I have a problem I'd like you to help me with today.
Tomorrow afternoon, I begin a four-day visit to Las Vegas for the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. For the last two months, I've been inundated with phone, e-mail and snail-mail requests from an endless stream of manufacturers to visit their booths to see the latest "trends."
Right now, in an electronic folder, there are 76 of the e-mailed invitations. My mission in the next 24 hours is to figure out the difference between what consumers want and what manufacturers and designers want them to want, and schedule appointments accordingly.
I sincerely want to know what you think, and I want to know quickly. So I'll ask you some questions, and you can e-mail me your thoughts.
If you had the chance, would you change all your bathroom fixtures - you know, faucets, etc. - to bronze? (People who grew up in the Bronze Age aren't allowed to answer.) When I asked one industry rep about a new trend to bronze, he directed me to a design magazine that said it was so.
Would you trade in your present showerhead for one that was a 6-inch square? Even if it was in a "new and exciting color" (not identified)?
Are you interested in appliances with "eco-friendly features?" If you can name me some "eco-friendly features," you might be interested in, tell me why.
Do you want appliances that would simplify your life? Or, if I've missed the meaning of the invitation, appliances that don't require an engineering degree to operate?
Would you attend a demonstration of a garbage-disposer technology that reduced noise up to 60 percent and allowed virtually any food waste to be ground without the disposer clogging? (I'm leaning toward this one).
Can you tell me what this means: "The art gallery-inspired hoods protect the environment with the 'Perimetric Suction System,' which saves energy by improving extraction efficiency while increasing extraction capacity?" Please, tell me, I beg you.
Would you be interested in "a range hood with a brain that's built to last?"
Knowing that televisions have a shorter life span than high-priced refrigerators, would you buy a fridge with a built-in TV or computer screen that allows you to check e-mail as you extract bologna for a sandwich?
Do you want a $4,000 sink that looks like a bowl, or would you prefer to spend $300 for something in porcelain or cast iron that looks like a sink?
This question is so last-year, but would you spend $4,000 to embed a coffeemaker in a wall, knowing that the expensive specialty machines have a tendency to be temperamental? Isn't it easier (though not necessarily cheaper) to go to Starbucks?
Are you as tired as I am of under-the-counter wine coolers?
Would you like to own a cooktop smarter than you are? (I'm not kidding. There's one debuting with a new anti-overflow system that sounds an alarm and shuts off if liquid boils over, or after long periods of inactivity.)
Are you tired of hearing about outdoor kitchens that cost more than indoor kitchens but are usable only three months a year? Well, are you?
Would you eat a turkey that was cooked in 42 minutes?
Even if a breakfast were provided, would you show up at an 8 a.m. event to check out "brand new vignettes?"
Do I need to see another "solid-surface alternative" in countertops?
Are you interested in the "ideal digital kitchen" or would you prefer to have your fridge keep things cold, your stove turn raw meat into cooked, and your microwave heat leftovers without your acquiring an advanced degree?
One showerhead or 10?
Would you buy: (a) a microwave in a drawer; (b) a countertop steam oven; (c) a toilet that talks to you; (d) a faucet that looks like a woman; (e) the promise of a revolution in laminate?
Finally, what does the phrase beyond the modern space-age convenience of remote cooking actually mean?
I'll be expecting your answers by 1 p.m. tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll be braising some brand-new vignettes in my steam oven, talking back to the toilet, and plotting a revolution in laminate with the rest of the Countertop Politburo.
Alan J. Heavens answers questions about real estate and home improvement in an online forum at http://go.philly.com/askheavens. Join him for a live discussion at 2 p.m. Fridays on the PhillyTalk link at philly.com.