Highlights at Design & Construction Week

by Autumn McGarr

Design & Construction Week roared back to life in February, with 70,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibitors spending three busy days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The mood was celebratory, with industry friends excited to gather in person again after a prolonged absence. While a few of the big brands stayed away, there was plenty of eye candy and innovation from companies large and small. Here are some of the top trends spotted at the combined International Builders’ Show and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. 

Hands-free voice control takes a step beyond with handle-free operation.Photo: Moen Incorporated

Kitchen Smarts

Connectivity in appliances is not new, but it is getting smarter, with manufacturers finding new ways to make technology more effective and useful for homeowners. Sending air fry, turkey and steak cooking upgrades to ranges and ovens that make cooking easier is one example that GE Café was showcasing. Miele offers an app-connected camera in its new ArtLine 7000 oven that lets you turn off the heat to prevent burning. (It also pops the door open at the end of the cooking cycle, so food doesn’t continue to cook after the timer ends.)

Broan-NuTone took a technology several manufacturers had introduced previously that lets their induction cooktops and vent hoods communicate for optimized performance and makes it brand agnostic; this is a boon to homeowners and designers alike. And, if you want or need help with your cooking skills – or want to easily share your dishes on social media – the clever Cooksy device makes it easier for the beginner or experienced home chef. 

Rev-A-Shelf’s Tresco line debuted its game-changing Swidget, a modular outlet that lets you change out inserts, depending on what you want to plug in. This is a smart, affordable answer to the challenge tech companies like Apple create when they continually change their connector formats. (Swidget also offers indoor air quality modules that could prove to be valuable in kitchen and bathroom environments.)

There were also whole-house wellness solutions, like Broan-NuTone’s indoor air quality system, Moen’s smart water system and new handle-less hands-free faucet. Look for more options in these categories as wellness homes become more widely available at more affordable price points. 

Wine refrigeration is increasingly popular, as shown with this clever drawer-converting appliance. — Photo: Dometic

Kitchen Entertaining

More adults are entertaining at home, and there were plenty of offerings to meet this need. Signature Kitchen Suite and LG Studio are both offering craft ice in their new refrigerators. (As this chilly upgrade becomes more popular, I expect to see more mainstream brands adopt it, too.) 

Convertible refrigeration drawers also make entertaining at home easier. Frigidaire Gallery and Signature Kitchen Suite are offering flex drawers in their fridge/freezer models, and Signature featured an undercounter model. Dometic, known for its stylish outdoor bar carts, introduced DrawBar, a compact wine fridge that converts a cabinet drawer into a mini chiller. 

If you’re more about coffee than wine, there were some trendy offerings for you too. Wellborn Cabinet showed off a new cabinetry rollout that makes creating a coffee center easier. If your budget doesn’t allow for GE Café’s sexy new countertop coffee makers, this option could be ideal for tucking away the homeowner’s Mr. Coffee or Keurig when it’s not in use.  

Bar features are trending as people look for stylish entertaining at home. — Photo: Perlick

Flexibility was also the name of the game in cooking appliances. Monogram showed off a new oven with an indoor rotisserie. KitchenAid introduced a new multi-cook oven. Air fry and combi-steam are both still trending within the versatile cooking appliance space. So is something being called “air sous vide,” which uses airflow instead of water. Frigidaire is including it in its 15-mode wall oven and 30” range. Sister brand Electrolux also has one, as does LG Studio. LG showed an over-the-range microwave that will also steam cook. For the space-challenged home chef, this is a terrific innovation. 

Among the bonuses for home entertainers (and families in general) are two dishwasher trends worth noting. The first is the inclusion of a third rack, which is almost as ubiquitous now as stainless interiors (even on more moderately-priced models). Another is the prevalence of quieter machines that don’t sacrifice performance. It’s easier than ever today to find a model for your kitchen-turned-home office-turned-classroom-turned-gathering spot that still lets you hear someone on the other side of the room or screen. GE Profile showcased a 42 decibel model with Microban built in. LG Studio showed off a 40 dcb model. Beko’s 39 dcb model has a convenient self-cleaning filter that reduces an unpleasant chore. 

Also on the ‘make chores less unpleasant’ front, Moen introduced a garbage disposal with a built-in UV-C cleaner. If this introduction is successful, the company might add the feature to other disposals in its product line. 

Third racks, stainless interiors and quieter operation are more widely available and affordable today. — Photo: Beko U.S.

Outdoor Entertaining

The outdoor entertaining area continues to grow in importance. John Michael Homes won a KBIS award for its stylish metal indoor/outdoor cabinetry that includes Bluetooth capability, hood feature and marine grade construction. Perlick also featured a marine grade option for its undercounter appliances, as well as a Tobin Ellis Signature Series Limited Edition catering-level designer bar that can roll out onto the patio for cocktails, with mobile taps for outdoor fun. True Residential added a top-opening beverage dispenser and freezer drawers to its outdoor line. 

Laundry Trends

Laundry appliances have also gotten smarter, more versatile and more user friendly. LG’s washer lets you control the stacked dryer for better visibility. Whirlpool is offering a smart soap dispensing top loader with removable agitator for more flexibility and a combined washer/dryer model that is a natural for the growing accessory dwelling unit trend. 

Medicine cabinets are getting smarter, rather than going away as predicted. — Photo: Kohler Co.

Bathroom Trends

Wellness was in full flower in bathroom trends. Moen launched its first-ever toilet line with a bidet model. Brondell and Bemis showed off affordable new bidet seats – including heated models (because who really wants an unheated model?). Brondell also showed off DIY-friendly shower filters for more pure water. RainStick incorporated water purification into its sustainably focused recirculating shower system. 

Infinity Drain made cleanup easier with a hair-catcher for its linear drain. Airmada introduced a system to dry the stall after a shower or bath and Spanish brand Valiryo introduced a system to dry your body afterward; this is ideal for someone with sensitive skin or flexibility issues. Speaking of shower stalls, Corian’s M|R Walls enhanced the solid surface trend with stylish dimensionality. These panels look good enough to use elsewhere, too, but their easy cleanability makes bathroom use a natural. 

Kohler showed off its stylish new digital shower system and Maxstow, a clever medicine cabinet that makes storing tall items easier. It also makes charging them inside doable.

Last Words

One of my favorite trends at the show – and one I truly hope endures – was the widespread adaptation of stylish athletic footwear! It’s as though we all decided that two-plus years of physical challenges were enough! If we were going to spend three days covering 750,000 square feet of concrete flooring after two years of mostly virtual show-going, we were dang well going to be comfortable! If there was an award for most stylish, it would have gone to a dazzling pair of Dolce & Gabbanas spotted on day three (but I will not be spending $900 on a pair of sneakers!).

Incidentally, if the event wasn’t big enough for you this year, next year’s Design & Construction Week is getting a new partner expo in the National Hardware Show. A quick look at NHS’ 2022 exhibitor lists points to more appeal for builder and contractor types. Maybe our friends at NKBA can bring the international housewares folks for all the kitchen goodies in 2024 (Just sayin’!).

Note: Miele, Rev-A-Shelf, Wellborn Cabinet, LG and Signature Kitchen Suite have sponsored book tie-in programs with Jamie Gold in past months, completely separate from this and/or any other KBDN coverage.

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an author, wellness design consultant and NKBA Chapter Presenter. Her third book, Wellness by Design (Simon & Schuster), published September 1, 2020.  Learn more about her Wellness Market presentations, books and consulting services at jamiegold.net.

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