Chicago 2013 Home and Housewares Show
With the winter waning and the onset of March Madness means the International Home and Housewares Show comes to Chicago’s McCormick Place. This year there were over 400 added exhibitors to the already massive show which takes up 3 of the 4 McCormick Place halls. The exhibit was mainly divided up into 3 halls which were the Dine and Design expo, the Clean,Contain + Sustain expo, and the Wired and Well expo. After walking the halls a full day, one can expect to be exhausted and overwhelmed by it’s sheer magnitude.
In the south hall you will find cookware, kitchen tools, gourmet foods, home decor, and the Discover Design expo. Browsing this hall you will never see more pots, pans, and knives in your life amassed in one area. Our friends at Kitchenista had some new products featuring hand carved mango wooden bowls from Java and double-walled glass tea cup that are printed on the inside. We also stopped by our friends fusionbrands booth to see what new products they had such as the cool and fun flexible food and container sealer, Cover Blubber. Browsing around the bigger booths I found my cutlery addiction nearly satiated as I ogled the latest from Wusthof, Calphalon, J.A. Henckels, Master Cutlery, Shun, Kai, and Global to name a few. Clearly you can see I have somewhat of a knife addiction. As I walked further back into the south hall I could smell the gourmet foods and cooking demos where chefs such as Ming Tsai and Chicago’s own Rick Bayless of Frontera and Stephanie Izard of Girl and the Goat cooked up some of their specialties. I had no need to eat lunch at the overpriced show cafes as I was constantly sampling bites of gourmet dips, sausages, spreads, and breads.
Dizzy from the bright saturated plastic colors and wafting aromas I stumbled over to the Discover Design area for more eye-candy. Noticeably well designed products with smooth flowing lines and colorful soft finishes abounded in this area of the expo. Notable products were utensils from Joseph Joseph Inc, Monbento, Essey and too many more to mention here. We particularly liked new products from Legnoart, which caught our eyes from afar. The pointy colorful tooth picks turned out to be table knives and the standing flower was really a lemon juicer. The products from this Spicy line had a fun playful feel and resembled organic plant-like themes yet were very functional. The pointy tooth pick cues were reflected in their bottle openers, wine corks, glass holders, garden utensils and bag clips. Looking down at my dying iPhone I realized it’s 3 o’clock and I haven’t even made it to the North Hall, and with that I purposefully wandered by some more kitchen knife displays then made my way to the north hall expo.
Finally I was able to extract myself from the Dine and Design expo and get over to the north hall Clean, Contain and Sustain expo only to have my senses inundated by yet another massive expanse of shiny colorful household items as far as the eye could see. I wasn’t sure if I was able to take on another hall but I urged my aching legs onward and just decided to head over to simplehuman and check all manner of stainless steel trash receptacles. I don’t know what it is but there is an innate curiosity and satisfaction of walking up to a trash can, waving your hand, and watch in amazement as the lid gently raises to accept your items of disposal into it’s hungry sleek belly. Their new product, the Sensor Mirror, won a show GIA design award. The convex vanity mirror magnifies your face to full screen and automatically illuminates with simulated natural sunlight as you peer into it. Pretty nifty but a little scary seeing your own face that close up.
Satisfied with my infatuation of expensive stainless steel garbage cans, it was off to further explore all sorts of colorful gizmos which led me to the inventors area. I always feel a bit pressured when I enter this area as the sometimes overly enthusiastic inventors try and coax you over to hear their pitch or get you to try out the latest, greatest thing. Products here range from the mildly cool to the fairly worthless. I did like the Drink Buddy instant soda(beer) can chiller and a gravity sharpening system for knives(yes more knives) that also sharpened serrated blades. I was not so keen on the calendar sponges,rapid Ramen cooker, and a hanger for hangers.
Now feeling thoroughly fatigued both physically and mentally, I moved to the back of the hall and quickly ran through the Global Crossroads expo which consists mainly of Chinese vendors and wares. Despite some attempts at a higher order of design I glanced over a couple aisles of booths but in the end it all ended up looking the same to me…. cheap.
Doing an about face I turned to see the other end of whence I came and decided to scan through the rest of the floor and make a long needed exit back to the Design Engine mother ship. I stopped by the Brazilian Plastic Institute booth last year so decidedly headed over that direction when I was stopped by an amusing contraption. Ladies and Gentlemen I give to you the Grillbot. Being a grill aficionado myself I couldn’t help but stop and see what this contraption was all about. Basically it’s an iRobot Rooma for your grill. I stared whimsically at this little machine trying to scramble around on this grill like a tied down squirrel with three legs. All I could think of was this poor bot caked with grease, melting on fire franti-cally scrambling around on your grill, trying to be useful. How dare you try to take away my inherently manly duty of scraping a greasy, caked metal brush over my battle ridden grill! I can’t believe this machine was actually in the running for a design innovation award. No thanks, I’ll take a $5 wire brush over a $100 clueless bot any day. They couldn’t even get a decent focused image of their product on their website. I walked away from the booth conflicted with amusement, wonderment, and spite.
Finally I was able to make it over to The Brazilian Plastics Institute booths which showcased a variety of plastic wares. There is definitely a bit of South American design and color flair to their products. A variety of vendors had wares on display there. Most notable was Sopranos double glass walled thermos design and Groupo BB’s recycled coconut plastic mugs. Groupo BB also had plastics made from recycled shredded juice box liners so I give them +1 for environmental consciousness in the plastics world of manufacturing. It also helped that he gave me one of his floor samples on the last day, but not really. So at this point I was on the verge of collapse and decided to make a beeline for the door and rest up for another day on the floor.
The last day of the show was on Tuesday and one can always expect some extra free show swag as many exhibitors are worn out and don’t want to pack and take home anymore unnecessary items. Arriving a bit late, I felt bad for those exhibitors and buyers wheeling their airport luggage out looking to go home, because that day Chicago was slammed by a full-on raging blizzard. The atmosphere was rather calm as compared to the previous days chaos with the weather playing a large part of it.
I proceeded back to the north hall Clean, Contain + Sustain expo as I felt I did not give it a fair go in my previous haste to retire the day before. I went over to the new exhibitors area which I skipped over to see how they were fairing since our friends at Kitchenista felt a bit secluded the previous year. I had the pleasant experience of running into the rep for Alite Designs who was smiley and offered me a set of their camping utensils. Now I love camping and the outdoors and looking at their products I could see they did too. I recognized their chairs from REI and was contemplating buying one for the fall since they were simply designed and compact. The slide locking utensil set was a cool turquoise plastic and the fork, knife, and spoon could be used separately or two items could be licked together to form a longer grilling type tool. All three piece conveniently slide lock back together in a compact nested fashion for space conservation. I give a +1 to Alite Designs for their outdoor enthusiasm and clean simple design.
I made my way to the lakeside McCormick place, Wired and Well expo which I was unable to attend the previous day due to chronic showroom exhaustion syndrome. Feeling somewhat fresher I browsed through the Pantone exhibit showcasing the new colors and trends in plastics and textiles. I was mildly surprised to see all those bright saturated color being used across a broad range of products which I saw on the previous day. Curious, I perused one of two transparent plastic swatch books and entered my business card to win a whole set as I could not afford the $6000+ dollars for one.
So off I went and dove into the Wired and Well expo only to realize that I really should have gone there the day before and spent more time as these were products I was really more interested in. I had only a little over an hour and a half to blaze through the giant hall and glean the gist of what was on display. Of note were the cool multi-colored line of Kitchenaid mixers and Neatfreak’s storage solutions.
The standout at the Wired and Well expo I thought was bodum’s booth. Aside from having well designed products, their booth had a cafe and lounge to have some beverages and rest your weary show going bones. Their entire product line looks and feels cohesive and conveys a common design language. I particularly liked the blenders, coffee makers, and mixers which all looked like they would fit perfectly in my fanciful new cantilevered cliff house. I saw a few people stand-ing in
line at the corner of the booth so I decided to follow suit figuring it must be something cool. Much to my surprise they were giving away their coffee and tea travel mug. Definitely cool. While I was waiting in line I could see some sorts of strange hot and cold beverages at the cafe lounge so I went to get a sample while I waited. What I chose was a warm thick whitish grey drink which resembled sausage gravy and had bits of pork belly dribbled on top of it. I figured what the hey, any drink with bacon has to be good right? Wrong. As I got back into line for my travel mug I took a sip and was shocked by what I tasted. Was this actual bacon lard warmed up with a hint of peanut and 5 spice? Was I the cruel blunt end of some bodum rep’s sick joke? Or did I actually pic up the cup they poured the bacon grease in after cooking? I don’t know but they all looked the same and I saw a guy in front of me choke one down. I stared at him to perceive any sort of negative reaction and as he finished he looked at me with that ‘I know me too’ look. I tried once more to take a sip but could not come to terms with this mysterious concoction and to this day am still wondering what it consisted of. Maybe it’s better I do not know. On the upside twenty minutes later the line started moving and 30 of us patient showites got the last of the bodum swag. It was time to bid farewell to the show and face the swarming blizzard outside.
Well finally I felt I was able to get through the entire showroom’s floors and really get a sampling of what to expect this year in home wares. I made my way back to Kitchenista’s booth to help them pack up but only after I stopped by just a few cutlery booths I may have missed like Kikuichi Japanese knives. Geeze those were sweet knives, if only I could afford them in my collection.
Aticle and Images Provided by: Joel Koster