Despite the unstable economy and downright trembling housing market, the kitchen remains a room in which homeowners are investing their time, money and attention. The National Kitchen & Bath Association's annual survey of 20,000 households shows total kitchen spending to be down only slightly compared to other types of consumer spending, and kitchen remodels to actually be up from last year.
The statistics seem to stack up against what's happening in the Chicago area. "I still see remodeling as being up right now," says Ron Nanberg, owner of Kitchens & Baths Unlimited in Glenview. "Many customers are forgoing building large custom homes and are instead choosing to stay in their current homes and remodel either the kitchen, bathroom or all of their rooms."
Buoyed by their position -- and perhaps desperate to hold on to it -- kitchen manufacturers are turning out a consistently quality stock of new products. Appliances are ingenious and affordable. Surfaces are beautiful. Design ideas are relevant. Most exciting is the industry's evolution away from the eco-chic marketing of years past to a place where environmentally conscious methods and materials will soon be standard. Here we take a look at some of the best new kitchen products, courtesy of the 2008 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, held at McCormick Place last weekend.
Glass in session
"Glass is becoming a big presence in the kitchen," says Luca Lanzetta, president of Ernestomeda Chicago. "It's beautiful and it's recyclable." Ernestomeda recognizes the glass trend in one of its two new kitchen designs, Barrique. It features glass cabinet fronts tinted in shades of red or amber.
Cost: Call for pricing. Ernestomeda Chicago, LuxeHome at The Merchandise Mart, Kinzie and Wells Streets, Suite 128, 312-329-0229, ernestomedachicago.com.
Passersby found it difficult to pass by Kohler's new Karbon Articulating Kitchen Faucet without testing out the angled, robotic-looking curiosity. With five joints, it can be extended high to fill large pots, pivoted low for power-washing narrow corners, or pushed to the side to fill a cup on the counter. When you're finished, fold it down to get it cleanly out of the way.
Cost: $925 (polished chrome); $1,250 (stainless steel). Available late-April. For local retailers, call 800-456-4537 or visit kohler.com.
Refrigerator drawers have been popular for several years now, but Fisher & Paykel stepped up the competition this year with the introduction of their new CoolingDrawer, the first refrigerator drawer to feature variable temperature settings. Choose between four different settings, (freezer, chill, wine and fridge) depending on the contents. The appliance can be installed anywhere in the home and contains divided compartments and an interior drawer for organized storage.
Cost: $2,000. Available in October. Visit fisherpaykel.com for retailers.
Two in one
GE has taken one of the most luxurious and coveted appliances and made it even more desirable. The new GE Profile Single/Double Wall Oven fits two ovens into the space of a single 30-inch oven. Less wall space is needed, yet not a single inch of cooking space is sacrificed. Cook a 22-pound turkey in the 2.8-cubic-foot lower oven as you bake two casseroles in the 2.2-cubic-foot upper oven. The oven's control buttons hide inside the upper oven door and feature a convection and slow-cook option.
Cost: $2,799; available in October. For stores, see ge.com.
Greener than granite
Countertops are leading the charge when it comes to environmentally conscious innovation. Companies such as Cambria, Caesarstone and Cosentino constantly are tweaking their manufacturing processes and materials not only to be less wasteful, but more beautiful as well.
One of the KBIS standouts was the Zodiaq Terra Collection from DuPont. It looks a lot like granite but is actually a composite of recycled glass and quartz, one of nature's most abundant and reusable minerals. Because it's non-porous, it requires no chemically harsh sealants.
Cost: $50 to $125 per square foot; available in August. For stores, see countertops.dupont.com.
The newest ranges, wall ovens and cook tops always get a lot of fanfare at trade shows like KBIS, but this year it was something inside an oven that earned attention. With a slight tap of the finger, Electrolux's new Luxury-Glide racks slide smoothly out to meet you. Many a burned hand and dropped casserole will certainly be spared as a result. The ball-bearing racks come standard in all of Electrolux's new ovens and ranges.
Cost: Varies depending on specific oven/range. For stores, see electrolux appliances.com.
2008 KITCHEN AND BATH INDUSTRY SHOW