Observations from the last day of K/BIS 2008.

A mudroom in one of the Design Idea Center's vignettes.

What typically happens on the last day of most trade shows is that attendance is generally lower. This is good for us media types, as we can then talk to people who otherwise were too busy the previous days with customers or potential customers. Or walk through areas that were too crowded during the early part of the show.  

Walking through the NKBA Design Idea Center is always fun. NKBA has partnered up with Meredith Corp.’s five bath/kitchen/home consumer mags for the past few years to give K/BIS attendees different looks for different lifestyles, as illustrated by the magazines’ readerships.  

This year the vignettes were: 1) Hostess Extraordinaire, which included a butler’s pantry and mudroom to accommodate a family with teenagers; 2) Organizer-In-Chief, which included a lot in interesting storage space; 3) Savvy Young Professional; which was a bathroom with a shared bath in the middle, and his/hers bathrooms at each end; 4) Future Thinker, which included a lot of universal design/aging-in-place features; and 5) Mother Starting Out, which a included hardwearing surfaces and flexible living spaces for a growing family.

Germs United Against Bemis.

One of the best PR campaigns I’ve seen in a long time came from Bemis - its Germs United Against Bemis campaign had life-sized “germs” picketing the Bemis booth and handing out literature bemoaning the fact that Bemis toilet seats are easier to clean and declaring war on the company was funny. I tried to go by the booth each day to watch the germs’ antics - and get a good laugh!  

Other observations on the final day of the show:  

  • A Korean company, Cebien, had a shower system complete with music. You insert a music card - download from your MP3 player or home computer - and the music is played from the speaker at the top of the shower panel. LED lights around the showerhead can change colors. The company also had decorative shower panels.  

  • Aquatic introduced its HotSoak tub with a 1/15 horsepower pump and a built-in heater to keep the water at the bather’s preferred water temp, eliminating the need to keep adding hot water to the tub.

  • Shower system with digital music system by Cebien.

  • I saw quite a few manufacturers introducing walk-in tubs and other ADA-compliant fixtures and accessories. With the boomers getting older and starting to retire, manufacturers need to create products that allow these homeowners to stay in their homes as long as possible - aging-in-place products - but also are decorative as well as functional, not institutional-looking.  

  • The demise of whirlpool tubs has been greatly exaggerated. Every year sees new models, but the air baths may have a lot to do with the resurrection of this product category.  

  • Vessel sinks seem to be popular on the show floor, but I don’t actually know anyone who has one in their home. I did use one in Germany - it does take some getting used to, but they have a distinctive look to them that is hard to resist. Some of them almost look like pieces of art…

    Stone lav and faucet facade from Shirestone.

  • A lot of emphasis on “green” - water conservation, saving energy, sustainable materials. As we’ve noted in the pages of Plumbing & Mechanical and our sister publications, the green movement is no longer the domain of the “granola crowd,” the “treehuggers.” It is now part of the mainstream consumer’s lifestyle, and the plumbing and heating industry is putting a lot of effort into developing new technologies and using new materials to make their products better for us, and better for the planet.  

    It hasn’t been easy, and many of these efforts were brought on by state and federal legislation. But today’s consumers have a myriad of water-conserving and energy-saving products for their plumbing and heating needs to choose from - products that were all over the three halls of this year’s K/BIS.  

    Well, that’s it for this year. Maybe I’ll see you at next year’s show - May 1-3, Atlanta.