With the ever-increasing trend toward multi-tasking and the advent of technology that makes everyone accessible 24/7, it’s no surprise that there’s a growing interest in the bathroom’s role as a last refuge from the stresses of the world. At the same time, there’s a need for bath spaces designed to feel clean and uncluttered, helping to further the sense of serenity so desired by today’s homeowners.
“A need for calm and organization in our lives perpetuates the trend for minimalism, spa qualities and a feeling of tranquility,” says Jeff Ptacek, CKD, product manager, StarMark/Fieldstone Cabinetry, in Sioux Falls, SD.
However, most consumers are unwilling to give up the wealth of products cluttering so many baths, which drives the need for vanities to offer copious functional storage.
As a result, when it comes to trends in vanities and bathroom cabinetry, manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News are seeing a desire for clean lines, plenty of storage and a move toward furniture style vanities, particularly in the master bath.
“Specialty and dedicated storage are important,” says Laurie Galbraith, design & training manager for HomeCrest Cabinetry, in Goshen, IN. “[More sophisticated] interior storage features for bath vanities are now being offered. The type of cabinets we have used for years in the kitchen – such as spice and condiment storage – are now showing up in the bath for toiletries, medications and all kinds of beauty and spa tools,” she notes.
Becky Bertch, vice president, Bertch Cabinet Mfg., in Waterloo, IA, also sees many trends carrying over from kitchen cabinetry into the bath, including open shelving, darker finishes and contemporary styling.
Manufacturers also note high-quality, furniture-style vanities still top the wish list for many designers and homeowners.
“Furniture-style is still hot,” says James Lin, president of Fairmont Designs, in Buena Park, CA. However, he notes quality here is key: “The companies making good quality, well-made products are sticking around – the lesser quality companies have disappeared.”
“[The furniture-style vanity] is a trend that’s here to stay,” says Angela Scarbrough, senior director of marketing for Decolav, in Deerfield Beach, FL.
Rod Brewer, v.p./marketing and product development for Mid Continent Cabinetry, in Eagan, MN says, “The overall trend is cabinetry as furniture. Consumers don’t want the look of boxy vanities with cultured marble tops.”
“In many cases, the cabinetry has given way to plumbing fixtures in the sink area [such as pedestal sinks]. This is forcing the designer to be more creative with storage solutions. The need for storing toiletries is still there [so] the designer needs to use cabinetry in creative ways,” he adds.
Furniture-style doesn’t necessarily mean ornate design. “Today’s vanity doesn’t have to show Victorian styling to be rooted in concepts more commonly associated with furniture,” says Chris Stookey, director of marketing & engineering for Huntwood Custom Cabinets, in Liberty Lake, WA. “The popular Asian design theme illustrates this nicely. Some designers have recognized the common ground Mission and Asian concepts share. We’re seeing some fantastic bath themes mixing these two themes to stunning effect.”
Steve Wilcox, director of marketing and product development at Sagehill Designs in Cerritos, CA adds, “From an aesthetic perspective, we are seeing the need for more furniture-like design and decorative finishes. Features like inset doors, select veneer treatments and hand-detailed finishes are important.”
Sachin Sharma, account manager for Lacava, in Chicago, IL, has a different point of view. “Right now it seems as though furniture-style vanities are quickly fading,” he says. “Although still popular for a master bath, the trend is slowly shifting toward a more contemporary style, especially in metropolitan areas such as apartments and condos.”
Open and Shut
Everyone has something to hide. In the bathroom, items from medications to toiletries, small appliances to linens need storage. Yet, open shelving is catching on in some areas. Manufacturers are divided on whether open or closed storage solutions are hotter right now, and it seems a balance of the two may be the answer.
Bertch says she sees more demand for open storage, even in medicine cabinets. “There has definitely been a shift from functional medicine cabinets to simplified framed mirrors,” she says.
Ptacek notes, “Internal organization is in big demand. However, if a majority of the clutter is concealed with smart organizational tools, then open storage can lend a feeling of spaciousness and help people feel they have life under control.”
While Galbraith says that many items need to be behind closed doors, others can be effectively stored in open shelving.
“Here you will find family photos, entertainment items like small coffee bars and audio/visual systems, too,” she says.
Other manufacturers see a greater call for closed storage. “Closed cabinets are definitely more in demand as concealing things – in an organized way – is key,” says Jan Hedrick, ASID, director, Habersham Home Projects, Habersham, in Toccoa, GA.
“Closed cabinets are definitely in higher demand,” says Scarbrough. “While the open storage is nice and is still being used in a powder room setting, master baths need the storage to hide the everyday essentials that everyone has in their bathrooms now.”
With a wide variety of finishes and materials available in the market, trends in this area are diverse, depending on style, region and personal taste. Manufacturers agree more distinct treatments are rising in demand, from textured materials to patterned glass.
“For vanities and cabinets, the materials and finishes continue to be predominantly wood and metal,” says Hedrick. “The area where I’m seeing change is in the top surfaces, with concrete being used more and more – especially in contemporary bath environments.” She also sees more demand for Fireslate, a combination of cement, sand and recycled paper. “It’s new, cutting edge and growing in popularity,” she says.
“Contrasting materials are well received and introduce an interesting textural dynamic to modern bath design. Painted finishes are very popular with our vanity products. Closed-grain woods follow this suit and provide a nice substrate for painted and solid-tone finishes. We’ve also noticed a significant increase in stones and metals, such as aluminum,” Stookey says.
Scarbrough acknowledges countertops will always be found in more traditional surfaces like stone and marble, but adds, “Now more creative countertop materials are being used such as tempered glass, stainless steel and solid surface. We even introduced our own terrazzo-type countertop made with recycled glass to give an additional shimmer.”
“Textural elements and other features that give the consumer design options are important,” says Wilcox. “We offer interchangeable door panels on some of our cabinets, allowing the consumer to decide between an open look, a glass insert panel or a veneered wood panel for a variety of options.”
Nieman finds a connection to nature in the colors being used today. “Colors that remind us of water or plant life are being used. Exotic wood species are being requested due to [an] increased awareness through the world market. Species that evoke a feeling of nature or demonstrate eco-responsibility are especially desirous.”
“Darker finishes tend to be more popular right now because they provide a perfect complement to polished chrome or brushed nickel fixtures. Currently demands are high for stone countertops (marble), which come with integrated or undermount bowl options. Wood finished countertops are also very popular and come with a number of protective sealers to prevent water damage,” agrees Sharma.
Bertch says, “Most recently we’ve seen greys and blues merging back into the color palette, silver glazing on dark finishes, where it was mostly warmer tones previously.”
Since the purpose of a powder room differs from the master bath, it makes sense that the vanity trends vary here as well. “In the powder room, homeowners are looking for unique, unusual designs that could be conversation pieces. This area is more decorative, so they’re not spending as much on fixtures and functionality,” says Hedrick.
In the master bath, by contrast, she sees demand for vanities with dressing tables. “You can never have enough storage in the master bath. So, designers and their clients are looking for ample storage to fit the space, and most importantly, conceal things in an organized way.”
“The trends are always going to be different from the master bath to the powder room. A master bath is meant to create a spa-like atmosphere where people can come to relax or unwind,” agrees Scarbrough. “The powder room is where people are going to take more of a chance with color and style. They are willing to make this bathroom more of a reflection of their personal style, since it is the room their guests use. This is where you will see homeowners using patterned glass countertops or sinks.”
Sharma sees trends for the master bath leaning toward larger vanities with plenty of storage. “The master bath is typically the main bathroom, used exclusively by the homeowner, whereas the powder room is much smaller and is probably the most viewed room in the house by guests,” he says. “Therefore, homeowners design their powder rooms with more eye-popping fixtures, [and are] willing to spend more, and go for more wall-mounted sinks with some type of a pedestal or towel bar accessory.
Galbraith says, “A powder room can be more theme-oriented. It can even have some ‘wow’ factors that would prove impractical in a full bath. Less closed storage is required.”
“While both powder room and master baths favor dark finishes, and storage – the main difference is in sizing,” states Lin.
“For obvious reasons, people want smaller units for a powder room, but people are also looking for style, something a bit edgier than for the master bath.”
Most manufacturers say the current trend is toward simple, clean lines, though there is always some demand for detailed and ornate designs, depending on the overall style the designer and consumers have chosen.
“The baths are following the theme of the rest of the house stylistically. Traditional and country [cottage] designs are still the most popular, but are updated by using cleaner lines and simpler design elements,” Brewer says.
“For more contemporary environments, simple lines seem to lead,” says Hedrick. “For more traditional looks, more is better in terms of details, refinement, bringing in antiques and other additional elements.”
“Simple lines are definitely still the trend,” asserts Scarbrough. “Clean and green seem to be the buzzwords of 2008. You can keep clean lines and have detail in the designs like the mod-inspired wavy vanity Decolav showed at this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.”
Though Stookey agrees simpler lines are the current trend, he adds, “We are seeing an increased complexity as it relates to colors, finishes and materials. There is a fascinating degree of creativity being utilized to mix and match different materials within a single project.”
When extra moldings or decorative elements are used, they play an essential role in the story of the design, says Lynanne Neiman, CMG, chairholder, Color Marketing Group and print production manager, StarMark/Fieldstone Cabinetry in Sioux Falls, SD. “If an element can be eliminated, it will be. However, there is demand for door designs that offer unique detailing and give the overall room design a personalized statement.”
Wilcox says they see a strong move toward “casual contemporary” and “casual traditional” styles. “Casual contemporary designs are cabinets with cleaner lines, but mellowed by a slightly distressed finish and with less overall sheen. The ‘casual traditional’ cabinets have a design familiar to the traditional marketplace, but have been updated with a softer finish and casual hardware accents. They all have a familiarity about them, but with an updated twist high-end consumers find attractive.”
Customization & Green Trends
Two topics invariably arise when discussing trends in any facet of bath design – customization and eco-consciousness. Bath vanities are no exception. In fact, manufacturers say both issues are having a powerful impact on current trends.
“Customization plays a huge role in vanities today. It’s a strong, growing trend, especially with vanity interiors. From a special hole to hold a hair dryer to drawers sized to fit tall bottles and more, it’s all about keeping things organized. We’re seeing the ‘appliance garage’ kitchen trend growing in the bath area as well. This ‘garage,’ where a door can flip up or out to conceal various appliances, is appealing to those looking to hide and store items like electric toothbrushes, hot rollers, electric razors and the like,” says Hedrick.
Brewer feels the ability to customize traditional cabinet types is essential. “To create these furniture-type looks, the design needs the ability to specify unique cabinet types,” he remarks.
Customization also helps manufacturers remain competitive. Wilcox says, “We think it is important for the dealer to say ‘Yes’ to a customer rather than ‘No’ regarding any request within reason. Sagehill Designs offers its dealers a flexible custom order program providing them with the ability to order any of our products in custom configurations, size and finish. Being flexible as a manufacturer allows our dealers to secure as many sales as possible in today’s competitive environment.”
Neiman adds, “Fulfilling the need to personalize, or place your own stamp on a room, as well as the need to create a healing, soothing space, requires customization. What calms and soothes one individual can drive another over the edge. Including both technology and indulgences into a bathroom requires designers to be creative thinkers, especially since the bathroom is usually one of the smaller spaces in the home.”
Some manufacturers feel customization is the impetus for new trends. “I think customization plays a major role in vanity trends because it allows a designer to enhance an existing product or even create an entirely new product for the industry. Customization is key for sparking the latest trends,” says Sharma.
“Typically, trends are initiated within the more affluent sectors of the market and eventually become ‘reachable’ for more of the buying populace as large-scale manufacturing,” agrees Stookey.
As for green design, “It’s no longer ‘cool’ to be green – rather, green is a fact of life, and this new attitude means a respect for nature that has migrated into design and color for all aspects of living,” Neiman adds.
Stookey also emphasizes the importance of the green movement in design. “There is a raised awareness of green design within specific circles of the market,” he says. “We expect awareness to increase as the buying public obtains a better understanding of the long-term benefits provided through green design. We see this as an important and progressive step toward the future of our industry."
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