I’m detouring from my usual cooking column and recipe this month to focus on what’s new for homes and kitchens. Each spring, the International Home + Housewares Show draws more than 2,200 exhibitors and 62,000 attendees to Chicago’s McCormick’s Place. During the four-day event, the latest innovations and trends in household small appliances, tableware, décor, gadgets, and everyday living solutions are presented to buyers and members of the media.
As a chef and passionate home entertainer, I always feel like a kid walking into a gigantic candy store when I attend the Housewares Show. My eyes are bombarded by vivid colors, textures, familiar and unfamiliar logos, cookware of every size and shape, the latest innovations in small electric appliances, and booths carefully designed to draw attendees inside. It doesn’t take long before I envision a springtime table setting with exquisite new glassware, patterned dinnerware, and colorful linens, a springtime dinner party using a, innovative tabletop grill, or the fun of serving summer cocktails in double-walled champagne glasses.
During three solid days of visiting as many brands as possible, and armed with an overflowing appointment show calendar, I identified seven top home trends for 2017 designed to make our lives easier and our homes more comfortable, organized, stylish, and safe.
The Connected Home: The future of housewares is connectivity. Whether for home security, cooking on the grill, baking in the oven, using a slow cooker, or fixing a cocktail, manufacturers showcased their latest developments in appliances that connect to phone apps, so homeowners can control their environment and food preparation remotely. Char-Broil offered a new gas grill that preheats to a specified temperature, notifies you when the temperature is reached, maintains it during the cooking process, and sends you a message when the food is at optimum temperature for dining enjoyment. No more over-cooked steaks!
Whirlpool showcased their new Front-Control Range with scan-to-cook technology that ensures food is cooked with the right setting every time. Imagine scanning a product’s UPC barcode on your phone’s Whirlpool app, and instantly having the recommended cooking time and temperature at your fingertips!
Small Space Living: For older Americans looking to downsize and younger Americans simplifying their lives, manufacturers have streamlined small appliances to take up less kitchen countertop space. This spring, Hamilton Beach introduced the space-saving 2-in-1 Oven & Toaster — a dual-function countertop oven with a built-in toaster so homeowners can reduce countertop clutter.
Air fryers are a big trend this year, and I saw many versions, but one that attracted my attention is the Philips TurboStar Airfryer because it fries, bakes, roasts, and grills. By combining all these features into one appliance, this appliance frees space on kitchen countertops and reduces the need to store multiple appliances.
Manufacturers are also giving thought to the attractiveness and style of appliances, and have introduced smaller footprints and new colors and metallics to their lineup. Look for copper and matte steel this year in everything from mixers to blenders to cookware.
Convenience: It seems our lives are busier than ever, and manufacturers continue to take steps to help us manage our lives and have more time to spend with our families and friends. This explains the continued popularity of slow cookers, which save meal preparation time, provide ease of serving, and allow home chefs to pursue other activities while the meal cooks. Hamilton Beach has designed their slow cooker to accommodate popular recipes such as lasagna, and to take up less space in the cupboard between uses.
For time-saving meal preparation and light meals even young teens can make, DeLonghi’s Livenza All-Day Grill is ideal — a compact, stainless steel countertop electric grill for burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, and snacks.
Organizational Solutions: Keeping our homes organized can be a constant struggle for many of us, and manufacturers have taken that struggle to heart by offering a multitude of solutions. One that caught my attention was the meori foldable boxes that go from flat to container-ready in one simple step. These attractive fabric boxes with sturdy frames come in many bright colors, can carry up to 65 pounds, and have reinforced handles and an elastic band to hold them closed when not in use. They would look fabulous on pantry or closet shelves and are equally useful in the car to keep items organized and readily accessible.
Food storage is a huge topic, as more Americans are eating clean. Whether using locally grown, organic, or simply fresh ingredients, today’s home cooks are more in tune with their health and what they’re eating and feeding their families, so keeping food safe and fresh longer is important. Manufacturers have noted this demand for healthier eating and have stepped up with storage solutions to keep ingredients fresh and organized in the pantry and refrigerator. Mason jars from Fox Run Brands, which come with a variety of customized lids, now offer new, colorful options for storing food, beverages, and condiments. Stor-All Solutions provides a rainbow of colorful containers in all sizes for pantry storage, chilled foods, and accessories. Stasher also wowed me with their new food-safe, reusable silicone storage bags in a variety of sizes for picnic foods, snacks, ingredients, sous vide cooking, makeup, and anything else one needs to stash in a bag.
Sous Vide: Sous vide cooking is an ongoing trend, particularly with millennials and home cooks who demand perfect cooking results. Meats, seafood, vegetables, or fruit are placed in a vacuum-sealed bag, and into a water bath at a regulated temperature that cooks the food evenly. Anova’s trim Precision Cooker interfaces with smartphones and turns any container into a sous vide cooker.
Coffee: For the millions who can’t start their day without coffee, brewing options continue to expand beyond K-cups. Cold brew coffee makers received a lot of attention, but so did all-in-one appliances that store coffee beans, custom ground, brew, and froth milk, as well as combination coffee/espresso machines such as ones I saw by DeLonghi. For those who love the flavor of pour-over coffee, Melitta’s Signature Series coffee machines are hard to beat and come in a variety of colors.
Health and Well-Being: According to G.E. Engineer Chris Bissig, “The most important health decisions are made not in the doctor’s office, but in the kitchen.” He pointed out that eating at home can improve our health — a concept I adopted many years ago. Today’s consumers are eating more fresh foods, natural ingredients, and fewer sugars. Manufacturers are responding by developing products that save time so cooks can spend more time with their families and friends.
Today’s passion for eating well for better health has led to an explosion of quality cookware, well-designed large and small kitchen appliances, kitchen tools, and gadgets that make food prep and cooking easier and more fun, non-toxic products to keep our homes clean, and tableware that inspires families to gather together in the kitchen and around the table. Next month, I look forward to sharing more ideas for memorable gatherings in your home and kitchen.
Christy Rost is a lifestyle authority, author of three cookbooks, public television chef on PBS stations nationwide, and a longtime resident of the Park Cites and Preston Hollow. For recipes and entertaining tips, please visit her website www.christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.