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Housewares Show Wrap Up

On Monday 3-15-10 I walked the show this year looking for products that made use of materials and design to differentiate from the other commodity products in their category. At 3pm I sat on a panel hosted by the IDSA to discuss product innovation at the show. This blog post is a round up of what I found. Based on my 4 hours walking through the three buildings of the show it seemed like this year was a year of repeats and incremental improvements. I did not see as many new products or new innovations as I had seen in years past. I assume this is because of the economy and the fact that manufacturers and retailers were busy figuring out what to do with the excess inventory they had as well as how they might be able to take additional cost out of their products.
This impressive display of Kitchen Aid mixers caught my eye. The product has become a design icon that most brides to be add to their registry. The classic design is beautiful enough for people to want to showcase it on their kitchen countertops. This year they had a rainbow of colors from pastels to primaries with the classic white, black, and chrome.

Terraillon was back with a gorgeous brushed aluminum scale. The scale retails for about $80. The detail on this scale was impressive. The pictures below do not do it justice. To create a circle of brushed lines the manufacturing process requires a piece of aluminum roughly two times the size of the scale. As you can imagine manufacturing a circle can present challenges. If you are looking for a high end scale to match your luxurious new bathroom this scale might be for you.
This next product is a two in one bedside lamp and humidifier. Most of the humidifiers on the market look medicinal. Traditionally humidifiers tend to resemble something you would expect to see in a hospital or a doctors office. If friends come over to your house you might be a bit embarrassed about having your humidifier out as you give a tour of your house. This product tries to tackle that problem and save you some money. It's dual function makes it nice enough to place on your bedside year round as a lamp but in the dry months it doubles as a humidifier that looks more like a vase than a piece of medical equipment.
The economy might be causing fluctuations in material costs and it might be making shipping more expensive but brilliance isn't part of your bill of materials. The folks over at World Kitchen collaborated with Smart Design to create this clever measuring cup. The innovation is that the measurements are written on the inside of the cup rather than the outside so you don't have to pick it up or crouch down to the counter level to see how much you have filled it up! As you can imagine printing the measurements on the inside was not an easy task. Demand for this clever new design is high so it might already be sold out on store shelves.
I thought these iconic salt and pepper mills by Fresco were gorgeous. They reference the past with a look into the future. The shape seemed very modern and up to date, the product used a soft touch TPE and the choice of colors seemed like they would fit well with most modern kitchen designs.
Over the last decade manufacturers have been using materials and design on traditionally functional products to make them feel more luxurious. I think about this from the perspective that with each year as there are new products and new innovations our society creates more wealth. A by product of this is that our standard of living increases and the cost to make new stuff tends to go down. This gives rise to "new needs" in our homes. After the survival needs are filled and our functional needs like cleaning are nailed down we start looking for solutions to make those functional parts of our lives a bit nicer. This set of cleaning tools is designed with chrome handles and it makes the tools look a bit upscale so you might not be embarrassed to have them out when a friend comes over or even hang them in a laundry room used as the main entrance to your house from the garage.

Everyone is familiar with the transition from chalk boards to dry erase boards. It's much nicer to use a dry erase marker instead of a piece of chalk because your hands don't get all messy. In a classroom a big white board seems to match the decor but in your kitchen it can be an eye sore. The ladies at Three by Three in Seattle have come up with an upscale Bamboo dry erase board. A nifty added benefit is as you can see by the photo it is also a magnetic surface.
When I walked into the Human Scale booth I was struck by the design of their shower accessories. They are designing products that help make your bathroom feel more like a spa than a residential bathroom. Pictured below is a beautiful decorative bamboo shelf that hooks on to your shower head. They also make home versions of soap and shampoo dispensers so you don't need to have all the ugly plastic bottles siting around in your shower.

That's a wrap for the International Home and Housewares Show 2010 - we'll see you next year!

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