The DesignWell Podcast #3: The Comprehensive KBIS Recap
In this episode of the DesignWell Podcast, Nick Boever, Editorial Director of DesignWell365, Arlen Schweiger, Executive Editor of CE Pro, and Chelsie Butler, Executive Editor of KBB unpack all that they saw as both newcomers and industry veterans at this year’s KBIS show.
Arlen Schweiger (AS): Hey, it’s Arlen Schweiger. I’m executive editor of CE Pro magazine and here with Chelsie Butler, Executive Editor of Kitchen and Bath Business magazine, and Nicholas Boever, Editorial Director of DesignWell365. Thanks to everyone for joining the podcast this week. And we’re going to talk about this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry show that just took place KBIS. Thanks, everyone. Let’s start off with some general impressions of cables. 2022. It took place in Orlando last week after being held as a virtual event last year. Chelsea overall, you know, you’ve been to a number of these shows, what did you think about the vibe talking with exhibitors and attendees this year compared to past in person shows, and just being back to an in person show.
Chelsie Butler (CB): I really got the kind of idea that the exhibitors were a little overwhelmed at the sheer number of people who were there. I don’t know if they were expecting that many attendees, and they were more than pleased with the turnout for sure. And no, it was above 60,000 People who are at the show, and I think they were just, you know, over the moon with it.
And I think you know, all of the attendees being able to be back in person, seeing the products touching products, given their colleagues and peers hugs and you know, being able to actually sit and watch the stage programming and, you know, the educational sessions and things like that. I think that it was it was it was necessary for us to be in person. And I think it was much better than anyone could have expected.
AS: Sure. And I think the numbers certainly bore that out. I want to say they announced about 70,000. And I guess we should mention also that the event is co located with the NAHB annual builders show as a full design and construction week theme down in Orlando. Now, Nicholas, I know you and I this was our the first time attending the show. So as a first time attendee to this event, what were some of the impressions you had with going on the show floor for a big trade show like this, and what was the field that you had?
Nick Boever (NB): It was my first time being in this kind of a trade show, I will say and I was definitely split between going cables and IBS, I was kind of hard to stick in one area. But even that being said, it was definitely a very stimulating experience, I’ll say, there was a lot going on, there were a lot of different people running around and just being able to sit in on some of the demonstrations and talk to a lot of the different, you know, sellers and the different.
The – I don’t even know how to describe them, the designers, the integrators, there were a ton of different people at the show, being able to talk with them and kind of get a read on just how things were going right now after only reading about it was definitely a very, it was an amazing experience. And I think especially this year, even with it being my first time, there was plenty of stuff that I ran into at KBIS and IBS that were, I guess, like very innovative, very interesting kind of signaling very, very exciting movements on the horizon, I’ll say.
AS: Definitely, and we’ll we’ll get to that in a moment. And just to add my own impressions as a first time exhibitor. Honestly, I didn’t know quite what to expect about the size of the show. So from seeing that, it that certainly surpassed my expectations. It was very busy. It was certainly the busiest show that I’d been to back kind of I don’t want to say post pandemic, but for the tech integration side that we cover on CE Pro, our CEDIA Expo show that we went to in early September last year, got a little bit derailed by the Delta variant of COVID. And so that turned out to be a pretty a pretty small show.
And I know our editor Jason not had been to Infocomm and CES and I’ve been to some CES in the past and of course those are enormous. And I would say this was kind of on the par with attending a CES show for me it was really large, busy. Very exciting. I would say that the manufacturers all seemed super enthusiastic to talk to people and I kind of went back mostly on the KBIS side but I did go over to IBS for a little bit. And definitely the the feeling I got was that people were really happy to be back and talking to the design community, the resellers specifiers things like that.
I will add also that you know it felt very safe being At the show to get in, we had to present either a vaccination card or proof of negative test people, people were masked up for the show. So I will say just, you know, the feeling of safety. That obviously has been a question these days, with certain events like this, it didn’t really have an impact. I thought everyone was kind of going with the flow. And to me, it seemed it seemed great. So I was very happy to be there.
So, Nicolas, as you said, there were a lot of very cool things to see there. The show floor was super busy, lots of interesting exhibitors and innovation. So let’s go over some of the trends that we saw. Chelsea, let’s start with you. What were some of the key takeaways that you had visiting with manufacturers this year?
CB: Well, I think hygiene is still a big deal. It started with COVID. And it’s not going anywhere. So I mean, even such things as dishwashers, you know, with hygienic options, hands free. And there were so many Toilet Day. options like that has absolutely gone through the roof. And I saw something interesting with pot fillers, you know, maybe not so much as centered on the backsplash behind a stove, but off to the side so as not to you know, mess things up.
And then also those to be used for filling, filling of pet water bowls and things like that, that was really cool. Black and Gold finishes for hardware and faucets are all the rage, I saw really innovative looking. And functioning range hoods, like those have become just kind of a work of art. And there are a lot more modern contemporary options, if that’s what you like. And I saw a lot of different materials outside of just real wood for cabinets, including laminates, and then also mixing metals, and kitchens and baths for sure.
AS: Any booths in particular that stood out to you or just kind of a an amalgam of all those of all those trends?
CB: There were some that stuck out. But you know, you want to give everybody some love. But you know, obviously Kohler had a gigantic space that was a lot more open. The GE Monogram booth, you know, obviously that was a booth winner award winner. That was amazing. But then, you know, and I know we’ll talk about this a little bit later when we go through the Discovery District. But there are all sorts of smaller brands not as well known that had, you know, maybe not gigantic booth spaces, but just some really great, innovative presentations to show.
AS: Sure I know, every time I walked by the monogram booth, and it admittedly, you know, it’s one of those companies that it’s kind of new to me as a bonded being on the tech integration side. But it did remind me of some of the large booths at the CD expo where there was just a large, long line there all the time to go and see the demonstrations that were going on.
CB: They had a lot of wine events going on there too.
AS: Having the kitchen aspect to it, I did see a lot of food demonstrations, which were great to see as well. You know, I’m so used to seeing home theater demonstrations. But, you know, that was kind of interesting and fun. Speaking of some of the other exhibitors, certainly there was a wellness pavilion there as well. And Nicholas, I imagine being on the design Well, 365 side of things, that wellness was probably a big trend for you what were what were some of the key takeaways and things that stood out to you going through the exhibits.
NB: So it was actually very interesting kind of going through, I will say that hygiene definitely does stand to still be like, big on everybody’s minds. But I’m noticing that like in terms of in terms of just pro designing for around that.
We have category we have like manufacturers like Moen that are coming up with, you know, really innovative ways for this touchless technology where it’s like they have the whole gesture thing now where it’s like you can control the hot and cold water, turn it off, turn it on, do a whole bunch of different things just with hand motions, but then there’s also other companies out there that are really getting into the idea of okay, well if it can’t be touchless let’s design this as though we know it’s going to be touched and you know, you have companies like Caesarstone that are doing that with their surfaces where it’s trying to make it so that you have to clean the surfaces as little as possible. Low Maintenance surfaces possible.
Sherwin Williams, I think they were over on the IBS side. Incredible paint that is designed to basically be anti microbial and also reduce VOCs in the air. So there’s like a lot of crazy innovations going around. that. But just in general, you have more accessibility features being introduced into these products. I don’t think they necessarily count as ADA compliant, but they’re definitely being designed with the idea that they’re going to be used for senior generations in mind. Kind of cycling back to Moen. They had that with their interfaces for their smart showers.
And then talking about some of the new stuff like you would mentioned in the wellness pavilion, there was a faucet called Nasoni that I think a lot of people had an opportunity sought by there, that turns the average bathroom faucet into a little fountain that’s supposed to make it easier for seniors to you know, get water to do their daily hygiene routine.
And just even over on the IBS side, again, there was a company called switches that’s coming up with these modular plugs in lights that kind of, you plug them in, and you can have this video monitor that can you know, view seniors in a home setting so that they can still live the independent life that they want to live, I think everybody wants to be able to live independently when they hit their old age. But you know, it’s there as an extra added sense of security in case something does go wrong.
And so there’s a lot of, there were a lot of features like that. And there was also a lot of growth on wellness features where I’ll use Auro as an example, because they’re kind of big in the human centric lighting sphere. For the longest time, they’ve only had the one product, the Orro One. But recently it came out at IBS, they debuted the Orro S which is kind of an expansion upon that and kind of entering into that good, better best category that I know a lot of technology manufacturers kind of like to stay in.
So it’s really great to see wellness options, enter into that category as opposed to just being well, this is the wellness option that we have now it’s getting into the good, better best in those scenarios.
AS: Right, it’s certainly expanding, for sure. Just to just to echo some of what you guys already talked about and add some my own perspectives there. I will say yeah, health and hygiene seem to be all over the place, I was looking at a company like Rondelle, which was does air purification, water purification. The days of of course, like you were mentioning, company like toto also doing, doing big days, they did seem to be everywhere.
And Nasoni I saw them as well, you know, with the fountain faucets and I one thing I thought was an interesting implement implementation of technology that they showed a prototype that I guess maybe kind of like Moen and was using facial recognition, proximity sensors, that can really be used for seniors, or disabled people that will recognize kind of, you know, what needs to be done or what they’re going to do with, with the water as they’re approaching, approaching.
And also like for pets, like Chelsey mentioned, as well, definitely saw that kind of very cool thing. You know, sustainability, energy efficiency, I thought those were very important to some companies to at the deco booth, they had some really interesting refrigeration and washer products, you know, the company’s message of sustainability, they went Net Zero a couple of years ago.
So that was a big thing for them. And, and I know Chelsea, we’re going to talk a little bit about the editorial Advisory Board meeting and what some of the people there for KBB were mentioning, and I know a couple of times, they mentioned the fridge that Beko had that uses a kind of an RGB lighting cycle to help the produce last longer because it’s in the produce container, which was kind of news to me that you can even do that.
NB: We talk about that with people all the time was human centric lighting, but it blew me away that it’s like, oh, I didn’t realize that worked on plants too.
AS: Right. And just Yeah, I mean, just the more efficient use of resources, you know, companies like like LG and GE, with their, you know, their appliances, were doing that their washers and dryers just, you know, really trying to cut down on all the waste that happens in our society. I did see a lot of interesting use of technology and a lot of it was kind of proprietary for these companies.
So a little bit different than some of the tech that I’m used to seeing that might be fully integrated with other things. But just some some cool technology that I saw, like a company MTech that was doing 3d printing of metals for these custom door handles, which reminded me a lot of the ways that companies in our industry that make kind of loudspeakers might customize things. So really kind of do that for you know, designers who have clients that want something completely different, completely personalized.
There was a company I think you mentioned the rangehoods Falmec that I saw that was you using this noise reduction system that could really decrease the decibel level of the fans and the rangehood. So that, you know, people can actually be in the vicinity of one and still have a conversation and be able to, you know, talk at regular levels.
Certainly you mentioned Kohler with all of its digital controls, it’s the TV plus that you can control the water functions, but also ties into lighting, music, different things, again, also really creating kind of that wellness escape spa like retreat experience, another way that that wellness can be used there.
You know, and also the appliances again, like LG and GE profile where, you know, they have their own their smart technology platforms that sometimes can kind of leak in I know, GE was using also the Android platform for its microwave and oven product that can really just kind of be used with a bunch of apps, including voice controls, things like that. But they also incorporate AI so they can start learning some usage patterns for cooking and drying clothes and things like that.
So I thought that was pretty interesting as well, I did go over to the builder side, like I said a little bit, and saw some of the things like Nicolas, you had mentioned with, you know, LED downlights that incorporate tunability, so that they can work with circadian systems from a company savant. And then a company called Wall smart, that really makes a lot of very cool kind of flush flush designs for mounting touch panels, concealment designs for hiding things, like wireless access points.
So I thought that was that was stuff that designers can, you know, I think it really appreciate even though they were on the IBS side, I feel like you know, the kitchen and bath, the whole design community could really dig into products like that. So I thought that was kind of neat to see.
NB: Speaking that, you know, just talking to because I had an opportunity to talk with wall smart and some of the other technology guys on the on the IBS side as well, it did seem that there was a decent bit of cross pollination going on there because I was actually talking to wall smart about that, because they have you know, the the really cool parts of their product now where they can do those little recessions into stone in woods. So stuff that you would think that is kind of a lot harder to do that if they have that process nailed down now, which is really nice.
AS: Right? All sorts of different materials. It was it was really interesting. Chelsea, maybe you could tell us a little bit more about some of what the designers and specifiers there were saying, because I know, you know, annually, you have an opportunity to pick the brains of KBBs editorial advisory board at the annual meeting, which I happen to attend as well.
But just to give us an idea of you know, who sits on this board, and what were some of the topics and perspectives that that were shared at this meeting, because I feel like, you know, we really it was kind of maybe a microcosm of what was going on at the show. But I know this was a really important meeting for for KBB on your end, what was some that some of the things that were shared there.
CB: So that KBBs editorial advisory board is made up of, you know, all the different roles that make up our readership, so designer, showroom, showroom, people, contractors, builders, all that good stuff, they all represent our board, and they’re kind of like our eyes and ears of the industry.
And, you know, they help us stay on track with the content that we’re providing to our readers, and just making sure that we’re always providing the best for them. So we before COVID, we actually only got together annually at KBIS. And then I say this every once in a blue moon, but I guess one benefits from the pandemic is that we started doing more zoom calls to kind of get ourselves together, at least twice a year. So we were able to do that. So we kept our annual call. And then we added another one on there as well, because this gives us you know, an hour and a half of time to really go through what the industry is, is being challenged by at this time.
So you know, we we delved into all the supply chain woes, and talk to them about like some of their solutions for that which included, you know, choosing different brands and the ones that are tried and true for them. Offering limited choices to clients like you have A, B and C and these are your choices for your hardware, mixing and matching appliances and fixtures. They don’t all have to come from a package deal. And then they talked about using higher end and international suppliers as well that aren’t having the same, some of the same challenges of some of maybe the lower end, we talked a little bit about managing customer expectations, because that has always been a challenge for them.
And now, of course, it’s a little harder. But they had talked about, you know, there not being such a thing as too much communication with their clients, letting them know, the timeline upfront, putting things in writing, and setting boundaries was a big deal for them. So, you know, it helps to know exactly what you’re doing at each stage of the, the project, and then, you know, when there are going to be delays and things like that, to let your clients know about those as quickly as possible, try to educate them upfront about what’s going on, you know, we had equal parts of our, our editorial advisory board saying that they have clients who do understand this, and, and they’re ready for it. But then some people, you know, they just, they, they know what’s going on, but they still are just impatient about the whole thing and think that, you know, they can solve the problem for them.
And then we touched on, you know, some of the big trends that we’re covering in the magazine this year, that touch on wellness, technology, and design and luxury. And for technology and design, I think you know, Arlen, you’re better to speak to that from coming from your industry and everything. But kind of the input we are getting is that obviously, it’s easier to incorporate technology in a new build versus a renovation. And then clients are really wanting for it to be technology to be functional and useful. And not just technology for the sake of technology and being gimmicky and things like that.
And then I think that homeowners are wanting to see it as more seamless. In the design, I know that you’ve all heard that, in terms of luxury, that really is just a different definition for anybody that you you know, you come in contact with it think it’s more approachable. And it’s not just price, but you know, how convenient something is, you know, more comfort versus a high price tag. And then, you know, designers are are asking clients not to overspend to create a false sense of security.
And then finally, wellness, which Nicholas, I know you can, you’ve been speaking to that as well. Obviously, you know, induction, hands free water hygiene, eating healthier was something that they talked about. So you know, obviously appliances that help you cook, refrigeration that helps last longer, things like that, you know, that kept coming up in conversation.
But they really agree that it’s the designers responsibility to find out what their client’s needs might be, and suggest those kinds of products and installations for these projects, because they may not even be aware of what how much healthier their spaces can be.
AS: Right. So just to kind of add on to that. And I thought it was a great meeting for one thing, I will say, sort of observing it. Just the amount of similarities I saw between the industries between the custom home technology industry, and the kitchen and bath design industry, I thought was, you know, we’re all kind of dealing with the same challenges.
So when I was hearing them talk about, you know, managing customer expectations, dealing with supply chain was sort of speaking to similar things like that. It made me feel even stronger that that we really need to get everyone kind of together on the same page. And they could have done, you know, they could have meetings with themselves. And they’d be like, Yeah, well, you’re dealing with a lot of the same things that I am, how do we work with that? And then kind of how can we get ourselves together? To give each other more opportunities? I think, because one thing I’ll say, looking at a lot of the manufacturers there and seeing the solutions is that I feel like the clientele is very similar, very similar mindset, and looking for a lot of the same thing.
So from from my standpoint, I guess I was a little bit surprised to see that some of the designers or some of the people on the editorial advisory board seem very reluctant to want to kind of push technology or integrated technology, at least for their customers.
And I want to segue into discussion of some panels that that we editors monitor moderated at the show and I moderated one that was involved from technology integrators, and it was about the kind of possibilities for why designers should hire him. technology expert, what can they do? What’s available, what kind of products and and really how to sort of set those expectations. And I thought coming off of the board meeting it was very interested in it was very interesting to talk to the integrators on the panel. One was out in the Buffalo area, one was down in Florida, right kind of near where the show was being held.
And then one leads an organization that really certifies has a certification process called the Home Technology Association. So it certifies integrators and actually helps people find them, because that was one of the questions was, hey, where do we even find home technology experts? And that’s one of the things that the HTA does. So the panelists, Josh, Christian was able to help about that.
So, you know, it was an interesting discussion I thought that we had about, you know, okay, what are some of these products? Because when we look at it, from the custom integration side, it’s sort of how do you get everything together on the same page, so that at the end of a project, they’re gonna hand the customers, maybe a touch panel that’s all programmed, and has everything they need on it right there and is not sort of this mishmash of all different apps, which I still got the feeling that talking to the designers, everything was going to be sort of app based, and really the smart home was all about, okay, how can I use Alexa? To tell me what to do? Or to figure something out? And really coming from our end of it is?
Well, you know, actually, no, it’s a lot easier to have a fro expert, put everything together, have everything tethered in and I think on that and there’s even more that people don’t really know as possible, you know, whether it’s basically you can take from the kitchen, say you want the kitchen as the hub of the household, being, you know, sort of the most traffic room for many homes, to have a touch panel in there or device that really can have all sorts of things from your security, your lighting, your HVAC your audio, your video.
And more these days shades, everything right at their fingertips. So you know, we talked a lot about certain products that can be used. And then we talked about, again, how to find integrators. And then from the integrator standpoint, it was well, how do you connect with designers? So we’re talking about, you know, meeting through, getting involved in NKBA, chapters, things like that. We talked about budgeting? Certainly, that was a big question there. So from my standpoint, leaving that panel, I thought it was very informative for the designers who were there at the next stage listening in on it, I hope they found that equally, equally informative.
We didn’t really have any questions at the end of the session. So I thought maybe that helped. Or either that or maybe they were intimidate that to ask something. But either way, I thought they gave him a good sense that why, you know, the term integration, why it’s called that, and really what, you know, what can be possible there, because I think there’s a whole lot of things that are still sort of, via to open up the mind to the design community. To going from there, Nicholas, I know you had a panel as well, I believe that dealt with wellness. What can you tell us about the panel that you moderated?
NB: Yeah, so it was a very interesting panel, it’s, it’s, it’s honestly one of those things that, you know, I’ve kind of given the call, I’ve kind of talked about it myself time and time again. But it’s also something that like, I never get sick of talking about minutes, basically, you know, the panel that we were talking about, it was all about kind of unraveling wellness in the home and figuring out a an actual, I guess, like getting the information so you can form an actionable attack plan with it, so to speak.
And, you know, the people that I had on came from a variety of different backgrounds, we had one designer who primarily works in new home builds. So she’s constantly talking to construction workers on like these new home builds and trying to incorporate wellness elements at the ground floor. We had another designer who was kind of who had our own personal practice was also a part of the product team for Moen. So she kind of had like a little bit to talk about in that regard, focusing a little bit on our own practice and talking about you know, how individual products themselves can factor into wellness, not just entire design schemes.
And then kind of going to that entire design scheme idea. We also had a another designer who is very heavily focused in wellness as a as a part of our practice. And it was a very interesting conversation, I think going to what you were talking about a little bit earlier, the mentality behind adding wellness into the whole is definitely growing more into, you kind of want to do it at the ground floor, it can be very difficult at times to add in these sort of, like retrofits for and you can find that in a variety of different ways.