KBIS – What’s that?

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Design Shows & Events, What's That About? - collection

kbis orlando show directory and pass

If you happen to follow Smartstyle Interiors on social media, you won’t have been able to escape the fact that I have been on a whirlwind trip to Orlando Florida with Modenus as one of their “Design Hounds” at KBIS. Though my wonderment at huge fridges may have been fun, I am pretty sure my British readers will be saying “But what in the world is KBIS?” Pronounced K – BIS – it is America’s yearly Kitchen & Bathroom Industry Show. It hops from huge city to huge city; next year it’s in Vegas, baby! It brings together the best of the two industries’ manufacturers to display their most inviting ranges, often launching new products which show us the shape of things of come. From all over America and the world, flocks of designers, architects, bathroom and kitchen designers fly in to check it out and soak it up.

Now, I’ve popped along over the years to what London Design Week has to offer and thought I knew what a big Interior Design trade show was all about, but I was naïve to say the least. When I walked into the first hall – there’s two in total with a 15-minute walk between them – I was greeted by a room the size of Tunbridge Wells. It was at that moment that I understood why I was going to be at the show for 3 days, and I already knew 3 days wouldn’t even touch the sides!!

grohe taps in a range of colours

Grohe Colourful Taps

So why go?

I was asked along as part of Modenus’ “Design Hounds” which is a pack of hungry interior designers and interiors bloggers who are there to cover the show while we are there and afterwards. As a designer I always say that our work only comes to life with beautiful products and in the hands of excellent craftsmen. Without either we just have a set of drawings. Visiting design fairs gives me the opportunity to see what is fresh and new and what the industry has come up with that will shape how we design in the future. In the UK we currently have amazing access to the European market for furniture and style influences but as we step into the uncharted territory that is post Brexit, we just don’t know how easy that is still going to be. Though the flying might be long, the opportunities might be huge to start working on that “Special Relationship” we have with the US as far as suppliers and products are concerned.

cindy allen talk at kbis
phoebe oldrey sustainability and wellness talk

Cindy Allen – Knocking it out the park as KBIS Key note speaker

Me getting ready for my Panel chat about Sustainability and Wellness in Design

Is it just stuff?

I have to say I could happily just visit talks at trade shows and never look at a single object! To have a chance to hear great minds share their knowledge is also something that grows your creative spirit and work horizons. KBIS runs a number of talk theatres and stages so at any time of the day you can catch an expert talking about their work.

I was beyond lucky to get to hear Cindy Allen, editor of Interior Design Magazine, give her keynote speech. She spoke about designers and trends to watch, with a checklist of 12 points that will make us better designers. After fangirling at Cindy Allen’s talk, selfies were taken. Which I didn’t do to Ant and Dec when passing them outside the lift in our hotel!! Know your heroes, people!

I also had my first taste of speaking at one of these events and joined the Good Home talk panel along with Moderator Veronika Miller – Modenus Media, Lisa Kahn Allen – of Lisa Kahn Interiors, Jamie Gold principal at Jamie Gold Kitchen & Bath Design, Sandy Gordon principal Sandy Gordon Interiors and Susie Feia principal at Remodel by Feia for “Sustainability and Wellness in Design” on the KBIS Next stage and afterwards in the DMM Talk Lounge for further discussion. Not only was it a talk panel I was honoured to be asked to be involved with but I also learnt so much from the other designers as they shared their fields of expertise.

thermador entertainment dishwasher
kbis bathroom design

Thermador’s Entertaining Dishwasher for Glassware

Smart contemporary bathroom by DXV

What did I get out of it?

Americans just do things differently. They do it bigger, they do it braver and they do it well! As an English person it felt like watching a big sister just nail being more grown up than you! By stepping outside my immediate bubble and seeing something different, my mind has opened to great possibilities. The hard side is finding fantastic products which I would love to use in my work but just couldn’t easily get my hands on here. But maybe I need to not be concerned by that and follow my “Big SISTER American” into thinking bigger, thinking braver, thinking shipping!

I have seen great things, met amazing people (who I really miss!), walked so much, drank too much and laughed so much. Before, I never would have thought of visiting a trade show so far away. My brain would have said, “What’s the point??” But now I’m already figuring out whether I can get myself to High Point – ever heard of it? Well maybe it’s time to!

Blogger Small Print

My flights and accommodation were paid for by Modenus and a number of sponsors as part of their Design Hounds Blog Tour KBIS. Over the next few months I will share with you some of the inspirational finds I think will shape design to come.

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