27 January 2010

More from the International Builders Show

Last week I attended the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, and posted an entry live from the convention center. Here are more goodies from IBS. Last, but definitely not least!


GE has introduced a hybrid water heater that can cut your electric bills by more than 60 percent. It may not be the most energy-efficient unit on the market, (though it is EnergyStar qualified), but it does have two features I find noteworthy: 1) It fits into a typical water heater installation location easily and seamlessly. 2) It has an easy to use vacation setting that makes it easy to turn off for up to 90 days... No more getting on your knees with the toolbox to disconnect for a few weeks.

Plus, it looks like it belongs in Star Wars, doesn't it, and I'm a sucker for utilitarian objects with style!


For the homeowner who has everything, but craves ever more bling, Napoleon has introduced a fireplace studded with Swarovski crystals. Fire and ice, anyone?


On a more practical note, Kenmore has added a handy feature to its dryer line that lets you know when the dryer vent is blocked. This can save you a pricey service call and make your dryer work more efficiently. On the face of it, this model looks like every other front loader on the market, but its alert feature is just smarter than most. Go, Blue Team!


Last week, I mentioned two Kohler products. This week, I've got a few more to share, all in the eye candy arena. The first is an extension of the Persuade line called Persuade Curve that offers a compact toilet perfect for powder rooms. There are also coordinating lavs and vanities, as shown here. I liked the Petite Console, also great for tight spaces.

Another Kohler item I really liked, though not a new addition to the line, was the Nature's Chemistry: Antilia Wading Pool glass countertop lavatory.

It is just so very beautiful! Trust me, this official photo doesn't really do it justice.


Kraftmaid Cabinets, a staple in home centers everywhere, and a popular dealer line, as well, was showing off for builders last week. Long a leader in bringing custom features to non-custom kitchens across the country, Kraftmaid has done it again! You can now get stacked cabinets with glass inserts and integral side panels in the line, something you used to have to go to more expensive brands to achieve at much higher prices. Bravo for bringing excellence to affordability!


Every other booth, it seemed, touted its green creds at IBS2010. One unofficial showcase home that showed how it could be done right was the GreenBuilder Magazine's ReVISION house. I toured this restored ranch on VIP night and really respected what they'd done with the place. The home is located in the historic Paradise Palms neighborhood, which I also enjoyed seeing, albeit in the dark and the rain! Inside was a crisp, modern interior expertly designed by Patricia Gaylor. The curb appeal is evident in the drawing below from GreenBuilder. I'll let them tell the rest of the story on the ReVISION web site.

I will say this: Visiting this project made up for the disappointment in the official IBS showcase home not being completed in time for the show this year... The first time ever in its history, I believe, and a true sign of the times - they couldn't get financing to get it done! Need I say more?

22 January 2010

Live from the International Builders Show 2010

The show is coming to an end this afternoon and attendees are heading home. Like the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show last spring, it was a smaller event than in past years, but exhibitors were happy with the quality of leads they got, if not the overall quantity of traffic.

My goal in attending these events is to see the latest products my readers and clients would find appealing for their homes. IBS2010 didn’t disappoint in that regard. Here are those I found most notable.


Kohler always has innovative and stylish products. On the innovative end is the Conceal Mirrored Cabinet and Lock Box. What a terrific way to keep prescription medicines secured from curious children, prying guests or open house shoppers.

On the stylish end, Kohler has introduced the Vault 18-gauge stainless sink that works as a drop-in or undermount. While good-looking contemporary sinks are easily found in the undermount class, they’re much harder to find for drop-in applications. This one has a very sleek edge that separates it from its clunky cousins! It's also available in a single bowl style.


Always in style, Delta’s upscale Brizo brand, introduced an elegant new faucet series called Virage. It’s available in numerous finishes and a non-aerated water stream that accentuates its clean, classic lines. I personally loved the polish nickel. Not a game changer, just a lovely looker worth writing home about.


KitchenAid has come up with a new French Door refrigerator that answers the prayers of moms everywhere who want to show off their kids’ photos and art. Rather than magnets and paper, parents scan juniors' artwork onto a memory stick and upload it to the fridge's USB port, where it will "hang" for as long as you want to display it. The LCD panel has other functions, as well, like displaying recipe substitutions and measurement conversions, but to my mind, the ability to personalize it with kid pics and vacation shots tops them all! (FYI, I mentioned to KitchenAid's brand manager that a future version with food preservation guidelines would be another great feature to include. She agreed.)


Also in the Whirlpool family is a fun new fridge called the Amana Quick Tap. The dispenser can be filled with any beverage of your choice, and would be ideal for game rooms. It’s adorable and affordable.


Whirlpool also introduced a super-convenient feature to its newest refrigerator called MicroEtch. What it does is prevent spills from escaping from a shelf and leaking down the sides and bottom of the fridge. I wish I would have had that last month when a Coke glass tipped over on the top shelf just before a house showing! This fridge also has good lines, LED lighting and excellent capacity, too. The anti-spill feature, though, is what makes it a must-have.


Merillat's builder cabinetry line has also addressed leakage with its new CoreGuard feature for sink base cabinets. These are the most vulnerable to plumbing leaks and can be a real hassle to replace once damaged. CoreGuard replaces the standard wood box with a plastic one. Only the removable face frame and doors are wood, to offer a consistent look. The floor is also tilted forward, so that leaks are easier to identify. Cleanup of household cleaning products is easier in this storage area, too. Let’s call this concept a Game Changer!

Cedar Mountain

A vanity line that you’re not likely to find in a builder model, home center or kitchen and bath showroom is Cedar Mountain’s custom log vanities. Each one is customized from a different tree for the homeowner’s space and sink choice. I could see them fitting in beautifully in a mountain home or log cabin. Not for everyone, certainly, but beautifully made and highly specialized.


Another bathroom innovation is Aquatic’s Ava Bath. This accessible tub is a departure from the standard walk-in model and offers nicer design points than is typical in this class. As I told one of its executives at the show, it’s not quite designer quality yet, but it’s a huge leap forward. It’s also not going to meet every user’s accessibility needs, but neither do the walk-ins. Aquatic is definitely on the right track with this Game Changer.

New City Door

I really like the door offerings from this Israeli company. New City Door's styles are sharp and a homeowner has the option of changing out the panels if their taste changes in future years. They offer glass and laminates in bold and subtle patterns.


This well-respected cabinetry maker has just launched a line of exterior doors that can be coordinated with its cabinets. Imagine having the capability to have your kitchen door stain and door style coordinate with your cabinets and the glass inserts repeat in your cabinetry's focal points. I love the design possibilities of this capacity. Bertch also makes coordinating interior doors, which would work great for walk-in pantry applications. The exterior ones are so new that there is no official photography yet. This is my iPhone floor shot.

Cree LED Lighting

Cree is offering LED remodeler recessed light kits with color rendering far superior to what’s been on the market in the past few years. They’re also developing a real game changer: an LED bulb that will replace incandescents in every lamp, chandelier and wall sconce in your home. Consider the energy savings inherent in this capability. These should be available by the end of the year. Look for them in your local home center after Halloween; your electric bills will be less scary as a result!


Not being a plumber, I wasn’t familiar with this company before the show. Known mostly for hoses and the like, Kanaflex has gone in a new direction with a super-lightweight stone composite panel that can be used for countertops, shower surrounds, baseboards, backsplashes and fireplace surrounds. KanaStone has numerous design applications and various sizes and thicknesses to meet them. They are as beautiful as their granite and marble skins, but more affordable and easier to work with. They’re so new that there is no official photography. Here's my iPhone floor shot.

Shirestone Custom Countertops

Shirestone is another great surfacing option. It is not new for 2010, though their highly-textured outdoor tops, I’m told, are. This material is non-porous, making it highly stain resistant and low maintenance. It is also a pour-in-place product, like cement, so that it can surround columns or extend great distances and curves without seams. It can even go over existing tops, like outdated laminates, making a small scale remodel possible with a huge visual impact.

Click here for companion post, More from the International Builders Show.

12 January 2010

Sensible Style - Easy Color Updates

Sensible Style launched in July 2009 to answer your questions about kitchen design and remodeling. This time around, we’ll look at updating your space with color. One of the most common questions readers ask is how to incorporate color into a kitchen without dating it. Unless you’re completely committed to a beloved blue or red, and resale is not an issue, you may not want to change all your cabinets, countertops or appliances to that hue. Here are some ways to add a hot color without a major investment.


One of the easiest and most affordable ways of adding this season’s hottest colors to your kitchens is with dish towels, accent rugs, table settings and pot holders. If you want to make your kitchen sunnier, add a pop of yellow to your black and white kitchen with one or more of these items. Or add a burst of orange if you’d love an energy boost each time you walk into the room! Or go soft with one of the season’s woodsy neutrals.

A detail as small as dish towels can update your kitchen. These, from NapaStyle, are both attractive and organic.


Paint is another easy, affordable way to incorporate the latest colors into your kitchen. It’s especially inexpensive if you’re providing the sweat equity yourself. Some of the hot paint colors that work great with popular cabinet finishes include…

* Deep plum or cool grey with blond maple cabinets
* Watery blues with cinnamon cherry or painted white cabinets
* Spring or seaweed green with black or dark oak cabinets.

Note, too, that paint doesn’t have to be limited to your kitchen's walls. You can also paint your ceiling and the inside of glass-fronted cabinets for a color surprise.

Paint adds instant impact to a room. Here, Valspar’s Seaside Retreat adds a cool, coastal note to a white kitchen.

Countertop Accessories

Canisters, spoon rests, utensil crocks and even cutting boards can be swapped out for colorful components, giving your kitchen an instant and very affordable update. You can find traditional or contemporary styles in the latest shades, and donate them easily to a charity’s thrift shop if you want to update again in a few years.

Add color and charm to your kitchen with Sur La Table’s new Italian Ceramic Spoon Rests.


You can certainly add color to your kitchen with new dishes, glasses, bowls and trays. If your kitchen features open shelves, glass-front cabinets or built-ins, this is a great way to color-kick the space with ease. When choosing dish colors and styles that will be open to the room, consider coordinating them with the permanent elements in the room.

Update your space with new dishes, like CB2’s new Petal Green Dinnerware set.

Countertop Appliances

Choosing non-neutral countertop appliances is your next level of color commitment! Not as pricey as a range or refrigerator, but not as inexpensively replaced as a canister set. Be sure that you love the color you’re selecting, as you’re likely to own that appliance for a number of years. Consider, too, whether your chosen color will look good on your counters, an easy one if your tops are black or white.

Colorful countertop appliances can add a kick to your kitchen’s color quotient. Just choose one you won’t kick yourself for in a few years. KitchenAid’s Empire Red Artisan Stand Mixer, available at Williams-Sonoma is a classic, (and easy to match to other brands' red models, too.)

Window Coverings

Window treatments are another way to add color to your kitchen. If your windows are a standard size, this can be an affordable update with in-stock retail or online offerings. If you need a custom size, this will be a costlier investment. Many kitchens have windows over a sink or doors to a patio. Adding an updated shade to these areas can brighten the space without a major color commitment. You can add accents in the same color in your table settings both indoors and out to extend the color in your space.

These Woven Waterfall Shades from Smith + Noble add a soft color note to a black and white kitchen.


Cookware can be a major long-term investment, and should be chosen for its performance and durability, above all. That being said, there are delicious colors to choose from in this category and if you store your cookware on a pot rack or open shelving, it can spice up your palette as well as your palate.

Colorful cookware, like this Azure Blue Dutch Oven from LeCreuset, available at Williams-Sonoma, can add a burst of flavor to your kitchen’s d├ęcor.

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.

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