutone, and Best are subsidiaries of Broan-Nutone, and produce their own lines of range hoods.)
The Vault drop-in apron front stainless steel sink from Kohler caught my eye.
I like the way it updates the farmhouse sink with a crisp modern outline. Kohler is also expanding its array of enameled cast iron sinks with the Bellegrove
Double-Equal” version, which includes two reversible racks and a sponge caddy that fits over the saddle. For the bathroom, Kohler introduced the Hydrorail –
shower column (two versions are shown above). It includes an integral two-way diverter, and allows you to convert your existing fixed shower head to a spa-like shower. Also the column, which is insulated, functions as a grab bar. Sterling, a
Kohler subsidiary, introduced its Accord 60-inch Seated Shower, a very practical solution for aging in place since it can replace a typical bathtub for an easy retrofit. The seat can change position and there’s ample shelving.
Mainstream manufacturers are improving their website functions. Lumber Liquidators, a large flooring supplier, has a new Room Designer tool that lets you see how various flooring choices might look in typical rooms — such as a cork floor in a kitchen
or a bamboo floor in the living room. You see the floor choices in each setting.
There are three versions or decorating styles for each room, which limits you to Lumber Liquidator’ taste, but it’s a good start. I wish you could upload pictures of your own kitchen or family room and see how they look with different floors. Maybe that’s next.
You’ve heard of key-less entry for your car – how about for your front door: it’s
the Simplicikey remote control door lock. If you prefer the digital lock, lift up the
escutcheon and type in your code; or you can still use a key! A clever idea, and they are working on a wider range of hardware styles.
Leviton, a major manufacturer of electrical devices, debuted its new universal
dimmer. The switch is unremarkable looking but does a lot: it includes a microprocessor that allows it to regulate current and emerging incandescent, dimmable compact flourescent (CFLs), and dimmable light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). According to Leviton, the device can properly dim next-generation lighting sources “while remaining backwards compatible with current bulbs.” I love that phrase “backwards compatible” — it could be another term for an architectural historian like me.
While at the show I toured three forward-thinking Builder Concept Homes sponsored by Builder Magazine and built by Centerline Homes, which cleverly target three demographic groups: Gen X (1966-1985), Gen Y (1986-2005), and Gen B — Baby Boomers (1946-1964).
Interestingly, they occupy a decidedly retro subdivision layout — a cul de sac — perhaps another example of “backwards compatible.” But each house aimed for flexibility with guest suites for in-laws or other relatives. The Gen X house by designer Tony Weremeichek of Canin Associates even has a full-fledged “Granny Suite” complete with kitchenette. I was struck by how the Gen X house, and Gen Y and B, designed by architect Mike Woodley of the Woodley Architectural Group, all made use of 90-degree corners defined by telescoping sliding glass patio doors (by WinDoor) to allow spaces to expand
or contract depending on needs and weather. Above is the corner of the Gen Y great room when opened up so that it blends with the pool patio. And here is a
corner of the great room at the Gen B. house. Woodley used sliding barn doors in
a similar way to open up or close off the study in Gen Y. The same idea was also used in The New American Home, mentioned in a previous post. I guess one good corner slider deserves another!