For any manufacturer the ultimate goal in respect of their product has to be its guaranteed appeal to the end user. That was never more evident than at the Grand Designs Live exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham in mid October.
Whilst some would argue that for installers a trade exhibition is the arena that inspires investment, there were others who clearly saw the merits of tailoring their products to catch the eye of both trade and consumer audiences. Obviously, some products lend themselves well to this and it was interesting to look at some mainstream sectors that have overlap, where manufacturers could reach both audiences and effectively well.
Kitchens and Bathrooms is just such an arena, with the allure of sumptuous living, reduced energy bills and artistic potential all cleverly displayed to attract a very broad audience. In today’s world where DIY enthusiasts and Self-Builders have a key role to play in substantial market growth, it was interesting to see what aspects exhibitors wanted to push in an ever changing and fiercely competitive marketplace.
As was expected there were some stunning exhibits on show all promoting sleek, opulent design combined with the latest in automated technology that has been created to make life easier whilst minimising our impact on the environment. There were some striking creations for both bathroom and kitchen with bespoke companies also demonstrating how effective a touch of creativity can add to the overall finish.
Some striking splashbacks were all handmade and could be as elaborate or minimalistic as homeowners wanted. A bespoke touch that was proving increasingly popular at the show as each day passed. Personalisation was the key here and visitors were lapping it up.
Equally, Miehle and Blue Water left a visually stunning impact for those visiting the Grand Designs Live hall, clearly trading on brand recognition, reputation and clever eye catching stand design, which created a real buzz for people as they walked the exhibition floor. It was interesting to note how much more geared towards overall kitchen design the whole sector seemed to be over bathrooms, although there were some tiling and finish companies who had made substantial efforts to attract the ever discerning eye of the homeowners.
The Zip Hydrotap Stand offered a fabulous range of products for both commercial and domestic use and it was absolutely alive with interested parties. The promotion of healthier ways to enjoy one of the elements we all cannot live without was clearly making its mark. Cool, cold, carbonated or even boiling hot for a great cup of instant tea, as offered by Northern Sales Manager Nathan Murphy at the show, demonstrated healthier long term benefits even if the system came in at a higher price than the average mixing tap. This was all about an improvement to lifestyles rather than merely a stylish gimmick that would fade into oblivion like the Sinclair C5 or the Pippin. The what? Exactly.* This dynamic tap clearly had been cleverly evaluated and researched as a product to stimulate investment. It was slick, stylish and impressive and it was clear that many enthusiastic visitors were vying to try it out.
Likewise SMEG had some visibly creative options on display which were creating a lot of interest. Retro-style was impressing a great number of people keen to discuss and evaluate the bold colours and more unusual styles that could potentially turn their kitchens or bar areas into a visual cooling masterpiece. Whether it was the contemporary design of a stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator or the bold, curvy lines of a 50’s style fridge-freezer, SMEG had produced a stunning collection of refrigerators and freezers, that everyone was talking about. Single, double and built-in models, as well as a delightful, bespoke bottle chiller in the shape of car boot were tempting passers-by with their offers of chic, energy efficiency combined with lasting quality.
Fundamentally, having walked the floor, the truth would seem to be that great design is less about how a kitchen or bathroom really looks and more about how it makes life more enjoyable in practical ways. That said, when the overall look is fantastic, it does make bathing or baking all that more pleasurable. Great design translates into a home that fundamentally functions better, costs less to design and build, and which is simply more efficient to maintain.
So Grand Designs Live this year seemed to be all about giving you more for less. Never has it been more exciting or creative to add or remodel a home, kitchen or bathroom. It is evident that the consumer is willing to invest as long as there is a good return on that investment. The exhibition enables visitors to make informed decisions on products that will add style, last for decades and more importantly will yield a healthy profit from the initial outlay cost.
These days it would seem we all can have far more than we ever dreamed possible.
Helen Duval 2015
* Pippin was Apple’s entry attempt into the games consul world.