The 2018 International Woodworking Fair, held in mid-August in Kleber & Associates’ home base of Atlanta, was certainly chock full of interesting new surfaces, flooring, architectural woodwork and decorative hardware. In fact, more than 1,000 exhibitors were on hand at the bi-annual event to share their latest product innovations.

What really stood out to the K&A team, however, was the number of exhibitors offering solutions focused on convenience and streamlining the functionality of everyday living spaces. If you consider all of the “smart” home devices entering the market on a seemingly daily basis, it makes perfect sense that woodworking manufacturers would want to jump on the smart technology bandwagon. Today’s home and building owners are becoming more sophisticated, and — most of us, anyway — appreciate things that make our lives easier.

Following are a few of our favorite trends:

Hidden Amenities. From built-in electrical outlets, USB ports and pop-up outlets, to knife and utensil racks that ‘magically’ descend into view… there was something for virtually every application. Kitchens have been trending toward simpler, cleaner lines, so finding ways to keep items out of sight when they’re not being used is not only functional — but also aesthetically desirable.

Organization experts Rev-a-Shelf showcased a broad range of “behind the cabinet” amenities, including swing out pantries, sink tip-out trays and easy glide “Not-So-Lazy”-Susans that take kitchen space optimization to the next level. Their knife block and utensil base organizer (with flexible rods that adjust to hold any size or type of knife) really impressed our team. The brand also presented a number of storage solutions that feature strategically placed lighting — a welcome design element.

Ergonomic design. Another significant trend we witnessed was products designed to minimize the effort needed to access storage areas. Several companies featured pull down cabinets with built-in, pull down shelving that bring items to eye level as well as handy mixer/appliance lifts that easily pull up from within a lower cabinet to stylishly extend kitchen workspace.

Hardware and fittings manufacturer Häfele displayed a range of pull-out countertops that can be used — for example — to fold clothes (perhaps in concert with a point-of-use washer/dryer in a closet setting) as well as a store-away dinner table or desk for smaller footprint spaces. With more target audiences, including Millennials and Empty Nesters, opting for smaller floorplans… this kind of detail is a welcome opportunity for specifiers.

Technology. Further simplifying storage was a range of clever features aided by the latest smart home technology. Häfele impressed us with their glass-enclosed closet drawers that light up with the touch of a palm. And with their technology-enabled smart mirrors that function with make-up lights, room lighting, mood lighting as well as mirror defoggers. Of particular note was a sensor-controlled toe-kick light that enables hands-free opening of cabinets.

A number of other interesting uses of technology focused on lighting — from apps that integrate with Alexa or smartphones to change the color of shelving and drawer lighting according to pre-set preferences, to lighting that automatically dims and brightens at pre-programmed, specified times. Manufacturers are also making their lighting solutions for storage available in a range of hues — from warm to cool “temperatures” — enabling homeowners to illuminate their spaces according to changing preferences.

The K&A team was pleased to highlight for you a host of exciting new trends on a wide array of products, designed to simplify daily life. In a culture where “convenience is king,” these solutions only will continue to become more seamless and streamlined.