Election Section

Luxury kitchen and bath products dazzle in Chicago show

By James and Morris Carey, The Associated Press
Saturday May 11, 2002

We recently attended the 21st annual Kitchen & Bath Show in Chicago, where — along with 40,000 other industry professionals — we were dazzled by new and exciting products for the two most important rooms in the home. 

Consumers today demand more convenience, style and luxury, and manufacturers have responded with more high-end glamour, personal pampering and make-sense innovations than ever before. The kitchen still is the focal point of the home. If you are in doubt of that, just note where everyone gathers the next time you throw a party. 

Today’s kitchen has evolved into a marvel of a workspace. Nestled amid fine furniture-quality cabinetry and glistening stretches of eye-catching countertop are impressive electronics and appliances. 

The gleaming stainless-steel look still dominates appliances. However, a growing segment of the high-end market now also is offering a spectrum of vibrant bold colors to intrigue buyers and stimulate design imagination. It is indeed stunning to see deep blues, fiery reds and brilliant yellows in designs. 

Electronics, such as high-tech television sets, self-diagnostics and computer-Internet capabilities have made major inroads in the kitchen as well. Energy-efficiency — especially in refrigerators — remains a major industry goal. 

One surprising new trend: kitchens are moving outdoors. Full backyard kitchens — with elaborate grills, refrigerators, warming drawers, wet sinks and dishwashers — now are offered by numerous manufacturers, especially in sunbelt climates. Next time you’re cruising the appliance department, see what companies like Viking, Coleman, Jenn-Air, Thermador, Dacor and Wolf are up to. 

Remember the new space-age concept oven we recently wrote about that keeps food cold all day and then switches over to cook mode? Well, they’re here. Whirlpool has just introduced the industry’s first refrigerated range. It both cools and cooks on preprogrammed command, and will have delicious piping hot home-cooked meals ready and waiting for you when you get home. For more info visit www.whirlpool.com or call (800)-253-1301. The only thing yet to be made available is the remote-control capability for refrigerated ovens being pioneered by Tonight’s Menu — www.cyberovens.com or (440)-838-5135. 

Turning from dream kitchens to spectacular bathrooms, we can sum things up in two words: “luxury” and “beauty.” 

One striking new trend is glass-vessel sink bowls that rest on countertops or atop thick glass with exposed plumbing. Bowl designs are many, ranging from gleaming steel or glass to hand-painted antique porcelain. When coupled with today’s dramatic faucet technologies, the result is an eye magnet. 

There were more European-styled luxury influences, as well. Wall-mounted “off-floor” toilet systems — with the recessed water tank hidden between wall studs — are gaining in popularity. Water-saving toilets with gravity-fed, anti-clog quiet flush mechanisms now are widely featured. Comfort is also a feature with varied heights, sizes and configurations. Kohler now offers a heated toilet seat. 

Bathing keeps getting better and better. Still No. 1 on the American homeowner’s wish list is the soothing bubbling whirlpool tub. And the innovations and variations keep on coming. One interesting adaptation is the combination of vintage Victorian claw-foot tub styling with all the bells and whistles of new high-tech models made with lightweight, easy-care materials and built-in whirlpool jets. For more info on the Caspian Victorian whirlpool tub by American Bath Factory visit www.americanbathfactory.com or call (800)-454-BATH. 

Another new bathing experience is the Sok Bath (pronounced “soak”) with Chromatherapy by Kohler. The tub has a fully lighted interior surface with eight colors that slowly change underwater. Just dim the lights, and “color” yourself soothed and relaxed. For more info visit www.kohler.com or call (800)-456-4537. 

Overall, there were more commonsense innovations and products than ever before — small touches, that provide convenience and personal luxury. Towel warmers, once a snooty European import, now are cropping up in more upscale American bathrooms, as are floor-warming systems. Another product that is becoming popular is the hotel-style combination shelf and towel bar. Other nifty accessories we liked include the Hy-Da-Plunge recessed bathroom wall cabinet — to keep plunger, toilet brush and cleaner handy, yet out of sight — by Helber Industries — www.hydaplunge.com or (950)-523-6935. And the Never-MT (“empty” — get it?) soap dispenser conversion kit (by Hy-Lite Products) that attaches to your kitchen-sink dispenser pump and draws liquid soap directly from a big family-size soap container in the base cabinet. For info visit www.hy-lite.com pr call (800)-827-3691. 

For more home improvement tips and information visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com. 



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