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.
* * *
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.
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.
It didn't even occur to me that we featured a Core77 Design Awards honoree in our most recent Holiday Gift Guide—after all, the desk set and the packaging for their utensils aren't related in any obvious way. Yet the Danish brand lies precisely at the intersection of the minimalist aesthetic of the former products and eco-conscious imagery of the latter—as Scanwood's Jens Moller explains below:
Seventy years after Du Pont invented the synthetic sponge in 1942, the folks of Casabella are introducing a new innovation in the cleaning category—a combination kitchen sponge and squeegee.
The "Super Sponge & Squeegee" line is being introduced in three distinct shapes for Kitchen, Dish and Flatware, and bathroom. The slits in the sides of the Dish & Flatware sponge aids in scrubbing knives, forks and spoons while the squeegee gives some extra support for the chore of drying. The Kitchen and Bathroom sponges work for surface cleaning and swiping, the squeegees can also work to scour corners and grout. All three scrubbers are gentle enough to be used on glass, teflon and tile.
The advent of the robot age has been a long time coming, but the machines are slowly but surely starting to infiltrate our homes in the guise of mobile household appliances (JK...?). Although both of the cleaning robots that we captured in action two weekends ago in Chicago had originally launched at CES back in January, we were interested to see and document them in the rather less tech-centric context of the Housewares Show.
The iRobot Looj looks like a cross between two toys—a submersible and a construction vehicle—but in fact it has a very specific purpose. The tread-driven robot features a front-facing augur that is designed to expel leaves and debris from gutters, as demonstrated in the video below (alongside the Ecovacs Winbot, pictured at top and below).
The previously-seenWinbot, on the other hand, is perhaps more like a pool-cleaning 'bot than its carpet-bound brethren (Winbot manufacturer Ecovacs also produces the latter). The remote-controlled unit is about the size of a dictionary and attaches to a glass surface of any thickness with special suction cups. As is standard for cleaning robots, it automatically detects the size of the target area, plots the most efficient route and dutifully proceeds to clean it.
As usual, there was a glut of coffee-related products at this year's International Home + Housewares Show: we were interested to see that Bodum joined Keurig (to name a few) in the "Wired + Well" section this year, presumably because the former is expanding its eBodum line even as they celebrate the 55th Anniversary of the Santos coffeemaker... but more on that later. Here are two other interesting takes on coffee culture, one a symptom of our collective caffeine dependency (and the distinctly American phenomenon of the to-go cup), the other a story of a startup that's turning the corner.
I first spotted Mark A. Beckey nonchalantly sporting his Javahook on his way to his booth on Friday morning, making final preparations in anticipation of opening day. A Starbucks cup (the only option at McCormick, besides the free coffee scattered throughout the exhibition halls) rested against his iPad, suspended as if by magic... or, as it turned out, a concealed hook. Although the product itself didn't require much in the way of explanation, so Beckey delivered a quick escalator pitch anyway (I happened to be right behind him on the way up to the show floor): the Javahook had won Best New Product at Seattle's CoffeeFest and he was in the running for an IHA Innovation Award as well.
In fact, he might have been better off walking the floor with the device to generate interest, as his booth was in the far end of the North Building, corralled in the so-called Inventors' Corner (as was the previously-seen Brolly umbrella). I made my way over there on Saturday, where Beckey shared more information about his company: They're based in San Antonio, Texas, and the product is made in the USA.
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Student Design Competition at the International Home + Housewares Show, and the winners put forth as strong a showing as ever as the competition enters its third decade of recognizing exceptional work by the next generation of designers. Over the past 20 years, some 160+ judges have reviewed over 4,000 entries, recognizing 125 winners who have launched their careers at the show.
First Place: Heman Au, Arizona State University - Duo Kitchenware
Judges this year hailed from schools such as the University of CIncinnati's DAAP and RIT to major companies such as Whirlpool/Kitchenaid and Belkin.
First Place: Juan Jimenez, University of Houston - Smart Measure
Juan is currently seeking a manufacturer, but he noted that the prototype was 3D printed
I can't say we were expecting any major breakthroughs from DCI at the International Home + Housewares Show last weekend, but we're always happy to catch up with founder Roni Kabessa, who was happy to show us a select few of the dozens of new goodies on the occasion of the company's 15th anniversay. As with last year, the Providence, RI-based company exhibited a full gamut of products from practical to playful. Our favorites included the Talk Dock, a riff on reappropriating the traditional telephone receiver as a smartphone accessory. DCI's version has two 1/8” audio jacks for maximum compatibility (there's no built-in dock, but there's a slot for a cable).
simplehuman, best known for their wastebins and innovative, design-driven kitchen and bathroom accessories, are entering into the beauty category with the tru-lux Sensor Mirror. The free-standing magnification mirror features a full-spectrum LED light ring that mimics sunlight with a color rendering index (CRI) of 90. An embedded sensor at the top of the mirror automatically lights up when you step in front of it. At 5x magnification boasts of a "precise curvature for distortion-free optics," providing great detail while allowing users to see their entire face.
The mirror is adjustable—tilting back fully—with a telescoping stem. The stainless steel base houses a USB port to recharge the mirror and maintain a cordless, clutter-free environment. simplehuman boasts that the mirror can retain a charge for up to a month with normal use.
The same rechargeable USB ports are being applied to their wildly popular sensor pumps—the newest models are stainless steel and feature a hinged cap for refilling liquid soap.
Expanding on the success of their DrawerStore Cutlery tray, British kitchenware designers Joseph Joseph are venturing into new corners of the kitchen with a new line of drawer organizers previewed at the International Home + Housewares Show to help contain and arrange the miscellany. The expandable organizers fit drawers sizes from 13.5" up to 21".
The DrawerStore Organizer includes stackable modular trays and a variety of differently sized compartments to keep your bits and bobs in order. The DrawerStore Stowaway organizes your kitchen essentials with compartments for grocery bags, rolls of aluminum foil and cling wrap.
Along with the drawer organizers, Joseph Joseph continues expanding their thoughtful, design-driven kitchen line with a number of safety innovations. The Mezzaluna, a traditional chopping utensil for preparing herbs, gets a modern update with pivoting handles that fold into a blade guard for safe storage.
The Duo magnetic cheese knife set's handles clip together securely—protecting both the blades and fingers when stored in the drawer.
The SodaStream booth was definitely on our radar this year, since they unveiled the Yves Béhar-designed Source soda machine just a month after the 2012 International Home + Housewares Show. As with last year, the New Jersey-based company went all-in with a massive booth in the Wired+Well section of the Housewares Show, though they opted to forgo the walkthrough mini-movie booth for a relatively simple cage filled with plastic soda bottles.
Even so, this year's booth was no less spectacular than last year: between the sculptural installation Keurig-like flavor caps and an alcove for the new Samsung refrigerator that features an integrated carbonator, SodaStream made a strong showing at McCormick Place. Check it out:
When we were filming her introductory remarks, Design Programs Vicki Matranga made an offhand comment that SodaStream was among the major success stories for the kitchen category, marking a shift in beverage consumption habits. We noted that at least a couple competitors were nipping at their proverbial heels last year, but we were impressed with the new offerings as SodaStream continues to innovate and collaborate in order to reach new customers in the expanding market for home carbonation.
You couldn't make it up: as recently as a few years ago, Mattias Lepp was an orchestra conductor. After realizing that he "would never be a great conductor," humble Estonian took to developing a home gardening system, and the rest, as they say, is history. Click and Grow has established itself in Europe and has been looking to expand into the US market as of last year. According to their blog,
It all started in 2005, when Mattias happened to read a NASA report about technologies that make it possible to grow plants in outer space. At first, the information about the technology wasn't nothing more than just good knowledge...
However, things took a twist in 2009, when Mattias went through another research paper which stated that every year about 20 billion euros worth of houseplants are thrown away around the world due to mismanagement issues. Baffled that so many people around the world are having trouble caring for their plants, Mattias identified an uncovered market demand. By connecting the two things, the widespread plant managing problems and the knowledge about the technology, the idea of Click & Grow was formed.
In the first round of research and development it became evident that the growing method called aeroponics... wasn't the proper solution. To solve peoples' problems of managing plants, a more complex method was needed, a foolproof method that is.
The attention was turned to a field of study called biomimicry. Biomimicry is the examination of nature, its models and processes, elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The basic idea in R&D was to map the key aspects and processes of plant growth and create a medium that perfectly imitates them. By developing a special substrate which holds the nutrients and seeds, and using sensors, a processor and software to measure and care for the plants exact needs, an ideal environment for growing plants was created in the form of the Click & Grow smartpot.
The proprietary nanotechnology and software is enclosed within the proverbial black box of the cartridge system.
We're back in Chicago for the International Home + Housewares Show, where we bring you the best new products and gadgets from the annual event, featuring companies from around the world. As with last year, we're happy to have Design Programs Manager Vicki Matranga give us a rundown of what to expect:
We're counting down to this year's International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, taking place at McCormick Place March 2-5th. Stay tuned as we bring you the newest designs in cleaning, cooking, dining, appliances and personal healthcare with in-depth coverage and video interviews about our favorite products. With over 2,100 exhibitors from around the world including 400 new companies exhibiting at the Home + Housewares Show for the first time, we are looking forward to chatting with independent designers, industry leaders, chefs and the winners of this year's Student Design Competition about the coming year in homeware design.
If you'll be in attendance at the show this year, be sure to download the app to help you plan your time and navigate the show. And don't forget to say hello when you see us on the floor!
For a taste of what to look forward to from this year, check out our full coverage of the International Home + Housewares Show from 2012 (with news from Dyson, Alessio Alessi, Prepara, Lodge, Marna and a full photogallery) and 2011 (our coverage of AMAC, Cat Cora, Joseph Joseph, Kikkerland, Replenish, Bodum and more!)
In case you missed it, here's a roundup of our full coverage of this year's International Home + Housewares Show. Bright colors and automotive finishes complement new functionality and silicone applications in the kitchenware market. Stackable and compact storage solutions are appearing with nesting options. From Denmark to Japan, the United States to the United Kingdom, design leads the way for brands with a century of history as they look forward to their next 100 years. Video exclusives, design insights and 100 images of our favorite products in our roundup of this year's housewares innovations.
At this year's Home and Housewares show, we were impressed with the number of brands that had over a 100 years of manufacturing experience—Eva Solo, Lodge and SodaStream to name a few. Design leads the way for each of these companies as they continue to innovate into the next century. Two Japanese brands that caught our attention showcased a rich design heritage that looks towards the future: Marna (established in 1872) and OIGEN (since 1852). These two brands are household staples in Japan but look to expand into a globalized market in the 21st century.
Marna products are ubiquitous in Japan. Founded in 1872 with the manufacturing and distribution of the first Western-style brushes in Japan, in 1950 the company began expanding into products beyond household and industrial brushes. Today, this fourth-generation family-run company produces delightfully designed, award-winning products for kitchen, bath and home. We loved their display of silicone pig steamers and hanging collapsible cups.
Their product range featured a number of GOOD Design award winners for the kitchen: a Spoon Whisk, Standing Rice Scoop, Stacking Soy Sauce Pots, Combined Tongs, and Masher. Their fish-shaped dish sponges bring a bit of joy in mundane household tasks.
Since 1896, Lodge has been making cast iron cookware and today it is the sole domestic manufacturer of cast iron cookware. Not only has Lodge been manufacturing cookware for over 100 years, it is also the oldest family-owned and operated cookware foundry in the United States. Based in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (population 3,300), Lodge has seen a recent revival—the versatility and even heating properties of cast iron cookware have made their signature skillets an essential in home and professional kitchens around the country.
In the video below, Mark Kelly shares some insight on the history and more recent innovations from this historic company. Introduced in 2007, the Lodge Signature Series line showcases a pioneering method of riveting the stainless steel handles onto the cast iron skillet bodies. Although they look beautiful and maintain the high performing qualities of their signature cast iron skillets, I still prefer my traditional model.
BONUS: Don't miss the awesome Foundry Tour video after the jump. Lodge walks viewers through the whole process from materials, slagging, sand molding, polishing, seasoning and packaging.
As our International Home + Housewares 2012 coverage winds down, we're pleased to present a full photo gallery of some of notable objects and items from that whirlwind weekend in Chicago. From promising upstarts such as Rush3 LLC to DCI's investment in jumpstarting design students' careers, McCormick Place saw thousands of products over the course of the show, from March 10–13, which was extended an extra day by popular demand. Although we could have attempted to present the overwhelming abundance of products, we've opted to stick to an even hundred of our favorite images from the show.