(Highlighting cool innovations from the 2019 International Builders Show and Kitchen and Bath Show)
I consider myself to be a 100% Italian-American. My Mom and Dad are Italian. Their Moms and Dads were Italian. As far back as we know, all my family are Italian. However, when I eventually complete the ancestry kit I got for Christmas, I’m sure I’ll be wrong. Nobody is 100% anything.
If I were to buy a Ford Ranger, A Dodge Ram or a Chevy Silverado they all sound as ‘All-American’ as apple pie. However, it’s estimated approximately 50% of ‘American’ cars or trucks are made up with foreign parts. In fact, the #2 and #3 ‘American-made’ vehicles in 2018 where the Honda Odyssey Minivan and Honda Ridgeline pickup (isn’t that a Japanese company?).
You may ask, what’s your ancestry and cars and trucks have to do with an internationally-inspired bathroom and new product innovations from the International Builders Show? A lot, in fact.
You see, whether it comes to the car or truck you buy, your genealogy or the bathroom you’re looking to remodel the world of innovation and style is cooked up in a ‘world melting pot.’ If you ‘attempt’ to live your life as a ‘full-blooded’ American (like Opie and Andy Taylor and Aunt Bee from Mayberry R.F.D.) you’ll be missing out on great ideas, cost-effective approaches and trends developed around the world.
Not to be political here – but you need to keep those ‘border walls down,’ and those ‘international options open,’ if you want the coolest bathroom at an affordable price.
This statement was screaming out at me as I walked the aisles and staffed a booth (with the Norwegian company, Fibo Systems, who makes waterproofed wood-based shower wall panels – if you can believe that!) at the International Builders Shower and Kitchen and Bath Show this week.
In this article I’m going to argue (although I don’t like to argue a lot), if you don’t create an ‘internationally-inspired’ bathroom you’ll end up paying more and getting less than you deserve.
At the end of the article let me know if you agree with me or not. Could these internationally inspired bathroom products ramp up your next project?
Reason #1 You’re Missing Out if You don’t Have an Internationally-Inspired Bathroom- Because ‘great minds don’t think alike’
Innovation grows from experimentation. Experimentation (and progress) happens when you’re obsessed with finding a better way. This obsession leads to knowledge. With knowledge you become a valuable resource.
Let’s face it, all resources (both intellectual and natural) are not created equal. For example, when it comes to ‘intellectual resources,’ I LOVE math. Crunching numbers is my ‘thang.’ For my wife Rose, paying bills and working with numbers is a nail on a chalkboard experience. On the other hand, get Rose in front an audience acting (and memorizing countless lines) and she’s a pros. Ask me to do this and I’d rather ‘ship my pants’ (if you get the play on words from the funny Kmart commercial about shipping services below).
When it comes to natural resources – and understanding how to use these resources to make cool bathroom products – not all innovation and knowledge are created equal either. Let me give you an example.
As you may know Norwegians are known for wood (and woodpiles). Maybe it’s because of the Beatles song called Norwegian Wood: This Bird has Flown. It could be because 25% of homes in Norway are still heated by wood, or that 50% of Norwegians have a woodpile (Pastor Ryan in my church – the ‘King of all Woodpiles’ would be excited to learn this).
Whatever the case, Norway has high quality wood, and plenty of it. Being around resources causes you to think of ingenious ways to use them which never dawned on others.
For example, laminate ‘click-together’ tongue and groove flooring were designed and sold under the brand name Pergo in neighboring Sweden. Not to be outdone by their Swedish neighbors a new innovative shower wall panel system (made with wood) was shown at the International Builders and Kitchen and Bath Show this year. These laminate shower wall panels from Norwegian company Fibo Systems were invented 25 years ago (but seen by many people in the United States for the first time at this show). At 2’ x 8’ x 3/8” thick, this waterproof laminate covered over marine grade plywood bathroom wall panel system clicks, locks and seals together like their Swedish brothers laminate flooring.
They look like tile or stone, are 100% waterproof and can be installed with 1 person (unlike heavy products like solid surface, cultured marble or flimsy acrylic panels).
Great minds in all countries do not think alike.
Who would have ‘thunk’ it? A 100% waterproof wall panel system made with a wood-based backing? Well – the Norwegians, of course!
Reason #2 You’re Missing Out if You don’t Have an Internationally-Inspired Bathroom- Other’s pains, become your gains
In the United States we’re used to a lot of space in our bathroom (or at least by International standards). We have separate showers (AKA a shower enclosure). We have floor-based vanities with storage underneath. This may not seem like a lot of space and luxury, but when you have a 4’ x 5’ bathroom (like my wife’s Grandfather in Italy had when he was alive), our 5’ x 8’ bathroom starts to look spacious (and 2x bigger).
However, no matter how big (or small) your bathroom is today you may still be trying to figure out these 2 ‘shower base design pains’:
- Shower base design pain #1 – Your Mom or Dad needs an accessible shower. They only have a 5’ tub area to work with.
- Shower base design pain #2 – You hate cleaning the teeny-tiny tile grout joints in your small 3’ x 3’, phone-booth sized stand up shower. It stands next to an unused soaking tub. You want to make it all one space with ZERO grout, but how?
You need shower base products to solve these challenges. Where are you going to look? In many cases, these solutions are overseas (where they have the small 4’ x 5’ bathroom like my wife’s Grandfather).
The small spaces ‘pains’ of European and Asian homes can become your gains (and solutions).
At the International Builders Show/Kitchen and Bath Show (IBS/KBIS) I saw products to help you lick these challenges (OK – not literally lick, because licking shower floors would yucky and unsanitary!).
If you’re a fan of a tiled shower floor there are now-mega sized (60” x 60”) shower base formers to create one level wet room. You can combine you old stand up shower and unused soaking tub into a barrier free luxury shower.
If you’re not a fan of tile grout, with the Euro-inspired FastDeck shower base former can give you an accessible shower for Mom and Dad (with ZERO grout joints) in a space as small as 48” x 32” (or 60” x 32”). It has a safe textured bottom in a white or matte black finish.
Reason #3 You’re Missing Out if You don’t Have an Internationally-Inspired Bathroom – When your United States manufacturer can’t get you what you need in a timely fashion
When you finally take the plunge and plunk down money for a bathroom remodel (or any other home purchase for that matter) you want it done yesterday!
However, how would you feel if your contractor needed a deposit today to order materials for a job, they couldn’t start for 4 to 5 months because of a supplier’s lead time? If I guessed not very good – I’d bet money I could get a job on the Psychic Friends Hotline. Who wants their money sitting idle 120 days (in a best-case scenario)? ‘Er, that would be nobody!
Well one of the things which blew my mind (and not in a good way) was when I went to visit the Kohler booth at IBS/KBIS. Kohler is a well-known U.S. manufacturer of shower panels. I wanted to learn more about their solid surface line called ‘Choreograph.’
It’s a cool design. I used to have a web page on it in my company’s web site. I took this page down a few months after it was introduced – 3 years ago. I did this because they launched without adequate inventory to supply demand (I had to give money back on 2 projects I had already booked).
So, imagine my surprise when I asked the rep at their booth what lead times looked like now. I expected she would say 3 or 4 weeks – something reasonable like that. When she said they increased lead times from 60 to 120 days to ‘exceed customer expectations,’ I was silently laughing my head off (I didn’t want to be disrespectful of her because she was very nice).
However, the unacceptably long lead time her company made her give out is ridiculous. How can you ask a customer to give a remodeling contractor a deposit on a shower wall system they can’t get for 4 months? It’s dumb (IMHO).
When you hear lead time like this you need to broaden your horizons beyond U.S. manufacturers. In fact, what may be counterintuitive is foreign companies can have shorter lead times than U.S. companies. Is that puzzling to you? Here’s how this happens.
Foreign manufacturers have U.S. distributors who need to stock their products to be successful (without crazy long lead times) in the United States. So, instead of longer lead times – they have shorter lead time than a U.S. company who wants to schedule production based on orders now (and keep inventories tighter).
For example, the line of laminated waterproof wall panels from Norway discussed in reason #1 is available off the shelf.
In addition, this line of high gloss wall panels from Australia (which comes a looooong way to get here) are also ready for immediate shipment.
Reason #4 You’re Missing Out if You don’t Have an Internationally-Inspired Bathroom – Design leadership is a world-wide game
If you were looking for the hottest dress out there – you’ll find a fashion designer crafting their wares in Paris, New York, London or Milan. The fashion capitals of the world.
If you’re looking for large gray plank tile, a wood look, a larger format tile, or a stenciled design for your retro, vintage or modern farmhouse bathroom, you’ll need to think internationally.
Almost 50% of the world’s tile production is made in China. The #2 country is Brazil. Coming in #3 is India, followed by Iran and Spain – with Italy (often associated with tile) coming in a #7.
Although you may want to ‘Be American and Buy American,’ when it comes to tile, be prepared to buy internationally.
This trend was sooooo evident at the International Builders show. For example, the number of booths by Chinese firms is exploding every year.
Design leadership is a world-wide game. If you want the coolest designs, at affordable prices – your bathroom tile will come from … anywhere.
Reason #5 You’re Missing Out if You don’t Have an Internationally-Inspired Bathroom – Because your ‘world-view’ is much larger, and there’s no turning back
My ‘world-view’ as a kid (besides playing whiffle ball and trading baseball cards with Tony Rizzo and Tommy Beranek) was much smaller. There was 3 major TV and 2 UHF stations to watch. There was NO Internet or cell phones (believe that!). If you wanted to learn about a ‘foreign country’ and their culture and style you cracked open the World Book Encyclopedia your parents bought from the door to door salesman (notice I didn’t say woman, because it’s unlikely a woman was doing this job). Anyone else old enough to remember using encyclopedias?
Today, you don’t have to have a big budget (or any budget at all) to have a world-view and get exposed to different cultures, designs, foods and styles. If you love a ‘Scandi-chic’ design, you can overload on it with a cost-effective piece of furniture from your local IKEA store (and get some tasty Swedish meatballs in the bargain).
If you love the vibe of Modern Minimalism for a new bathroom you can either Google ideas, or see them in these modern Spanish shower bases from Aquabella I saw at IBS/KBIS.
Our world view of ideas, designs and product availability is much larger. There’s no reason to turn back to the ‘bad-old-days’ when you looked to a dusty encyclopedia for inspiration.
An internationally-inspired bathroom design has never been more affordable or closer to your grasp.
While I can understand and appreciate the lure to ‘buy American,’ I’m not sure we often understand what being American really is.
As people we’re all mutts – a ‘Heinz 57’ mix-up of diverse cultures.
When you buy something, and think it’s ‘All-American,’ generally a mix of international companies and cultures have contributed to the final product.
I would challenge you to embrace this diversity. Embrace it in your relationships and in the internally-inspired products you use for your next bathroom renovation.
Don’t limit your options.
Remember – YOLO (You Only Live Once) …unless you’re Shirley MacClain.
For internationally inspired waterproof laminated wall panels or one level wet room systems contact Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. For the multi-cultural bathroom of your choice call Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270 or in Columbus The Bath Doctor at 614-252-7294.
Tags: 2019 tile designs, bathroom design, bathroom trends, bathroom trends 2019, Euro-inspired bath design, Euro-inspired design, European bathroom, innovative bathroom products, inspired bathroom, International Builders Show, Kitchen and Bath show, Tile designs
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