When my daughter was younger, every time we dropped her off at a camp, sailing regatta, or even the first day of school, we always said to have fun, make new friends, and learn something new. Those are our family’s markers of a successful experience. So by those standards, the trip to KBIS with the design hounds was a huge success. I made new friends for sure. I’m so inspired by the amazing businesswomen and their unique takes on design, all informed by their own life experiences and unique regions of the country.
I learned a ton! I enjoyed our morning at LVMKT and hearing from industry experts like Michael Smith. He’s such a wealth of knowledge on consumer buying trends, and then there’s Patty Carpenter, who travels extensively and takes in the latest color and design trends. There are so many it’s a little hard to sort through, but some I see in our area as true.
Design, in its highest form, serves to create a foundation for living. Our homes are places we return to at the end of each day to rest and restore. They are places for connecting with loved ones, closing out the world, and getting that great sense of AAAHH. They are also places for celebrating and hosting friends and family for great home-crafted meals and celebrations. Our homes should support all the ways we live so beautifully. The foundation of design is bringing in elements that support our client’s lifestyles. Since most homes we design are vacation homes, our clients are looking for ways to nurture themselves and their loved ones while having fun. From the functional aspects to the aesthetic, all design elements should support the humans who dwell in the space and their lifestyle needs.
As I tour the show, I look at many amazing new products but ask if they make sense for how we live in the VI and the goals our clients typically express. Some things make sense, and others do not. Some of the real value in traveling to shows and participating in tours like design hounds is the ability to speak to the manufacturers directly. I love hearing about their products’ origin, inspiration, and the “why” behind bringing them to market. I always want to know how things are made, what they are made of, and understand all the possible uses and applications. For me, that is important. To know I’m recommending items for my client’s homes that come from companies with a conscious and are made with the most sustainable practices possible is important.
Part of the design hounds tour includes learning about emerging brands from other countries interested in conducting business in the US. KBIS Connect helps them navigate the US market and introduce their products in a way where they get feedback before going big. It was an honor to be part of that initiative and give feedback to these company representatives from a design perspective.
One of the best parts of design hounds is spotting favorite finds. We roam the show and look for items we find to be uniquely appealing or innovative in some way. We each place 5 cards around the show at various booths. This year, I had a list of criteria while shopping. I was looking for products that are sustainably and responsibly made. Durable and easy to care for, as much as possible.
Working with the emerging trend of lots of natural textures and the desire to create an aesthetic that nurtures us personally and nurtures our family connections. Here’s what I found.
I spotted 2 new surfaces that clients in my area will love. From Compac, there’s the new terrazzo product. There are infinite possibilities for what they can do with this. From creating whole kitchen islands to custom-cut mosaics, this product will make it easy to design serene bath spaces with textural visual interest. The color range is on point for today’s homes, with a selection of neutrals – from creams and beiges to greys. They offer an interesting range of surface finishes as well. When I visited their booth, I knew I wanted to look at this product. It was a pleasure to find that it was even better than I imagined based on the online promotional materials.
At Caesarstone, I walked by their new ocean-blue quartz, and it stopped me in my tracks. This new line of theirs really surprised me. I don’t specify a lot of Cesar stone because I usually think of it as a “builder special” type product, not a luxury product for a truly unique design – the ocean blue, in particular. I’m familiar with the natural stone that it is made to imitate, but it is expensive, hard to find, and difficult to ship. This new quartz version is easy to clean and more durable in shipping. The blue shade is perfect for soft color palettes, and the bold veins read almost like a texture. This material will be a great way to add some oomph to a space without overwhelming it.
While attending talks at the KBIS NEXT stage, I learned about Fulgor ranges and had to check them out. For quite a while, I’ve been a fan of induction ranges. We purchased our first one 10 years ago when we moved to a home that did not have gas. I wouldn’t say I liked the old and slow electric ranges, so I tried the induction. I don’t think I’d go back to gas now if I had the opportunity. For a long time, I’ve looked for a full-size (48″ or above) gourmet induction range that can substitute for gas in a luxury kitchen for clients who cook. Fulgor has it! And it’s beautiful. Induction ranges are so much easier to clean with their easy-to-wipe glass surfaces, and they are safer as well. I’m not going to touch on all the recent controversy about the health risks of gas… I’m talking about heat and ease of use in a vacation home, of which many people rent. The cooktop is safe to touch as soon as it’s turned off and leaves a rag on the surface, and if the burner is on or left on, it can’t start a fire. It’s something to consider if you rent your home or have young children. The other new range of interest is the SKS range with the gas induction combo and built-in sous-vide (for those who still need to get ready to give up on gas cooking.) It also includes a steam oven. Who started baking their own bread in the last few years? This one is beautifully made with many quality details, including handles that tilt as you open the oven door.
Over at the Kohler booth, I fell in love with the stillness tub. The tub was beautifully presented and greatly photographed. They had it set with an infinity edge overflow, and the effect was amazing. The many benefits of seeing these things in person were that I could see the installation. The tub can also be installed traditionally, but it would be an upgrade for clients with a new home build where the opportunity exists to install that type of plumbing. I recommend this to clients looking to create a spa experience in their homes.
The final item on the list of my favorite finds is this lovely GC widespread faucet from Toto. I usually only think of Toto as toilets, but they make wonderful baths, sinks, and faucets. There’s a beautiful range of finishes available. My favorite for an organic look would be polished bronze. The design is so simple and classic, blending well with a wide range of décor styles. The feel of the on and off knob is smooth and substantial. You can feel the quality that goes into this item.
As I left the show, I thought of all the lovely new spaces my clients are planning in the coming year and what we can do in those spaces. I felt inspired to put together a couple of mood boards with the fittings and finishes. Sometimes, letting my imagination run wild with spaces that don’t actually exist yet is a fun exercise.