Los Angeles — Dwell on Design offers Southern California designers and homeowners the chance to see some of the latest design products and trends on display in the Los Angeles Convention Center every June. It provides a single space to see some established kitchen and bath brands like Monogram, Brizo and Hansgrohe, while discovering some upstart firms and artisans you probably won’t find at KBIS.
The most popular features at Dwell seem to be the experiential ones – like walking through the prefab homes on the show floor, or test-
driving a new Prius. The lines were long for these, even on Friday’s trade professionals day. None of the trends on display were especially new – though some of the features they highlighted were – but many point toward great new benefits for homeowners.
As kitchens and baths continue to offer more features and complexity, it’s nice to see some trends toward a homeowner’s convenience. Hansgrohe has added ease to hands-free faucets and showering. Its Select feature makes it easier to turn on its hands-free kitchen or bath tap, and change shower modes with wet, soapy hands. (No longer do users have to slide a shower face with wet hands; a button simplifies adjustment greatly.) Select was introduced at an earlier show, but Dwell saw its expansion into the hands-free faucet realm.
Canadian manufacturer Julien also introduced convenience into its new Fira design. Each fireclay apron front sink has a built-in ledge, letting users slide a cutting board across the top for a user-friendly work surface.
Another example of increased homeowner convenience was Marvin’s Ultimate Multi-Slide Door’s Automatic Control. A door may not immediately strike one as a kitchen or bath product, but with the increasing integration of indoor and outdoor living, massive glass doors that slide open have become popular. The challenge is that many are heavy, and when one is carrying dishes from the kitchen to the deck, opening them with one hand can be awkward. A remote control automates the process and makes outdoor entertaining more accessible. (This can definitely empower the mobility-challenged, arthritic, balance-challenged or smaller host, too.)
Perhaps its Southern California location has much to do with it, but outdoor living is a strong area for Dwell on Design. If you design kitchens in the Sunbelt, you’ve probably been called upon to design an outdoor kitchen by an indoor client at some point. Even just attending shows like Dwell or KBIS, you’ve seen the upscaling of outdoor cooking, refrigeration, cabinetry and countertops as a continuing trend. As one LA-based architect attending Dwell this year shared, his clients now have more appliances in their outdoor kitchens than in their indoor ones.
Those appliances continue to get more sophisticated and specialized. No longer do homeowners have to cross their fingers and hope the wine fridge doesn’t die on the patio, knowing its warranty is void by outdoor use. Chances are, their designer has selected an outdoor-rated model for the newest outdoor projects.
Increasingly attractive outdoor furniture, like the new line released by Jamie Durie of TV fame, can complement casual indoor furniture in the adjoining room. LED lighting can illuminate an outdoor kitchen, just as it can an indoor project. Outdoor cabinetry can coordinate with outdoor furniture by lines like Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens. Designers can even customize the side panels with personalized signage – something designed for hospitality clients but likely to be popular with homeowners who entertain on a large scale. (Why not offer clients the option of having a poster of their favorite team displayed at their next Super Bowl party, swapped out with their favorite candidate at an election year fundraiser?)
A Los Angeles show wouldn’t be complete without a celebrity tie-in. Jamie Durie filled the bill quite well with his infectious energy and expansive outdoor furniture line, but he wasn’t alone in being represented. Your eye couldn’t help but land on a flashy orange Hestan grill used by chef Thomas Keller at his famed French Laundry restaurant. He wasn’t there himself, but your clients can now have a Keller outdoor cooking connection. (If orange isn’t their new black, other finishes are available.)
NEW SURFACES AND FINISHES
The industry has been looking at alternatives to stainless steel’s and brushed nickel’s silver tones in recent years, and Dwell was no exception. Rose Gold and Copper glittered on faucets across the show floor, and in handsome accents on Ronbow’s deliciously decorative Amora vanity. Stainless-alternative appliances got a race car-style luster in True’s Pearl Slate refrigerator. One wishes they made other appliances to create a sexy kitchen suite.
New surfaces were also in evidence, with Dekton’s popular and expanding line and a new material entirely from Italian laminate manufacturer Arpa Industriale. Its new offering to the countertop category is a surface called Fenix NTM. NTM stands for nanotech matte material, for the acrylic resin blended into the paper core. Imagine Corian and Formica having a gifted child together and you get a sense of Fenix’s potential. Like Corian, it’s soft, smooth and repairable. Like Formica, it’s reasonably priced and versatile. It can be used in wall applications, as well, but be sure to speak to your fabricator about its properties and limitations, as you would any material. The manufacturer’s U.S.-based representatives say it’s available here now through its distributor network and can be installed by any laminate fabricator.
Dwell may be too far for you to attend, but it’s definitely worth checking out new and different design shows in your area. Some have local furniture makers whose artisanal skills can enhance a room you’re designing in unexpected ways. Others show off what homeowners are excited about, which may expand your definitions of design trends. At the very least, a day exploring design away from your desk is never a bad thing.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work and upcoming New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant.