There’s a different kind of cabin fever breaking out — the kind you catch when you’re stuck inside staring at your walls during a cold, wicked winter. When you realize you don’t have quite enough storage space. Or your kitchen is really dark and dingy. And your bathroom? Well, let’s not go there.
There’s no better cure than highlights from the kitchen and bath show and the international builder show held earlier this month.
The major takeaway from the shows? A strong focus on practicality, durability, and elegant space-saving solutions — three features we love for their value-adding potential.
There were some really interesting products that seemed to successfully meld beauty, practicality, and durability. Take kitchen sinks, for example.
One uber-durable option rising in popularity is granite composite, a mix of granite and resin ($200-$500).
Pros of granite composite:
- Uniform look and color throughout.
- If it gets scratched you won’t see it.
- No sealing as with granite.
- Good online buzz from users, though they recommend black over white, which can stain.
- Less expensive than granite.
Cons of granite composite:
- Will get damaged by abrasive chemicals. Soap or vinegar and water is all you need. (That’s true of most kitchen sink materials, and a great way to keep chemicals from seeping into the environment.)
- Limited colors.
- Users report staining with white versions.
- More expensive than stainless.
By the way, stainless steel is still the most popular sink material. If you go that route, make sure you get 16-gauge. The stamping process that shapes stainless steel sheets into sinks can thin the thickness. Also avoid those that have a proportion of nickel, which makes them tinny.
Related: Kitchen Design Choices You’ll Never Regret
Another durable product with some positive buzz: Neolith (pictured at the top of this post), a material made from clay and minerals that its maker, Spanish company TheSize, claims can be used for countertops, showers, cabinets, and even exteriors.
The manufacturer also claims Neolith resists scratches, heat, and chemicals, and is close to being completely nonporous. (A one-half-inch thick countertop costs $65-$120/sq. ft., depending on edge detail, pattern, and install.)
Sliding and Gliding to Get More Space
Storage and space-saving is always popular, and the big thing is sliding and gliding interior and cabinet doors — a trend likely to stick around. A sliding interior barn door or pocket door takes up no space, while a regular 3-by-8-foot interior door eats up 7 feet of space in opening. Another plus: Without hinges, you can make doorways wider, allowing for more light and maneuverability.
Haefele’s barn door hardware (starting about $1,000). Image: Christina Hoffmann for HouseLogic.com
Rev-a-Shelf’s universal pull-down ($600, coming in March) for 24-inch wall cabinets handily slides down to you and organizes your meds, spices, baby or pet products into compartments. Image: Christina Hoffmann for HouseLogic.com
From the 2014 National Kitchen & Bath Association Design Trends survey:
- Gray will be the fastest-growing color for bathrooms.
- Quartz vanities are up-and-comers.
- Spa-like bathrooms are hot, so steam showers and electric radiant floor heating are picking up steam.
- Radiant floor maker WarmUp has released the 3iE thermostat (about $200), which lets you monitor energy consumption just for your floors. (Radiant floor system, $4-$10/sq. ft)
Instant home spa: Beside filtering chlorine from the water, the AromaSense showerhead infuses your shower with one of three scents of your choice and Vitamin C. About $60. Image: Christina Hoffmann for HouseLogic.com
From the same survey:
- Zoning for multiple cooks is in, rather than the traditional kitchen triangle. (Some designers even include two ovens — not stacked, but in different parts of the kitchen.)
- Ceiling-height kitchen cabinets. (Who wants to clean up there?)
- Steam ovens, which better preserve nutrients and antioxidants in food. Kitchen designer Moorea Hoffman predicts these will be the oven of the future.
- Induction cooktops.
- Daybeds, feeding stations, and more for your pets. (But one designer at the show said from experience, you can’t guarantee Fido will use it.)
- Kitchen charging stations.
The circuit breaker called the DockingDrawer (about $170), from JTech Solutions, lets you charge devices in a kitchen drawer out of sight. You need a power source and have to sacrifice a little drawer room. Image: JTech Solutions
More Smart Takeaways from Designers
- Taller ceilings (9 feet is new minimum) mean you need more light; semi-flush fixtures are helpful in bringing light closer.
- The closer a light source comes to the ceiling line, the more likelihood for glare. Make sure the light source in recessed cans is set deeper into the ceiling to avoid glare.
- There are more replacement LED bulbs on the market, but many aren’t good, so do your research, says lighting designer Jeffrey Dross of Kichler.
- Make sure your range hood is three inches wider than your range on each side, so it sucks up all the pollutants.
- Opt for updraft, not downdraft, vent hoods. The physics of the latter don’t work.
- Only shelf space, not cubic feet, matters in fridges. Take your tape measure to the store.
- The world’s worst fridge design: 36-inch side by side. Opt for maximum fridge over freezer space since we open the fridge 21 times for every time we do the freezer, says designer Hoffman.
- Use your secondary dishwasher at least once a week. Otherwise, the seals will dry out and you’ll need to replace them.