Now more than ever, kitchens and baths are the statement rooms in the home, and homeowners are looking for that one item that will make their kitchen or bath stand out from all the rest. The pressure is on designers to constantly create a look that is “unique.” Designers, in turn, are putting pressure on manufacturers to help them stay one step ahead of the curve with products that are innovative, exciting, stylish and highly functional.
For that reason, it should come as no surprise that kitchen and bath manufacturers were at their creative best in 2006, and the readers of Kitchen & Bath Design News were very interested in the plethora of cutting-edge product offerings. The top 20 most-asked-about products, as chosen by the readers of KBDN, range from the innovative to the luxurious, from hardware to appliances, from tubs to microwaves.
KBDN’s most-asked-about products list is compiled by tallying reader requests for information about specific products featured in the magazine over the last 12 months. While the top 20 products of 2006 received more than 2,800 readers requests, the difference between the number one product and the product ranked 20th was a mere 70 requests.
What does that mean? Kitchen and bath manufacturers are listening to the designers and dealers who make up the KBDN readership, and those designers and dealers are pleased with the manufacturers’ response. While the products on the top 20 list varied greatly, interest in them did not.
Among KBDN’s most-asked-about products, one commonality stands out: Luxury items are hot picks. Color-changing tiles, Mother-of-Pearl sinks and digital entertainment centers for the kitchen all made the list – as did blown-glass products from four different companies.
Interestingly, more than half of the top 20 products were either decorative hardware or tiles. Ovens, sinks and tubs comprised another six products, while the remainder ranged from showerheads to closet organizers.
While the kitchen and bath designers showed great interest in each of the 20 products, it will be interesting to see which of them become the trendsetters of 2007.
Microwave Drawer Teams with Cooktop
1. Sharp Electronics Corp.’s Insight Pro Cooktop+Microwave Drawer combines a Microwave Drawer with a glass ceramic cooktop. The 30"-wide unit expands Sharp’s Microwave Drawer line, which is available in Insight and Insight Pro Ranges and as a stand-alone unit.
“Consumers want products that simplify their lives, with meaningful features that solve problems, save time or save space,” says Rian Cain, senior v.p. for the Mahwah, NJ-based Sharp. “This microwave drawer moves a bulky, but necessary and frequently used appliance off of the countertop and places it within comfortable reach.”
The unit features front-mounted touch-screen controls and automatic cooking options for 36 food categories, as well as defrost and reheat options. It’s available in stainless steel, black and white.
Indicate #130 on e-Inquiry.
2. Inspired by the Northern Lights of Alaska, the Northern Lights tile line from Moving Color features 4"x4" tiles that appear black at room temperature, but change (moving through the color spectrum) when heat (warm water, radiant heat, etc.) is applied.
“It literally brings your environment to life,” says Ben Bellmer, executive v.p./sales at the Rocklin, CA-based firm. “We view Moving Color as a completely new platform, [affording designers] endless possibilities.” Due to the “versatility” of the product, the waterproof tiles “can be used in virtually any application,” he adds.
Indicate #131 on e-Inquiry.
3. The 14" Raindance AIR Royale showerhead from Hansgrohe, Inc. draws the surrounding air inside the showerhead and infuses the water with air bubbles, which results in an air-enriched shower. “Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Raindance AIR Royale is the singular design of its ultra-flat, all metal spray-disc,” says Jason McClain, corporate marketing manager at Hansgrohe-North America in Alpharetta, GA. “The user enjoys the sensation of a higher flow rate than the conventional 2.5 GPM, thanks to the combo of water and air in a one-to-three ratio,” he says.
Indicate #132 on e-Inquiry.
Drop-Down Door Microwave
4. “We think of the consumer as our chief product designer,” says John Swenson, director of marketing at Electrolux Home Products in Augusta, GA. “Consumers have told us that they want appliances with a more universal design that bridges the aesthetic gap between ultra modern and commercial, and they want this design available across an entire suite of appliances.
“That’s why the Electrolux ICON Drop-Down Door Convection Microwave is designed with features that make cooking faster, easier and better.”
Featuring a stainless steel exterior, the Electrolux ICON Drop-Down Door Convection Microwave has a pull-down door designed for easy opening and increased placement options. Automatic settings include 40 cooking selections and pre-programmed recipes.
Indicate #133 on e-Inquiry.
5. Cast in durable pewter hardware, the customized drawer knobs from Tracy Glover Studio are a natural complement to the company’s collection of hand-blown glass lamps and vases.
“I think people are more interested in seeing fresh ideas than a rehashing of an old one,” says Tracy Glover, president/owner of the Cranston, RI-based firm. “The proliferation of decorating TV shows has taught the mainstream a new way of seeing. Buyers are taking more chances on design than they have in the past; they want something of quality that will make their décor unique from their neighbor’s.”
The 1.5" round, multi-colored, transparent striped glass spheres are backed by standard-thread, pewter hardware, and are available in colors such as aurora, berry, citrus and celery.
Indicate #134 on e-Inquiry.
Patina Copper Tiles
6. (TIE) “Specialty metals are extremely popular now in home decorating, especially in the kitchen,” says Alan Isaacs, v.p./marketing and sales at Frigo Design, in Brewerton, NY, which has added Seared Patina Copper Tiles to its collection of real metal wall and floor tiles. “Vivid colors in the kitchen are making a huge comeback, as well. The rainbow-like appearance of these Seared Patina Copper Tiles makes them an ideal complement for many colorful decors.”
The tiles are mounted on a 1/4", water-resistant, non-combustible fiber-cemented backer/filler. The controlled seared/burn technique is hand applied and alters the finish of the copper, producing random colors, light and dark hues, and the “rainbow-like” iridescent effects. They bond to any surface with mastic or latex thinset, and are designed for grouted or non-grouted installation.
Indicate #135 on e-Inquiry.
Miniature Tile Border And Field Tile Line
6. (TIE) Oceanside Glasstile offers Facets, a collection of custom-made detailed borders and field tile patterns. “[The line] is made to order, hand-crafted from molten glass in a choice or combination of more than 40 colors,” says Donna Greenbush, director of marketing at the Carlsbad, CA-based firm.
Facets borders come in six symmetrical repeating design patterns in various sizes, with the average running 3"Hx12"W. Three Facets field patterns feature mini accent pieces that contrast with 1"x1", 1"x2" and 2"x2" mosaic tiles. Shown is the Running Bond field pattern. “Facets is not only versatile, but also sustainable, using recycled glass and silica sand, an abundant natural resource,” she adds.
Indicate #136 on e-Inquiry.
7. “The high-end consumer [often wants a] rare, unique look not available in the mass market,” notes Bob Schaub, owner and president of Schaub & Co. in Grand Rapids, MI. “Our Symphony Design Group uses exotic materials including Mother of Pearl inlaid in solid brass with a polished nickel finish, borrowing some looks of jewelry, and Penshell with solid brass bronze finishes.” Schaub & Co.’s other featured collections include Kelmscott Manor, Arcadia and Montcalm.
Indicate #137 on e-Inquiry.
8. “Today’s homeowner is all about quality, design, comfort and ease of installation,” says Evelyn McCollough, Builders & Functional Hardware Category, Liberty Hardware Manufacturing Co. in Winston-Salem, NC. “Our selection of drawer inserts... bring instant organization to kitchen drawers, [with] individual placeholders that allow the homeowner to locate those most-needed items without having to sort or move objects [in] the drawer.”
The drawer inserts from Liberty are available in four different ensembles: tiered cutlery storage and knife (shown); utensil and carving; utensil, and carving. All drawers are available in a maple finish.
Indicate #138 on e-Inquiry.
Line of Glass Tile
9. Featuring bands of different colors in its back coating, Curvet USA’s “Clearly Special” line of glass tile is offered in scored 12"x12" tiles that are available in mosaic blends of matte, as well as glossy colors. Distributed by Una Terra, the tiles are offered in an array of colors and finishes, and can be combined with Curvet’s lines of countertops, glass sinks and furniture, according to the company.
Indicate #139 on e-Inquiry.
10. Caesar’s World blown-glass hardware from Megna Hot Glass Studio is designed to “recreate the findings of an archeological dig where precious ‘gems’ are unearthed,” according to the company. The Caesar’s line is available in four colors – Frost, Gold, Lime and Wine, and in three shapes – the large square doorknob, large square cabinet knob and Colorcore cylinder.
Indicate #140 on e-Inquiry.
11. Frank Morrow Co. offers more than 7,000 decorative metals trims (solid embossed bandings and perforated filigree galleries) and stampings in brass, copper, aluminum and steel for the kitchen and bath.
Indicate #141 on e-Inquiry.
Custom Stainless Steel Pulls, Knobs
12. Arthur Harris offers a variety of customized, stainless steel bar pulls and knobs that can be built especially for custom-designed cabinetry or retrofit for existing cabinetry, according to the company.
Indicate #142 on e-Inquiry.
Glass Wrap Light
13. Megna Hot Glass Studio offers a variety of blown-glass hardware and accessories, including this Amber Cobra Wrap light, cabinet knob, door knob and lever.
Indicate #143 on e-Inquiry.
Italian Specialty Glass Mosaic Tile
14. (TIE) Aqua Arte from Una Terra is the firm’s latest line of Italian specialty glass mosaic tile for wall applications only. It’s now part of the company’s wide selection of ceramic, glass and porcelain tile.
Indicate #144 on e-Inquiry.
14. (TIE) ProClosets offers custom closet, pantry, laundry room and garage organizers, including the Chestnut Walk-In Closet with tilt-out hamper (shown) and the Gourmet White Pantry, which includes rattan baskets, glass-front drawers, solid beech pantry drawers and wine racks.
Indicate #145 on e-Inquiry.
15. Linkasink is creating mosaics from Mother of Pearl in all of its sinks that currently feature stone and glass mosaics. Each mosaic is hand-crafted at Linkasink’s facilities in Arizona, while the Mother of Pearl is imported from China, notes the firm.
Indicate #146 on e-Inquiry.
Tubs Carved from Natural Stone
16. (TIE) Part of the Stone Forest Bathtub collection from Stone Forest Inc., the C40 Bathtub is hand-carved from a single block of blue/gray granite. Each tub in the collection is carved from granite, marble, onyx or travertine, and each is a natural vessel, with variations in color and patterns.
Indicate #147 on e-Inquiry.
Countertop Steam Oven
16. (TIE) The AX-700S Superheated Steam Oven from Sharp Electronics Corp. combines conventional heat with superheated steam to infuse cooked food with moisture while melting away fat, reports the company. The oven features 20 pre-programmed food settings in four different categories – Roast, Grill, Steam and Convenience Foods – as well as 10 manual settings.
Indicate #148 on e-Inquiry.
17. Bear Creek Glass has created a line of hand-blown glass pendant lights to complement the company’s glass bowl sinks. The light fixtures are available in solid or frosted tones with swirl or speckled patterns. The pendant’s globe measures 6" high and up to 4.5” wide.
Indicate #149 on e-Inquiry.
Embossed Metal Trim
18. The embossed metal “fan” design trim from Frank Morrow Co. is available in steel, brass copper and aluminum.
Indicate #150 on e-Inquiry.
19. (TIE) Suzanne Crane Fine Stoneware’s sink basins can be ordered with coordinating tile murals, tile-framed mirrors and mirror surrounds. The standard sink diameter is 16" to 17". Custom sizes are also available.
Indicate #151 on e-Inquiry.
19. (TIE) The streamlined design of Dacor’s new stainless steel Digital Entertainment Center features a flip-down touch screen that allows for the convenience of the Internet, TV, radio, DVD/CD and video monitoring of the rest of the house without sacrificing countertop space. Users can surf the ’Net or change channels by using the waterproof remote control, keyboard or by simply touching the screen.
Indicate #152 on e-Inquiry.
Decorative Hardware Collection
20. The Hamilton Decorative Hardware collection offers solid bronze products in an array of distressed, living finishes. Contemporary finishes such as satin or polished nickel are also available, as well as products such as knobs, drawer pulls and refrigerator pulls.
Indicate #153 on e-Inquiry.