Hottest trends from the Architectural Digest show

Amid all the eye candy are some potential game changers

Published: March 20, 2015 03:00 PM
The Galley Workstation
Photo: Shane Bevel

The Architectural Digest Home Design Show, taking place March 19-22 in New York City, is where trends are born. Now in its fourteenth year, the show features thousands of products, including appliances, fixtures, furnishings, and more. Consumer Reports was on hand yesterday for the glitzy premiere. While just about everything on the show floor could be called cutting-edge, several trends rose to the top. If you’re attending the show this weekend, when it's open to the public, or just looking for the next big thing in home design, here’s our take.                

2015 is the year of the 24-inch appliance  

Compact appliances designed for small urban kitchens, as well as mother-in-law apartments and other secondary kitchens, were all over the show floor. Bosch has one of the most extensive collections; its “24-inch kitchen” includes a glass-front refrigerator, $2,500, an electric wall oven, $1,700, gas and electric cooktops, $800, and a dishwasher, $1,500. The kitchen appliances hit stores in April, along with a 24-inch stackable washer/dryer set, $1,200.

We also liked the 24-inch Aga City60 Contemporary, $5,700, which you can get in the British manufacturer’s trademark hues, including rose, lemon, cream, and pewter. Smeg’s suite of 24-inch appliances includes a built-in oven with optional pizza stone base. Miele also had a 24-inch refrigerator, which is perfect for the upscale man cave that's all the rage. 

If you're remodeling a tight kitchen, another smart product from the show to consider is the Galley Workstation, which turns the sink into a multifunctional space for meal prep, clean up, serving, and entertainment.  

Smeg toaster

Big names embrace small appliances      

Smeg is probably best known for its retro-looking refrigerators. The Italian manufacturer is bringing the same aesthetic to its new line of countertop appliances, including a toaster, blender, stand mixer, and kettle. Many of the trademark finishes apply. According to CEO Vittorio Bertazzoni, mint green is the most popular hue in the U.S. market, while Europeans favor cream. Wolf is also getting into the small appliance game with its line of toasters, countertop convection oven, and blender.  

Products that hear what you’re saying 

Voice activation is the next frontier in automated products. Dacor, the California-based appliance manufacturer which is celebrating 50 years, featured the latest generation of its Wi-Fi enabled IQ range. The 48-inch dual fuel range, $11,999, has a built-in Android tablet whose remote app accepts voice commands. So if you’re in the backyard and want to turn the heat down on a roast in the oven, you simply speak the command into your phone.

We’re seeing this technology applied to more products. For example, the recently tested Honeywell RTH959OWF, $300, is the industry’s first voice-activated programmable thermostat. It's our highest-rated thermostat. That’s good to see, since it suggests manufacturers aren’t using the new technology to make up for otherwise deficient products.  

Miele dual fuel range

More appliances cook multiple ways

Miele’s new 48-inch dual fuel range claims to be seven appliances in one. The 6-burner cooktop has an optional grill and griddle, so it can handle flapjacks and burgers along with traditional pot and pan-prepared meals. Down below, the range features three separate chambers, which reminds us of the AGA cooker. There’s the main conventional oven, which be switched into a steam-enhanced mode for baking bread. Next to it is a speed oven that uses both microwave and convection technology. And there’s a warming drawer.      

Multi-cookers were also all over at the International Home and Housewares Show that took place earlier this month in Chicago. The countertop appliances claim 5, 7, and even 10-in-1 functionality. One that we already have in our labs, with promising results so far, is the $350 KitchenAid Multi-Cooker, whose 10 cooking methods include soup, rice, risotto, and yogurt.

Built-in cooking appliances get even more so

The show features the next evolution of built-in cooking appliances from several manufacturers, including Miele, Wolf, and Viking. Miele's new line of touch-control induction cooktops can be recessed into the countertop, so they’re perfectly flush with the surface (in the past, the cooktop always sat on top of the counter.)

Along the same lines, Wolf featured a prototype gas cooktop that’s recessed into a countertop. In this case, the controls are separate and built into the cabinet below. Taking the built-in even concept further, Viking showcased an "invisible" induction burner in the countertop itself. The induction system is underneath the countertop and works through it, with the controls built into the cabinet under the countertop.

Counters by JM Lifestyles

Concrete is having a moment

One of the biggest showstoppers is the woodform concrete countertops on display at the booth of JM Lifestyles, an artisan workshop located in Randolph, New Jersey. The custom fabricated material, which can be used indoors or out, looks like real wood. It comes in a range of finishes, including oak and mahogany, with the option of bark edges and signature leaves imprints.

The woodform concrete earned high praise from Fu-Tung Cheng, the father of concrete countertops, who was in the Zephyr booth, showing off some of his sculptural range hoods. Cheng’s 2002 book Concrete Countertops has sold more than 175,000 copies and he’s personally trained about 5,000 contractors in the art of poured concrete countertops. “It’s become very prevalent,” he says. “It’s still not for everyone, including people who want a pristine, glass-like countertops that you don’t have to maintain. But if you’re looking for something with the character of old hardwood floors, it’s a great option, especially if you use the form of it.” No wonder he’s a big fan of JM Lifestyles.

If you like the look of concrete, but not the upkeep, check out Caeserstone’s new line of concrete-inspired quartz countertops, which we spotted back in January at Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas.  

True built-in refrigerator

Professional refrigerator market gets busy

The built-in refrigerator category has been dominated by names like Sub-Zero, Jenn-Air, and Thermador, all of which have models on our recommended refrigerator list. A couple of newcomers hope to challenge those brands. True Manufacturing, which has been a major name in commercial refrigeration for seven decades, is attempting its first foray into the full-size residential market with a 42-inch refrigerator. The unit features stainless steel inside and out, including the framing around the glass shelves. It also has soft-close drawers in both the fridge and freezer compartments.

BlueStar, known for its cooking appliances, is also entering the built-in refrigerator market. Its ranges and ovens stand out for their colorful finishes, so the new refrigerator will allow consumers the option of a fully coordinated kitchen. Pricing for the refrigerators isn’t available yet.

There’s no shortage of aspiration

There were plenty of over-the-top products on display at the show, and people didn’t seem to care if things looked expensive and blingy. "I was surprised to see how much gold finishes on furniture, lighting and accessories are holding on," says interior designer Libby Langdon. "I felt like I was seeing it everywhere. It seems like it's moved passed being a trend and has now become a movement!"

As for actual products, Dynamic Closet’s automated walk-in closet, with its dry cleaner inspired rack system that you can control from your smart phone. A single shelf costs $10,000. There were also multiple icemakers, including one from True that makes up to 70 pounds of clear top hat-shaped ice per day; also cool is the colored LED lighting that changes into 14 colors, like blue, red, and purple. 

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)

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