This time last week, over 62,000 people were participating in a massive meeting of minds at McCormick Place. The topic? Housewares. Each year, our behemoth of a convention center houses the world’s most prominent names in household design and products for national and international buyers to see. This is where trends are set, innovations are unveiled for the first time, and movers and shakers decide on the next things to hit the places you shop, in what colors and at what cost.
Each year, we trek into the mouth of the madness and explore everything from advances in toothbrushes to wine glasses and vacuum cleaners, and while it’s immensely exhausting, because the show consists of seven different expos and over 2,200 exhibitors, it’s an interesting look into what the future holds for our homes. As it does every year, this show over-delivered. So, we’ve sifted and sorted and curated a list of the Top Ten Best Things We Saw At IHA 2017. Check it out, and then watch your favorite home/kitchen retailers this summer to snatch up your favorites.
Frank Lloyd Wright Glassware: Culver isn’t just *a* name in classic barware, it’s the name. Famous for their 22-karat etched gold glass barware, this year our eye was caught by that glamour paired with the famous elegance of a local – Frank Lloyd Wright. For 2017, Culver teamed up with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to create beautiful glassware with his signature designs that would make anyone’s head turn. To us, it’s a home run, so we were excited to hear that this may be coming to the shelves of such institutions as the Art Institute itself later this year. Either way, It’s a great conversation piece and a beautiful addition or starter for that elegant bar cart you’ve always wanted to roll out for guests. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for it.
Tervis Stainless: Tervis, too is a very well known name. They’re like the Vera Bradley of plastic drinkware, with a design and size for everyone. Top that off with excellent durability and a double wall design that keeps condensation off your furniture and it’s already been a favorite for years. This year though, Tervis announced they’re stepping into a new realm, with stainless drinkware. This adds elegance and a whole lot more cold time. We found many of the already-minted designs quite cute, but were pleased to find out they, too will be customizable. A rep for the brand told me to expect to see the stainless line out in stores in Spring.
Oasis Table Concepts – Sometimes, it’s the little things that count the most. When we saw these kitchen carts with their beautiful, thick butcher block and stainless finishes, we were excited. Carts are a great way to add counter space to a smaller kitchen when you can’t add an island or something more permanent. But what had us absolutely sold was that all of their tables are foldable, so that when you don’t need the space anymore, you can stash it. High build quality and pretty colors PLUS folding had us pretty excited. Check out their website to find out where you can acquire one.
BLUSH: Blush is a company that has a very specific vibe and person in mind and fully caters to them. Their products are aimed at anyone who enjoys being a girl and enjoys a glass (or bottle) of wine just as much. There are a lot of gimmicky “hidden flask” products out in the world. It’s neither a new idea or an oft well-executed one. But Blush is the exception, with funky bracelet flasks, architectural bottle opener necklaces and high-end-bag-inspired wine bags for beach or concert trips. The whole of their catalog would make a great gift for a bachelorette party, college spring break trip or just fun present exchanges amongst friends, and it’s worth a look.
Lodge Cast Iron: It’s hard to change something timeless, like cast iron. And, at least in our opinion, usually unnecessary. Cast iron is a kitchen staple for a reason- it’s tough, it keeps heat well, and if you take care of it, it will literally last a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun little tweaks to be done to excite, and Lodge has done just that this year, starting with their enameled cast iron line. Taking a cue from its much pricier competitors, Lodge added some beautiful new colors to the line, including the metallic gorgeousness that is Midnight Chrome, a color and texture we’ve not seen in anyone else’s lineup. They also listened to their grilling audience, and are introducing pans without long handles that will be able to fit under the dome of a Weber or Big Green Egg. Both of these changes will be seen in their upcoming Summer line, due out August 1, and we’d advise you get your Midnight Chrome while you can, because one rep told us it’s been the hit of the show for them.
Culer – If you’re from the Midwest or anywhere that has a significant humidity problem, and I told you about a swamp cooler, you’d probably think I was inviting you for cocktails. In fact, though, evaporative coolers are quite popular out West and where humidity is more manageable. We found a company, though, that has changed the design from a household installation to a personal cooler. It was surprisingly effective in what is always a hot room full of sweaty people. The air coming from these cylindrical fan-sized coolers was as cool as an AC unit without needing the outside hookup. While it won’t replace central air or necessarily cool down multiple rooms, it’s a nice option for cooling off in your favorite spot.
Memento Smartframe – Digital photography is king, and has been for quite some time, and though we have our fair share of digital display frames, we haven’t ever seen a frame quite as gallery-ready as our IHA 2017 find, the Memento SmartFrame. It boasts 4k resolution, a number of different frame colors, and two different sizes. It can adjust to the ambient lighting in your home, and it turns itself off when the room is dark. Our favorite part was that the matting, frame and screen really come together to make this look like a high quality print instead of another screen, so your walls look artistic instead of technological.
June Oven: Since we have smart phones, why not smart ovens? This was the idea behind June, a smart oven which we’d actually encountered online months ago but got to see in person at IHA. This little unit, while pricier than the average toaster oven, boasts a whole lot of technology, including the ability to control it and view whatever it’s cooking from your smart phone anywhere you’re hooked up to the internet. This means you can actually start cooking your bacon while you’re at the store getting eggs. It also has settings that detect what you’re cooking and provide optimal environs for said food. It just might be ahead of its time but it’s certainly intriguing, and seeing it in real life made us feel like we were living in the era of the Jetsons in a good way.
George Foreman Five Serving Grill and Broil – We all remember the craze around George Foreman grills. And while the ubiquity of these tabletop griddles may have faded over time, hometown boy and Food Network chef Jeff Mauro, of Wicker Park’s Pork and Mindy’s, is looking to help bring it back. The newest in the line is the Five Serving Grill and Broil, which, as Mauro demonstrated, is as close to a restaurant salamander as you’ll find. With a variable distance heating element, you’re able to broil, grill and melt. In Mauro’s case, this resulted in a delicious Chicago style cheesesteak. The unit actually looked and functioned like a salamander and the results were delicious.
Quirky (by Viatek) – Since we’ve been talking devices, let’s talk power. The more devices that turn smart, the more places you need to plug them in. Power strips are so necessary as to almost warrant carrying with you when you travel, but they’re also super frustrating. We’ve seen lots of innovation in this field, but Quirky caught our eye with fun colors and their “pivot power” which allows for a range of motion we haven’t seen in even other similar strips. There are also outlets distributed along cords or attached to snakelike contraptions that allow for all manner of space situations. Add to that smart controls on plugs in their high end units that mean you can turn on your lights or fire up your blender just using an app on your phone and there’s no telling what you can automate, for a fairly low price.
While that’s ten, we’ve got one more for good luck.
STUDENT DESIGN COMPETITION WINNER/3CR FAVORITE: One of our favorite stops every year are the student design awards. For 24 years now, the International Housewares Association, or IHA, has been inviting talented student designers from various schools to come up with their own innovations in the world of housewares, and the results are always impressive, from products designed to help those with disabilities to those that solve problems that have always existed with everyday products. This year, our favorite product overall came from this competition. Dominic Montante, a senior at the Cleveland Institute of Art, came up with Klima, which was the Outstanding Achievement winner for the competition. It’s a window air conditioner and heater unit, but instead of having to be placed in the open window, it hangs over it. This allows for an unobstructed view, which is wonderful, but also for the chance to still use your window for those nights a cool breeze would be sufficient. Honestly, if this was already in production, we’d be on the waiting list to buy it. We were thoroughly impressed with its sleek design, the problems it solved and its technological advances, such as smart controls and electricity usage monitoring.
That’s all for our coverage of IHHS 2017. We hope it gives you something great to look out for in your own home this year.