Every year the International Home + Housewares Show puts thousands of new products on display, and retailers and the press scramble to find ones you'll want to see and maybe buy.
This year we concentrated on items with style. Here are creations that provide you with great-looking ways to make your home function better.
Finell Grip Band Tray -- an absolute favorite from the Housewares show. Envision a large round tray 20 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches deep crisscrossed with wide, colorful, strong bands that look almost like they were cut from an old inner tube. Tuck glasses and carafes full of liquids into the snug pockets created by the silicon bands and you can carry drinks securely from the kitchen to the dining room or backyard. If you're the ambitious type who courts disaster by carrying too many items at once, the powder-coated aluminum black or white tray can save you those tumbles and spills. However, the price tag is $495. The Grip Band Tray is shown on the company's website, finell.co, and is expected to be available there soon.
The company also makes silicon place mats in two styles. Facets has little peaks and Bubble has flat circles loosely connected. Two or more can join together as a runner, and they are heat resistant to do duty as a trivet. Colors include black, white, aqua and peach. The cost is $110 a pair.
Umbrellas range among those indispensable items that can be a storage pain -- especially when they are wet.
Menoto umbrella stand from Blomus uses stainless steel and resin to provide a sleek spot to park your damp ones. This touch of very contemporary style is $119. It can be purchased at Amazon.com and Lumens.com.
If whimsy is more your style, R. F. Yamakawa presents the Prato umbrella stand in several colors. Made of silicon and concrete, it looks like a small bed of large plastic spikes where you can put your umbrella. It costs $29.95 on the company's online store, rfyshop.com.
Bosign's kitchen tablet stand does not look like much. Except for its resin construction and modern colors, you might mistake it for an ashtray. But oh, the technology it enables. Yes, you can read an online recipe from your tablet by standing it in those two notches. Or -- the recommended way -- it can lie down on the slipfree slanted top of the stand. This is priced at around $20 and is shown on the company's website, en.bosign.se. They also can be purchased at Amazon.com.
Water clocks sound almost impossible, but Bedol says it has been making clocks charged only with tap water for about five years. Its newest is a wall clock. Thanks to two metal plates in the clock, you fill it with water, and the ions power it for up to a year before you need to change the water. This model costs $89 and can be purchased at bedolwhatsnext.com. Smaller models start at $19.
Storage is so critical these days, so Infusion invented its Reforms Collapsible Watering Can, also called The Snail because it looks like one. It holds a gallon of water and has a rain shower spout that can be removed for indoor watering. But when you don't need The Snail, its side panels push in to make it 4 inches wide, less than half its size when it's expanded. It will sell for $29.99 and be available in June at garden centers and Ace hardware stores.
Yumi has created Amore Sculpture Bowl Set, which is six pieces made from bamboo fiber. Stacked together they can be considered art and left on a table for easy storage. Each piece is a usable bowl. It will be more attractive as artwork when the company starts using colors other than shades of gray. The recommended retail price is $99.50. It is available at Amazon.com.
With Urbio, you install metal wall plates, then attach your choice of plastic containers with magnets. Ten-inch square wall plates are $15 each with containers starting at $15 each. Kits are $75 and $175. The company promotes them for everything from organizing your kitchen or nursery to bringing plants inside. They are available at myurbio.com -- where you can see installation directions -- and at Container Stores.
You won't try to hide Polder's Spring Dish Rack when company comes. A large stainless steel "spring" holds nine plates and there's room for glasses, too, in the plastic tray with a pour spout that directs drips into the sink. The removable silverware container can sit on the counter, too. Right now black and orange are available on the company's website, www.polder.com, but white is coming; Crateandbarrel.com has a cheery yellow; and other retailers carry it, too. They retail at $39.99.