In thefirst segment of this articleearlier this month, I gave you a general overview of trends I observed at the show. This time, we'll look at a few more trends, but move on to take a closer look at some specific products that caught my eye.
You Light Up My LavThe popularity and availability of LED lighting is leading designers to incorporate them into more and more plumbing products. Examples at ISH included faucets, showerheads, wall-mount toilet flush actuators, as well as back-lit tubs and lavatories. Whether this is today's equivalent of tail fins on the cars of the fifties, time will tell. Some display colors to represent the temperature of water delivery, others give you a more arbitrary mood-shifting spectrum in the name of chromatherapy.
Baffled by the DrainsAs one of the better examples of well-married form and function, drain baffles continue to grow in popularity. If you don't know what I mean by this, it is the covering of fixture drain openings with a well-integrated (but removable) cover that keeps the "ugly hole" out of sight while allowing water to exit freely around it. Initially introduced on shower receptors, it has now spread to many lavatory designs. Okay, so how do you close the drain to fill the basin? In some cases you don't - in others, the pop-up flange is positioned in a sump-like recess below, sometimes combined with a cored underside of the baffle to allow movement of a conventional pop-up plug.
Vertical Tanning PanelsSaw several of these at the show. Mounted on a wall inside or outside the shower, these panels emit UV rays that allow you to get tanned without crawling into the panini toaster at the local salon.
V&B Installation System for Wall-Mount ToiletsI have long observed that European manufacturers spend more engineering time on how products are installed than we typically do here. Villeroy & Boch demonstrated a new mounting system for wall-hung toilets at ISH this year.
The installation sequence begins with the mounting of two posts back into the internal wall support. The plastic sleeves covering the metal structures allow some lateral movement to adjust for alignment into the mating holes in the back of the toilet. Once the toilet is pushed onto these posts, the assembly is locked into place by screwing fittings down through the intersecting holes from the top side. These then receive the posts and flanges to receive the toilet seat.
V&B Whisper Whirlpool with Retractable JetsFor those who have found the decibel range of operating a whirlpool tub about as soothing as sitting over a cement mixer, you'll appreciate a development by Villeroy & Boch they call "Whisper." This is actually the second generation of this super-quiet pump and system technology, and it is coupled with an improved version of their "invisible" jets that retract flush with the tub surface when not in use.
V&B Invisible Jets
Arwa Flex Spout FaucetFrom the standpoint of function, I have always liked the flexible spout faucets I see coming out of Asia. Literally, they provide a lot of flexibility in angle and reach. (If you haven't seen these, they look like a typical metal-clad hose, but are more like gooseneck lamps in staying where you bend them.) Problem is, they don't look so hot - a classic case of "good idea, lousy execution". But now, Swiss-based Arwa (exhibiting in the Laufen booth at ISH) has taken the idea and done it right, sheathing the metal hose with a smooth plastic sleeve (available in black and three other colors). Nice job, guys!
GerloffI remember this company from the '07 show, because I was impressed with its concept of "inlaid" electronic controls for bath and shower delivery. Essentially, this is a system of piezo-activated square buttons to control bath-related functions. (Piezo is a type of switch that activates with a very light force applied.) The inlaid positioning of these buttons into a tub deck or shower wall gives a really classy look, as compared to the sometimes gadgety approach to providing electronic controls.
This year Gerloff showed an expansion of applications for the basic technology. In addition to the basic on-off, hotter, colder and LED readout modules, they showed ones for diverter, steam, sound, aroma-therapy and overhead lighting. As nifty as all that techy stuff was, though, there was something else that caught my eye. While a slide bar for a hand-held shower may not sound like such a ground-breaking idea, here again, Gerloff has given it an "inlaid" mounting that looks a lot different than the typical bar or rail stuck onto the surface of the wall.
So instead of extending out from the wall surface, this is a recessed narrow trough-like affair with a slider that rides inside. It provides a very clean, custom look. This is a stand-alone product that I think could sell in good numbers apart from the company's electronic systems.