“Amo las cosas loca, locamente,” Pablo Neruda writes. “I have a crazy, crazy love of things.”
Me too. So I seldom miss the International Home + Housewares Show, which ended its four-day run at McCormick Place on Tuesday. No one tells me to go; I just do, for the joy of wandering around, checking on old favorites — Igloo is 70 years old, and now sells coolers lit from within by LED bulbs. Noticing new trends: everything is organic, or else silicone.
The show is so vast — 2,200 exhibitors, 62,000 attendees — it helps to have a plan to approach all these sponges, buckets, hangers, trash baskets. The great Chilean poet’s “Ode to Common Things,” a series of 25 poems lauding commonplace objects, sounds as good as any. The Nobel laureate begins with a general “Ode to Things” and the line above, then gets specific, fast.
“I like pliers . . .”
“One of our best-sellers,” said Perrine Giacomazzo, marketing director at Kikkerland, a company founded to market Dutch design (the name means “frogland”). She explained that putting wood on the seven-in-one multitool made it into a popular gift item.
“. . . and scissors.”
“The popular one is this one,” said Naomi Ogawa, secretary at B.H.P. Industries in Japan — half of the show’s exhibitors are from overseas. She is referring to the “Almighty” titanium coated multi-purpose kitchen scissors. “The five-in-one. We have five functions, like can opener, driver thing, walnut cracker. This one is for peeling fish skin.”
“I love cups, rings, and bowls—”
“Bowls are the new plates,” said Nicole Ramos, sales manager at Denby USA, the American arm of the 200-year-old British dinnerware manufacturer. “A shift on how the millennials and people of today are eating and entertaining. People don’t entertain like they used to, not these big family gatherings or formal dinners anymore. We’ve recognized that, and shifted our focus to people who just sit and eat dinner in front of the TV, and if you eat dinner in front of the TV it’s safer out of a bowl than a plate.”
Ten years ago a Denby set might have three bowls; now it can have eight, a nod not only to casual dining, but to the rise of Asian cuisines.
“. . . keys and salt shakers — “
“We’ve gone a picnic casual route; indoor/outdoor,” said Amy Wise, director of product development at Olde Thompson, a British seller of pepper mills and salt shakers. She pointed out a pair of shakers made from glass mugs. “Hammered looks, copper finishes, kitchen trends. Wood is super hot right now. Trying to blend trends with what we know works.”
Follow @neilsteinberg“. . . every little thing: shapely shoes, and fabric . . .”
“For us, having a nice fabric in a room, like a nice tablecloth, changes the whole atmosphere,” said Camille Weber, national sales manager at Garnier-Thiebaut, the venerable French textile mill, whose tablecloths can cost $600. “It can make it feel more cozy, more outstanding.
“You don’t have to redecorate your house, or paint your walls, change your furniture,” added her associate, Rossie Metodieva. “You just put one piece of color.”
“It changes the whole mood of the room, basically,” said Weber.
The first poem, “Ode to Things” is followed by two dozen odes to specific objects — the chair, the bed, the guitar, yellow flowers, soap, a pair of socks.
“. . . They were so beautiful I found my feet unlovable for the very first time . . .”
“The trend today, for men, used to be snazzy ties, now it’s all about fancy socks,” said Kim Bartolotta at Giftcraft, which sells brightly colored Yo socks featuring images of bacon, pizza, beer, sharks, and many more. “Men are getting away from ties, but they need something to jazz up their outfits. . . . We were one of the first to get into a gifts hop. It’s more to be given as a gift. It makes a great gift, a men’s gift.”
“Spoon, scoop formed by man’s most ancient hand, in your design of metal or of wood we still see the shape of the first palm to which water imparted coolness . . .”
“The silicone spoons are new,” said Brian Ernster, of Chef Craft, holding a bright red spoon with a round hole and a jaunty point on its right side. “This is a mixing spoon, which is kind of a take off on our American slotted spoon. I believe it’s more of a European spoon. What is nice about that is the spoon is contoured so you can get right along the edge of a circular pan.”
The last poem of Neruda’s “common things” cycle is “Ode to French Fries.”
“What sizzles in boiling oil is the world’s pleasure: French fries go into the pan like the morning swan’s snowy feathers and emerge half-golden from the olive’s crackling amber.”
“This is a tool we use to hand-cut fries,” said John Haddad, assistant brand manager at Hamilton Beach Brands, wielding a Weston French Fry Cutter & Vegetable Dicer. “It’s pretty unique because it’s a ratchet device. It doesn’t take much pressure.” The cut potatoes go into a eight-cup deep fryer with the Realtree camouflage top. Weston sells a variety of friers, sausage grinders and aprons decorated in camouflage patters.
“A lot of our customers are hunters,” said Haddad. “We also work a lot with homesteaders. The whole farm-to-table experience.”
“Not only did they touch me, or my hand touched them: they were so close that they were a part of my being, they were so alive with me that they lived half my life and will die half my death.”