One priority is maintaining the growth of the sizzling grilling segment. "With state-of-art grills, the latest technology, and must-have accessories, manufacturers are bringing a whole new meaning to grilling," says Leslie Wheeler, director of communications for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association based in Arlington, Va. "Recognizing consumers' love affair with grilling, the industry is turning out products that create an out-of-this-world barbecue experience, in turn, growing the industry to new heights."

Look for bigger units with more burners, from dual, side burners to three- and six-burner gas grills; burners with higher BTUs; and ample accessories such as rotisserie motors and pizza grillers.

"We'll see every convenience that's inside a home outside," Wheeler says. "Homeowners don't want to keep going inside to get something. Now they don't have to. The products are made to withstand the elements. But, it doesn't have to be just for the luxury homes. There is something for everyone at all price points."

The industry also will focus on and attempt to reverse the recent decline of the gas appliances segment. Hearth appliance shipments were down 11 percent in 2006 compared to 2005, with fireplaces, inserts, stoves, and gas logs seeing the biggest declines. The housing slowdown is going to bring the hearth industry shipments back to more traditional growth levels, but the hope is that high-efficiency units, better design, more options "as well as an improved housing market" will help stimulate sales.

"We make a higher-quality fireplace today," says Kurt Rumens, president of Travis Industries based in Mukilteo, Wash. "Ten years ago the quality was not as good and materials felt 'tinny.' Today, gas and electric fireplaces are more believable. We have elevated the quality design of fireplaces."

Indeed. Exhibitors throughout the show displayed fireplaces and stoves made from a variety of exotic materials such as hand-wrought metal, stainless steel, frosted glass, and soap stone.

In the future, look for more streamlined contemporary products with ceramic and glass surrounds; cool-looking pellet stoves; stainless steel wall-hung units that use ethanol, gas, and electric; larger units that use glass instead of log sets; and more see-through products that visually bridge the gap between two spaces.

"The industry will focus on clean-burning appliances and encouraging homeowners to consider a hearth product in a room other than the family room or living room," Wheeler says. "A fireplace in the master bedroom or bath, kitchen, or dining room can add tremendously to a home's comfort and decor."

New products:

A partnership of Italian manufacturer Piazetta Design and Johnson Gas Appliance Co., the Sky gas fireplace features a surround made from Majolica--a raw lump of clay that is dried, painted, and glazed to provide heat resistance and heat storage. No two surrounds are the same, the company says. Shown here in orange, it comes in four additional colors.

Piazzetta Design/Johnson Gas Appliance Co.



Known for its streamlined modern design, Wittus has introduced this whimsical Shaker stove designed by Italian architect Antonio Citterio with designer Toan Nguyen. Made from matte black steel, the bench measures 41 inches high, 34 inches wide, and 21 inches deep. A model with a 6-foot-long bench also is available.

Wittus



The Integra II pellet stove from Austroflamm by Rika has the capability to heat 2,500 square feet and will burn up to five days depending on the size of the fire selected. Distributed exclusively by the Hearth Products Group, the EPA-certified unit burns clean with very few harmful emissions, the company says. It comes with five accent colors and has a 145-pound fuel hopper capacity.

Austroflamn



This Liberty Collection outdoor grilling unit DCS by Fisher & Paykel consists of three separate modules "a griddle with side burner, a grill, and a side burner with sink" to offer consumers modular options. The pieces create 11 1/2 feet of island space and have removable teak countertops that can be replaced with waste receptacles. Burners feature 17,000 BTUs, and the griddle has 15,000 BTUs.

DCS by Fisher & Paykel Appliances



At only 12 inches deep, the stainless steel Bed and Breakfast 21 DV gas fireplace from Travis' Fireplace Xtrordinair product line can be placed anywhere in the wall of a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, or dining room. The streamlined design allows sheetrock to be installed right up to the face, and three accent colors allow design flexibility. It has built-in convection, 82 percent overall efficiency, and can heat up to 650 square feet.

Travis Industries



The Gabo II gas freestanding stove is a departure for Rais: It is the only wood-burning unit the company makes. Featuring the same Danish modern design as the manufacturer's other products, Gabo has a ceramic floor pan instead of stainless for better functionality and a more realistic wood look. It has a steel side plate, stainless steel top plate, and a glass door. It comes in black or gray.

Rais



Have a Hearth: Day 1 at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo

Have a Hearth: Day 2 at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.