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The Seattle Home Show: Big Ideas, Tiny Houses & Massage Chairs

We took a stroll around the Seattle Home Show going on CenturyLink Field Event Center to see what's going on. The answer is...a lot.

Go to the Seattle Home Show and relax.

At least that’s one of dominant themes at the 2016 show at CenturyLink Field Event Center, going on through February 28th. They’ve been holding the show for 72 years, which means some things have changed. (Did it really start in 1944, at the peak of World War II?) Now, there are hundreds of displays and exhibits under one roof. The biggest difference must be in what’s available.

You won’t be able to miss the hot tubs, deck and paving options, backyard kitchens, patio surrounds, landscaping, and even some sport court options. There are awnings to keep the sun out, and solariums to let the sun in. If what you want to do is be outside, or look at it, there are more than enough ways to be in or beside nature. Give the landscapers some slack, though. Hooking everything up in a few hours is going to provide opportunities for leaks that are a lot less likely to happen when they can take the time to do the job right. Many of the landscapers probably had to pick which event to create exhibits for because the Northwest Flower & Garden Show had a bit of an overlap. Weather-ready appliances and furniture, and low maintenance materials like stone or composite were well represented.

Windows and doors were the exterior elements that had the most attractive choices in terms of art glass and fancy mechanisms. Form and function were available, naturally at higher prices than regular old double panes and solid wood. The roofs, gutters, and siding are just as important, but it must be tough to sell 30 year pragmatism beside etched glass. If you’re interested in the practical, though, there were enough competing concepts that you could spend all day comparing construction techniques and materials. Just like the patios, the longest lasting materials seem to come down to the oldest and the newest, stone versus composite. Do you want to work with something semi-eternal, or something that helps reuse and recycle?

If you want to look at houses, prepare to either spend a lot of time looking at presentations or at tiny houses. The space is big enough for houses, but the largest house exhibited was a little less than 600 square feet. Right beside it was a series of tiny houses, the kind on wheels, that were less than half that size. Scattered about were the tiny sheds, and the sheds that have grown into the tiny house market. The houses at the Home Show were moved to the periphery. It is somewhat ironic that the only houses at the show tended to have little to do with the options offered in the middle of the space. They did, however, have a lot of traffic.

One great opportunity offered at the Seattle Home Show is the captive audience that is the remodel, renovation, and contractor community. They only represent a few of the area’s contractors, but it is one time when you can walk in, talk to one, walk over and talk to another, walk away and compare notes, then go back with more questions. There’s none of that trading emails and texts, playing telephone tag, or dealing with scheduling conflicts. If you’re hunting for wine cellar upgrades, kitchen and bath remodels, unpleasant tasks like foundation or roof repairs, or wondering what to do about pests - well, maybe set aside more than a day.

In true Pacific Northwest fashion, there are also the renewable energy exhibits. Most of them are displaying large solar panels and the various systems that help you use the power or be paid for feeding it back into the grid. It may seem that with our latitude and overcast that solar wouldn’t make sense, but all the vendors talked about increasing sales and improving technology.

What wasn’t there was something that had been there years ago. A few vendors pointed out that there weren’t as many appliances, plumbing fixtures, or lighting options as there were a decade ago. The biggest box stores weren’t represented, except for Ikea and a few others. Maybe that’s because houses and remodels are done as packages, or because the big boxes are effectively year-round home shows for those components. There were plenty of mattresses, which goes back to the emphasis on relaxing.

The focus is more on the grand project, the massive remodel, the significant upgrade, the out with the old and in with the new - and the people who will help make it happen.

Considering the urban Seattle housing market, where densification rules, ADUs are becoming common, and new condos are predominantly built for single occupants, the Seattle Home Show seems more directed at the large properties in places like Magnolia, or out in the suburbs where’s there’s more land to work with. The builders of log cabins, timber-frame homes, and engineering timbers are probably spending more time on the far eastside, north and south of King County, or over on the islands and peninsula.

Comfort and security were common themes. Find a place for your hot tub beside the gas-powered fire pit that’s just outside the large and modern American version of French doors that all sits under a weather-aware awning while the perimeter system keeps the pets in and the burglars out. The exhibit that included two very relaxed pets was a welcoming place to visit. There were no exhibits of captive burglars.

And, if the world or the show are just too tiring, there are plenty of massage chairs and mattresses to settle into.

If you get the chance, go in the middle of week. That’s the time to talk to people who will have the time to talk back. If you wait until the weekend, get there early because even the brochures may run out.

Also, if you want something a bit less relaxing, Habitat for Humanity has set up an array of treadmills, bicycles, plus a lap pool so you can run, bike, and swim for charity. That could be a nice mental break from trying to understand yet another download of vendor jargon.
· Seattle Home Show [SHS]