Five Products That Caught Our Eye at IBS

The National Association of Home Builders’ annual convention can resemble a big marketplace, with displays of the latest in faucets, solar panels, flooring and outdoor gas grills lining the aisles of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. There’s even a “model village” of homes outfitted with products from the various displays.

Here are five new products we took note of while wandering the floor last week at IBS 2012:

Robbie Whelan/The Wall Street Journal
Kohler’s Numi toilet: the singing, warming robot toilet you never knew you needed.

Kohler’s Numi toilets: For a cool $6,400, you can have a toilet that sings to you, warms your legs, washes your underside with multiple streams of water, and remembers your favorite settings for when you return. The Numi was introduced by Kohler last year as the companies “most advanced” commode. Other models made by Kohler range from $150 to about $1,000, but the Numi, which the company says was influenced by high-tech toilets from Asia, comes with a steep price tag because of all the bells and whistles. In addition to an iPod-ready stereo system (sound comes off speakers on the rear of the toilet), leg-warming porcelain, ground lighting and multiple bidet settings, the Numi is designed so that you never have to touch it. Instead, motion sensors and a remote control open its top, prepare a comfortable seat and flush it for you. It’s the singing, warming robot toilet you never knew you needed. (Oh, and there’s this sexy ad campaign, shot in Los Angeles last year.)

BluWorld iAqua water walls and countertops: Ever wish your home was more like a Japanese steakhouse? Orlando-based BluWorld, which makes decorative indoor water fountains and fireplaces, had a cool line of flat, upright water walls, which are transparent, flat screens through which rivulets of water and bubbles cycle up and down. You can almost hear the smooth jazz playing. One of them even had a flat-panel TV screen installed in it, so that you can watch TV as if through a rainstorm. These walls — particularly the iAqua, a “bubble panel” filled with distilled water and lighted with color-changing LED lights — can be flipped over horizontally and used as a countertop, which would give homeowners the smoothest basement bar ever.

Progress Lighting’s Bingo lights: In addition to making hundreds of fairly normal-looking light fixtures, Progress makes these circle-shaped compact fluorescents, which when strapped to a wall give off a nice ambient glow. They provide a cool effect, as Developments discovered when visiting IBS’s staging homes.

Robbie Whelan/The Wall Street Journal
Progress Lighting’s Bingo lights

Beach house-style walls and furniture: In one of the IBS houses at rear of the convention center, we noticed a trend being pushed for new-home builders: surf-shack style materials being used for walls and cabinets. These fixtures, including pine siding by the Chilean company Arauco on the inside of a house, and 1950s-style cabinets by Merillat, have clean symmetrical lines, often with distressed-wood finishes. The result is a really charming look that evokes summer, the country and sunshine.

Savant home automation with iPad: For a few years now, builders have been pushing systems that allow homeowners to program their TV, turn on a thermostat, or shut off the lights remotely using their smart phones. But those systems almost always use proprietary computer software and expensive hardware. Massachusetts-based electronics company Savant last year launched a system that allows you to monitor energy consumption, raise and lower window shades, adjust heating and HVAC settings, and control appliances using an iPad. Not the most necessary feature, but certainly a fun one.

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