No two households are exactly alike—and that’s exactly what many home-product manufacturers are banking on with their latest offerings.

One thing that stood out at the recent IBS and KBIS was the number of manufacturers who cited customization as a priority in their product design. By building in flexibility, consumers can configure their home to best suit their individual needs or add personal style touches. And builders looking for value adds that will appeal to buyers, or to create a wow factor in their show homes, can likewise leverage the products, which give the home a custom feel without necessitating a custom-home price tag.

Consumer feedback and a desire to reach the greatest possible customer base was a primary driver toward greater customization, company reps said. A young, child-free couple is likely to have different priorities for their home than a family with three kids, or Baby Boomers planning to age in place. By offering versatile solutions, companies can appeal to different demographics without having to reinvent the wheel—just tweak it a little.

One possible configuration of Thermador's Freedom refrigeration units, incorporating a wine column, full freezer, and refrigerator/freezer combo.
Mike Cornair One possible configuration of Thermador's Freedom refrigeration units, incorporating a wine column, full freezer, and refrigerator/freezer combo.

Adaptable Appliances
Personalization was top of mind for Thermador in creating its new Freedom line of modular refrigeration, which offers the ability to select and arrange fresh food, freezer, and wine columns. Consumers can optimize their kitchen design so they have storage space for the ingredients they use most, located in the areas it’s most needed. There are options from a design standpoint, as well, with the ability to feature custom door panels.

Frigidaire's new Custom-Flex door gives consumers a huge range of storage options.
Frigidaire's new Custom-Flex door gives consumers a huge range of storage options.

Instead of multiple units, Frigidaire offers multiple configurations within one appliance. The company’s top freezer refrigerators have been updated to include a Custom-Flex Door, which offers more than 100 ways to organize, the company says. Storage components—including bins in four sizes, a dairy shelf, and a can dispenser—can move and slide along tracks, rather than being installed in predetermined spots. The refrigerator also includes a modifiable shelf, which can be used as a full or half shelf, or flipped up completely.

And when it comes to finishes, the reign of stainless steel could be coming to an end. BlueStar already offers over 750 color options for its ranges and knobs, and has added one more with the introduction of Pantone’s color of the year, Marsala.

GE also discussed plans to expand their color palette through the addition of new finishes, such as gold and gunmetal, and colored knobs. The knobs would also be suitable for retrofit applications, a market the company is exploring through the introduction of appliance accessory kits. 

A Growing Opportunity
Beyond appliances, the emphasis on personalized creations spanned the show floor:

Cabinet builders showcased reconfigurable storage units and shelving; tile manufacturers displayed collections that allow the consumer to mix and match colors, stones, and patterns; bath companies debuted lines with easily swapped fixtures and accessories; and window and door suppliers demonstrated new products with customizable glass and hardware options.

The widespread presence of this movement, and its inherently widespread consumer appeal, make it a trend that will likely have staying power.