Builders' trade show gives advance notice of trends coming soon to consumers


April 08, 1995|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

Looking for fresh-shucked oysters and balcony windows, pit beef and crown molding, hot dogs and high-efficiency furnaces?

If you're a builder or contractor, the place to look is the annual Builder Mart, sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

A visit to this event, held March 30 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium and open to the trade only, is part festival and part serious professional exposition.

While many of the things on display are of interest only to builders, the array of products on view offers a glimpse into the near future of home building and home improvement.

This year's show was the 25th; it featured nearly 400 exhibitors and got nearly 6,000 visitors.

"The show, to us, is two things," said Steve Mannion, accounts manager of B&H Distributing, an appliance distributing company based in Savage. "One, it's getting leads and new business. And two, it's a party atmosphere, a relaxed atmosphere where you can be mingling with other people" who may be customers or competitors.

Here are some things that caught our eye among products home owners can use.

As usual, Karol fell in love with a kitchen. There's one every year that seems to sum up all the best, most current thinking about kitchen design.

This year it was the "Mount Vernon" from Yorktowne, in natural hickory with pierced tin panels on some of the wall cabinets, for a sophisticated, non-kitschy "country" look. The wood was a variegated honey-color -- Yorktowne calls it "amber" -- and the optional panels were black. Two of the kitchen's prominent features -- we sense trends here -- were a cabinet bump-out to allow an oversized stainless steel sink and an end wall cabinet that came all the way down to the counter.

Yorktowne, based in Red Lion, Pa., is also touting its Shaker-style "Hearthside" cabinets; the show display was in maple, another honey-colored wood, and apparently, another trend.

"People are tired of looking at white," said Dean Norris, a Yorktowne salesman. "Every model home has white cabinets." Yorktowne still offers a number of light finishes, but the message the show was variety. "Builders were coming in and asking us for something different, just to show people they had something other than white cabinets."

It's no coincidence that kitchens got a lot of attention at the show.

"The kitchen is the heart of the home now," said Diane Dudley, sales manager for Appliance Distributors Unlimited. "There are bigger kitchens. More people are entertaining right in the kitchen."

Appliance Distributors is responding with a line of professional-style, state of the art, stainless steel appliances that give home cooks the same high-quality tools as restaurant chefs, from the two-oven, six-burner-plus griddle FiveStar gas stove (model No. TTM510-BW) to a Thermador convection-, microbake- and broil oven that will cook a 13-pound turkey in 78 minutes and microwave the leftovers the next day (model No. CMT227).

Kitchen Aid is offering a gas convection oven that can automatically convert standard cooking times into convection times (model No. KGST500). Kitchen Aid also has a dishwasher that is so quiet you almost have to touch it to see if it's running. It uses a tuning fork that is the exact opposite frequency of the motor to cancel sound. Kitchen Aid says the model No. DU980QP is 30 percent quieter than earlier models.

"The big thing in dishwashers is quiet," said Mr. Mannion. The "quiet" revolution is spilling into laundry equipment, as well, Mr. Mannion said, as increasingly washers and dryers have been located near the kitchen in new house designs.

He noted that Frigidaire also has come out with a line called Gallery that offers commercial-looking stainless steel ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers at affordable prices. "In some parts of the country, that commercial look is really hot," Mr. Mannion said.

If you're interested in some state-of-the-art appliance, fixture or cabinetry, ask your contractor what's new, and ask if you can visit distributor showrooms to check out things for yourself (some showrooms allow the public to visit). You can also ask at home-improvement centers for specific lines. And, once such products start showing up in new homes and remodeling projects, they generally move pretty quickly from professional to consumer outlets.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.

Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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