Buzz: Product News Roundup, Hardware Everywhere Edition

New products from the National Hardware Show, burning appliance questions, jaw-dropping showers, and more product news from the past week.

Triton• 9 cool tools from the Hardware Show, including a snazzy folding utility knife and several burly demo bars.

• The Money Pit hosts also offered up their favorite finds from the show, including a smarter sump pump and a DIY-friendly laser distance meter.

• 7 products to please (and warm and relax) the mom of the house.

• Germaphobes rejoice! Kohler unveils a touch-free toilet that flushes with the wave of a hand.

• Norwegian project sets out to become the world’s tallest timber building at 14 stories.

• 11 natural boundaries that offer an alternative to fences.

• 10 walk-in showers that will make you forget about the bathtub.

• Does expensive really mean better? How high should the range hood be? A professional cook answers homeowners’ burning appliance questions.

• From single bowls to high-tech faucets, here’s a look at the latest trends in kitchen water stations.

• Tech startup Chui is upping the home-security ante with a doorbell unit with built-in facial recognition.


10 Design Trends for 2014

What products and design elements are in hot demand this year? Some are surprising: quartz moving in on granite, master bath tubs falling out of favor. Others are extensions of what’s already popular: open floor plans getting more open, universal design continuing to gain ground.

These were among the trends shared by Denise Dersin, editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine, during a presentation at the International Builders’ Show Feb. 4. Based on her discussions with builders and what she observed among the winners of Professional Builder’s 2014 Design Awards, here’s what she sees dominating wish lists this year:

This floor plan from Professional Builder's Show Village offers a fresh approach to the open floor plan.

This floor plan from Professional Builder’s Show Village offers a fresh approach to the open floor plan.

1. Open Wide(r)
The demand for open floor plans is here to stay—and getting bigger. The kitchen, great room, dining areas, and workspace are more and more essentially the same room. Kitchens are shedding their upper cabinets, with open shelving and larger pantries making up the storage difference.

2. Flex Appeal
It’s no secret—with the rise in open floor plans has come an abandonment of the formal dining room and living room. But families still need those spaces a couple times a year. Flex areas—rooms that serve multiple functions and can shift over time—are taking a more prominent place in the home, Dersin said. Minimal changes allow the space to morph from den to dining room to mother-in-law suite.

3. Islands: Large and in Charge
Busy homes revolve around the kitchen island, which now must serve as cooking prep zone, eating area, and homework station. Naturally, this means they’re getting bigger. To keep larger islands from becoming “aircraft carriers,” Dersin sees designers employing elements such as varied heights, contrasting colors, and fold-down leafs.

Pardee Homes uses transom and clerestory windows to bring in plenty of natural light to its Alta Del Mar model in Del Mar Mesa, Calif.

Pardee Homes uses transom and clerestory windows to bring in plenty of natural light to its Alta Del Mar model in Del Mar Mesa, Calif.

4. Let There Be Light
Demand for daylight is a trend that’s been hot for some time, particularly as energy costs rise. Builders and designers must continue to incorporate ways to allow natural light further into the home, such as with larger window walls and through creative use of transoms on exterior and interior walls.

5. A Place for Everything
Open floor plans can lead to clutter, so storage near the door has become a must-have, whether a full-on mudroom with cubbies and laundry or a simple drop-zone with a desk, phone-charging station, and coat hooks.

6. Counter Evolution
Though granite is still in demand, Dersin sees buyers also leaning heavily toward solid surfacing, quartz, soapstone, and even paper composites. She also sees color preferences headed in two opposite directions: softer and lighter or solid black.

7. Slab on the Back
Single-slab backsplashes, such as those made from marble or glass, are replacing the once-popular subway-tile look in the kitchen.

8. Bye, Bye Bathtubs?
At one time, a master bathroom without a tub/shower combo was unthinkable. But Dersin is observing a reversal, with many new homes doing away with tubs in the master entirely (provided there’s a tub somewhere else in the house). If there is a tub in the master, it’s generally a stand-alone version rather than a built-in, she said.

This universal design bathroom by Tier 1 proves that accessibility need not sacrifice style.

9. Easier Aging
Luckily for baby boomers, universal design products such as grab bars and lever-handle faucets have shed much of their cold, industrial appearance, allowing for aging in place without losing the feeling of home. Other elements, such as wider doorways, low-threshold showers with stylish built-in benches, and drawer appliances, are hardly noticeable at all.

10. Defining Outdoors
Where the inside is getting more open, Dersin sees the outside space becoming more segmented, with smaller, dedicated entertaining spaces replacing vast expanses of lawn. Add heaters and partial enclosures to make those spaces useable nearly year-round.

To see more examples of trends, check out the winners of Professional Builder’s 2014 Design Awards.


Bottom image: Contemporary Bathroom by Leander Kitchen & Bath Remodelers Tier1 Group, LLC 

In Practice: Fabric-and-Glass Backsplash

Amid a sea of tile and stone kitchen walls, design and architecture studio Incorporated took a different approach for a client’s remodeled Manhattan kitchen: combining glass and fabric for a unique and low-maintenance backsplash.

Bendheim glass-and-fabric backsplash; Josef Frank

Manufacturer Bendheim created the backsplash by laminating the translucent fabric—a cherished piece of the homeowner’s that was designed by renowned architect Josef Frank—between ultra-clear, low-iron glass. Though seemingly straightforward, the manufacturer had to perfect the interlayer binding the fabric to the glass and work closely with Incorporated to ensure the desired pattern and look.

The effect is a unique, bright pop in the otherwise understated white kitchen, providing a bit of delicate whimsy in what is normally is busy, grease-spattered environment. Continuous and non-porous, the float-glass surface is low-maintenance and easier to clean than tile, says Bendheim, shows less dirt than stainless steel, and will stand up to kitchen rigors over time better than stone.

Along with fabric, Bendheim also can create glass pieces using rice paper and other decorative elements.

Photo by Annie Schlechter, courtesy of Incorporated

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Approach the Bench Edition

Product news from the past week, including stylish shower benches, finds from the Remodeling Show, smokin’ chimney caps, skyrocketing solar, and more.

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Buzz: Product News Roundup, Mushrooms-in-the-Walls Edition

Fungus-based green building materials, utilities versus solar, ceilings that soar, top-rated work trucks, and other product news from the past week.

Mushroom insulation from Ecovative

Mushroom insulation from Ecovative

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Out With Outlets Edition

Tricks for concealing gadgets, accessible appliances, inspiring fireplaces, and other product news from around the web this week.

• Electrical outlets ruining the décor? Here are some tips for camouflaging these wall blemishes. Read the rest of this entry »

Buzz: Product News Roundup, Island Time Edition

Product news from around the web, including kitchen island design tips, energy-generating toilets, outdoor wallpaper, and air conditioning’s anniversary.

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