Major Trends Shine at DCW 2023
Were you in Las Vegas last month for the biggest Design & Construction Week ever? If so, you probably found the Uber lines, endless flight delays and excruciatingly busy convention hall aisles painful but worth the hassle. The Vegas Loop Tesla transport between the buildings sure helped. So did the plethora of stylish sneakers that have crowded out dress shoes and heels for the unofficially official footwear of DCW. That’s a wellness trend we can all applaud. Here’s what else was trending on the show floors:
- Personalization showed up everywhere in bold colors, features, patterns, scents, accessibility potential and customizable elements.
- Pampering was also trending, with new steam showers, bathtubs and wine storage, to name a few.
- Appliances got bigger, smarter, smaller, more clever, colorful and darkly dramatic.
- Technology got healthier and more sustainable with induction integration, electric fireplaces, smart switches and more.
- Sustainability was a trend on its own, with conservation, composting, electrification and recycling capabilities.
Rather than include only my own impressions for this massive event, you’ll see quotes from other design pros throughout this Trend Spotting. These were provided via Facebook design group comments. When you can’t see everything in three days, more expert eyes are always helpful.
Having it your way was a definite trend this year, from the small (customizing your aromatherapy oil in Kohler’s new Sprig showerhead attachment) to the large (customizing your Samsung, Signature Kitchen Suite or LG Studio fridge fronts). Pasadena, CA-based designer Jeanne Khoe Chung was enthusiastic about having “so many options, combinations to personalize with color, finishes, shapes, materials, etc.” Reeding and retro were both big style trends this year.
Jonathan Rowland in Virginia welcomed the prevalence of vivid, retro and muted colors, “all present in a big way,” he wrote. “After over a decade of white dominating kitchen and bathroom design, it’s a welcome trend that’s growing!” This permission to get creatively colorful definitely supports a personalization trend.
Today’s hectic lifestyles call for a bit of pampering, and the brands were happy to indulge. As noted, Kohler introduced an aromatherapy showerhead attachment. It also brought its Stillness Infinity Tub for an ultimate soak. Brizo and Delta Faucet introduced steam showers to their lines, while SMEG showed off a handsome Sommelier Drawer to hold wine tools and install with its wall-mount wine refrigerators. True Residential soft-launched sexy European racecar-inspired automotive grade gloss paint for its colorful refrigerators. And Richelieu and Häfele made their storage lighting sleeker and more integrated for discerning designers and clients. Pampering opportunities abounded across the show floor.
Lauren Schulte in Buffalo commented that spa bathroom features were a huge trend, with less clutter and heaviness and more organization and light. Designer Vanessa Helmick in Yarmouth, ME added a savvy observation: While once reserved mainly for luxury clients, wellness is “now normal and evident in the new offerings. I think 2020 to 2021 taught us that we must prioritize our physical and mental health.” The industry definitely learned that lesson. The wellness trend informs the others.
Matte black showed up strongly and dramatically as an appliance trend this year. It was on display in the American Whirlpool and GE booths, as well as in the European SMEG and Fulgor Milano booths. KitchenAid’s new Over-the-Range Flush Built-in Microwave has a dramatic black interior, minimalist front and no turntable; it represents a notable upgrade for this category. Flush-mounted ovens and induction cooktops showed up in several premium booths, adding sleekness to the appliance category.
There were numerous new induction offerings this year. Empava and Fotile brought 12″ induction cooktops, while SMEG came with a 24″ induction range for small kitchens. Bertazzoni and Fulgor Milano showcased 48” induction ranges.
“My favorite find was cooking through the countertop, so you see nothing. This is where induction is really going to make a huge difference vs. gas,” Long Island, NY-based Meredith Weiss predicted. This technology has shown up in several brands and booths, from the new Tulip Cooking to Invisacook partnering with Caesarstone. Tulip, a young appliance brand from the Netherlands, has created modular gas and induction hobs that designers can use to create completely personalized cooking centers for their clients.
While I’m not sure you can count two products as a “trend,” when the brands behind them are as large as GE Appliances and Whirlpool, both showing off combined, ventless washer-dryer combinations, you have to wonder. These are ideal for larger homes and households, and for clients who travel often, to include in “travel closets.”
Another twosome in the appliance category was shoe cleaners. Samsung and Signature Kitchen Suite were both expanding their dry clean-at-home appliances with these new shoe-only extensions. (Signature added display boxes for its collector clients.) Will we see more of either appliance type next year? Stay tuned.
Smart home technology continues to grow, though the emerging promised standards for interoperability were not as evident as expected. (Yes, I asked!) Nonetheless, there are tech trends worth noting. Some of the most useful relate to cooking more efficiently and safely.
This trend of syncing vent hoods with induction cooktops showed up several shows ago, and continues to expand across appliance brands. It has also expanded from induction to gas, giving an additional option. Some took the trend a bit farther. ROBAM brought a 7″ ultra-slim range hood that will integrate with a gas cooktop, and it previewed a fully automated cooking system, complete with a self-stirring pot, that will be available in the next year or two. Fotile introduced its elevator range hood that adjusts its height to the cooking need below.
Broan-NuTone’s SmartSense technology, built into its new Broan Elite 21″ Custom Range Hood Power Pack, works a bit differently; rather than syncing with the burners below, the fan is activated when the infrared sensor detects heat, automatically adjusting speeds to remove steam, smoke, odors and pollutants in the air based on what you’re cooking. It will also turn itself off after the cooking area has cooled. Samsung is adding indoor air quality sensing and management to the kitchen with its new vent hood, and energy management to companion products through its SmartThings app.
Legrand is using its Netatmo technology to let professionals (or homeowners) add switches where new furniture layouts dictate, and offer connectivity and geofencing through its app to home automation packages for another form of user control. (Imagine coming home to a warmed-up radiant floor or lights coming on in your entry hall, knowing you’re pulling into the garage.)
In addition to sustainability-enhancing induction cooking, there was also a nod toward composting at the show. (With California mandating this functionality, you’re looking at close to 13 million American households having a new kitchen need.) Kickstarter Zone attendee Sepura Home showed off an under-sink composting appliance that replaces a disposal. There were storage-oriented composting options on display around the halls, too, but we’ll probably see new appliance and plumbing fixtures at the next two shows that address this challenge.
One of the emerging sustainability and wellness trends there, along with electrified induction ranges, is the electric fireplace. These are getting much more sophisticated than in the past, and create designer-friendly options for a growing number of communities without gas lines. Touchstone and Heat & Glo both showed off units worth considering for your all-electric projects.
Conservation certainly counts toward sustainability. RainStick’s recycling shower column has won awards in this category for water savings. Moen added a sprinkler management system to its product line to save water outdoors. Samsung is offering energy management through its SmartThings app, so you can run your dishwasher at off-peak hours.
Beko expanded on its past preservation capabilities with its new HarvestFresh system that also preserves the food’s nutrients; think of it as circadian lighting for your produce! Food waste is a huge sustainability issue, and it was good to see it addressed in appliances and smart storage (like Häfele’s Root Bin).
Some readers will put convenience and functionality at the opposite end of the value spectrum from pampering. If the ultimate luxury is time, as many of us busy professionals believe, then features that help save it and make our lives easier can be pampering elements, too.
They can also enhance wellness with accessibility boosts for the growing population of adults with mobility challenges. Homebuilder and designer Emily Clark in Boise took note of “a renewed interest in universal design and multigenerational living” as an emerging trend in design and wellness, improving “the overall quality of life for all members of the household.”
Some new (or newish) products in this category include Richelieu’s Reverso dual-sided drawer opener and Alexa-enabled hands-free trash bin opener, Wellborn’s side-opening medicine cabinet, Armada’s shower drying system, TOTO’s under-seat Neorest cleaning mode, Moen’s Infiniti Dial showerheads for easy mode switching with wet hands, Rev-a-Shelf’s blind corner swing out that fits into a 12″ opening and its drawer drying rack, and Kickstarter Zone’s Level Aid system that raises and lowers a dishwasher to a comfortable height.
Another functionality-enhancing Kickstarter offering was the Dryer Drawer. For those (raising hand) who are highly enthusiastic about uncluttered countertops, this product moves all of your awkward dish drain items into a dryer that can ‘live’ in an available cabinet near the sink. Yes, you’re giving up a usable drawer, but you’re also giving up an eyesore and regaining countertop space.
Workstation sinks are also convenience-enhancing functionality features, and there was an abundance of options to select from multiple brands, including Bocchi’s Baveno with a retractable faucet for complete countertop access, Kohler’s Cairn Utility Sink for laundry rooms and new kitchen models from Delta Faucet.
Kohler’s ceiling-mounted Purist Suspense faucet turned lots of heads, but it also turns prep work and cleanup into easier tasks with its wide range of motion. Less flashy, but equally convenient, is Delta Faucet’s pull-down bathroom faucets, bringing popular kitchen functionality to these spaces. (Now if only a company would finally bring full voice control – with hands-free temperature adjustment – to the bathroom!)
If you didn’t get to Design & Construction Week this year, it’s definitely worth adding to your calendar for 2024. It will be back in Las Vegas from February 27 through 29. Bring your energy and stylish sneaks.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an award-winning author, wellness design consultant and industry speaker. You can learn more about her design industry presentations, books, Clubhouse events and consulting services at jamiegold.net.