The kitchen and bath are radically different spaces than they were 20 years ago, says Suzie Williford, the 2007 vice president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. As a result, products for these spaces are radically different as well. The spaces still perform their normal functions, but now they do much more.
"The kitchen is the new entertainment center," Williford says. "It has gone from being a functional space to a room of beauty, where games are played, where homework is done, and a message center." At the same time, the bath is the sanctuary, the home spa, the room for relaxation, she adds.
Products at this year's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show cater to this trend in the two rooms. Manufacturers are displaying countertops in a wide variety of materials. ThinkGlass is showcasing a new generation of glass countertops that are available in thicknesses up to 1 1/2 inches and in seamless slabs measuring 126 inches long.
At the Totally Bamboo booth, you can make a style statement with end-grain parquet or vertical-grain bamboo countertops. And relative newcomer Tobara Teak grows its own trees on Forest Stewardship Council-certified farms in Mexico and manufactures a variety of teak kitchen and bath countertops in almost any custom style.
Other materials making a splash are engineered marble and engineered products made from paper.
In the bath, manufacturers are focusing on more than simply getting people clean. It's about relaxation, comfort, and, in some cases, decadent indulgence. Hansgrohe's new Euroactiv line of more-affordable faucets (compared with the company's usual high-end products) features an electronic lav faucet that provides hands-free activation.
Not to be outdone, Kohler's DTV line of electronic shower controls now comes with additional accessories such as chromatherapy LED lights and sound tiles that allow users to hear music in the shower.
And high-end faucet maker Dornbracht is unveiling the Elemental Spa line of faucets and accessories, which incorporates Corian solid surfacing from DuPont so that the faucets become sculptural elements in the bath, the manufacturer says at its booth.
ThinkGlass: The manufacturer offers custom glass countertops in almost any design. Available in thicknesses up to 1 1/2 inches and in seamless slabs measuring 10 feet by 7 feet, the product is scratch- and heat-resistant. It is available in three colors. www.thinkglass.com.
DuPont: The result of a partnership between the manufacturer and European quartz company Seieffe Industrie, the nine new colors of Zodiaq-OKITE surfacing have the appearance of rich terra-cottas and warm, veined neutrals. Shown here in deep lapis lazuli, the product has the same heat-resistance and low-maintenance properties as regular Zodiaq. www.zodiaq.com.
Houzer: The company has been making sinks for U.S. companies for years; now, it's marketing its own. The Epicure Series transitional sink is a farmhouse-style unit with clean lines. It measures 33 inches wide, 20 inches from front to back, and 10 inches deep. Single- and multibowl configurations are available. www.houzersink.com.
Qwinique: The manufacturer is a provider of custom kitchen countertops made from exotic species and domestic hardwoods. Thirteen stock species are available, in addition to offerings such as wenge, bubinga, and koa (a Hawaiian hardwood). The tops are constructed with finger-jointed ends and Q-lock sides that double the gluing area, yielding a more stable top. www.qwinique.com.
Hansgrohe USA: Part of the company's Euroactiv line of mid-priced products, the Metris electronic bath faucet allows for hands-free activation. It is available with or without a temperature control and comes in chrome and brushed nickel. www.hansgrohe-usa.com.