6 Sexy Trends We Saw at #IBS2023

This year’s International Builders’ Show presented its annual smorgasbord of innovations and product displays from building materials industry players large and small in Las Vegas. We spent three days traversing the booths to see what’s new and impactful, what’s been evolving and what’s gaining some traction but hasn’t had enough cooking time yet. We took note of six of the sexiest trends—okay, maybe not exactly sexy, but they’re ideas and themes you should be aware of as you plan your business strategies.

Here are our six takeaways from the show (and two ongoing innovations to stay on top of)

1. Acquisitions maintain their momentum

Whether it’s embedding recent acquisitions into current corporations, or the ongoing M&A conversations happening at the show, acquisitions are still happening. At IBS you could see acquisitions being touted by some of the big brands, but often the brand approach was still unclear in terms of how the new acquisitions were being incorporated, confusing attendees. While company performance might not have been quite as robust for some in 2022 versus 2021, there are still a lot of cash-rich companies looking to spend and grow. In light of that, more brand hierarchy decisions will need to be made.

2. Outdoor living continues to reign

It’s a good thing mentions of “outdoor living” wasn’t a drinking game—it was everywhere, with only a few doing it well. Solutions for outdoor kitchens, shady retreats and mechanically controlled louvered roofs with integrated, hidden water management or gutters were among the product features and materials being touted by suppliers, who were there in force. It was proof that the market is still making way for more refining of the outdoor living trend that took off during the pandemic. It’s also why outdoor living projects top the remodeling index of where consumers are spending their home improvement dollars (overtaking kitchen and bath).

3. Connected homes are becoming more practical

Connectivity has been touted for several years, but ironically most of the solutions were disconnected from each other, making it hard for the homebuilder or homebuyer to truly leverage. The products on display this year present a future where homeowners have even more efficient tools at their disposal, integrated into more functional products than in years past. From digital shower controls to optimizing your electric panel efficiency, advancements allow users to manage their home according to their family’s unique usage requirements.

4. Cool grays are out; tell your grandma that pastels are back in

Easter candy tones were splashed across the show, with soft and sweet hues seen across bathroom fixtures, appliances, tiles and fabrics. So were versatile neutrals, with Sherwin Williams plugging their 2023 color of the year, Redend Point, a warm, nondescript beige with pink undertones that designers will find adaptable. Kohler did a clever celebration of their anniversary by pulling colors from their archives. They crowd-sourced votes for two favorite heritage shades to put into production: Spring Green, a muted almost-turquoise from 1927, and Peachblow, a pink pastel from 1934. The colors had an appealingly gentle, retro effect. Your grandmother would be pleased.

5. Artists, designers and influencers are becoming integral collaborators

Building product/home improvement brands have finally figured out that home trends tend to follow runway trends. Instead of waiting to see what’s next, they’re facilitating the trendsetting themselves through collaborations with creative minds from other industries. (We noted the flat white faucets of Jason Wu’s collection for Brizo were new and fresh in contrast with the more traditional blacks and metals, for example). This cross-pollination between building materials and other design-centric industries or influencers is helping companies introduce products with some exclusivity and a strong marketing hook.

6. There are pricey (but interesting) advancements in manufacturing

While it’s a trend we’ve seen before, it’s one worth paying attention to as advancements in manufacturing are making new ideas possible. Wood is gaining relevance in not only structure but design. While expensive, the story and benefits of thermally modified wood are impressive and the materials were often beautiful. It seems to be a competitive growth segment to the more traditional decking materials (including composite), with an interesting heat transfer process to stabilize the wood, preventing warping or cupping. We saw several manufacturing technology innovations like the 3D printed sink at Kohler designed by American artist Daniel Arsham, as well as many modular technologies that take cost and labor out of the equation, including the unique RSG 3-D wall system.

Bonus: ongoing trends

1. Bringing the outside in continues

Biophilic designs, which recreate the fresh feeling and soothing colors of nature, continue to dominate interior design, thanks in part to their nod to ideas of organic and sustainable.

2. Wellness-oriented spaces are still in

A higher consciousness of people’s need for wellness, whether by designing health-oriented concepts for new spaces or by employing healthier materials, is still a rising trend to be aware of across the industry.

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