If you attended CEDIA Expo 2022 last fall, there’s a 99.99% chance you heard the word “design” used in booth after booth. Whether it’s product aesthetics, the ability to hide home technology, lighting fixtures to add function and flair, or promoting healthier smart living (along with much more), the influence of design and the prospects for interior design relationships promoted, was echoed by the Kay Bailey Hutchison. Convention Center during the Dallas event.
That’s a good thing. Manufacturers in the channel are trying to get integrators into projects earlier, and connecting dealers with designers is one way to do that. Once designers understand how integrators can help by creating proposals that use invisible speakers or color-changing lighting or TV mounts that fold into the ceiling (to name a few), they may be the ones who potentially work on their trusted bring technology partners.
The smart home and home design go hand in hand
Last year at CEDIA Expo, designers were welcomed to the revived personal trade show. CEDIA hosted the return of Design + Connection tours that brought interior designers to various booths including Crestron, Google, Harman Luxury Audio, HTSN Nationwide/Azione Unlimited, Lutron, Origin Acoustics, Samsung, Sony and AiSPiRE/WAC.
I visited several of those booths and many more whose exhibitors recounted various ways interior design influenced their product development and engineering, whether it was new products, revisions, or new category entries. I have found that design influences products ranging from LED lights, motorized shades, speakers, screens and even security and automation devices.
Take smart home manufacturer Crestron, for example, with its new LED lighting fixtures or Origin Acoustics working with Bang & Olufsen on a reimagined soundbar that fits in with the Danish company’s renowned design heritage.
Alongside Bang & Olufsen, Leon Speakers as usual showcased its custom soundbars plus its latest artist edition Ente SoundTiles and celebrated a quarter of a century in the industry. In fact, for its 25th anniversary, the company showcased its original Horizon custom-width soundbar, which will be available in a limited edition trim.
Sonance/James Loudspeaker does invisible, custom and low-profile well with their design mantra and one example is the Small Aperture range, in which the small speaker grill hides a much larger footprint chassis installed inside the stud box to help achieve higher performance to deliver despite the ultra-low profile. “Small Diaphragm was kind of the hero product for James for a long time,” says Sonance’s director of marketing, Mike Cleary. Invisible speaker specialist Stealth Acoustics noted at the Expo that the company is expanding its facilities for its impending eighth-generation release of the technology in the coming years.
Interior design pillars are growing more advanced
The display makers have been catering to the home design crowd for years, as the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG have continued to shrink, expand and help their products double as wall art, now capable of filling entire walls with the emergence of microLEDs.
Stylish keyboards from Basalt and the ability of Wall-Smart to built-in keyboards (and touch panels, Josh.ai devices, Sonos soundbar concealment and more) in various construction materials offer unique aesthetic perspectives for integrators and their customers.
The category of LED lighting fixtures has opened up all kinds of avenues for integrators to wow interior designers and customers with beautiful solutions that address many areas and applications. Personally, my favorite eye-catching design improvement at the Expo was the countertop back lighting, shown by some of the fixture suppliers such as Proluxe by American Lighting and Environmental Lights. Something that caught my eye, apart from the usual types of lighting, are 2×1 canvas sheets with individual LEDs that can be used for backlighting applications – especially for beautifying places like kitchen backsplashes and onyx counters and islands.
“You can take the slabs and cut them to size, there are multiple places you can cut,” says Proluxe national sales manager Jennifer Kirkpatrick. “Accent walls are becoming more and more popular. I have a dealer that has a customer who is putting up a Himalayan sea salt stone wall, it’s over 60 feet long and they light it with this canvas. It’s a $90,000 job – but the main place they use it is to underline tabletops.
Throw in some invisible speakers, voice control, motorized shades and lighting control and it doesn’t take much these days to put together a compelling technology package that can fulfill the needs of homeowners and interior designers, especially in often secondary spaces like kitchens and bathrooms.
This is only the beginning for integrators
There is much work to be done to connect integrators and designers, as I noted while attending my first KBIS show last year, moderating a session with integrator and Home Technology Association panelists before an audience of curious designers (HTA’s Josh Christian provides numerous resources for designers to learn tech basics, budgeting, and more). And if CEDIA Expo 2022 is any indication, the tech manufacturers are leading the charge to bring the trades together – there are exciting products across all categories of the custom industry waiting to be installed, so it’s time to get the word out.
It is part of CE Pro’s ‘Technologies to Watch’ series. Click here to read more about the technologies experts expect to shape the custom integration industry.