As in the past several years, we are pleased to partner with the International Home + Housewares Show to present the highlights from the annual show. Of course, with some 60,000 exhibitors from all over the world, four days is not nearly enough time to see every thing in the three massive exhibition halls of McCormick Place, and the products and booths you see here represent just a tiny fraction of the goods on view.
We witnessed the debut of Schmidt Brothers cutlery at the International Home + Housewares Show back in 2012, when the New York City-based brand started gaining attention for their distinctive, thoughtfully designed kitchen knives. After all, their offerings hit a sweet spot between German quality, fresh form factors and finishes, and a reasonable pricepoint, and brothers Jordan and Jared Schmidt bring the same attention to detail to their magnetic knife blocks and packaging.
The do-it-yourself trend shows no signs of slowing down, especially when it comes to the culinary arts. The Sausage Maker Inc.—founded over 40 years ago as a company dedicated (if it is not obvious) to sausage-making products—has been growing ever since, adding cheese-making, canning and fermentation equipment to their oeuvre. Their pursuit of homemade food production might have been ahead of the curve, but mainstream culture has caught up and the desire to know where food comes from and how it's made has taken hold.
If the novelty product category seems to be an inexhaustible source of visual puns and other clever gift items, brands like Kikkerland, DCI, Fred & Friends, and at least a couple other mainstays of NY NOW and IH+HS offer reliably entertaining (and video-friendly) on a seasonal basis. This time around at the Housewares Show, we caught up with Los Angeles-based Mollaspace, who were exhibiting at Chicago's McCormick Place for the very first time. The X-Ray playing cards struck our fancy at NY NOW, so it was good to have Fumi Suzuki walk us through some highlights from the new collection.
The International Housewares Association's Student Design Competition has been going for over two decades now, showcasing the work of six winners (and several runners up) who represent some of the most promising young designers from some 30+ design programs from around the world.
There was a clear theme amongst the winners this year—the IHA noted that five of them had developed "products that 'make a difference'"—assistive or otherwise Universal Design objects—alongside with a more heritage-oriented cleaning product. At least a couple of them were lucky enough to enroll in courses that are dedicated to the IHA's Student Design Competition, for which they are tasked with designing a prize-worthy entry for the Show, while others took inspiration from their own research and observations.
First Place: "Connect" electrical outlet adapter - Matthew Burton, University of Houston
First Place: "B-PAC" kitchenware for vision-impaired - Amanda Bolton, University of Cincinnati
Reporting by Morgan Walsh, photos by Benjamin Gross
For most 20- to 30-year-olds, the red Solo cup is an everyday object that stands for convenience, disposability and often debauchery. Often filled with an adult beverage, the Solo cup is frequently found at a house party, outdoor barbeque or while helping a friend paint an apartment. My first encounter with the ceramic version was during a studio visit. As I accepted the cup I was surprised by it's weight and rigidity—I was expecting the plastic variety. In ceramic, the cup was classier, more grown up and signified something lasting, other than the obvious reuse value.
Though I still attend parties where the original plastic Solo Cup proliferates, I'm drawn, as I imagine Core's audience is, to the durable and more thoughtful take on this vessel. While the Kikkerland version (pictured above) may or may not have been conceived in an effort to elevate the everyday object, the newest version by Revol, a 225-year-old French ceramics company, certainly is. (And here I can't help but call out a Chicago design collective's nod to ubiquitous design, Chilab and it's 2013 Unfolding Chair. Located in the southeastern city of Saint-Uze, Revol is the ultimate heritage brand, employing nearly 200 workers and finishing each piece by hand.
Those of you who are based in Chicago might recognize the two fellas in the photo above—it's none other than longtime Core-tributors Craighton Berman (a.k.a. Fueled by Coffee) and Bruce Tharp of Materious. Say what you want about keeping it in the family, but when we say them sitting next to each other in the Design Debut section of the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show, we couldn't resist the opportunity to stage a conversation so that each of them could share what they're working on these days.
Reporting by Morgan Walsh, photos by Benjamin Gross and Ray Hu
When we came across Bosign's Kitchen Tablet Stand in the Discover Design Gallery, we couldn't help but think it looked a bit like, well, an ashtray. Cylindrically shaped and made from silicone, its five-inch base stands about an inch and a half high, with a small slit in each side. The cylinder has been 'sliced' on a diagonal to achieve the optimal viewing angle for an iPad propped inside. The screen can be set horizontally or vertically, and as its name suggests, the Tablet Stand is meant to be used while preparing food, displaying recipes while hands are otherwise occupied. Helpful during the making of a meal, its simple shape can be easily cleaned after.
Nearby, at the busy and plentiful Joseph Joseph booth, we spotted Cookbook, the analog adversary to Bosign's digitally-geared design. Borrowing from traditional bookstand elements, Joseph Joseph's plastic iteration does however come with some updates. The dynamic form folds together, itself becoming a book; when open, the book's spine converts into an angled leg with a non-skid foot. Movable windshield-wiper-like arms hold pages in place. (Though the often-thick cookbook could nary fit into Bosign's Tablet Stand, Joseph Joseph's Cookbook was also created to support electronic tablets; the bottom lip is cut away in the center to allow a tablet to be charged.)
Although he's based in Chicago, this is Martin Kastner's very first Housewares Show, and we were just as excited to see his KickstartedPorthole cocktail infuser as he was to show it. Originally designed for the Aviary, itself a spinoff of the renowned Alinea, where chef Grant Achatz brought Kastner in to design innovative tableware for presenting and serving his gastronomic masterpieces.
After the cold, bitter, blustery and seemingly endless winter we've had here in Chicago—and across the country—everyone is desperate for spring. And so I went to the International Home and Housewares Show in search of products to help ring in spring.
Spotted: Ameico's Y-ply, a teeny-tiny and super lightweight back and head hammock. The size of Y-ply rivaled that of the Foodskin and I could fit both in my purse, with room for a book, for a morning at the park. Y-ply's two u-shaped legs are pushed into sand or soft ground and the body's weight holds it in place, providing support and comfort for outdoor lounging. Heaven forbid we still weeks of winter to endure, Y-ply can also be used indoors, with the assistance of a corner, to simulate a relaxing few hours outdoors.
One of the more beautifully displayed lines in the Discover Design section of the IH+HS, Finell is the most recent endeavor by Rebecca Finell, who'd previously founded the Boon Inc. I was immediately drawn to the sleek and minimal booth, where I discovered an array of what Finell calls "neo luxe housewares and accessories."
JOIN, in Bubble and Facet, is a a series of triple-threat textured pieces. Singularly used as a placemat or a trivet, they can also be placed side by side, giving the illusion of a continuous table runner or matted surface. The silicone material was incredibly smooth to the touch and for those who geek out on packaging the magnetically closing box, spray-coated to mimic the silicone product inside, is almost as desirable as the piece.
Once again, the folks at Alessi are pleased to introduce several products this year, presenting a mix of playful yet functional items for the home, hearth and beyond. New and noteworthy items include the "Eat.It" silverware set from Wiel Arets, including the first ever butter knife and latte/iced tea spoon by the Italian company; Miriam Mirri's "Petnic" multi-purpose picnic basket; the "Noè" collection of wine rack and accessories, designed by Giulio Iacchetti; and the pentagonal "Territoire" tray by matali crasset, among other items
"Eat.It" collection by Wiel Arets
"Cha" by Naoto Fukasawa (photo at right by Benjamin Gross)
But beyond the product itself, Alessi announced a rather more comprehensive update to their entire product line. We caught up with Matteo Alessi, International Sales and Development Director for Alessi Europe & U.S.A., who walked us through a few of the new products and unveils the new "Super & Popular" campaign in his own words:
Cose Nuove's Reindeer Antler Opener topped the list of statement bottle openers we saw at this year's International Home + Housewares Show. Though seemingly small on a scale of animal horns, the Antler Opener is large on a the scale of beer gadgets and the opener's unusual shape means it cannot be discretely stored in a standard kitchen drawer. Set atop the bar or hung on a wall, this opener is meant to be seen.
The Antler Opener puts on a bit of a show when performing its job, in the same vein as other antlers-as-utilitarian-objects: Greg Buntain of Fort Standard uses his to hang coats, while designer Taylor Simpson repurposed them into a set of bicycle handlebars. Fully functional, the opener imposes upon the viewer a moment of pause—determining the best grip and bottle position took a few seconds longer than with my standard keychain opener and added an aspect of deliberateness to the normally reflexive job of opening a beer.
Reporting by Morgan Walsh, photos by Ben Gross and Ray Hu
"Americans eat tall food." This was what Tom, the representative for the line Compleat told us when we quizzically picked up a laptop-shaped lunch box. As a Norwegian, Tom explained how his lunch fit in the hard-sided Foodbook (pictured below), a slice of bread here, a slice of bread there, another here and another there—each neatly separated by a cross-shaped removable partition. Though Americans may not typically bring four pieces of bread for lunch, we were already brainstorming other edibles that that would travel well in Foodbook. The obvious choice is pizza, but other ideas included a chicken breast with rice, bowtie pasta salad, a salmon filet with sliced carrots and peppers.
Foodskin (at top and below) is Foodbook's smaller cousin—size-wise it is the iPad Mini to a Macbook Pro. But rather than a double-sided plastic shell, one side acts as a frame for a stretchy silicone film. This silicone has a dual purpose, it can accommodate bulkier or oddly shaped items, but also serves as a retainer, keeping an unwieldy (and tall!) baguette sandwich neatly stacked. Once the food (or anything that needs secure transportation) is removed, Foodskin returns to a flat state and fits neatly into a purse or tote bag.
To kick things off, here's a warm welcome from Design Programs Manager Vicki Matranga. She'll be MC'ing at the Innovation Theater, where she's put together an impressive lineup of speakers, for the duration, so be sure to say hi if you see her this weekend!
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are once again pleased to be partnering with the International Home + Housewares Show. With over 60,000 homegoods professionals showing off the newest housewares, it's easy to overlook the lineup of speakers the event has to offer. Fear not—the International Housewares Association has put together a series of blogposts featuring the event's keynotes—including speakers from Kickstarter, Food Network and Catalyze Chicago, the new community for hardware entrepreneurs, among many others. Make sure to read up and plan out your must-sees before you head to the big show.
Watch this space starting next weekend for our coverage, live and direct from the exhibition hall at McCormick Place.
With less than a week to go until March, the International Home + Housewares Show is just around the corner—from March 15–18, Chicago's McCormick Place will once again see the latest and greatest in new and improved housewares. From kitchen gadgets to cleaning supplies, the three main exhibition areas will be chock full of practical and playful items for every nook and cranny of your home.
As always, we recommend downloading the app and checking out our past coverage; follow @HousewaresShow or hashtags #IHHS2014 or #IHHSHappenings for the latest from McCormick Place. Whether you'll be in attendance or simply watching this space for updates from McCormick Place, check out the IH+HS Blog and our archive of coverage from 2011, 2012 and 2013... but be warned, you might get sucked into a few hours' worth of browsing products for your home.
This year also saw the 20th Anniversary of the Student Design Competition, which has seen some 4,000+ entries since the program launched in 1993. We had the chance to catch up with this year's winners, whose work is among our 100 favorite products from this year's show.
The Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, has established itself at a variety of tradeshows here in the States, and they had doubled their presence at the International Home + Housewares Show, with a second pavilion in the Clean + Contain section to complement their row of booths in Dine + Design (Marna, which we covered last year, was in the former section this time around). Similarly, the number of exhibitors from the tsunami-ravaged Tohuku region jumped from five to 11, several of which were exhibiting in the U.S. for the first time.
Mio Kawada, Executive Director of JETRO, New York, was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the highlights from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Fukushima's Kodai Sangyo offers products for the kitchen and bath in hinoki, or Japanese Cypress
Nagatani-En of Iga-City specializes in traditional earthenware pottery, executed in contemporary design language. It is said that almost every household in Japan owns a donabe
Like their Western counterparts, Iga-yaki donabe pots have high heat capacity
The mushinabe can also be used as a steamer
Kotodo offers tin tea canisters in a choice of thousands of different Washi paper varieties...
It was impossible to walk into OXO's booth at the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show without a swift recollection of a certain recent incident that might henceforth be known as a 'dustpan dustup.' The New York-based company hasn't missed a beat since they took the high road with their response, and their stalwart team of designers and engineers has remained focused on innovation and iteration in product development, exemplified by the new wares on display at McCormick Place.
The latest generation of salad spinners, for example, have flat tops for easier storage; the smaller model was introduced for the Japanese market
We had the chance to talk to a couple of their Category Managers, who kindly demoed the new Cookie Press, for which they 3D-printed numerous prototype disks before arriving at the final dozen, and the Mouthwash Dispenser, which will be available soon.
Regarding their stance on intellectual property, our Twitter followers might have noticed that OXO recently hosted an IP Primer at their NYC HQ; the full presentation is available online as a PDF here.
As Americans become more conscious of food politics and increasingly seek out local ingredients, one of my favorite trends of recent years is countertop gardening kits. What's more local than your own kitchen? Perfect for small spaces and urban dwellers, the idea of growing your own greens indoors is not new, but the most recent offerings are less complicated and more thoughtfully designed.
As we reported last week with Click and Grow's, designers have invested time into creating beautiful countertop gardening systems that turn the blackest thumbs, green. I particularly love the Grow Green terracotta boxes from Swedish design duo, Cult Design. The stacking boxes contain the right amount of moisture to cultivate varying sprouts—alfalfa, broccoli sprouts, beans and more. Their "kitchen farming" line of products are simple and functional.
Back to the Roots, a young startup from two UC Berkeley graduates, diverts and reuses 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds a year as soil in their Mushroom Kits. Each Mushroom kit grows up to 1.5 pounds of pearl oyster mushrooms right from the box.
I've used or otherwise come across Bosch power tools but was less familiar with the company's various other industrial and commercial offerings. In addition to being the world's biggest supplier of automotive components, Bosch has applied their engineering and manufacturing know-how to several countertop kitchen appliances, of which the MUM 5 is the latest model.
Gary Leavitt of L'Chef (U.S. distributor of Bosch kitchen appliances, as well as L'Equip and Nutrimill) also related, in so many words, that founder Robert Bosch's last will and testament "stipulated that the earnings of the [private] company should be allocated to charitable causes." (From the Wikipedia entry, which has a badass portrait of Bobby Bosch back in the day, c. 1888.)
L'Chef also distributes the Nutrimill Grain Mill, which can be used to turn a variety of dry / non-oily grains into flour or cereal. This apparently is a fairly common practice in Europe, but I can easily see it catching on Stateside, what with the increasing conscientiousness about how and what we eat. (I was unable to find information about the model pictured above and featured in the video below, so you'll have to contact them for more details—assuming the Housewares Show went well, they may be available at a retailer near you.)
This time around, we went for a good ol' fashioned sit-down interview with Alessio at McCormick Place, where he gladly explained their latest collection.
Core77: Hi Alessio. How's it going?
Alessio Alessi: It's good, thank you.
How long are you here?
[Just for two days]—I came on Friday, and I leave today.
But it is very interesting for me, because we just had a long period of different exhibitions in Europe, starting in January, in Paris, then Milan and in Frankfurt. And now this one in the U.S. is very important for me, to see the difference in the kind of exhibitions.
How does this [the Housewares Show] compare to, say, Ambiente in Frankfurt?
It's quite different, yes. There are a lot more typologies shown at Ambiente than here. Here it seems more specialized in kitchen.
So what does Alessi have in store for us this year?
We are launching a line of small furniture, and this is a project? for the future also, to ... this line of furniture [that we are .
We are starting a new project, and we hope to present it [at] the next Salone de Mobile in Italy, but not for this year—in 2014.
You have to keep in mind that when we realize a new idea from the design, it takes a long time to become a reality of the object—an average of two years. At this moment, we have selected the original designs and we are working on how to produce it.
Making their Stateside debut at the International Home + Housewares Show, London-based Universal Expert had one of our favorite exhibition booths. The simple, open plan felt more like stumbling into a friend's kitchen rather than off the tradeshow floor. Sebastian Conran sat patiently at the end of the long farm table staged with stacking tableware, utensils and snacks, unbeknownst to most passerbys.
Conran, who heads up the eponymous Sebastian Conran Associates design studio, launched Universal Expert this year and has plans to roll out in Australia, South Africa, Europe and America. A play on "Universal Export," the fictional import-export company of James Bond, the simple and functional objects also reference the design ethos of the brand name.
We call this ethos 'Universal Expert': Where 'Universal' reflects flexible use, affordability and aesthetic appeal and 'Expert' stands for quality and performance.
The collection currently has 150 products across categories: kitchenware, cookware, tableware, appliances, organizers and home furniture. The focus at the Home + Housewares Show was clearly on the kitchen.
The nesting, ceramic measuring cups are beautiful enough to be left out on the counter instead of being stashed deep inside a drawer.
Following the announcement of emerald green as the 2013 Color of the Year, Pantone, the "global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries," recently released their home furnishings and interior design trend forecast for 2014 [PDF]. Our own Hipstomp, for one, is "less interested in seeing the colors themselves than in seeing how accurate their predictions turn out to be," speculating about whether it's a chicken-and-egg situation: "Is Pantone prescient, or do their declarations actually steer influential designers?"
It's a valid question, but (to mix the metaphor, if not the hues) the color experts at Pantone aren't putting all of their eggs in one basket. Rather, they've prognosticated no fewer than 74 colors that will be hot in 2014, organized into nine different themes: Techno Color, Physicality, Sculpted Simplicity, Fluidity, Collage, Intimacy, Moda, Tribal Threads and Eccentricities. Given their opaque names, we were happy to have Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, explain a few of these trends.
Launched in the Fall of last year, Savora is a unique line of kitchen tools designed for both discerning home cooks and car enthusiasts alike. Launched as an in-house project for Lifetime Brands, Savora not only represents a new design language but also a new business approach for the company. Led by Sid Ramnarace, Vice President of Global Brand Integration and former GM and Ford designer, Savora's design is heavily influenced by the fluidity and sleek finishes normally associated with car exteriors.
At this year's International Home + Housewares Show, Savora added three new products to their popular foundational offering. A can opener, peeler and ice cream scoop are offered in eight colors along with their rotary grater, garlic press and oil mister. All of the kitchen tools have a nice weight and feel balanced in the hand with comfortable grip for control.
Core77 had an opportunity to speak with Sid about the business of launching a kitchenware line, the influence of his automobile design background and a peek into the design process for developing Savora.
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Core77: You started out designing for the auto industry, including work on the fifth generation Ford Mustang. What got you inspired to launch a kitchenware line?
Sid Ramnarace: The inspiration was rooted in the realities that our parent company Lifetime Brands faces as a business. Our business model in kitchenwares had been predicated on two paths for growth; private label and licensing. We came to the realization that while those pillars are very important, we needed a third pillar that could more effectively take advantage of the resources and skills that exist under our roof—we needed an incubator that would serve as a launch pad for new, home-grown brands. By having a home grown brand, we'd have the ability to sell products across housewares categories around the world all with a unique point of view.
Now at the same time, we realized that we live in an age where food and food culture have never been as intertwined with our lives. There's a whole generation of people who have grown up watching Food Network and who routinely use Yelp or Open Table for recommendations on where to eat. The rise in awareness of what we eat, cross-pollination of foods from around the world, food blogs and celebrity chefs have become a part of our social fabric—think about this; every culture has events, holidays and celebrations where food is a core element; it's how we celebrate and share company. We wanted to be a part of that conversation—we wanted to develop a line of kitchen tools that was an extension of the passion we have for food. Just think of the cultural shift which recently occurred where a soap opera, once a dominant tool for marketing consumer packaged goods (CPGs) was bumped for a daytime talk/cooking show on a major network—the fact that a show like "The Chew" exists shows how closely we all align ourselves with food and food culture.
So really, the decision to launch this line was based on a convergence of ideas: the need we identified internally, and an opportunity we saw externally.
What are some of the design principles that you bring from auto design into your housewares line?
It's an approach in which one tries to balance the tangible and intangible benefits. The tangibles are rooted in classic product design—anthropometric studies, quiet observation to illuminate unmet needs and better solutions, and continuous study of competitive products and user reviews. Lifetime Brands is very good at this; they have been in the housewares business for over 50 years.
However, as an automobile designer, I find ways to give form to ideas and concepts that are sometimes very visceral, but somehow less tangible. Design and marketing coalesce into a type of narrative, where the elements of the design convey a concept or illicit an emotional reaction from the consumer. Human beings are not rational beings, and we make decisions everyday based on emotion; what color clothes to wear, which people to associate with and of course, what food we eat. Designing products which appeal to our emotional nature, which are arresting, and have visceral appeal was a core goal. The name is rooted in the term "savor," the way we want good flavors to linger on the tongue—and we designed a full concept that would facilitate enjoyment in cooking and entertaining.
From a marketing perspective, we conducted a series of archetypal studies, looking for an appealing narrative—a storyline that would carry through into every manifestation of the brand; the logo, the colors, the packaging, etc. I learned this from J Mays during my 10 years at Ford Motor Company who brought a distinct marketing-based approach to how cars were designed. His ability to communicate ideals through visual icons and metaphors were a great foundation to how I approach design. By finding visual clues that fit our archetype, and our communicated our ideals, we put in place a point of view that is noticeably different from other housewares lines.
At the onset of this program; we encouraged every designer to put down the mouse, and begin from an emotional place—by drawing. We looked at classic gesture drawings of the human body—and how the simplicity and efficiency of line captured the essence of motion. We examined why some drawings appear to emphasize tension; while others through "contrapposto" appear more relaxed. Our designers began by trying to capture a gesture for each item they were designing—until they had the minimum amount of information on the page to make a dramatic statement.
Some of the automotive design principles we used include a detailed approach to form development and surfacing; class "A" automotive surfacing is paramount in that industry because reflective surfaces are extremely revealing. We took this type of approach for Savora—where surface continuity was important and curvature conditions carried highlights across a body. The proportions of all of our items are based on cleanliness and expressiveness of side view profiles; which ultimately was a result of the early gesture sketches we did to define each item.