Formica's new writeable laminate comes in a variety of colors and designs in addition to the back example shown here.
Walls that you can write on. Kitchen appliances in new
neutrals. Voice-activated home automation systems that cost less than $1000.
Foam insulation that won’t deplete ozone. These were just a few of the exciting launches at the homebuilder’s
show in Orlando this month. The annual event is held in January for a reason –
manufacturers want to draw attention to their latest product offerings before
spring building begins. The quantity of important product previews has
multiplied now that the event is co-located with KBIS, the annual trade show
for kitchen and bath designers.
Many products respond to important trends in the new-home
marketplace. It’s getting easier, for instance, to find windows, doors,
cabinets, and fireplaces that fit into contemporary home designs. And as white
kitchens and stainless steel kitchens seem to be peaking, manufacturers are
coming out with darker finishes that could figure in your building plans. And options are growing for people who want to build the
greenest home possible. Many of the most energy conserving homes these days
include close-sell spray foam insulation; it does the best job creating an
airtight cavity. The problem is that most of this insulation is blown in with
hydrofluorocarbons that deplete the ozone. Demilec now markets
Heatlok HFO foam
insulation made with a hydroflouroolefin (unsaturated organic compounds composed of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon), shown above, that reduces global warming potential.
Designers speaking at the show noted that many homebuyers
are looking for an alternative to white kitchens with stainless steel
appliances, and not just for fashion reasons – the kitchens can produce glare.
Designers are starting to do more kitchens with grey
and black-matte finishes.
They are getting a big assist from appliance companies such as GE, which calls the finish shown above "black slate."
In similar fashion, more options are available to people who
want their home to include a rainscreen on the exterior building envelope. The
idea is to create a drainage plane to channel water away before it enters the building envelope. Fiberon introduced a new watertight
composite siding for rainscreen
systems, shown above. It comes in eight colors with a wood-grain finish that never needs
The location of laundries has become a hot-button in new
home design. With the help of new compact designs, washers and dryers are
showing up all over the house, close to the places where dirty clothes are
generated. A new alternative is Laundry Jet, a vacuum-driven laundry
delivery system that doesn’t require gravity to work. With the push of a button, dirty
clothes can be transported from nearly anywhere to the laundry room!
Walls that fold back accordion style or slide into the wall
are all the rage in new home design throughout the country. By opening indoor
to outdoor space, they make homes read much larger. But insects are a problem
in many parts of the country. Several companies drew
attention at the show to new large screen systems. A motorized retractable wall screen from Phantom
Screens, shown above, will cover a 40-foot opening.
All over the show floor, manufacturers touted sleek,
simplified, geometric styles for contemporary home designs. Lockset maker
Kwikset introduced three new contemporary lines. Simpson Door touted new flush designs. Cloplay brought out its Canyon Ridge Modern
series of faux wood garage
doors with a “Mid-Century Modern Appeal,”
Lighting is undergoing a metamorphous thanks to the advent
of LED technology. Scene Master LED
chandeliers from builderslighting.com can be controlled from a smart phone.
They can be combined with other LED lights through Apple Home to create scenes.
Another line of LED chandeliers, Moderne from Kichler, is suspended by aircraft
cables, as shown here.
The race is on to marry building products with the new
generation of voice-activated controllers – Amazon Echo, Google Home, and
Apple’s Siri, in particular. The issue for home buyers is that these
inexpensive controllers – you probably know someone who got one as a holiday
present – currently only work with certain thermostats, lighting systems, and
garage door openers. Manufacturers are working feverishly to write apps
link with as many controllers are possible. Schlage, for instance, says its Smart Sense lockset now works with Apple’s new Home app.
In case you haven’t noticed, quartz has taken over from
granite as the dominant countertop material in the United States. Now its
influence appears to be spreading. Exhibitors showed it used to create
furniture, accessories, and décor. Meanwhile more countertop
colors and designs continue to appear. Cambria, one of the leading suppliers, showed eight new
designs and two new high-performance finishes, such as this Wentwood example, part of their Waterstone Collection.
Several designers at this year’s show noted that a new
generation of young buyers, raised on flat tech surfaces, craves wall textures
and the ability to personalize their homes. They may be drawn to a new writeable
laminate from Formica that comes in six colors and designers. Families members
can use the surfaces to leave messages, or just indulge in creative expression, as shown in the photo at the top of this post.