Yes, it’s true. I am a KBIS virgin. I’ve been to High Point over 50 times, but I’ve never been to KBIS. There was one year I almost went… I know, I know…”almost” doesn’t count. It’s a huge show, produced by the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association), and to make it even bigger, it is paired with IBS, the International Building Show for one giant event known as Design & Construction Week.
I have received over 80 invitations to visit a myriad of booths, and have confirmed 22 appointments, and have assured countless others that I would do my best to stop by. I am also moderating a panel called Designing Women 2.0 at the KBIS Next Stage, and I want to sit in on some of the educational programming and there is a ton of great topics.I just learned that you should allow 30 minutes to walk from North Hall to South!
In an effort to quell the overwhelm and pack wisely for KBIS, I’ve tapped a few KBIS regulars from various parts of the industry — Veronika Eagleson, Carla Aston, Jeremy Bauer, Leslie Carothers, Elizabeth Scruggs, Veronica Solomon — for advice on navigating, surviving, and thriving at KBIS.*
Modenus and Designhounds
First off, a rundown of the exhibit halls. They’re big, wear very comfortable shoes, drink water and be strategic.
NORTH HALL: This is where you will typically find all the BIG brands with incredible booths, vast product offerings and often their own programming like cooking shows, wine tastings etc. This is also where KBIS owner, the NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association) has their booth and if you want to learn more about their programs, stop by for their Genius Hour at 1:30PM.
CENTER HALL: A not-to-be-missed event at KBIS is KBIS Uncorked, the official kick off of the show which takes place Feb 19 at 3PM at Signature Kitchen Suite. Good to know for power-Instagrammers, the 3 guests that Instagram from Signature Kitchen Suite with the highest number of likes, get invited to join Modenus’ Designhounds and SKS in Napa May 13-16, 2019 . Concurrent with Uncorked is a Martyn Bullard meet & greet nearby at Thermador.
SOUTH HALL: Somewhat smaller booths, but a lot of great design so plan time for this one. South Hall is also where you’ll find KBIS Next Stage , programming is here . Most of these talks are so relevant to design pros but if you have to choose, think about supporting design peeps at the Color Panel Feb 19 at 10 AM, or Inside the Box Feb 20 at 10AM followed by Jane Dagmi’s Women 2.0 panel at 11 and, to a very popular presentation, Design Bites at noon, hosted by Kelli Ellis – an hour that’s like speed dating for newest trends and products.
Salon by KBIS: Because 3 halls sold out in no time, KBIS added a new space for 2019, Salon by KBIS – a very large tent outside of South Hall. It opens at 8 AM with a Salon Open House so this is the perfect place to start your day. Salon features a curated brand section called KBIS Edit and the Design Milk X Modenus Talks lounge which has lots of programming with a conversation-based learning format. Important to add – the lounge now includes the Signature Kitchen Suite wine bar, where you can stop for a glass from 1 to 3:30 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday (I told you it’s important to hydrate) . Also in Salon is Dallas Market Center’s Lightovation Lounge AND very exciting, another new lounge, KBIS THINK which is a community managed and moderated discussion space. Speakers can post a topic and with enough participants grab a table and discuss away. You can find more on that here
The NKBA Bash – get tickets, it’s a lot of fun!
The New American Home – This is managed by the Builders Show but always a great event . Buses leave from the show directly to the home and it’s definitely worth seeing.
Carla Aston, Aston Design Studio:
As a more "builder-oriented" show, KBIS has a much different vibe than the Highpoint or Vegas home furnishings markets. It is held in a convention center, in conjunction with IBS, the International Builder Show, and some of the vendors a designer would want to see will be located there as well. None of the vendors have permanent showrooms, although some of the booths are quite elaborate. It is a huge show, spread over 3 main buildings, but you can hit your highlights in one very full day, if you need to. I like to do it in two days and take a little more time, getting some good photos and stopping to hear some of the speakers.
As a designer, you should hit up the Design Milk X Modenus Talk Lounge for some of their panel discussions and to sit and charge your phone. Say hi to Veronika Eagleson (Ms. Modenus herself) for me, and tell her I sent you!
Even though this is a kitchen and bath show, the food is generally out in the food court and that area is packed at lunch. Plan to eat at off hours to get a seat. You can sometimes catch a chef’s demo in the booths, but it is not very likely.
You'll want some "Instagrammable" moments too. Hit up Kohler, Ann Sacks, Smeg, Thompson Traders, The Galley, anything colorful and sexy is a winner on Instagram!
JEREMY BAUER, BAUER/CLIFTON INTERIORS
Jason and I have been going to KBIS for over 10 years. We love, love, love kitchen and bath design so it's a must see show. The show has grown to mammoth proportions and you will literally run out of time before you see everything. We have a systematic approach where we visit our top vendors first to make sure we have the necessary time with them then we use the remaining amount of out time to walk up and down each aisle from one side of the building to the other keeping our eyes open for new and innovative products. A couple of our favorite vendors to visit are the Kohler, Thermador, Liebherr, Bluestar, Caesarstone booths. They are usually a feast for the eyes from the overall booth design to the products and innovation they are presenting.
I personally love the appliance booths. With us being located in such a remote place in the world, our clients really rely on us to tell them what's out there and I really appreciate the first-hand training and broad exposure I get at each booth on the in's and out's of each unit. You can get some of the best training available at the show as each vendor has their best people out there representing them. The education really allows me to talk with authority about the pros and cons of the products I've learned about and the show allows us to see all of the major brands in one location.
A little piece of advice we follow is we bring some healthy snacks with us. The food court lines are typically long and the food is more in line with "fast food". Make sure to stick around for happy hour. It's fun to let loose and get to know a new vendor at one of the end of day soriees at most of the major booths.
The Kaleidoscope Partnership, Savour Partnership, All-around Industry Veteran
As an attendee and speaker at multiple KBIS tradeshows, here are my top tips:
Give yourself 1/2 hour to walk from the North Hall, 20 minutes from the Central Hall and 10 minutes from the South Hall to walk to the #KBISSalon tent, outside of the South Hall, where the cutting edge #DMMTalks Lounge, #KBISedit, #Lightovation and #KBISthink spaces are located. You won't want to miss the events and the vendors located in the #KBISsalon tent.
Follow the official show hashtag, #KBIS2019, on Instagram, use the tag to share your images and stay connected, and even if you can’t be there, use it to see all the images being shared by those who are at the show!
Rent a Mi-Fi for a month, from Verizon or AT&T. so you won't ever be without a Wi-Fi connection while you are in the Convention Center Halls. On that same note, be sure to pack an extra battery and charging cords for power on the go.
If you're a designer attending and one of your goals is to establish relationships with the exhibitors that will lead to blog monetization/ influencer marketing opportunities/licensing deals come prepared with a media kit or a beautifully designed handout that establishes your credentials.
Last but not least, I invite you to sign up my 2 complimentary small round table presentations (limited to 6 participants) on *How To Monetize Your Website For 24/7 Income* in the #KBISedit Lounge inside the #KBISsalon tent outside the South Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 19th from 12-1 pm and on Wednesday, Feb. 20th from 1-2 pm. For more info and to sign up, go here.
Elizabeth Scruggs, Superior Construction & Design
At the rate new products are introduced in our industry, I believe one of the best investments we can make is attending industry shows and events. KBIS is one of the highest priority shows for my business each year. The amount of vendors amassed in one location is almost hard to comprehend!
The best tip I can offer is this: Don't not go into a booth/ area because it does not look visually appealing. If the product is something you specify, stop and talk to the vendor. I learned this last year as I was part of a tour and we stopped at a booth that I would not have gone into otherwise. It was quite plain and nondescript, however, I discovered a line of drains that I was immediately able to suggest to a client for his shower and it was exactly what we needed.
Some of my go-to vendors: Kohler (their vignette design is incredible!), Thompson Traders (if you've not met the Thompson family, you MUST!), and Metrie Millwork (last year they were on the IBS side of the show).
Veronica Solomon, Casa Vilora Interiors
Oh yes, I have been to KBIS once before. While I don't have great photos, my biggest tip is to prepare a spreadsheet ahead of time, and add new vendors that you are interested in working with to the spreadsheet every night at the hotel while it is still fresh in your mind. I totally forgot some awesome ones that I saw last year and could kick myself for not recording who they were and what I liked about them. I can try to find a good photo, but will have to go through 16K in my phone. Lol.
Lead blog image features BlueStar Winter Solstice appliances.
*In some cases remarks have been edited for brevity.