Cool New Products for Spring Building

By Boyce Thompson

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 refinishing.   

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,” shown above.

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
that 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.           

Fri Jan 20 00:00:00 PST 2017