Science fiction and comic book fans flock to Comic Con. Technology geeks gather at the Consumer Electronics Show. And kitchen and bath nerds “ooh” and “aah” over the latest and greatest at the annual “Kitchen & Bath Industry Show”, affectionately known as KBIS. This is the largest trade show for our business in the U.S., with over 600 exhibitors spread out over 1 million square feet at the Las Vegas Convention Center. At this year’s show, held February 19-21, designer Aston Smith threw back the curtain on the KBIS annual design competition (referred to as “Best of KBIS”), since she had the privilege of being selected as one of the contest’s five judges. All exhibitors were eligible, and entries were judged on innovation, function, and style. Eight prizes were awarded at a formal ceremony: The Impact Award; Smart Home Technology; Outdoor Living; Bath Silver and Gold; Kitchen Silver and Gold; and the coveted Best of Show. (Kind of like the Westminster Dog show, but without the pooper scoopers!)
Aston was invited by the PR firm promoting KBIS to join the judging panel, which consisted of her longtime friend Kelly Morisseau; Laurie Haefele; Aimee Inouye; and Nathan Reynolds. With the support of the Bilottas, she was on the team.
As Aston put it, “Who wouldn’t want to be?” I jealously thought of how cool it would be to walk the miles and miles of exhibitor aisles (ok, maybe not that part…) to see the newest offerings from industry heavyweights and newcomers alike. But what I was surprised to learn was that the judging process began three months before the first show booth was even erected on the convention center floor. In November, the judges began to review and distill the applicant pool from over 120 entrants down to 50 finalists. This was no small feat, since the contenders included such industry stalwarts as Kohler, Toto, and American Standard, as well as such relative newbies as Ningbo Fotile, Mila, and Titus Group.
On the first day of the show, the judges set out at 8:30 a.m. to visit all 50 finalists’ booths in person and listen to a 5-minute presentation from each. They covered 7 miles that day (thanks to fitness trackers, that’s not an exaggeration!) and saw some great products that would excite any self-respecting kitchen nerd, from easy-installation cabinet hinges to apron-front sinks with colorful interchangeable aprons. We’d love to go on and on about every awe-inspiring item, but without further ado, Aston Smith describes the eight deserving winners.
One of the panel’s favorite products ended up being the recipient of the “Impact Award”: the FOTILE Sink Dishwasher with optional fruit and vegetable sanitizer, by FOTILE America LLC. This space-saving appliance was designed specifically with compact urban kitchens in mind. The all-in-one in-counter dishwasher and sink was engineered to maximize function while minimizing waste, since it uses only 1.6 gallons of water to clean and dry 2-6 place settings in a short 30-minute cycle. And it still leaves enough room to fit a drawer below.
If you choose to add the fruit and vegetable cleaner, you’ll get patented high-frequency ultrasound technology that removes dirt and 90% of pesticide residue. Aston could easily envision this appliance in her empty-nester future, where she’d live a simpler pared-down idyllic existence, subsisting mostly on fresh produce.
Unless you’re one of those hardy souls who will venture outside to grill no matter how inclement the weather, then you’re probably just beginning to think about backyard entertaining. Wouldn’t you just love to have a dream outdoor kitchen to go along with that dream indoor kitchen? Well, you’ve got it with this year’s “Outdoor Living” winner: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, Arcadia Series Cabinetry.
Known for their outdoor pizza ovens and appliances, Kalamazoo has now introduced a beautiful, yet flexible line of modular outdoor cabinetry for any application. Whether it’s a standard base cabinet, a drawer base, or a pullout unit, the unifying motif is four perfectly aligned horizontal boards across each cabinet, with the ends of each piece capped in a vertical band of brushed stainless steel. Two standard finish options are available: a beautiful oiled ipe wood that’s FSC-certified (meaning it’s sustainably harvested); and a rich charcoal gray powder-coated stainless steel. And more that 200 custom powder coat colors are available for special order.
What sets this line apart from other outdoor cabinetry is its thoughtful design features: availability of back panel to enable you to have a freestanding island; cabinetry 6” deeper than their indoor counterparts to allow for easier cleaning behind grills as well as to provide room for finished backs on appliances; a full range of sizes and cabinet configurations; and a leveling leg system that make them easy to install on any surface. That outdoor kitchen of yours just got a lot easier and more affordable!
The next award went to best “Smart Home Technology”. Aston felt this winner “was more than just smart; I say it may just be genius!” It was the Flo by Moen. This device is installed on the main water supply line into your house, and detects and stops leaks before you experience any expensive water damage. As it so happens, most homeowner’s insurance claims are due to water-related incidents. (Two cases in point: I just replaced a kitchen I originally designed 15 years ago after the owners returned from Thanksgiving vacation to find that their 2nd floor toilet had been running all weekend and overflowed, flooding almost the entire ground floor. A second customer had to replace their kitchen when an undiscovered leak in the wall caused a proliferation of black mold.)
The sensors in Flo monitor every faucet, toilet, and shower, as well as the pipes behind your walls and in your foundation. All the information is sent to your smartphone, so you can receive alerts and turn off your water from anywhere in the world. Don’t have your phone with you? No problem, Flo can automatically shut the water off for you if it detects a major breech. You can also track your daily usage in order to help you and your family conserve water. So, no more surprise catastrophes upon returning from vacation, or unexpected sky-high water bills!
Think you’ve seen all there is to see in shower heads? Think again! The Best of KBIS “Bath Silver” award went to the PowderRain by Hansgrohe for their rain shower head on steroids! The innovative technology was conceived to bring the sensation of a warm, misty tropical rain to the bath for the ultimate spa experience.
It breaks each of the hundreds of droplets into 6 micro-droplets, creating literally thousands more. Not only does it produce a silky, velvety feel, but it is remarkably quiet and barely makes a splash. Aston relates this data, not because the Hansgrohe rep told her so, but because she actually had the opportunity to feel the flow of water from PowderRain for herself. Yes, Hansgrohe promises that it holds many advantages for rinsing and splatter control, but Aston didn’t care about any of those facts. “All of that seems way less important than the feel…which is DIVINE!!!”
Toto made a reputation for itself as the manufacturer of the first luxury toilet. (And as the toilet that could reputedly swallow an entire bath towel, though that might just be an urban legend!) But for the Best of KBIS “Bath Gold” category, Toto actually swept its class with their Flotation Tub with Zero Dimension. They boast that this is the first zero-gravity tub where the bather can experience the relaxing effect of total weightlessness.
Aston jokes, “This beautifully designed tub was about 6 miles into our day and I think we all wanted to get in!” But the judging panel was actually swayed by the ergonomic design that utilizes carefully situated foot and shoulder rests to place the body in a simulated floating position and eliminate pressure on muscles and joints. Adding to the stress reduction is the adjustable headrest with cascading water shoulder warmer and the micro air bubble massaging water jets! Yet this hard-working bathtub is also a thing of beauty, with its gorgeous man-made marble and mood-enhancing LED lights. The perfect ending to a long day. Yes, please!
At the award ceremony, Aston had the pleasure of presenting the prize to the Best of KBIS “Kitchen Silver” winner: HydroTap by Zip Water. I’m not suggesting that there was any undue influence in this selection, but in full disclosure, Zip Water greeted the judges at 8:30 a.m. upon their arrival that first day with a full array of purified beverages that the HydroTap was capable of making, from a variety of hot teas, to cold sparkling and still waters with herbs and berries. Now that’s how you make a good first impression!
The entire unit fits easily under the sink and, most importantly to designers, it’s available in a variety of faucet trims and finishes. This all-in-one fixture combines your main faucet with a water purifier, an insta-hot, and a countertop sparkling water maker. As Aston says, “I can’t think of a reason not to get this, and I’m blown away by thinking of all the plastic bottles a single family could eliminate by adding this to their kitchen or bar.” Seems like the HydroTap offers something for everyone.
I have to admit, I am totally geeking out over the Best of KBIS “Kitchen Gold” prize winner: The Signature Kitchen Suite 48-inch Dual Fuel Pro Range with Built-in Sous Vide. Built-in sous vide! Pardon me if I let my kitchen nerd freak flag fly, but if you knew just how many hours of food TV programming I watch per week, you’d appreciate why this is so exciting to me. In my honest opinion, it’s easily the most exciting cooking method out there! But this appliance offers so much more: it’s the first professional range with sous vide, induction, and gas, all on the cooktop.
If that’s not enough for you, then how about two high-power gas burners that convert from flat-bottom cookware to wok, with individual timers for each of the seven cooking stations? (Be still my heart!) Aston says, “If you’re still unsure why this range should take the cake, ask yourself if you want to bake the cake in the convection oven or the steam oven? Because it has both!!” And it has two different cleaning modes: a brief moisture cleaning cycle with wipe-down, or a traditional self-cleaning cycle.
With a price point north of $10,000, they are poised to go up against the top brands in cooking. Aston sums it up well. “This relative newcomer to the industry has an affiliation with the well-known mid-priced appliance company LG, but is part of an elite line-up of new luxury appliances that act outside the box but scream, ‘Look what I can do!’”
The final winner to be called to the KBIS 2019 stage was for “Best of Show”. Drum roll please…Blade 3D Printed Faucet, DXV.
Wait, what? I only recently grasped the concept of the Cloud. I certainly don’t yet have a firm grip on 3D printing, and now you’re telling me they can make faucets with it? Apparently so, and this one is a most distinctive design. DXV is part of good old American Standard, and the Blade represents the next evolution in plumbing manufacturing. Its minimalist aesthetic makes it an instant contemporary classic, and its elegantly simple delivery system of water creates an experience that goes well beyond just washing your hands. The Blade is printed directly in stainless steel (who knew?), then is finished by hand. It is a limited production item, and joins three other DXV designs that retail for $15,000 - $20,000.
With that, the esteemed judges declared the Best of KBIS 2019 a wrap. Almost. Once again, Aston Smith stepped onto the KBIS stage, but this time it was to accept an award on the company’s behalf. Steve Feldman, of Renovation Angel, and George Oliphant, of George To The Rescue, presented Bilotta Kitchens with the “Early Adopters Award” for being among the first companies to support the recycling efforts of Renovation Angel. Both Steve and George are tireless proponents of responsible renovating because, as they say, “kitchens belong in homes, not in landfills.”
The KBIS exhibition and its “Best of KBIS” deign competition were both resounding successes. And Aston felt truly honored to have been part of such an accomplished judging panel. She did all of us kitchen nerds proud!
Categories: Aston Smith | Bathtubs | Faucets | KBIS | Kitchen & Bath Industry Show | Kitchens | Kitchens Appliances | Plumbing Fixtures