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The annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show and Conference set up camp in Las Vegas this year. The giant exposition, which took place in May, hosted more than 900 exhibitors and, despite its location, offered enough enticements of its own to keep attendees indoors and interested for its three-day run. While no dramatic new trends emerged, all of the established product lines were well represented. For kitchens, that meant lots of solid-surface and stone countertops, specialty cabinet finishes, ingenious storage solutions, and both built-in and "professional" stainless steel appliances. In the bathroom, it's still all about adding luxury to the space you've got, with vessel lavs, furniture-like vanities and accessory suites, jetted tubs, big showerheads, warm floors, and spa showers galore. All and all, from the utilitarian to the lavish, there was something for everyone. Here's a quick tour of the floor's most intriguing highlights.

Cabinets

Generally, the focus in cabinetry seems to be on finishes, especially contrasting glazes that emphasize nooks and crannies. Dark finishes are on the rise — not only darker wood hues, but black stains and enamels. At the opposite extreme, cabinets rendered in primary colors and bright tints are experiencing their own little renaissance. Cherry continues to be a popular face material, although usually as an "upscale" option; a few manufacturers, however, have recognized an opportunity to bring cherry to more affordable cabinetry, as Armstrong has done with its Merrimac line.

Face-frame cabinets have long been the standard at KraftMaid, but the new Venicia line offers European-style frameless cabinetry at what the company touts as affordable prices. In these cabinets, interiors coordinate with face materials, setting the collection apart from other frameless packages with more typical white melamine interiors. A wide variety of door styles, finishes, and storage choices make the line worth considering.

Those with chemically sensitive clients will be interested to know that Columbia Forest Products has announced plans to start using only urea-formaldehyde-free, soy-protein-based adhesive in all hardwood plywood production (see "New Glue Creates Superior Bond Without Formaldehyde," In the News, September, 2005). The company's new particleboard panel product, EcoColors, offers decorative possibilities with zero formaldehyde emissions and an acrylic surface.

Another smart option: aluminum and stainless steel cabinet doors and drawer fronts from Element Designs and Lasertron. Absolutely no off-gassing, guaranteed.

Or, how about a novel way to maximize storage in a small kitchen? The ever-present, never-used toekick gets down to business with Diamond'sbase toekick cabinet.

Cabinet Hardware

Fully concealed undermount slides have by now proven their mettle; the latest innovation is the soft self-close. Grass, for one, offers its Metro Elite series slides with Airmatic shock absorption that slows drawer momentum to a soundless close. It's a nice enhancement.

Similarly, Blum'sclip-on attenuator modifies the standard cup hinge to self-close doors silently; it can be a simple proprietary retrofit or a complete replacement option. Blum also showed its cool Space Corner drawer, which makes clever use of that pesky corner base. Upon opening, the opposing drawer faces actually flex toward one another to clear adjacent face panels and keep reveals uniformly narrow.

On the massive-hardware front, everyone got a big kick out of working Reversica Design's demo installation of the Gyre 6300 television-concealment system. On one side, the cabinetry appears to be a handsome bookcase; flip it around like one of those secret doors in a haunted castle and there's a working television on display.

Kitchen Appliances

LG Electronics tackles countertop clutter with two new products that combine functions: a microwave/toaster and a microwave/coffee maker.

Lance Larkin'sBrew Express, which brews coffee directly into a stainless steel carafe, installs within a 2x4 stud cavity — yet another way to clear some precious countertop space.

Apartment dwellers and others with no practical means to vent the range hood to the outdoors may appreciate Kobe's new recirculating filtration hood, which delivers up to 400 cfm and uses charcoal filtration to capture odor while directing grease and oil to a detachable container.

And Sharp's handy Microwave Drawer can be installed as a stand-alone appliance or incorporated into its Insight Range, which also provides a glass ceramic cooktop and a conventional or convection oven.