Dwell on Design 2014

Dwell on Design is a unique event. Like most of the conventions kitchen and bath designers visit – KBIS and the International Builders’ Show, for example – this expo attracts major appliance, cabinetry, surfaces and fixtures brands from across the globe.

Unlike traditional trade shows, however, Dwell, produced by the magazine of the same name, is open to both industry professionals and homeowners. The massive three-day gathering at the Los Angeles Convention Center bills itself as the largest design show in the country, and runs from Friday through Sunday on a Spring weekend each year. Friday is the professionals’ day, while the weekend attracts design-friendly homeowners.

There’s another attribute that sets Dwell apart for industry pros: It attracts some very strong locally based firms and unique new national brands with interesting trend interpretations. Since many of the nation’s innovators and style makers hale from the West Coast, having them all in one place makes braving Los Angeles’ notorious traffic worthwhile. These were some of the trends and innovations on display at Dwell on Design 2014.

 

LED LIGHTING

LEDs are not new, but they are definitely newly improved. The original light emitting diodes were cold, expensive, limited in selection, barely dimmable and rather expensive. All of that has changed in the last few years, especially on the cost and style front.

You can now find LEDs in attractive pendants, sconces and chandeliers for your kitchen and bath projects, as well as in recessed can lights, under-cabinet lighting and interior cabinetry pucks and tapes.

One of the factors galvanizing the category is California’s Title 24, which requires 50 percent of a kitchen’s lighting to be high efficacy (low energy use, high output) in new construction and remodels.

Since California is the most populous state in the country, manufacturers tend to take notice. And, since this is also a style mecca, many of the top brands are combining LEDs’ improved quality with the best new looks.

Irvine, CA-based Cerno was one of the local manufacturers at Dwell with LED fixtures and customization options. The firm’s existing catalog is modern and eclectic, but it will work with designers to develop or manufacture a custom design for clients’ specific tastes and lighting needs (touching on the customization trend, as well).

 

MULTI-TASKING

As we continue to move away from the pre-Recession McMansion mindset of oversized and extravagant, the trend toward products that serve us in more than one way will continue to grow. One example from the show was the Axor Nendo WaterDream Shower Lamp prototype. The Shower Lamp itself debuted at Cersaie in Bologna, Italy last fall, and will hit U.S. shelves in 2015. As its name implies, it is both a showerhead and a light for the shower built into one industrial-styled fixture (industrial styling is a strong style trend right now).

Blomberg’s FlexiZone Convertible refrigerator is another useful multi-tasker, offering space that goes from fridge to freezer or wine captain in three to five hours.

Sub-Zero’s new 36" under-counter refrigerator-freezer drawer is a highly useful new multi-tasker. Under-counter refrigerator drawers are common. So are mini-fridges with tiny freezer compartments, though most lack the style and quality level that this appliance brings to the market. A wide fridge/freezer combo that can be put on an island or peninsula is a very valuable addition to the category.

 

DIGITAL INTEGRATION

The merger between our lives, our smart phones and tablets, and our homes continues to evolve, and was clearly on display at Dwell on Design. GE introduced its Remote Enabled Monogram French Door oven with technology that allows users to operate appliances from a phone or tablet, adding a layer of convenience to putting dinner on the table. More new Monogram and Cafe ovens will have this capability by the end of 2015.

Miele’s M Touch series in Truffle Brown Glass, also a new introduction, blends an iPhone-inspired touch screen interface with a color that looks like it could be the 5C’s newest Chocolate offering. And the face of Wolf’s new oven – coming to the market in 2015 – looks Android sleek with no handle! Simply push on the door to open it.

Duravit is bringing digital integration to its Vero medicine cabinet line with Bluetooth streaming. The plan is to expand the capability to all of its medicine cabinets in future seasons. Mr.Steam’s iSteam touch screen control is another example of digital integration (and inspiration) coming to the master bath.

One of the most promising digital integration offerings is Lutron’s Caseta system, which lets users automate existing home lighting without an electrical system redo or consultant. The system will operate from an iPhone or iPad.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability continues to be a strong trend, especially in California, where Dwell is based. There were industry leaders, like Crossville, with tiles made from recycled Toto toilets, and Toto itself, with low-flush toilets. Air-infused showerheads, like the H2O technology from Brizo that delivers luxury with water savings, were also on display.

One of the intriguing new sustainability-focused exhibitors was a nine-month-old Nebraska manufacturer called Iris Industries. Dwell on Design was the entrepreneur’s opportunity to showcase its surfaces (mostly decorative wall coverings) made from recycled materials such as paper, agricultural waste and fabric.

 

CUSTOMIZABILITY

One of the related trends to emerge from the digital revolution is customization. We’ve become so used to shaping our entertainment and information spheres to our personal preferences that our expectation is the same level of customization in other areas of our lives. This is also being catered to by the kitchen and bath industry. Established brands like Kohler let users customize bath faucets from different configuration choices, and niche players like Neo-Metro let users customize fixture colors as well.

Digital showering and home automation are becoming more mainstream to both designers and consumers. Style-wise, there are glass and tile companies that will take a favorite digital image and print it on a backsplash or countertop.

 

LAST WORDS

If your work or travel plans won’t take you to Los Angeles for next year’s Dwell on Design show, you might want to catch its New York City debut on October 9 or 10. Information is available at dwellondesign.com.

 

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant.

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