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Doug Walter's Pro's Picks From IBS/KBIS

From stair climbers to quartz counters, these are some of the products that stood out at this year's International Builders' Show.

April 05, 2016
Among architect Doug Walter's Pro's Picks from 2016 IBS/KBIS is Marvin Windows' contemporary awning.

Photo: courtesy Marvin Windows

For more products from the International Builders’ Show, check out a slide show of “10 Winners of NAHB’s Best Products of IBS 2016” at

At this year’s IBS/KBIS convention in Las Vegas, I was on a mission to find products that work for my remodeling clients back home. Three days is not enough time to see everything on display in the 10 miles (really!) of aisles, so to make the most of my time on the show floor, I previewed many of the exhibitors online. I didn’t get through my whole list, but here are some of my favorite finds.

PowerMate Stair Climber

Here’s a tool that defines working smarter, not harder. I’m sure this fellow was quite bored with running this refrigerator up and down the same set of stairs for the three days of the show, but it made a compelling visual to see how easy this motorized dolly made the task.

It may seem an odd inclusion from an architect, but I do watch with concern when workmen are wrestling large appliances, boxes of tile, radiators, or cast iron tubs up the stairs on my remodels. Usually there are too few workers to safely handle this stuff, but they do it anyway. It’s the manly thing to do; but at what cost to their backs and their longevity in the job?

Décor Assist 

Although they didn’t invent the category of grab bars disguised as bath accessories, Delta has perfected and expanded the concept. What I like about Delta’s line is that it gives me a wide range of styles and product types to choose from, so I can work them into almost any bath.

In my opinion, towel bars should be grab bars, mounted solidly to the walls, for added safety in all baths. That’s especially true in baths for kids and teens because they’re hard on flimsy towel bars toggled into drywall.

One of the objections my clients (and I) have had about using grab bars more extensively is their institutional style and large diameter (usually 1½ inches). These Delta grab bars are 1¼ inches or less in diameter, and that makes all the difference. The smaller size is easier to grasp for smaller or aging hands.

As for the bars holding hand-held showers, they look like grab bars, so why shouldn’t they be grab bars? I guarantee that when you are about to slip in a shower, you’ll grab anything that looks secure. You’d be happy if you had one of these. And the corner shower shelves and toilet paper holders with grab function are two more ways to make bathrooms safe and accessible.


Contemporary Awning

This impressive feature window is perfect when you have a view that you don’t want interrupted with standard awning or casement operable sash but you also want natural ventilation from time to time. I love that it’s an awning operator, so you can leave it open during a rainstorm without worrying about water inside. It also reminded me of how Marvin has been at the forefront of large-size operable sash for years. About 15 years ago, I used 5-foot-wide by 7-foot-high operable sash from Marvin’s Magnum series in a contemporary addition.

And for those Millennial clients who want the contemporary storefront look, Marvin’s finish options now include a silver finish that does a good job of mimicking mill finish aluminum.

LED Glass Edge Light

It’s always interesting to see what this innovative German hardware company rolls out at KBIS, and this year didn’t disappoint. This time it was LED glass edge lights. What a great display option for upscale interiors, especially dressing rooms. Since each shelf is illuminated separately, you don’t have to deal with spot lighting, which is often blocked by items on the shelves above.

Angled Power Strip

Backsplashes look better when they’re uninterrupted by outlets. Unlike conventional plug strips, which aren’t that good looking and are difficult to use, Angled Power Strips fit against the back of the upper cabinet but orient the plugs perpendicular to your natural approach. They also provide a neatly tailored appearance in white, grey, or black.

In the same booth I found the company’s Sempria SG9 Series of undercabinet fixtures, which are just ½ inch high and 1¼ inches wide. They come with a matching wire mold to cover the feeds when you mount them properly to the front edge of the upper cabinet, closer to the task zone. Available in 2,700K or 3,000K, they have a color rendering index (CRI) of 90. They also have HDMI, Cat 6, and USB plugs for the connected kitchen. The lenses are translucent enough to even out the LED spots, and I’ve installed these on several kitchens already.

Glyde Undercabinet LED

I’m always on the lookout for undercabinet lighting that doesn’t create hot spots on a polished countertop. I like LEDs because they’re small and they can edge light frosted glass, which diffuses the light. The Glyde series from Ambiance uses this technology and is available in low or line voltage in widths of 7½, 12, 18, 24, and 30 inches. The lights come in two color temperatures, 2,700K (warm) and 3,000K (neutral white), and a CRI of 90. The manufacturer claims the fixtures put out up to 117 foot-candles at the countertop, and are dimmable down to 10 percent.

Blind Corner Hardware

I’m very fond of Rev-a-Shelf, a Kentucky-based company producing innovative cabinet internals that help homeowners make the most of existing cabinetry. Case in point: These two versions of blind corner hardware. The Cloud is a swing-out design (what we used to call a Half-Susan or Banana-Susan); the Wire Pull-Slide-Pull hardware is a clever tandem arrangement that slides in two directions.












Alpha Battery Powered LED

This is one of a line of LED lights from Tresco, part of the Rev-a-Shelf brand, that can be used to illuminate interiors of closets and cabinets—even drawers. Available in 120 volts and 12 volts, some are battery powered, which is great in retrofit situations. The USB-rechargeable Alpha unit measures about 2½ inches by 3 inches and is just ½ inch deep. It’s available in 3,000K and 5,000K temperatures and has an integrated motion sensor that keeps the light on for 10 seconds after motion has ceased.

Quartz Counters

In the ’90s, when quartz first appeared in the U.S., most products looked like the terrazzo floors at your local bank. Today, the colors and patterns are more interesting and creative. Cambria, in particular, has some organic-looking patterns, such as the granite-like Langdon or the sedimentary-looking Roxwell (below, left), shown here. 

At IBS, Silestone was pushing its new Silestone Plus with Nanotechnology, which promises higher gloss, deeper colors, and more stain resistance. But in my private practice, I’m more in search of lower gloss, so I was happy to see many more honed and matte quartz offerings. When done in stone or concrete colors, these can be quite convincing, without the maintenance issues of stone or concrete. Silestone has its Blanc Concrete, while Caesarstone offers Fresh Concrete, Sleek Concrete, and Raw Concrete. The only thing missing is the unmistakable aroma of fresh curing concrete!










Dome Kit

Some products jump out at you as you traipse the miles of aisles that are IBS/KBIS, and this little booth did just that. I immediately thought of applications where I could use these kits from Universal Products. Given enough time, any good trim carpenter could eventually figure out how to frame an archway, barrel vault, groin vault (intersecting barrel vaults), or domed ceiling. But who has the time, particularly when you can just send in the dimensions of the room and a computer-cut kit arrives on the UPS truck?


For more products from the International Builders’ Show, check out a slide show of “10 Winners of NAHB’s Best Products of IBS 2016” at

About the Author

About the Author

Doug Walter, of Doug Walter Architects, in Denver, has specialized in residential remodeling for 25 years. He has a long history with Universal Design and aging in place. He helped write the NAHB’s Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist curriculum and holds an ICC Certificate as an Accessibility Inspector.

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