K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Technology

Mar 10 2017

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Times Are Changing in the Kitchen and Bath Industry

It’s striking to me how much has changed in the kitchen and bath industry over the past 10 years.

There have been many changes in communication, product sourcing, smart technology and consumer awareness, and they can all be traced back to the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Smartphones have changed the ways we communicate, shop and learn, and they have changed the way we live in our kitchens. Mal Corboy, a well-known Auckland, New Zealand, kitchen designer says all of this evolution has changed the design process. (http://i.stuff.co.nz/lifestyle/home-property/83715964/howmuch-has-the-modern-kitchen-changedin-the-past-10-years)

Most residential design/build project communications used to be done in person, by phone and by email. Dream Kitchen Builders still uses those tools, but now we also use messaging and social media apps, and we use these business tools to communicate via mobile devices.

The amount of kitchen and bath information that’s available to consumers is enormous and growing larger every day. This has made us all educated buyers and given consumers more control of each aspect of a design/build project.

We’re now experimenting with smart appliances and wireless devices in the kitchen and bathroom that use artificial intelligence to help us get things done. I cook, so I give voice commands to Siri to set a timer to adjust my music and more while I’m cooking. I’m hands free, so I don’t have to stop what I’m doing. Smart technology hasn’t gone mainstream yet, but appliance and device makers are designing and producing amazing new kitchen and bath products, and early adopters are trying them out and talking about them to their friends.

Last but not least, every kitchen and bath product seems to have almost limitless options and price points and many include free shipping. Clients are now buying kitchen and bath products online and sourcing them internationally. Kitchens and bathrooms have always evolved, but the changes we are now seeing are so revolutionary that they are disrupting the way kitchen and bath business is done – changing the relationship between professionals and consumers and changing the way we live.

 Scott Koehler is the owner of Dream Kitchen Builders, a design-build firm in North Carolina.

Feb 13 2017

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The Connected Home

There was a time when I was not connected to my phone. I remember the pre-iPhone days and scoffing at the idea that I would have to remotely check my email or look up information online.

Fast-forward to a typical Saturday. I’ll listen to Pandora during my morning run and then the news while I’m making lunch. I’ll look up Pinterest ideas for dinner and then add ingredients I need to my AnyList app. My husband and I will book a movie on our phones and have the tickets already on there by the time we go. And even when we’re going to bed, I’ll be setting my alarm on my phone and then placing it right next to the bed.

Part of me hates how attached I am to my phone now, but here we are. We all use it for everything and don’t remember how we got by beforehand. How did we get by? I think the answer is that we simply didn’t accomplish as much on a single day as we do today.

The reason behind this soliloquy is this week’s #KBTribeChat on Connected Convenience. KBB magazine listened in and found out a bit more about where we are going with this technology and how we got there.

Why we want it. It’s all about a lack of time and energy. We would love technology to do things in the kitchen like running the dishwasher at a certain time, chopping up ingredients or automatically generating a shopping list.

Why we need it. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to 166,100 home structure fires that started in the kitchen. We leave our stoves and ovens on in our rush to get things done. We also have no idea when to service our appliances or how to service them.

Cooking with tech. More people today use apps instead of cookbooks to make recipes. Home cooks would like to see more reviews of recipes, suggestions by chefs and videos of steps.

Controlling with tech. It might seem unnecessary to some, but many feel that having an “extra hand” in the kitchen would save time. Amazon Echo introduced this concept, and users want more – to find out measurements, recipes and to set timers.

How are you using technology in your home? Be sure to tell us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @kbbmagazine and on Instagram @kbbconnect.

Oct 11 2016

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Hey Siri – How Do I Use You to My Advantage?


Business is booming in the kitchen and bath industry, as new construction and residential remodeling continue to surge. Because of the Internet and websites like Houzz and Pinterest, clients know more about kitchen and bath design and the latest trends than they ever have. New products and technology are being manufactured globally and getting to our market at a faster pace than ever before. Deloitte Global predicts that in 2016, 2.5 trillion photos will be shared or stored online.

We’re all accustomed to getting more, better and faster information, and we’re getting it when we want it and with our own preferred mode of communication – whether it’s online via chat, email, text, social media or by phone. The amount of information we are creating and sharing is astounding. One solution for swamped kitchen and bath professionals is to add staff to keep pace, and another is to automate menial tasks using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) like Siri, Cortina, Google and Alexa.

Siri takes dictation faster than a professional typist can type; 100 words per minute versus 60-80 words per minute. I can’t even speak 100 words per minute. Siri’s speech recognition is an amazing 95 percent, and those capabilities get even better as Siri learns your language patterns, phrases and jargon.

This learning capability comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 2014, Siri had a brain transplant when Apple baked AI into the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV operating systems. You are walking around with a supercomputer in your pocket that uses AI to act on your voice commands and has the ability to help you interact in new and better ways and to navigate the many aspects of life including how, when and where you do business.

Three Siri Productivity Hacks for Kitchen and Bath Professionals:

1. Search everything with Siri. You can search online: “Hey Siri, search Kohler.com for Dickinson farm sink.” You can also search the App Store, your email, your photos and your notes.

2. Use Siri to dictate to Notes and Mail. Use the Dragon Dictation App for everything else that’s at least a paragraph long.

3. Use Siri with Calendar to schedule meetings, change meetings, email people about meetings and cancel appointments all by voice:

Considering all the computer technology for business that’s now available, speech recognition and voice input might just be the most significant since game-changing computer input methods only occur about once every 40 years. The mouse and touch-screen input methods of the 80s overtook the keyboard input method that’s been around since the 1940s. The voice-input era is still in its infancy, but it’s already providing businesses with competitive advantages – especially to those folks who are very mobile like many of us in the kitchen and bath industry.

– Scott Koehler is a 27-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry and owner of Dream Kitchen Builders, a design-build firm doing business in the state of North Carolina. Image courtesy of pannawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Jun 08 2016

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Designing for the “Ohh!” in 90210


Doing business in one of the most famous zip codes in the world, Beverly Hills, is very exciting. However, it can also be a challenge. The residents of 90210 always want the “next big thing.” When it comes to interiors, they want something new and entirely different…something with a real “wow” factor…something their neighbors haven’t seen in person or in glossy magazines.

Most of our projects at Arch-Interiors Design Group are remodels, and the biggest request we’re getting is for size. Homeowners want it bigger physically, visually and conceptually. They want to make an impact and create an illusion of space even in tight quarters. Other design movements in “The Hills” include:

The Great Room Is Here to Stay

Everyone wants a great room, and the kitchen has now blended into this requested space. We typically create an enlarged space by opening up several rooms or even by sacrificing other small spaces such as pantries, breakfast nooks, working desks or, in more contemporary designs, removing the butler’s pantry. Surprisingly for many, the dining room is actually more used for full family meals because of this.

Stainless Fatigue Is a Real Thing

We’ve finally reached the point with appliances where our high-end clientele have “stainless fatigue.” We’re covering all of the appliances with panels, which also help make the room feel larger. Even with double ovens, manufacturers such as Miele are doing the fronts in tinted glass that blends in with the cabinetry. One project we’re currently working on will incorporate this, and the sink will be the only item in the kitchen with a stainless finish.


Miele’s Obsidian Black finish

Use Your Hands for More Than Cooking

In more contemporary kitchens, we’re using finger pulls versus hardware because your eye is not interrupted by the dimensional contrast from hardware allowing for a sleek and smooth surface. We’re also using zero glass front doors in contemporary styles. Hardware, glass fronts and open shelving are still very much an important part of the design in our more traditional kitchen projects.

And the freedom to customize faucets with vendors like California Faucets (there are more than 30 artisan finishes available), one can further create an individual look instead of what people consider to be a “pedestrian faucet” they see everywhere (even if it’s actually only the maid or chef that uses the touch the majority of the time!) For homeowners who do enjoy cooking and desire a more professionally styled faucet, their culinary faucets feature a uniquely flexible stainless steel spring and an industry-first ability to customize the spring in any of the company’s 15 PVD finishes.


California Faucets’ Corsano faucet

CorsanoBlurred Lines

Simple sliding doors to the outside simply will not do. Oversized stacking or accordion doors have become “it.” They give the impression that the usable space of the room has doubled. We’re seeing this not only in Southern California, but also all over the country thanks to vast improvements in glazing technology and, unfortunately, climate changes.

Stretching Storage

When closets and pantries are sacrificed for one larger space, organization becomes much more of a priority. To combat these storage issues, we’re using more tall cabinetry to take the place of full pantries. This all makes the interior fittings much more of a functional focus. When storage is reduced, clients need the interior storage fittings to be as “tricked out” as possible. We have a Pinterest page specifically dedicated to fittings and accessories that can be incorporated into one’s design.

Natural Stone – Not Necessarily the Natural Choice

For countertops, natural stone is still very popular and it’s usually part of most initial design discussions. However, homeowners have started to recognize quartz as a viable alternative thanks to its functional durability. We also try and do special detailing to counter edges – be it larger in scale, with a small reveal or a different unexpected detail.  It does not cost much more, and the client feels you are conscious of doing something unique for their project. Granite has pretty much fallen by the wayside unless it has a very unique motion to it for an island that is meant to be a focal point.

Island Life

The kitchen island is no longer an item to be incorporated “only” if space allows; it’s now a requirement. Today’s kitchen island works harder than those of the past, serving as much more than an area for meal prep. It’s truly a multi-purpose area that adapts to a family’s intense variety of schedules and activities. An element we’re incorporating more and more is charging areas in the form of USB ports and HDMI outlets. Everyone wants access for the myriad electronics so they’re always plugged-in.

kitchen overall3

Another interesting note about islands…for a time, multi-level islands were very common. They incorporated lower food prep areas and higher areas for bar stool seating. Now, clients are happy with the island all on one level since it’s now used frequently when entertaining and serving buffet style meals.

In today’s larger, more open spaces, it takes a lot of thought to create a kitchen that is functional both physically and visually. But when the result is an airy and welcoming family space suitable for virtually any activity, the extra effort is well worth it.

By Christopher Grubb, NKBA, IIDA, President/Founder, Arch-Interiors Design Group