Clean & Simple

In today’s market, many consumers are looking to personalize their homes without having to invest in a major renovation. And, since the bathroom is generally the smallest room in the house – yet a space where luxury touches are most sought after – this makes it the ideal place for adding accessories to give the space a more upscale and updated look and feel.

Perhaps because of its smaller square footage, the bath is one room where the details are absolutely essential. That means whether it’s a multi-tier heated towel warmer or a single tiny robe hook, both form and function will be carefully reviewed to make sure they add the polish, style and ease of use that clients require.

Towel bars, toilet paper holders, robe hooks, shelves and towel warmers are some of the most popular bathroom accessories being given a style update. But it doesn’t stop there.

“Matching toilet levers and soap/lotion dispensers are two of the more popular, newer accessories that have entered the scene,” says Ed Detgen, v.p. of marketing for Danze in Woodridge, IL.

There has also been an increased demand for specialized shower renovation fixtures to create a “spa-like” experience inside the shower by utilizing the existing showerhead outlets. “Adding finishing details in all the right places, such as fittings and accessories, decorative angle stops, supply valves/tubes, grab bars and P-traps can make a big difference in the look and feel of the space,” says Larry Brodey, CEO of Jaclo Industries in Cranford, NJ.

While the attention to these small details adds to the atmosphere, Fred Salati, director, Amba Products in Atlanta, GA, says the emphasis for bathrooms today is on functional simplicity. “Innovative, functional, yet relaxing seem to be the key elements associated with bathroom accessories and hardware,” he says.

He also notes an interest in multi-functional accessories, such as Amba’s Quadro Collection of dual-purpose towel warmers that not only function as a towel warmer, but also act as a space heater, “bringing continuous heat to the bathroom,” according to Salati.

Erin Mitmoen, marketing communications coordinator for Warmly Yours in Lake Zurich, IL, agrees, citing interesting in the company’s new Infinity Towel Warmer. “I’m sure the increase in the sales of smaller ticket items is a side effect of the economy,” she notes.

“Products growing in popularity are those that offer functionality and can help save money, while maintaining a style that can fit a certain taste or mood,” Salati offers.

And those tastes seem to be leaning toward clean and simple lines. “Rather than standing out on their own, hardware pieces should be subtle and fit into the design to enhance the overall aesthetic,” explains Billy Peele, spokesperson for Doug Mockett & Co. in Manhattan Beach, CA. “The biggest influence on the move back to basics is getting away from the excess of the last five or six years. Hardware in recent years incorporated a lot of wild and loud designs that shouted, ‘Look at me!’ and we have since moved toward a more traditional style.”

Homeowners are looking for ways to incorporate accessories that provide that added element of luxury, notes Michael Kornowa, director of marketing, MTI Whirlpools in Sugar Hill, GA. “Adding wood accents to the bath has become an emerging design trend, as wood adds warmth and creates a spa-like feel,” he reports. MTI Whirlpools features a line of teak accessory products that introduce an organic element to the bath.

Traditional may still be strong, but indications are that transitional styling is on the move. According to recent market research conducted by Toto USA, transitional design continues to flourish and will accelerate as homeowners update their traditional residences with design elements that have clean, simple, elegant lines.

Rohl has seen a renewed interest in what it calls the Transitional/American Moderné style. “Homeowners are looking for bath hardware and accessories that offer a timeless, lasting look,” says Lou Rohl, COO/managing partner for Rohl in Irvine, CA. “As a blend of traditional and contemporary styles, transitional rooms feature elegant, enduring design.”

The Finish Line

With regard to finishes in the bath, the move back to basics is translating into a return to the familiar.

“The ‘newest’ finishes are actually traditional ones,” comments David Tyler, v.p. of marketing for Top Knobs in Hillsborough, NJ.

Traditional finishes have emerged as top sellers in bathroom hardware, concurs Peele. “Polished chrome and satin nickel are examples of popular metallic finishes that can be used to coincide with any fixtures.”

Peele notes that these finishes can also easily be incorporated with a variety of leather options, such as Doug Mockett’s CPH6 Cup Holder. The mixing of materials – such as metal with leather, glass or crystal – is a significant trend in decorative hardware that is being carried over to accessories.

While the classic finishes such as chrome, nickel and satin nickel are still very popular, dark finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze are getting increasingly popular as well, according to Charles Fishman at Cool Lines USA in East Rockaway, NY.

Brodey also acknowledges the “revival of antiqued, rubbed or oiled bronze, as well as gold finishes that set a traditional tone.”

While it’s no surprise that gold tones remain popular (they have been trending up for the past two seasons, according to Parrish), the emergence of brass is a different story.

“We are seeing a trend to polished brass – much to the shock of some designers who thought we were beyond that,” says Tyler.

“Brass and bronze living finishes are making a comeback for homeowners with a conservative and classic eye,” notes Adrienne Morea, president of Atlas Homewares in Los Angeles, CA. “Still, stainless is the sustainable material of choice.”

Satin stainless steel offers a quietly sophisticated look for any bathroom, according to Peele. “With a clean and sophisticated look in mind, a streamlined satin stainless theme can go a long way in terms of style.”

In addition to satin stainless, designers are also reaching for brushed nickel. And, according to Lenora Campos, Ph.D., at Toto USA in Morrow, GA, “Polished nickel is enjoying a resurgence. Homeowners appreciate the clean look and easy maintenance of polished chrome, but are looking to move away from polished chrome itself.”

Silver, bronze and black are also in demand for mirror frames, according to Lisa Huntting, president of MirrorMate in Matthews, NC. The company’s new Cherokee brushed silver frame provides a brushed stainless look that is “extremely simple and selling well,” she notes. Huntting adds that both the burnished brown and black are hot right now. “People seem to be increasingly comfortable with bolder style,” she notes.

Parrish is also seeing a heightened interest in black – especially matte black – as well as white when it comes to hardware and accessories. “These finishes can be used to make a high-contrast statement, or to complement other fixtures in the composition of the room,” she states.

From sinks to tile, Amerock has also seen optimistic pops of color in small amounts “to create visual interest in the space. They usually become the visual focal point of the room,” reports Claire Parrish, product manager, new product development, for the Huntersville, NC-based company.

“High-gloss poly resin materials, especially whites and dramatic colors like orange and turquoise…mixed with polished chrome for a rich finish, will be all the rage coming up in hardware,” according to Morea. “This exciting and very fashionable choice will be complementary to gloss-colored faucets and tiles, which are already available in European interiors,” she states.

Socially Sustainable

Interest in sustainability has continued to emerge as a hot trend. “People are using sustainable materials when they can find them, as long as they can maintain the overall planned aesthetic of the space,” says Parrish. “More and more manufacturers are developing products to give consumers value-added products in this area, and that will only continue in the future.”

Brodey adds that collections with products developed using sustainable materials in a variety of designs and finishes will be important in keeping up with consumer demand, and in line with the evolving “green” movement.

Consumer demand is so great now that Fishman says the use of recyclable materials is getting him jobs. “I’ve been told that ‘all things being equal’ our products, being made of recyclable stainless steel, were the deciding factor in getting chosen for some projects.”

Toto’s market research backs this fact. “Socially sustainable design [the confluence of green and Universal designs] is gaining dominance,” says Campos. “There is heightened interest from homeowners in materials that are recycled and easily renewed, and that offer a low carbon footprint.”

With more people thinking about conserving energy, environmentally friendly products such as towel warmers, which keep towels warm and dry, cutting the need for constant washing and drying, are growing in popularity.

An Age Old Problem

With the Baby Boomer generation remaining active in the marketplace, the idea of “aging with dignity” has become increasingly important. The preference is not to visibly make concessions to getting older with specialized fixtures and settings; it has become more of an integrated approach to create beautiful spaces that still work as the client continues to age. “Whether it’s decorative grab bars in designs and finishes that coordinate to other accessories and fixtures in the bathroom, or adjusting heights of sinks and showers to accommodate new needs, designers are adjusting as their client base generates a new set of needs and wants,” says Parrish.

Manufacturers have realized that product design and technologies need to serve the broadest range of people. “Products that are safe, stylish and non-institutional are popular with an older population, and it is important for the bathroom hardware and accessories manufacturer to keep this relevant market in mind,” declares Brodey.

Another “Aging in Place” adjustment comes in innovative storage within the cabinets such as pull-out organizers, hampers and waste bins, according to Shari McPeek, marketing manager, Rev-A-Shelf in Louisville, KY. “This not only frees up floor space for walkers, wheelchairs, etc., it creates a clean ‘spa like’ and more spacious room,” she concludes.

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