Future Forward

CHICAGO, IL —Color, texture, eco-friendly, accessible and luxurious are the words that best describe the breadth of products at this year’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS) 2006, held here in the Windy City’s McCormick Place.

In fact, these watchwords not only capture the essence of where the kitchen and bath industry is today, but also provide a glimpse into the future of the kitchen/bath marketplace.

“We are very excited about the huge success of K/BIS 2006 in Chicago,” says Allan S. Pattison, president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the show’s co-sponsor. “We feel there have been several advancements in the design and technical part of the industry that will certainly get our attendees and exhibitors ‘ahead of the curve.’”

From high-tech appliances in a host of both saturated and subtle hues to bath fixtures that not only stand as works of art, but also offer up multi-sensory experiences such as in-tub sound systems and aroma- and chromatherapy, these products are tapping into the need for more luxurious products that appeal to the ultra high end.

Indeed, at the NKBA business luncheon, Dr. Andrew Tuck of the New York, NY-based Applied Research & Consulting alluded to the fact that the kitchen/bath market is segmenting more and more, with many consumers falling into or aspiring to the very high end. He said the middle of the market seems to be falling away.

And more than 60,000 kitchen/bath industry professionals from around the world attended K/BIS to view the latest innovative kitchen and bath products, product prototypes and design ideas from more than 900 exhibitors that spoke to this trend.

Many exhibitors showcased design concepts such as urban loft living and the “live-in” room (see related story, Page 42). There was also the Design Idea Center (DIC) that was hosted by the NKBA. Meredith Corp. occupied a portion of the NKBA’s 10,000-sq.-ft. booth space that unveiled trends based on one overriding theme, “The 24-Hour Kitchen and Bath.”

Visitors wound their way through a day in the life of typical family pursuits, from a “Start of Day” sequence with a bath outfitted for one couple and another urban couple’s chic and contemporary rooftop dining area, to a kitchen designed to cater to the needs of a busy family.

In addition, there was also the Woman’s Day 2006 Design Spectacular: Into the Future in the Silestone booth. Marked by a mix of surfaces, textures and color, it included a luxury spa bath, cutting-edge appliances and counter space for every room.

Some of the most noteworthy product trends include: the increase in “speed” induction and cooking products; the continuing expansion of the appliance suite to include many more products such as built-in coffeemakers and wine/beverage centers; the increase in the sophistication level of and attention to outdoor living; the ever-present variety of decorative cabinet hardware, glass tiles and sinks; the rise of transitional designs in cabinetry, faucets and sinks; the plethora of finishes that now include bronze and copper; and the surge of software available to make ordering and design easier for dealers and designers.

Universal Design was another hot topic at the show/conference, as the industry – and the exhibitors on hand – notice that Baby Boomers are getting older and demanding products that don’t remind them of that fact.

Health, wellness and sustainability were also top-of-mind, as many companies introduced new indoor air filters, tweaked their existing ventilation systems and unveiled a host of products that promoted healthy living and eco-friendly design. These included products such as steam ovens, water-saving showerheads and dishwashers, and “green” countertops.