The countdown to this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show is now in the single digits. As an estimated 20,600 manufacturers, designers, dealers, and custom builders and remodelers prepare to descend on the city of Chicago, we asked the show’s managing director Jim Scott what trends attendees are likely to spot. Also, check out our slideshow for a preview of high-end products that will be debuting on the show floor. 

• Technology is making appliances and other home products both “fun” and “smart,” says Scott. And the recent industry-wide push towards sustainability suggests that a melding of the two should yield efficient and attractive designs that help consumers manage their households. 

• Sure, attendees are hot for high-end products. But affordable design, spurred by what Scott calls “practical discretion” incited by the economic downturn, is surfacing as a way to remodel while remaining innovative and budget-conscious.

• It may be too soon to judge the quality of the economic recovery, but Scott says that visitors should see more new products this year. “Exhibitors have been cautious in the last few years,” he says. “They’re seeing [that] now it’s time to get back in the market. It is what it is, [and] it’s still a large market.”

• The popularity of recyclable and engineered materials is closing in on traditional surfaces like granite.

• Plus, universal design takes on new importance as designers and manufacturers begin to better understand and serve a market with highly diverse needs and varying abilities. 

The show’s UNcontained exhibit puts a creative twist on the rising challenge of offering products and design services to the different generations that make up the U.S. housing market. Featuring vignettes of five prototypical home buyers, generational narratives will be displayed in 20-foot shipping containers in the center of show floor. “The containers reflect how you would approach a design project with these different generations,” Scott says. “What’s important to them; how do they see their lives playing out.”

The exhibit classifies these groups as: Gen Now, ages 15 to 34, who seek an urban setting and want products that save on space; Generation X, ages 35 to 44, focused on balancing work and  personal life and enjoying decorating and renovating; Zoomers, ages 45 to 65, emerging from the recession with savings possibly damaged and retirement postponed but still desiring efficient products; Prime Timers (ages 66 and older) who are living longer, moving back in with younger family members, and changing the conception of the aging process.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.