On the House | Tell them to keep it simple

The day before I left for the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas a few weeks back, I appealed to you for help covering it - suggestions about what should I look for and what should I write about.

From that Sunday morning on, I received 102 e-mailed bits of advice. All but five arrived before my plane took off at 1:11 p.m.; the late arrivals apologized.

These were not one-sentence or two- or three-paragraph advisories. These were substantial, well-written, informed and - in a great many cases - very funny observations.

Since you gave up part of your Sunday to answer the call, I thought I'd share some of your thoughts publicly - using just initials if they were supplied, because most of you wished it so.

I'm going to upload all the responses, with the same guarantee of anonymity, to a products blog I've been keeping for several months, more as a notepad than anything else. When they are there, I'll let you know and invite comments and questions.

From P.G.: Appliances are fine the way they are, but they don't seem to last as long as they should (we've had three toasters in the last three years).

Give me a granite look for less than the price of a BMW. I would love an under-the-counter wine cooler, but my basement is 55 degrees: works fine.

From J.C.: I was sitting down to dinner and saw your essay/article/whatever and decided it was more important than eating. You see, I am about to tear down my house and am particularly obsessed about my future kitchen and master bath.

I had no idea there was so much technology out there! I don't know where to begin with selecting a toilet . . . I thought it was just a matter of round versus oval. It's one of those things you cannot answer when you don't even know what the question is.

Eco-friendly features. Definitely interested, but I'm not sure what is out there. I would like some water conservation given that I will have a water-wasting shower system. I know I want the two-drawer dishwasher since I hate running the entire thing half-empty.

From W.C.L.: It appears the designers have run out of ideas, and instead of making improvements to function, they're trying to embellish many with technology, combinations of unrelated functions. I think it's ridiculous!

Garbage disposals - all they need to be is functional. As long as they do their job efficiently, who cares if they're a bit noisy for 30-60 seconds? Making them quieter is a waste of effort, in my opinion.

From B.M.: Can we talk about eco-friendly refrigerators? Refrigerators are energy hogs (very non-green) because:

The automatic defrost runs on a dumb cycle. Maybe just every so often, or sometimes they count how many times you open the door. Result is too much automatic defrosting, which sucks up electricity. How about a window you can look through to see if it needs defrosting - then you push a button to activate the defrost.

This isn't about being green, but if they could please stop making those things with waffled or dimpled surfaces. They are impossible to clean. A flat surface, preferably Teflon-coated, would be much better.

From T.K.: I'm one of those people who believe if it ain't broke, don't fix it - or replace it! Whatever happened to using something till it doesn't work any more? My husband and I take care of, repaint, and repair whatever needs it. I'm constantly amazed at what some people can't live without, and most of what you mentioned in your column today sounds like just that.

From B.F: Range hood with a brain? No. In fact, I don't like range hoods. They make cooking feel congested. I have an exhaust fan in the ceiling right over the stove. It has no brain that I can discern, and it seems to work fine.

Fridge with built-in TV? No. I also don't have an ice-maker (not eco-friendly and well known to break way before anything else in the fridge). In general, I like single-purpose appliances that can only break in one manner.

Coffeemaker in the wall? NO! NO! NO!

And that's just a representative sample of the 102 e-mails I received.

The feeling I got from the vast majority of you is that you consider many of the products being pushed on us superfluous, and resent that manufacturers are not paying attention to you but to architects and designers who work for people for whom money is no object.

Continue to share your thoughts. Maybe someone will begin paying attention.


"On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.