Homing Instincts Housewares manufacturers are betting consumers will want brighter, shinier and more whimsical products for the home.


The home of the '90s has to play as many roles as the people who inhabit it. And with men and women role-surfing through their days, switching from professional to parent, from nurse to chef, that's saying a lot.

"People are viewing their home as their oasis, their spa, their entertainment center," said Lisa Casey Weiss, a New York-based lifestyle consultant to the National Housewares Manufacturers Association, which sponsored the recent 100th International Housewares Show in Chicago. "Their home is everything."

The trade event drew more than 60,000 attendees from around the world and showcased the wares of nearly 2,100 exhibitors. Of the thousands of new products shown to feather the nest inside and out, many were devoted to making it a more colorful, stimulating, safer and cleaner place.

Name a lifestyle trend and there were products to go along with it, from funky ashtrays for cigar fans to cocktail shakers for the martini set. Water and air purifiers proliferated for the health-conscious. Some of these products are already in stores, while others will be arriving later this year. All prices are approximate. To find stores carrying the items mentioned, call the numbers listed.

Here's a closer look at some of the major trends:


Brace yourself for an onslaught of yellow coffee makers (PHOTO) and toasters from Krups, dish racks from Rubbermaid, salad spinners from Copco, garbage cans from Umbra and flatware from Regent Sheffield. Driven by the popularity of sunflower patterns and the acceptance of yellow in Europe, manufacturers have collectively decided that Americans are now ready for the upbeat hue. This spring, Rubbermaid plans to introduce a complete line of laundry baskets, kitchen accessories and the like in Sunrise, (PHOTO) a soft buttercup yellow.

Yellow coordinates with the cobalt blue and hunter green already in many homes. And if lemon is not to your taste, try one of the other citrus hues. There's plenty of orange and lime to add a stylish twist.

"Customers don't want the almond of yesterday," said Rick Sadofsky, regional sales manager for Casabella, a division of Kaminstein Imports that showed cleaning buckets, toilet brushes and dust pan sets in translucent yellow, green, orange and blue.

Chantal and Le Creuset added cherry red to their cookware line. And Rubbermaid, which introduced two hues at last year's Housewares Show, unveiled 12 this year.


"It's sleek, it's elegant, it's modern, it's fresh," said Richard Murphy, national sales manager of Oggi, in summing up the renewed appeal of chrome. Retro yet futuristic at the same time, chrome touches a chord with nostalgic Baby Boomers remembering their mothers' kitchens and with younger generations who appreciate its clean look. It also complements those Sub-Zero refrigerators and other industrial-grade kitchen equipment now in favor at home.

Chrome is the umbrella name for a trend that includes stainless steel, aluminum and even coated plastic. Expect to see toasters, coffee grinders, carafes, tea kettles, mixers, canister sets, dish racks and cocktail shakers in a shiny silver finish. Toastmaster debuted its seven-piece Chromatics line, which includes an electric can-opener, mini-chopper and electric knife; call (800) 947-3744 for stores. Two chrome ironing boards were added to Polder's line; (800) 431-2133. For a back-to-the-future look, Oggi offered ashtrays, cocktail shakers, carafes and other 'entertainment ware' in stainless steel; (714) 449-0733. Also look for more chrome accents and black and chrome combinations on scales, coffee makers and toasters.


Taking a cue from the Europeans, manufacturers are turning ordinary household necessities into objects that delight and amuse.

Products from CD racks to trivets are being sculpted into shapes such as lizards and computer "signs." Some even come equipped with wall mounts to facilitate their transition to functional art. Should you wish to turn your upright vacuum cleaner into a "decorative conversation piece," slip on a calico-costumed cow or rabbit from Dress-A-Vac by Liberty Star. They sell for about $30; (800) 269-1209.

The new Zoo Tools line from Via (a division of Ekco) brings wit to mundane kitchen gadgets. (PHOTO) With roadrunners gracing pizza cutters and whisk cages housing yellow birds, you won't want to hide these tools in a drawer. Priced from $3.99-$9.99, they should start arriving in stores in April; call (800) 367-3526, ext. 385.


Water purification devices were everywhere. There were filters for the faucet, filters in Mr. Coffee's new coffee maker and filters in Holmes' humidifiers.

Anti-bacterial was a favorite buzzword. Scotch-Brite sponges by will be treated to kill salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria starting in March, while Ekco's polyethylene cutting boards with 'GermAway' will also reduce dangerous bacteria.

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