The International Home + Housewares Show has just wrapped up operations at McCormick Place after four packed days of design, décor, dining and technology. The show is one of the largest trade shows in the US, first happening in 1906, and has been a fixture at our behemoth of a convention center since 1961, expanding the show’s size significantly as it moved from its confines in Navy Pier. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, as a fire late on a Sunday night in 1967 took out the entire show in one fell swoop. But housewares innovations must go on, and the show has continued to grow and attract international attention to Chicago ever since, eventually expanding to 750,000 square feet and seeing over 60,000 attendees, including myself and Games & Tech Editor Antal Bokor this past Monday. There’s always a lot to take in, but we’ve put our noses to the ground and sniffed out the trends in the kitchen and the home at large and are set to bring you 10 of the most interesting things we saw on the 2018 show floor, from techno-wonders to beautiful tableware. Read on and look for these items to appear on the shelves of your favorite housewares stores soon.
Coffee is big business, and an absolute daily requirement for at least half the team writing this article. There are many promises made by presses and gadgets of every shape and size. We’ve personally been hooked on the Aeropress, an ingenious but wholly function-forward coffee press that uses air pressure to eliminate the need for electricity and improving on the French press by being far more durable and packable and eliminating more of the grounds in your coffee. But there’s been an evolution, and it’s like what would happen if an Aeropress and Chemex got married and reproduced. Flask, an idea first on Kickstarter, takes the ideas behind the Aeropress and adds both a form factor and function to create a beautiful, functional glass press that promises less mess and the same fantastic results we’ve come to expect from our coffee. We’re very excited to see this come out of kickstarter and hit shelves in 2018.
Another great marriage of form and function adds sustainability to its list of positives. Bee’s Wrap is a small company out of Vermont who was looking to eliminate plastics in her kitchen. She did so by creating the eponymous wrap, a beautiful organic cotton infused with beeswax and tree resin that takes the place of ziptop bags and plastic wrap. Each piece of the wrap is painted with a layer of beeswax, that when warmed by human hands, will then mold to and create a seal around containers of food as well as seal to itself to create protective covers for sandwiches, vegetables and cheeses. Even better, the wrap is washable and reusable (up to 150 times) and comes in some truly lovely patterns and colors, making your fridge interior a more design-friendly space.
Dash is a company whose full line we loved. Placing an emphasis on “unprocessing” your food and making things with your own two hands, and they’ve got a stellar collection of small scale appliances that are just as functional as their larger counterparts but fit in smaller kitchens and spaces, which anyone who’s had a small amount of counterspace to work with but loves to cook can appreciate. The products are somewhat retro-styled and have an excellent build quality to boot.
Libbey glassware is ubiquitous, but in the last few years they’ve not been satisfied to rest with being a home standard. Instead, they’re creating beautiful glass we’re much more appreciative of. Last year, a lot of their focus seemed on stemware and attractive but functional baking dishes. This year, we saw quite a few beautiful vases and a stone surfaced collection of containers that are still functional for storage but pretty enough to serve in.
Lodge is a perennial favorite of ours, as cast iron is an incredibly versatile bit of cookware we can’t live without. Last year, they stole the thunder from some of their higher end brethren in the enameled cast iron department with a gorgeous new hue called Midnight Chrome that seemed to catch the eye of nearly everyone who came into the booth. This year, the focus is more on silicone accessories to protect surfaces and your paws from the heat. Our favorite thing is their magnetic silicone trivets. They’re highly heat resistant and make it easier to move your pots around or serve out of them without a big fuss. They’ve also improved their previous silicone handle sleeves to make them thicker and more grippy- important if you’re going to be travelling across the kitchen with them.
Soiree Home comes straight from wine country—out of Napa Valley, California. They love wine and cater to fellow wine enthusiasts with some beautiful and innovative design. Our favorite thing about this company’s offerings was that they create a lot of table interest, whether that’s in their elegant in-bottle aerator, the Soiree, or Wine Buff, attractive maps of various wine producing regions printed on plush microfiber cloths you can leave out to buff your glassware. There’s even a touch of elegance in their 4 in 1 gadget, the Tempour, which chills, aerates, pours and serves as a stop.
On the other side of the coin is Bottlekeeper. This is a pretty ingenious device for the beer lover. At first glance, it’s a bottle disguise which costumes your Coors as a steel water bottle, but it’s actually, a lot more advanced than that. The stainless-steel bottle form is lined with neoprene, so it’s both padded for impact and keeps beer beautifully chilled, and the screw off cap twists down to keep the beer from going flat and features a bottle opener crown. This could be incredibly useful for a myriad of outdoor drinking occasions, both to keep the beer cold and fizzy and keep things out of it.
Mill has a series of Wi-Fi connected heaters that allow you to control them from all over the world with their app. Whether you forgot to turn it off, or want to make sure your space is nice and toasty when you get home, Wi-Fi enabled heaters seem like a nifty convenience. The heaters are also pretty sleek and futuristic looking, but their minimalist design doesn’t detract from your décor. Mill’s series of Wi-Fi enabled heaters run the entire gamut: from wall mounted heaters, to small space heaters—fan based, electrical, or oil, you should be able to find what works for your situation. The app allows you to set temperatures and set schedules
OPCOM Farm is all about indoor hydroponics system that range from the small, to the industrial-sized. If you’ve ever envisioned an indoor garden capable of supplying fruits and vegetables year-round, OPCOM Farm might have solution that works for you. There are out of the way wall mounted GrowFrames, which also has a stand so you can keep it on your counter if you wish. Their GrowWall is larger, but it sits against the wall and is surprisingly space-saving. There are even more countertop options, such as the stackable GrowBox2 which allows you to have a small vegetable garden right on your counter. Each of these systems have automatic watering and lighting modes, and come with planting kits so you can start gardening out of the box.
Sobro Smart Furniture
Sobro have established themselves as makers of sleek, high-end coffee and side tables with smart functionality. Are you tired of running extension cords from behind your couches? Sobro has you covered with USB charging ports and easily accessible outlets. There is a built-in refrigerator, for cold beverages available to you without having to get up from your seat. Included speakers and LED lights that sync to the music that is being played round out the smart functionalities. This all comes in a sleek and attractive presentation: tempered glass top, gorgeous style, and three different finishes to choose from. Sobro even currently has an Indiegogo campaign for their smart side table, a smaller but functionally similar version of their coffee table.
Student Design Competition
Student design is always on display at IH+HS as well, and we got a chance to walk through the competition area and check out the innovations.Two items that got our attention at this year’s Student Design competition were both placed second, but with completely different and interesting ideas.
Caleb Blankenbaker of University of Illinois at Chicago was recognized for his Arome coffee bean roaster, making roasting coffee beans at home “as easy as brewing the coffee.” Inspired by do-it-yourself home roasters who hack air pop popcorn poppers to roast their beans, Arome takes that idea and puts it into an attractive product. With a smartphone app to precisely control the roast, and an attractive design, Arome is something I hope to see come to stores.
Also placing second was Andrew Ferrier’s Botany Child-Proof Cannabis Container. This attractive container is a way to safely store secure your cannabis while keeping it fresh. It has a programmable combination to keep out children while being airtight. You can control the humidity levels for maximum freshness, and it’s also incredibly sleek and stylish.
Contributing author Antal Bokor