Kitchen and bath makeover fans will have plenty of stylistic directions and pretty products to choose from if the recent Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas is any indication. Thoroughly modern kitchens have entertaining pizzazz plus everyday functionality that looks cool.

Baths are seen as a place to unwind, and amenities at this show didn’t disappoint. If you warm to contemporary tubs, sinks and fixtures, you’re in luck. And of course, there was abundant European design influence.

The overriding theme in kitchens: the re-emergence of color in appliances along with improved storage and continued inching toward entertainment accessories and Internet-based kitchen management. Contemporary design and styling predominated.

Colors have loosened, but not eliminated, the stainless steel stranglehold on appliances. Black, red and blue were among the tones on display.

Expect to see down-sized appliances aimed at empty-nesters and town home or condo dwellers. Kitchenaid featured a mini-dishwasher fitted neatly into kitchen sinks.

Professional grade gas ranges aimed at culinary artists remain hot although cool-to-the-touch induction heat tops are gaining ground. Some stove tops are barely a foot wide and intended for Asian-style cooking.

For efficient entertaining, stand-alone or built-in beverage coolers and wine storage will take on a coordinated look with other kitchen appliances or cabinetry.

But bathrooms are where this trade show really shined. Taking a cue from kitchens, contemporary design with a large amount of European influence is in vogue.

Tubs are in transition from ho-hum to something big and bubbly. Many tubs are enormous and nearly all feature jetted water or heated forced air to soothe harried homeowners. Taking a cue from kitchens, top-end models feature sound systems.

Single head showers are passe; two to six heads are de rigueur. Kohler displayed square shape wall mount sprays that pivot to deliver water where it’s wanted. Overhead pan or “sunflower” shower heads up to 12 inches across cascade water down on bathers. Manufacturers say the multihead showers can be water-misers. (Note: New shower and tubs will likely require new piping.)

Sinks are on the rise, especially stand-alone basins perched above counters. Round, square and oval shapes made of stone, inlaid mosaic tile or even African hardwoods are now on the market.

Indeed, many basins and flush mounted sinks are literally pieces of furniture. Several manufacturers installed the devices atop wood and marble hutches and tables, creating a new look in bathroom sophistication.

The emphasis with fixtures and faucets seems to be on heavyweight handles and spouts. Brushed nickel, chrome and richly textured finishes from a wax casting process are all handsome.

Make way for the coordinated bathroom. Toto, best known for high-tech toilets, introduced a line of synchronized bathroom “suites” that feature identical designs from tub to toilet to basin. Lenora Campos of Toto says the shift to like-minded pieces is directly tied to homeowners who want a “consistent look” to the major elements of a bath.


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