In recent years, wellness design has surged in popularity, especially since Covid arrived on the scene in 2020, (possibly as a superspreader event that year before we all knew what it was), and millions of Americans started spending many more hours at home.
Professionals who attended this year’s Design & Construction Week trade event, the largest gathering of homebuilders, interior designers, remodeling contractors and kitchen and bath professionals in the country, weighed in on what they saw as the top products and trends enhancing the five facets of wellness design at the expos.
Health and Fitness
Home products that support health and fitness comprise the first facet of wellness design, and appliances are certainly part of that story. Larkin liked the micro-sizing of appliances that allow for convenience in preparing healthy meals and snacks. For example, he noted, “Wine drawers, dishwasher sinks, etc. allow an unprecedented level of convenience for ADUs and augmenting the primary suite for aging in place.”
One popular appliance technology at DCW was Beko’s HarvestFresh, which preserves the nutrients in refrigerated produce with specialized lighting. As Garcia, a member of Beko’s Healthy Kitchen Council, explained how the feature, which won a popularity award at the show, works: “The crisper drawers have unique light technology that mimics the 24 hour cycle of the sun keeping produce fresher longer.” (Think of it as circadian lighting for your fruits and vegetables!)
Briesemeister was impressed with lighting technology throughout the show, she said. “Linear lighting, color-adjustable lighting (colors of white), and lighting that defines a space/transition” all caught her attention, she said.
There were numerous new workstation sinks that make preparing healthy meals easier. These included a debut series from Delta Faucets, some with dishwasher-friendly accessories enhancing that convenience, and Bocchi, whose award-winning Baveno model can be ordered with a retractable faucet, creating more counter space when closed off.
Induction came on strong this year, with 12-inch cooktops from newer to the US brands Empava and Fotile, a 24-inch induction range from SMEG, and two 48-inch ranges from Bertazzoni and Fulgor Milano. Induction is considered by many chefs and public health experts to be a healthier cooking technology than its high performance rival gas.
Safety and Security
Induction also fits into this second facet of wellness design, but so do many other offerings at the show. Briesemeister noted, “While many think of safety and security in terms of products like alarm systems, sensors, and monitoring devices, it’s more about how these items (and more) interact to provide peace of mind. Ring, for instance, has native integrations with Masonite, a door company, providing lock integration automatically for any Ring environment. This was highlighted at this year’s show.”
Garcia liked the kitchen flood-avoidance feature from a popular organizing products brand. “Rev-A-Shelf has a new flexible under-sink mat to protect the cabinetry from wet messes,” she shared. Moen’s water management systems do this indoors and out, and an IBS new product pavilion debut POMCube from NetZero+ keeps your refrigerator going when the power goes out. Kohler’s new generator series does this on a whole house basis. Better-managed power systems were a favorite of Briesemeister, she noted. “Products from Savant and others showcased how power can be monitored and managed in a way that is very user-driven.”
Larkin was bullish on the many sleek, stylish lighting features. “The ability to embed lighting into almost anything can provide safety or night lighting,” he commented. This was seen at organizer brands like Häfele and Richelieu, as well as in the flexibility of easily placing new outlets (and operating lights with a handwave to reduce germs) from Legrand.
Another timely safety trend was the dramatic improvement of electric fireplaces. With cities and states across the country banning residential gas lines, manufacturers of this popular home amenity have been tasked with creating more realistic versions. Heat & Glo showed up with its innovative Inception model and an independent contractor showed off a Touchstone model he’s recommending to his clients who want fireplaces.
This third facet of wellness design makes independent living easier for people with conditions that reduce mobility and flexibility. With an aging population, this attribute has been increasingly popular. (It also benefits anyone who wants more visibility and easier access into their appliances and cabinetry.)
As Garcia pointed out in her response, bidet functionality helps with that by making hygiene more convenient for users: “Bemis has a full line of bidet seats, making it easy to upgrade existing toilets. They also have a smart bidet toilet that has a nice tankless design.” Other brands like Brondell were also making this pre-pandemic (with its great toilet paper shortage) feature more affordable and widespread. TOTO, one of the leaders in this category, introduced under-seat cleaning to its popular Neorest series, eliminating the need for anyone with serious back issues to challenge themselves with a noxious task.
Also enhancing flexibility was KBIS’ KickStarter Zone participant LevelAid, an elevator-on-demand for your dishwasher which makes loading and emptying it easier for someone who can’t easily bend and including a raised dishwasher into a kitchen wall easier for the design team. Richelieu’s Riverso drawer also makes accessibility easier by doubling storage access from either side of an island or peninsula without extra steps.
As Larkin noted, good lighting also improves safety. It can improve accessibility too, especially for people with vision or balance issues. “Good lighting helps support independent living,” agreed Garcia, citing Rev-A-Shelf brand Tresco Lighting’s offerings. “They have rope lights with solid illumination that can be designed into the cabinetry interior behind doors or on the exterior to light toekicks or above uppers.” Sleek, integrated was a wellness design trend throughout the show!
This fourth facet of wellness design encompasses durability, low maintenance, convenience and other benefits that make life easier and a product more worth having to improve its users’ lives. “The major advance in hardware, especially cabinet hardware combined with interior cabinet lighting, provides ease of access to areas that were hard to reach and dark,” Larkin pointed out.
Briesemeister liked lighting and water controls that operate hands-free. “Helpful when hands are grimy in the kitchen or wet in the bathroom,” she noted. Hands-free functionality is definitely a home helper, and wasn’t limited to those two categories. Richelieu, for example, showcased a trash opener that worked on voice control, and this capability continues to be popular with specifiers and clients.
Garcia was impressed by the many new storage accessories seen around the show floor. “Organizers add so much functionality to storage,” she observed. Wellborn was one of the brands she liked, and one of its interesting offerings was a medicine cabinet that opens from the sides instead of out. Rev-a-Shelf showcased a pull-out drying rack that stores in a drawer that many designers were buzzing about at and after the show.
Another innovative product that can enhance kitchen functionality was Kohler’s ceiling-mounted Purist Suspend Faucet. While eliminating countertop clutter, it also makes it possible to fill a pot on a cooktop away from the sink, negating the need for a pot filler. Delta Faucet added some faucet functionality to the bathroom by bringing pull-down capability to more of its lav faucets. Now the convenience everyone loves in their kitchen for easier cleanup is available elsewhere too.
Also adding to time-saving convenience were a pair of washer-dryer all-in-one units from Whirlpool and GE Appliances. Both make doing laundry less of a hassle.
Comfort and Joy
This is the fifth facet of wellness design and encompasses those features that make relaxation and enjoyment of one’s home possible. New fireplaces could have fit here too! So could shoe care systems shown at both LG’s and Samsung’s booths. LG’s offering included a display box for one’s premium footwear. “These have already caught my client’s eye,” mused Larkin.
Kohler’s Sprig aromatherapy shower add-on might catch the noses of other clients, and can be easily installed on any brand’s shower arms for a restorative experience. Its Infinity Tub featured a biophilia-inspired light bath, along with its waterfall effect. “It felt very spa-like and all I wanted to do was crawl into that tub!” Briesemeister mused. Delta Faucet’s and its upscale Brizo brand’s entry into the steam shower space also enhance health, comfort and joy.
Dometic’s DrawBar wine refrigeration and SMEG’s Sommelier Drawer for wine tools make enjoying your whites and reds more stylish and convenient. All in all, there was much at Design & Construction Week 2023 to make your life and home healthier, safer, more accessible, functional and enjoyable.