2020 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show Product Winners Point To Hot Design Trends

Every year, a panel of established industry professionals selects winners in eight categories as the top Kitchen & Bath Industry Show products. These selections usually exemplify not just quality and innovation, but current design industry trends, making the list an interesting overview of what’s new and hot in these key home spaces. Let’s take a look at the 2020 Best of KBIS crop and what each reveals.

Kitchen Gold: Plum by Plum

Wine storage isn’t a new topic for kitchen design. What this new product from this new brand brings to the category is smart home technology for the average adult. Plum takes the guesswork out of properly storing wine for the non-expert by identifying the contents of a bottle, preserving it at the proper temperature, displaying the label on its sleek face and serving it one glass at a time. It can sit on a countertop or be built into a wall cabinet with a matching trim kit.

Plum taps into several trends worth noting: First, it acknowledges the growing presence of single adults in society. According to Pew Research and the Census Bureau, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or partner has climbed to 42{2be9e0ed3ca9ccbec52b0231822c6f1fda346690d3a01794d48870672da60124}. Plum is ideal for the person who wants to enjoy a glass of wine after a long workday, but doesn’t have a significant other with whom to finish the bottle in one sitting.

This segues into the second trend worth noting: Wellness. There are health claims to be made for this ancient beverage with moderate consumption, (and there are detractors, as well), but there’s no doubt that wellness encompasses what we eat and drink – and that directly relates to how your kitchen is equipped.

Last but not least is the increasing presence of smart home technology in the kitchen, including at the luxury level.

Kitchen Silver: Miele G 7000 Dishwasher by Miele Inc

This appliance showcased a smart home technology trend seen widely around the show floor this year: Automated detergent dispensing. There’s also WiFi capability to let you know when you’re low on dish soap and the ability to stop or start a load remotely. Smart dispensing via detergent disks and cartridges appeared on multiple dishwashers and clothes washers at KBIS this year. Will the capability catch on with busy homeowners already comfortable with app-based shopping? There’s certainly convenience built into ordering soap from your phone when it lets you know you’re low. And it sure beats standing in front of your appliance realizing you ran out and guests are coming in a few hours.

Bath Gold: GE UltraFresh Front Load Washer by GE Appliances

This machine also employs smart dispensing technology, as well as the capability to sync your washer and dryer pair to automatically set the needed levels. This can save water, detergent, energy (and brain cells).

In addition to its smart home technology trend embrace, the washer also taps into the wellness trend by addressing the bane of front loaders: Gasket-related bacteria and odor.  

Another popular trend at the show – and in society overall – is customization. We’ve gotten used to being able to set up our smart phones as we each want them, and that expectation has extended to other areas of our lives. It’s not surprising then that people might be frustrated with a lack of choice in one area of this appliance category: Door swing. This washer lets you reverse the door swing if that works better for your laundry location. Can microwave ovens be far behind? (One can hope!)

Bath Silver: DUW Series – Wall Recessed Linear Floor Drain by Drains Unlimited

In the beginning, there were round metal shower drains in the middle of the stall. They were basic, they were ugly, and they were limiting to design pros. The industry next introduced linear drains that could be installed at the entrance to a shower, along a wall or under a bench. This increased the potential for a safe, stylish space and reduced a trip hazard, especially when minimalistic tiled-in versions came on the scene. The most recent advancement is the linear wall drain. This isn’t the only manufacturer offering this type of product, but the company is definitely tapping into the wellness trend with a drain that makes it possible to create a spa-inspired shower with resort style.

Smart Home Technology: U by Moen Smart Faucet by Moen

Voice control has been a major smart home trend that started showing up in kitchens and baths a few years ago. One of its entry points was hands-free faucets. These touched on the wellness trend, too, as the fewer surfaces you came into contact with, the fewer germs you were spreading around your kitchen or bathroom. Moen’s new U Faucet has mastered the major shortcoming of hands-free faucets: You had to touch them to change the temperature. You can now do it with your voice. Other brands are working on this capability, too, so it’s likely to be widespread in the next year or so.  

Best of KBIS – Outdoor Living: Kalamazoo Shokunin Kamado Grill by Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Outdoor living spaces are in tremendous demand by homeowners and homebuyers, and are high on the list of Millennials and Gen Z. In other words, this category will continue to grow. Since the humble barbecue grill was elevated into the cooking appliance core of complete outdoor kitchens, manufacturers have sought ways to distinguish their offerings. Some have added wifi capability for the tech-hungry. Others have looked for ways to bring global innovations to their offerings. This KBIS winner takes the latter approach by applying American manufacturing to the traditional slow-cooking kamado grill.  (Disclosure: Kalamazoo’s grillmaster Russ Faulk is the Outdoor Kitchens Advisor for my weekly design blog; I was not involved with the KBIS judging.)

Impact Award: Rainfinity by Hansgrohe

The bathroom is one of the most pivotal spaces in the wellness design category, and the shower stall is a big part of that. Rainfinity taps into the potential for showers to be well-equipped wellness zones with multi-function rain shower and hand-held spray heads, as well as built-in shelves for bathing products. A micro-trend that began emerging a couple of years ago in Europe and Japan is the soft, shower spray for relaxation. Hansgrohe is one of the manufacturers that brought it to North America, and this new release incorporates that feature, while also offering more vigorous versions for rinsing off.

KBIS describes its Impact Award category as a judges’ choice from the top 50 finalists as a product they believe will make an impact on the industry. Will its water-conserving soft spray or sleek, modular design have the bigger impact? Time will tell.

Best of KBIS – Best of Show: Kintsu Bath Collection by Brizo

This is the big kahuna award, the expo’s equivalent of the Oscars’ Best Picture winner. The major trend showcased in this modern faucet series is customizability. This was a feature shown widely around the expo this year in different ways by different categories. As noted above, consumers have become used to being able to customize their phones and want to be able to customize other aspects of their life the same way. Kitchen and bath products manufacturers have taken note with decorative and functional options to personalize their homes. Kintsu lets buyers choose from its insert options, or provide their own. The effect is sleekness paired with originality, a blend especially embraced by Millennial and emerging Gen Z homebuyers.