With more than 100,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, last month’s International Home Builders Show in Orlando was a good place to see new building innovations (many before they hit the consumer market), identify home trends, and meet Houseplans.com designers. Here are some new products that rose above the fray for me at least, and other highlights:
Color in the Kitchen
Viking Ranges now come in much more than silvery stainless steel and black. These substantial units cook with color: rich red, cobalt blue, and vibrant orange.
Basin and Range (Apologies to author John McPhee)
The rectangular ramp sink is appearing in more and more product lines. Usually the drain is at one end of the sink and the basin is a sloping rectangle, turning it into functional abstract sculpture. One particularly handsome version is the Boutique Collection of solid surface sinks by MTI Whirlpools.
Soap Opera Success Story
GE Profile introduced its remarkable new front load washer with “SmartDispense” technology coming to market in May 2008. A drawer at the base of the washer holds a 6-month supply of detergent and softener that’s automatically dispensed according to the size of the load. No need to lug those big jugs of laundry liquid home more than twice a year. I know a family with 8 children who are eager to have this mighty multi-tasking washer.
Eco-friendly and energy-efficient products and ideas are burgeoning. We saw a number of gas and even electric tankless water heaters, which are more energy efficient than conventional gas water heaters because they only heat water when it’s needed. For example, Noritz offers a wide range of capacities.Viridian is a new company developing an electric tankless water heater that’s designed to run nearly 100 degrees cooler than other brands (while still providing the same hot water temperature) so that the elements extract less mineral content from the water (which causes mineral build-up in the system). The product line is scheduled to debut in the fall.
Green guru architect Bill McDonough was at the show signing copies of his important book Cradle to Cradle written with chemist Michael Braungart, which goes beyond the mantra “Reduce, reuse, recycle” to propose taking nature itself as the model for making things. It’s really a new way of thinking about production. Provocative and fascinating.
Ideas to steal
The NextGen demonstration house introduced Lifeware a software that integrates a home’s lighting, security, thermostat, appliances, family photos, TV, and music onto one simple interface controlled by touch screens. It’s a version of the digital future. (But can you touch a screen and have the house clean itself and take out the recycling and garbage?? That’s what I want to know…) Balancing the futuristic elements were several good old fashioned space-saving ideas, including a laundry sink counter that folds out of the way when not in use, and a simple shelving system built over the toilet.
What Home Buyers Want
Better Homes & Gardens’ Consumer Preference Survey identified five key elements that people are looking for in a new home. Here they are. Do you agree?
1. An all-new kitchen that looks great, is fun to work in, and that’s more than a kitchen
2. The right amount and type of storage
3. A master suite that feels like a luxurious hotel room
4. Well-designed spaces that consumers can personalize
5. A separate, convenient, and sizeable laundry room
They’re useful criteria to consider as you explore the more than 27,000 plans at Houseplans.com . Stay tuned!