Upgrading your kitchen, your bath or any other room in your house? Now’s a great time to explore what’s trending and what’s next, because the great buzzwords of the design world are “timeless” and “sustainable,” so the renovation you do today will still be relevant tomorrow. And the best place to track down what’s out there is Dwell on Design, America’s largest design event. Designers, architects, artists and innovators gather for this three day show at the Los Angeles Convention Center to display, discuss and distribute the leading edge of interior and exterior design.
It took me all three days, but wandering the halls of the exhibition, eyes darting from booth to booth like a cat in an aviary, I narrowed the offerings down to the coolest, most arresting and most useful items.
If you’ve been reading along, you know that Bob Vila told us that the one green upgrade everyone should do tomorrow is install a programmable thermostat. I couldn’t agree more. It’s an easy way to save money and resources, and Nest has the perfect solution. First of all, it’s really good looking. This simple, circular thermostat is sleek and easy to read. More than that, it’s smart. You don’t spend the time to program it, you just use it like a regular thermostat and it learns from your patterns. Turn it down when you leave for work, turn it up when you get home, down again when you go to bed—it recognizes your routines and soon you never have to touch it again, as it takes over and makes the adjustments for you. Of course, you can still set it yourself, and you can do it via Wi-Fi or even from anywhere in the world with the free app you can download.
Discovery Wine Station
You may have seen something like this in a bar or restaurant, but Dacor is now offering the only one made for home use. It holds four bottles and dispenses wine in controlled amounts, from a taste, to a half glass, to a full glass. And it’s not just for someone who drinks a lot of wine. If you love to open a bottle but you end up spilling it down the sink a week later because you just don’t drink fast enough, this might be your solution. Replacing the escaping air with argon gas, the wine station keeps wine fresh for 60 days. It’s temperature controlled, and by the end of the year will feature zone cooling, so you can keep reds and whites in the same case. It can also be either free standing or built in, so it should go with any kitchen. I know it would go with mine.
Clei Lgm Murphy Bed
I feel terrible calling this a Murphy Bed. Clei calls it a “double use wall unit,” which sounds much better in Italian. The Mobile a Doppia Funzione Personalizzabile starts out as a sleek set of built-in shelves, which may or may not have the cabinet doors. Or you can even replace the shelves with a folding workstation desk. Engage the smooth turning swivel mechanism and the shelves swing out from the wall, spin around, and reveal a double bed that effortlessly folds down.
Two night-stands even slide out from the head of the bed. The whole transition takes about 10 seconds. This is an excellent and elegant solution for a small space, guest room, converted garage or an empty nester who wants to make use of a kid’s old room but keep a place for her to crash when she’s in town (to do her laundry).
Inlet instead of outlet, get it? Despite the pun, this is a great idea. The duplex outlet as we all know it hasn’t changed much for about 100 years. The most design forward kitchen still has the ubiquitous plug-ins, which look like the faces of aghast little creatures. The Inlet plugs in with no special installation and features three tamper resistant outlets hidden on the bottom. It also has a USB charger and an unobtrusive button to shut the whole unit off and stop the phantom trickle of electricity that keeps your bill going up. It’s a plain, white box, so it blends in, but they take it a step further by offering customizable faceplates that can match the pattern on your wall (so the whole thing disappears), or can feature photos of your family or art or whatever else you want it to.
True Beverage Dispenser
I didn’t put this right next to the wine station because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me, but to be honest, in my head I’m building a bar. That bar definitely features this beer dispenser. It keeps your beer at the perfect temperature and even the tap is refrigerated, so it doesn’t lose any chill as it’s flowing through the spigot. The double tap unit holds two 1/6 barrels, and the slim, single tap version holds one. They come in stainless steel, or ready to take on a panel to match your kitchen. And when there’s no beer in there, it can be used as a regular fridge (but that would never happen in my bar).
Native Trails Hammered Copper Sink
Another accessory for my bar, or for your kitchen or bath, these hammered copper sinks are beautiful works of functional art. Some 30,000 hammer blows go into shaping and decorating the metal, and as a guy who knows his way around an anvil, I really appreciate the workmanship. Each sink is unique, bearing the mark of the artisan who formed it, and the texture and patina are pleasing both to the eye and the hand. This was a booth where I could have spent a lot more time, just taking in the textures and designs. Copper is an excellent material. As it wears and ages it develops more and more character, it’s naturally antimicrobial, and it’s fully recyclable.
Here’s another offering that’s truly unique. The tree rising up through the center of the door, dividing the window into irregular panes, is not a carving. That’s a real tree, grown over 6 to 8 years in a special process that keeps it flat and even. When it reaches the proper size, it’s cut down and the edges are carved out to accept the glass. It can even be made double paned. There are trees grown to fit doors or sash windows or picture windows, and they make a presentation that is both spectacular and subtle. This is the only guy in the world doing this. He invented the arduous technique and he’s not keeping it a secret. He told me, “If anyone wants to try and copy this, let’em try.”
While not an entirely new idea, these peal and stick decals take it to a higher level. Unlike their vinyl counterparts, Wallflowers are printed on a paper-thin matte fabric that blends smoothly with the wall, and are so light they won’t peel off under their own weight. They’re self-adhesive, so you can put them up and take them down and put them up again, and the photo printing is super high quality, so they won’t be out of place in a high-end living space, or a dorm room.
Linear drains aren’t uncommon in industrial and commercial settings, but now they’re coming to home use, and they open wet rooms up to interesting design possibilities. They’re useful, of course, for disabled access, but also allow you to create a barrier free bathroom with a single drain along a wall and an open concept that allows the entire space to be a wet spa. Rather than a traditional round drain, a linear drain can fit flush to a wall or across a threshold, creating a seamless transition between a shower and the rest of the room. They also have exterior applications, to create an infinity edge to a pool, or add practical and aesthetically interesting drainage to a driveway.
Since we’re in the shower, let’s install this Kohler Moxie showerhead with a built in wireless speaker. It links up to your music player via Bluetooth and projects your tunes while you lather up, or while you lounge in the tub. They just introduced a new line of popping colors like chartreuse and cherry red, and they’re so easy to swap out you can have a different speaker pared with a different device for every person in the house. And since the speaker pops out so easily, you can take it with you when you’re done and put it on your desk or nightstand, or anywhere else you want a little music.
Half13 Outdoor Furniture
Moving outside, this furniture is a comfortable fusion of industrial materials, classic forms and whimsical design. Made from steel diamond grating, the chairs, loveseats and tables are powder coated in bright colors for years of outdoor durability. The surfaces have just enough give to be incredibly strong, yet soft to sit on. The shape of each piece is reminiscent of mid-century minimalism, but the construction is unmistakably contemporary.
Cube Fire Pit
While we’re sitting out here, it’d be nice to have a fire, and Spark’s Cube fire element makes for an eye catching option. It’s called the cube because that’s what it is, except that it’s on fire. Hidden under the stones in the center is a gas fire burner that kicks out enough light and heat to keep your deck or patio illuminated and comfortable. The protective grate comes in a taller size, to keep curious little hands out of the flames, but the surface the cube itself stays cool to the touch. And when you’re not using it, the matching cover fits over the top, so you can still use it as a table, and not create a breeding ground for mosquitos. It has a hardline to your natural gas or propane system, so there’s no tank to check and fill.
The character and history and durability and sustainability of reclaimed wood from old barns and other construction is growing more and more popular, and I’m a great proponent of it. I love to see old tool marks and feel the unique grain and patterns in the wood that only decades of weathering can bring. There was a booth featuring old barn-wood, but the man and woman tending it were so snooty and arrogant that I’m not featuring their name or their product here. Instead, here’s a shot of the reclaimed wood whiskey rack I built. (I told you I’m building a bar.)
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