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Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two

13 February 2014


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 1


“More Riches”


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 2Were I younger man I’m sure I would have kept more insane hours than I did at KBIS. I guess that’s the sure sign of age. You find yourself going to bed on time when you know you have a full day ahead of you. And I must say that the second day of KBIS was very much a full day. I started early again. Actually, all of our days started early because for a great many years now Christine and I have arisen half an hour earlier just so we can have a cup of coffee together. We did that at KBIS as well. So after our morning coffee, than, I attended a breakfast sponsored by Kartell by LAUFEN.


SaphirKeramik is a new product recently developed by LAUFEN. It is essentially porcelain on steroids—or on a diet, depending on how you want to look at it. What they have done is create a product with the strength of porcelain that is much thinner. Doing so frees up bathroom fixture design in ways that are just now being explored. To do so they have teamed up with the designers at Kartell, creating Kartell by LAUFEN. Theirs is one of the more exciting bathroom design concepts I’ve written about in recent years, and at KBIS I finally got a chance to see these products in person. I even had a chance to chat for a few minutes with the designers involved in one of the more provocative concepts ever, thinner porcelain.


At first blush that surely sounds a bit out there, but so much of what happens in design pivots on material innovations that are largely indiscernible to the general public. One person will develop something new like this; and immediately someone else will begin exploring other things that can be done with it. Routers are like this. For those not in the know, a router is a tool used to rout out (hollow out) an area of wood, such as a dado, or to create a decorative profile on a wood edge. Lots of woodworkers consider it the single most versatile woodworking power tool that absolutely ever was, and it’s really hard to argue with that assessment. The first genius was the guy who invented it. The second genius was the guy who said, “Let’s turn it upside down and put it in a router table.” And suddenly about a million devices, ideas, concepts, profiles, and I don’t know what all sprang forth. The same thing will soon be happening with Kartell by LAUFEN. Those people are good!

Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 3The two booths I can never miss at an affair like KBIS are Formica, which I discussed yesterday and Karran Sinks. I remember having a very difficult time understanding how this sink was installed when I discussed it with Mark Webster when I first saw these sinks at KBIS 2011. In a nutshell, every undermount sink that ever was is held in by clips of some sort. So are these. As it is with so many things, there is more to it than that, but the bottom line is that it’s a sink that is every bit as secure as any other. I’m not entirely convinced that it would hold up to my suddenly lofting a 500 pound anvil into it, but I really hadn’t intended on doing such a thing! What they are, though, are a line of sinks that have lots to recommend them because of the utter impossibility of kitchen debris entering at the edge of a properly installed sink and a style that just blows your socks off. You know the countertop is plastic laminate; you know that sink is an undermount; you’ve always been told that was impossible. Say whaaaaat!


This time round I was quite taken with their E-505, which is actually designed as a patient room sink. It’s only six inches deep, which means a wheelchair can slide under it, thereby making it ADA Compliant. I also think it has a lot of possibilities for home use. Some 26 years ago my father suffered a massive stroke and died a month later, but while he was in the hospital, my family was giving thought to what we would prepare for him, should he be able to come home. It’s a problem Baby Boomers are beginning to deal with. What is it going to cost if you have to go through an entire home and make it suitable for one in a wheel chair? And for someone like my father who was so fiercely independent, ADA standards become just the thing. But how does one accomplish such things without breaking the bank? A bathroom with this type of sink would go a long mile down that particular road. Combine it with plastic laminate, and you have a new sink counter that is considerably more cost-effective than would have otherwise been the case.


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 4At Arizona Tile I saw tile from their Touch Series, which I understand was made, in part, by utilizing digital print technology, but don’t ask me what that means! Looking at it, though, I really did want to touch it because it looked for all the world like a cloth surface. Interestingly enough, the feel of it was very much like fabric over hardboard would have been. Something like this would be just the thing for a shower enclosure. The same company had any number of tiles that mimicked wood flooring, along with about a zillion shapes, size, colors, textures, designs, and general tile-ness. Regular readers of this site know how much I love tile. In coming months we will return to tile in general and Arizona Tile in particular.


One person asked me what was the one absolute stand-out booth I saw at KBIS. That would be Elmwood Fine Custom Cabinetry. I have seen the standard wall display of door styles to the point of nausea, really. So much of it is just like everyone else sells, so I cannot say that it does much for me. No doubt, that’s the woodworker in me talking. But this! This is pretty much the damnedest choice of door styles I EVER did see. Elmwood describes themselves as makers of fine custom cabinetry, which is a claim made by many. Unlike sReflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 5o many of the others, Elmwood delivers the goods. I don’t have room for the pictures in this blog, but they have taken the idea of kitchens to a new place, especially those that are sited in a Great Room. One of the knocks on a kitchen at one end of a room also used for living and dining is having to look at the kitchen when it’s not in use. Elmwood has developed a series of five sliding doors that completely hide the kitchen when it’s not wanted! That one pretty much blew my mind, I can tell you!


I never mention prices in these blogs because they have a way of changing, but I saw a bathroom vanity made of Carrara marble for quite a bit less than I thought would have been the case. Luxe™ Bath Works bills themselves as makers of luxury products for the bathroom, and they deliver—and at a price that doesn’t break the budget.I hope to get a chance to write considerably more about them this year.


I also saw a company that specializes in natural stone obtained from all over the world, which they then dress in truly marvelous ways. We’re used to the glossy, highly polished version—and I don’t deny the beauty of that finish. But before it was polished to that extent, it was stone, and sometimes a more natural finish brings one closer to the earth that was mother of that stone. Or sometimes—and this may be more to the point—it may just need the polish of one who regards such things as more than just a job. Enter Antolini of Verona, Italy. Prominent on their wall was this quote: “I sense the invisible presence of ancient religions and mythologies even in our digital era.”


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 6I really cannot believe how big those venues were, and especially so when I had to journey to the IBS side for a couple of appointments with people who wanted me to share their latest for possible future blogs. And there in the midst of all that hustle and bustle of the new, the modern, the much-improved was a young artisan carefully assembling gorgeous copper lanterns, using techniques that dated back a century or more. Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights is located in the French Quarter in New Orleans, and in view of the elegant grace of these lamps it really does seem like a most serendipitous location. They sent a team to KBIS, one of whom was the young man in the photo, Nate Lefever. I have to say watching him patiently assembling one of these lanterns while giving me some details on Bevolo itself was a real joy.


I have no idea of who was the first one to say, “Let’s do food preparation in a sink,” but since then there have clearly been lots and lots of people who have said, “Slick idea. But, say, what if we tweaked this, added this, and revamped that part entirely?” I honestly don’t think I have ever seen any of those sinks that didn’t get my heart beating a bit quicker, but Oliveri really pumped up the volume! Jeffrey Pickle, Vice President Sales & Marketing North America was kind enough to show me around his booth.


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 8Again, there were considerably more concepts than I can picture here, but I did want to include the picture you see here. Drop-in sinks are wonderful for Do-It-Yourselfers because all you have to do is hack a hole in the countertop. Well, OK, you want to carefully cut the hole, but if it’s off a quarter inch or so—which would destroy the fit of a drawer—it will still work just fine. For once close enough is good enough. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the sink edge itself looks pretty stodgy.


Enter Oliveri. This picture may not do it justice, but the edge on that sink is actually very thin, thereby giving the installation an elegance it would not otherwise have had. That thin edge drop-in sink is installed with a spray-type silicone designed to (1) seal the edge and (2) stay away from the outside edge so one is not left with a bead of silicone goop all around the sink that will do nothing but collect sundry and all types of dirt, filth, contamination and I-told-those-kids-not-to-wash-the-dog-in-the-kitchen-sink kind of general ugliness.


I’m running out of space for pictures, but I did want to mention that I saw a line of refrigerators I’d never heard of, but even so one of the gentlemen in the booth told me it was the finest refrigerator in the world and then went on to make a very convincing argument to support his thesis. I wouldn’t mind getting one of those for our own kitchen, but whether I do or not, I will be writing about them sometime in the coming months.

Before I left San Diego I was approached by a nation-wide cabinetmaker who wanted me to visit their site. I was reluctant to do so because, as I told the representative, “I have only written about a handful of cabinetmakers, all of them with small one-or-two-man shops. It’s because I often brush the sawdust off my pants before I sit down to this keyboard. I don’t deny the truly wonderful work that comes out of large concerns, but on this one subject my heart is with the little guy who struggles with his dreams, his materials, and a mortgage.”


Reflections on KBIS 2014 Part Two 9Their representative replied, “I understand and respect your decision to decline our invitation, though we would still love to have you stop by our booth. But to be honest, it is for the same reason you have declined our invitation that we want you to pay us a visit, your passion and your devotion to the little guy. Orville Merillat, the founder of Merillat Cabinetry was the ‘little guy.’ In fact, in order to start his business, he kept only one dollar from each of his pay checks during World War II and sent the rest home to his wife Ruth. That, along with the sale of Ruth’s truck, was what paved the way for Orville Merillat to build what is now Merillat Cabinetry.”


He went on to say that they would be showing off their new brand which predominantly features Orville and his incredible journey. One of the first kitchens he and his wife built was on display, along with the principles on which he built his company, hard work, respect, and always keeping your customer in mind. And that’s me standing in the kitchen!


I decided to end with that because I still cling to the hope that one day Joe Dusel and I might actually achieve the success we envisioned for ourselves when we started this site in February, 2008. But who knows? With so many products to write about this year, we might well generate a bit of buzz for the site itself. Next week I will begin sharing some in-depth observations on the many products I was introduced to during that whirlwind week. For tomorrow, though, I mean to conclude this KBIS roundup with a more personal observation.



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