Housewares manufacturers worth their salt mine lifestyle trends for leads, shaping development and design of their next best products. And with a focus on healthy eating, time and space-saving, as well as a continued craving for the best ways to make macchiatos and chai at home, it's not surprising that there will be plenty to address those categories on retail shelves this spring and summer. And the best examples, of course, are stylishly delivered.
As in other sectors of home decor, there's a dash of fashion as well, with emphasis on cool shapes and on-trend colors and patterns. The theme at this spring's Housewares Show in Chicago touched on another hot button: smart design.
It's actually smART, meant to signify an intersection of art and engineering, technology and style. And although the Internet of Things continues to wend its way into home products, its unrealized potential is much more compelling. The smart kitchen market is projected to be worth as much as $10 billion by the early 2020s, according to Transparency Market Research.
As in kitchen design, with the synching up of smartphones with ranges that tell you when the roast is done, here comes an impressive 13-function cooker from Gourmia. It features a 7-inch LED touch screen with a mobile app. And it guides the user through a recipe -- sensing when the correct ingredient has been added, and moving on to the next step with visual and audible prompts.
As housewares covers everything from air purifiers to vacuum cleaners and hair dryers, cookware to food products and serveware, plus storage and containers, cleaning and grooming products, Wi-Fi enabling sometimes is more a convenience than a sexy add-on. But, then, there's the PancakeBot, whose prototype we saw last year. It allows you to print your own pancake design by inserting an SD card or USB flash drive (or you can download designs).
In today's cookware, health is underscored as much as new colors.
"Fresh is the single most important buzzword associated with healthy eating today," says Tom Mirabile, senior vice president of global trend and design for Lifetime Brands Inc. "There's also more focus on mindful living or taking the time to savor both process and consumption."
Ceramic coatings as an alternative to nonstick are gaining traction. So are pressure cookers -- with their apparent speed, tenderizing, and the ability to extract flavors from ingredients all strong selling points. Some manufacturers, like Fagor, are slimming down models while offering desirable features, such as overheat warnings.
Slow cookers are not going away. But after four decades or so, they're attracting new followers. Fresh prep and convenience (start a meal before you leave for work; enjoy it when you get home) have contributed to the sale of 12.6 million slow cookers in the year ending in June 2015, totaling $334.1 million, according to the NPD Group Inc., a Port Washington, New York-based global information company.
One-pot cooking is especially popular among millennials because of its simplicity, back-to-basics appeal and familiarity of classic dishes, according to the National Restaurant Association's "What's Hot in 2016" study.
And while it's covered at the high-end with built-in appliances, stove or countertop steamers are a significant option. Cuisinart's new glass model is especially attractive with its sleek, compact, transparent form. Air frying also is heating up (a sleek black model from Kalorik adds to last year's Emeril Lagasse launch). And for those who would prefer grinding their own grains, there's L'Chef's NutriMill.
Popular foodie trends, like French press and pour-over coffee as alternatives to expensive, high-tech barista-type coffee makers, also are turning more attention to design. An expanding range of sea salts and peppercorns led one manufacturer, Peugeot, to design the Zanzibar pepper bar: a tray with a trio of interchangeable peppercorn containers. Color has been a mainstay of housewares for several years now; its breakout, perhaps, unleashed with the proliferation of silicone.
"With consumers increasingly comfortable using color as a form of expression, we are seeing more experimentation and creative uses of color throughout the home, and nowhere has this showcasing of color been more pronounced than in the kitchen," offered Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.
Pantone's co-colors of the year, shades of Pink Quartz and Serenity (a pale lavender-based blue) showed up in Le Creuset's enameled cast-iron cookware (adding rosy Hibiscus, part of its retro-inspired Oasis collection, to an existing Pink Chiffon), and in Keurig's single-serve limited-edition brewer, an ode to Serenity.
Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says the calmness of the two resonates, helping consumers "escape the stress of their modern lives, offering reassurance and security in difficult times."
Cookware hues seem to hit all home decor trend categories, some echoing a current fondness for all shades of blue. Warm metallics also are making an impact, most significantly copper and burnished gold. Nambe, known for its signature silver metal, is refreshed with burnished oven and freezer options to tableware, as well as mixed pieces sporting gold handles. In addition, metallic is adding luster to solid colors like sapphire and ruby with Epicurious cookware and colanders.
Other home decor directions also resonate: the appreciation for natural, organic materials like wood manifests in everything from handles on pots to beautifully grained cutting boards and trays to knife blocks in a range of woods that also feature embellishments, including contrasting metal accents. There is also the teaming of wood with white marble or white powder-coated aluminum in accessories and benches teamed with storage from Umbra.
It's worth noting that texture also is playing a bigger role in housewares, as in dimensional surfaces in the home. The popular raised diamond motif, for example, which has surfaced on everything from vases to console doors, is especially dynamic in metallic finishes on sports canteens. Also, hammered looks in metal further distinguish cookware, with some luxe examples offered by the Italian company Ruffoni.
Patterns are more playful in tabletop and canisters, with signature polka dots and stripes channeling iconic brands like Kate Spade. And, of course, they're most buoyant in products especially suitable for outdoor entertaining. Brands like TarHong and French Bull cover the rainbow gamut, along with motifs in paisley, tropical, geometric, as well as frosted glass looks in bold hues. French Bull's patterned spatulas and utensils also brighten up kitchen counters. And that company took one of its signature zigzag patterns to dress pantry storage containers.
With cameras monitoring what's in the fridge (Samsung's newest pricy model; although you can purchase your own mini-camera to do the same), is it just a matter of time that we'll be able to track most everything in our homes, and signal what's run out directly to shopping lists on our smartphones?
Trend forecaster Tom Mirabile sees the future in more practical terms. Innovation, he says, no longer trickles down but gushes out. "The future is about convenience and anything that saves consumers time. This can be as high-tech as a robotic cleaning device or as low-tech as a food prep kit that is delivered to your door."
-- Alessi, 877-253-7749, www.alessi.com
-- Cuisinart, 800-726-0190, www.cuisinart.com
-- Debbie Meyer, www.debbiemeyercakecutters.com
-- Fagor, 800-207-0806, www.fagoramerica.com
-- Farberware, 800-809-7166, www.farberware.com
-- French Bull, 212-317-9646, www.frenchbull.com
-- Gourmia, 888-552-0033, www.gourmia.com
-- JK Adams, 866-362-4422, www.jkadams.com
-- Keurig, 866-901-2739, www.keurig.com
-- Le Creuset, 877-418-5547, www.lecreuset.com
-- Maker Homeware, 844-220-6441, www.makerhomeware.com
-- Maia Ming, www.maiamingdesigns.com
-- NutriMill, 800-692-6724, www.nutrimill.com
-- Peugeot, 877-777-5914, www.peugeot-saveurs.com
-- Pyrex, 800-999-3436, www.pyrexware.com
-- Ruffoni, an Italian brand under the umbrella of Meyer Corp., 800-888-3883, www.ruffoni.net
-- Sabatier, a French brand under the umbrella of Lifetime Brands Cutlery, 800-252-3390, www.sabatier-shop.com
-- Takeya, 714-374-9900, ext. 314, www.takeyausa.com
-- TarHong, 212-689-2710, www.tarhong.com
-- Tefal, 800-395-8325, www.tfal.com
-- Umbra, 800-387-5122, www.umbra.com
A Cut Above
Simplifying tasks stylishly is an underlying goal for some housewares manufacturers with an eye on design. A pizza cutter, for example, can be sleek, show off unexpected curves and fit elegantly into the hand. Alessi's newest fills the bill. A cake slicer should do the job without mangling the dessert. Debbie Meyers' design gives even those less skilled a boost. And even behind-the-door storage is best when conveniences, like lift-up handles, are added to stylish looks, as with Takeya's Freshlook containers.
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at email@example.com.)