The Little Things

Whether the style choice is funky eclectic or Zen-holistic, the vast array of upscale options now available is redefining the bath accessory and hardware market. Manufacturers recently interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News say the ever-growing array of choices isn’t just about consumers spending more time in the bath these days. Rather, they’re spending that time differently than they did 10 years ago, changing both the role of the bath in the home and the type of products in demand The emerging trends in bath accessories and hardware go hand-in-hand with larger bath trends, where manufacturers have seen a warmer palette and a call for much more attention to detail than in the past. Overall coordination of bath products and finishes is also a key element of today’s designs, though quality and personalization are also essential.

“People are paying more attention to good design overall,” observes Michael Isaacs, president of Mico Designs, Ltd. in Chicago, IL. “They don’t want the generic things anymore.”

Charles Fishman, president of Cool-Lines USA in Hewlett, NY, agrees. “It used to be a little willy-nilly. You could put brass hinges on a cabinet and still use a chrome faucet. [But now] there’s more attention to detail,” says Fishman.

As a result, there’s more choice in finishes and accessories than ever before, manufacturers concur. “We live in a very large, pluralistic market….

Demographics are changing. The market is very fragmented in terms of some of these products,” adds Ed Detgen, director of marketing for Danze, Inc., Woodridge, IL.

All the Trimmings
While many manufacturers are content to present their hardware and accessories as a complement to pre-existing sink and faucet lines, some manufacturers, like Sonia America, Inc. in Sunrise, FL, are hoping to set the bar with their products.

“We have certain accessories that are going to be coming out in the future that I know have no faucets in mind,” says Jody Rosenberg, the firm’s national sales manager.

However, in a world of bath accessory choices that, to the consumer, can seem infinite, many manufacturers are hoping to help define those choices and make it easier for the consumer to come up with a style strategy.

For example, most of Sonia’s debut products are minimalist, with very clean lines. But Rosenberg doesn’t believe his market is limited to the coasts or to densely populated urban areas.

“Some of the up-and-coming areas for us are the Carolinas and Georgia,” Rosenberg notes.

In contrast, Brian Grant, senior product and brand manager for Creative Specialties International, a div. of Moen, in North Olmsted, OH, sees a continued strong presence in traditional styles, with a secondary transitional influence.

Avi Abel, general manager at Watermark Designs, Ltd. in Brooklyn, NY, agrees, noting the fact that Watermark is selling a lot of contemporary styles, but in traditional finishes. “It’s a way for people to make that transition from traditional to contemporary,” he says, “but without the stylistic risk that contemporary entails.”

In response to consumers’ desire for both plenty of style choices and the freedom to mix and match at any time, Susan Zimmerman, founder/owner of Nifty Nob, Inc. in St. Louis, MO, is launching the Basic Shapes Collection, which includes themes ranging from Art Deco to Tuscan. She believes this collection speaks directly to consumers’ desire to personalize their environment without having to change every last thing.

“I’m finding people will mix and match virtually anything,” comments Rosenberg. “You can have the softer side on your cabinets and then a little bit more flash in your accessories, and it works well together, as long as it is within the same tones.”

And while Rosenberg sees a demand for eclectic products and mix-and-match freedom, other manufacturers are seeing a different trend. For instance, Grant points to Moen’s new line of bath accessories designed to match the company’s faucets, which allows consumers to create a fully coordinated look throughout the bath. “We have one collection with matching drawer pulls, cabinet knobs, everything,” says Grant.

Of course regional tastes can vary widely, and Abel stresses that style choices “really depend on the market you’re in,” but he is quick to point out that “taking the country as a whole, traditional is still king.” He holds to the belief that this is a market of personal taste, but that being said, he shrugs off the eclectic philosophy, insisting that people want to tie in the whole bath with coordinated items.

Additionally, Fishman sees cabinet design impacting hardware trends. “What’s been popular [in cabinetry] is the Shaker look,” he explains, “[so] people tend to go with a less ornate, minimalist look in cabinet hardware to keep the continuity.”

Express Yourself
While the battle between the coordinated and the eclectic rages on in decorative hardware and finishes, function also plays a key role in the bath accessory market. In fact, manufacturers are increasingly coming to the realization that consumers are looking for practicality and functionality in bath accessories that they’ve never before thought to request. Thus, things that streamline or simplify bath functions, even in tiny ways, seem to be popular choices, from movable storage units to pivoting toilet paper holders.

And, of course, storage is key.

“We’re all about storage solutions,” states Rosenberg, pointing to one of Sonia’s glass shelves which has a towel bar built into it. In fact, any product able to serve duel purposes can be a boon, particularly in smaller baths or powder rooms where space is scarce.

To that end, Rosenberg adds, “We also make floor-mounted accessories [such as] floor-mounted towel bars with weighted bottoms that include a toilet paper holder for people who don’t have much wall space in the bath.”

“Shower baskets are becoming a lot more common than people building corner niches in the walls,” further observes Rosenberg. “And robe hooks are becoming more popular. They are something that people haven’t utilized enough.”

While some manufacturers are concentrating on new lines for the master bath, Danze has decided to focus on the powder room because while small, it “has always tended to get more decorative attention,” Detgen explains.

Grab bars are also gaining more attention in residential baths. “Grab bars used to be a hospitality type [of element[,” Abel explains. “You would never find them in someone’s private bathroom.”

But, now, with more decorative styles and finishes available that allow grab bars to infuse baths with all-important accessibility while blending seamlessly into the design, grab bars are taking hold among consumers, especially Baby Boomers. “Grab bars are an automatic thing now,” notes Abel.

With the rise of the super shower , Gina Goske, operations manager of Innovis Corp in Petaluma, CA, believes that, “a versatile, built-in shower bench is, more and more, becoming a popular choice in master baths.” In response to the consumer demand for more versatile and practical accessories, Grant reveals that Moen is launching additional pieces within its pre-existing bath accessory collections, such as a glass shelf that mounts to the wall with matching posts. Moen also continues to produce functional accessories such as a double towel bar and a large, wall-mounted, pivoting mirror with coordinated posts as a replacement for traditional medicine cabinets.

Some manufacturers, such as Watermark, are also including lighting under the umbrella of accessories, offering light fixtures that match the accessories they offer, to help consumers get a fully coordinated look. “Heated towel bars are going into a lot of newer homes, too,” adds Detgen.

Going forward, Isaacs believes American bath product manufacturers will continue to create their own trends, distinct from the European market, because American baths are much larger than European baths, and generally getting bigger rather than smaller.

Finishes in 31 Flavors
In terms of finishes for bath accessories and hardware, consumers are still craving metallic looks, but they want them to be warm, inviting and, above all, unique. For instance, Abel says his firm sees a move away from chrome and toward finishes like antique brass, polished gold and oil-rubbed bronze.

“When you’re going high end,” he explains, “you’re really trying to differentiate yourself from your neighbors, and because chrome is such a staple finish, consumers are currently shying away from it.”

Grant indicates Moen is witnessing a big increase in Old World finishes. “Oil-rubbed bronze, antique nickels and pewters are becoming huge in the bath right now,” says Grant.

And Isaacs reports that Mico’s “mahogany bronze” is gaining ground because those requesting and specifying it seem to feel “it has a lot more character to it than an oil-rubbed bronze. It has more texture and life. It’s similar to a satin nickel, but warmer.”

Many manufacturers interviewed also note an increased interest in stainless steel finishes in the bath. To that end, Fishman says: “It used to be that it [stainless steel] was a special order. It’s more mainstream now.” Rosenberg agrees. “Stainless steel is virtually indestructible,” he says. “It’s great along the coasts where you have boats and beach houses. You don’t have to worry about rusting or pitting, but it’s also great [in other baths] because of its strength and durability.” Other finishes are holding steady, as well. “We’re selling a lot of contemporary styles,” notes Abel. “And contemporary always goes well with chrome or nickel. It really makes the product look different.”

Going Forward
Looking into his crystal ball, Fishman says consumers can look forward to new technologies that will make unique finishes more practical and cost-effective for them. “It used to be that chrome and brass were your finish choices because, technologically, those were the most durable. The new advances in technology will lend themselves to new and different finishes that are as practical and durable as those we’re seeing today,” Fishman concludes.

1. The Dük Liner from Curtis Resources, Inc. is a shower shelf system that comes in red (14"Wx6"Hx31-1/2"D), yellow (14"Wx14"Hx31-1/2"D) and blue (14"Wx24"Hx31-1/2"D).

2. The Ashfield Collection, borne from a collaboration between Price Pfister and Kwikset, consists of a set of traditional country-inspired bath accessories and door hardware, as well as faucets and showerheads.

3. Electric radiant heaters from Warmup, Inc. can be installed under any tiled ceramic or natural stone floor, according to the company, by taping the thin heating element to the floor before tiling.

4. North River Mint has expanded the size selection for this particular pull to include 2.75" and 4" center-to-center sizes.

5. RK International, Inc. offers a full line of grab bars for the bath. The bars are available in sizes ranging from 12" to 42". Styles include Rope, Beaded, Plain, Pewter and Step-Up, and finishes include Antique English, Chrome, Distressed Nickel, Oil-Rubbed Bronze, Pewter and Polished Brass.

6. Small and large soap dispensers, a towel stacking shelf and a double robe/towel hook are all part of Cool-Lines USA’s bath accessory repertoire.

7. California Faucets introduces decorative grab bars – La Jolla, Solana, Venice, Malibu and Tiburon – in more than 35 finishes, including 10 PVD finishes.

8. Top Knobs offers a variety of matching cabinet pulls for the bath.

9. Seichelles from LACAVA, L.L.C. includes this door-hanger shower ladder.

10. Hinge-It Corp.’s EURORACK Six Towel Warmer has a continuous serpentine design made of stainless steel tubing.

11. Nifty Nob now offers a line of bath accessories in addition to its lines of decorative hardware. Finishes include Satin Nickel, Polished Nickel, Polished Brass and Oil-Rubbed Bronze.

12. WarmTouch Electric Radiant Floor-Warming Systems from DK Heating Systems, Inc. feature UL/CSA-approved, 120V/240V mats with an open mesh design and one-side supply that allow them to be installed under ceramic, marble and stone.

13. Rattan and Woven Strands (both shown) are two decorative hardware designs from MNG designer hardware, LLC. Finishes include brass, silver or copper antique, and oil-rubbed bronze.

14. Top Notch Products offers a variety of bath accessories made of DuPont Corian. Products include shower caddies, soap dishes and shelves, towel bars and rings, cabinet knobs and pulls, switch plate covers, and more.

15. Häfele America Co. introduces a new line of glazed bronze and copper handles and knobs for both the bath and the kitchen. The handles and knobs are available in a variety of sizes.

16. Vibrato is Berenson Corp.’s latest decorative hardware collection, which features smooth contours and a Venetian Bronze finish on 15 different pieces, including seven standard pulls, two cup pulls, five knobs and one hook.

17. The M-14 double-sided, deluxe oval mirror from Baci by Remcraft comes in an oil-rubbed finish, according to the company.

18. Turnstyle Designs Ltd. offers leather-clad switches and sockets, which are designed to complement the firm’s line of leather-clad door and cabinet handles.

19. Megna Hot Glass Studio offers a variety of blown-glass hardware and accessories, including this Amber Cobra Wrap light, cabinet knob, door knob and lever.

20. These blown-glass drawer pulls from Tracy Glover Studio are just part of the firm’s product line, which also includes blown-glass vases, and table and floor lamps.

21. The Spring Collection from Amerock Corp., div. of Newell Rubbermaid, includes several designs, including Playful Nature (shown), Opulence and Sleek.

22. Fielding Hill Designs’ cabinet handles are hand-crafted from authentic pieces of antique or vintage-era flatware, made from silver plate or nickel silver. They are hand-polished and lacquered for durability.

23. The Hamilton Decorative Hardware collection features solid bronze bath accessories, knobs and drawer pulls, plus refrigerator pulls.

24. This Danze 24" double towel bar is one of the bath accessories found in the firm’s Sonora bath accessory line, which, in turn, is designed to complement the firm’s Sonora faucet line.

25. Forté accessories from Kohler Co. come in two styles – traditional and sculpted – and include items such as towel bars, a robe hook, a towel ring, a toilet tissue holder, a tumbler, a soap dish and a glass shelf.

26. The Laura Kirar Vir Stil Collection for Kallista features such coordinating bath accessories as a mirror, sconces, 12" and 24" towel bars and a tissue holder.

27. Alno Inc. has introduced seven new suites consisting of matching cabinet hardware, bath accessories, mirrors and mirrored cabinets: Bella, Classic Weave, Ribbon and Reed (shown), Sierra, Geometric, Contemporary I and II.

28. Atlas Homewares’ Daisy Series includes a 12" and 24" towel bar, a single hook, a top bar and matching knobs.

29. Doormen pulls from Sóko measure 18" and can be used on cabinets, as well as large interior doors and appliances.

30. Valli & Valli’s Worn Collection combines ceramic and stainless steel using geometric lines and irregular shapes. Accessories include a towel bar with and without a soap dish, a towel ring with and without a soap dish, a wall-mounted and free-standing tumbler holder with a tumbler, and a corner soap holder with a soap dish.

31. Pullware offers coordinating bath accessories for its Milan and Newport Collections.

32. French Lace, French Pineapple, Ribbon & Reed, French Tassel and French Huit are all part of the Elite decorative hardware series from Liberty Hardware Mfg. Corp.

33. emenee offers the Bathtime series of decorative hardware knobs, designed to add a stylish touch to any bathroom.

34. Richelieu Hardware Ltd. offers a variety of Lifestyle Hooks in styles that range from traditional to contemporary.

35. Delaney’s Rose Pull and Knob are part of Notting Hill Decorative Hardware’s Period Pieces collection of decorative hardware. Both are depicted here in yellow.

36. Jewelry Closet cabinets from Mingo Custom Woods organize jewelry behind a full-length mirror, dressing up the bathroom or master bedroom suite, while providing an easy way to keep jewelry organized and safe.

37. 3B Inc.’s Synthetic Mirror surface is made from a new ecological material that mimics the look of a traditional mirror, according to the company.

38. Zietta Clara offers cabinet knobs and pulls and door knobs for both the bath and the kitchen. The knobs and pulls are hand-sculpted from solid glass and paired with bronze hardware, and are available in three finishes, the company notes.

39. WarmlyYours Inc. offers electric floor-heating systems for both the bath and the kitchen.

40. The Lockwood Bath Collection from Delta Faucet Co. is a bath suite that includes coordinating lighting and accessories from Progress Lighting and Bath Unlimited.

41. The Quiessence Bath Collection by Brizo is a full suite of lav faucets and coordinating accessories – such as this tank lever – that sport a minimalist European aesthetic.

42. Decorative grab bars from Ginger range in style from Art Deco to contemporary. They’re made from solid forged brass and 1.5"-diameter, heavy-gauge brass tubing. Eight different lengths are available.

43. Accessories in Creative Specialties International’s Gardenia Collection include a double robe hook, a pivoting paper holder, a towel ring, and 18" and 24" towel bars.

44. LULU accessories by Dornbracht include this soap dish, which is paired here with a single-lever, wall-mount lav. Other accessories include a wall-mount shelf and a towel bar.

45. The Bamboo Powder Room Collection from ShowHouse by Moen includes accessories such as an 18" towel bar, a towel ring, a pivoting paper holder and a decorative tank lever.

46. Axor Uno2 by Hansgrohe includes several coordinating bath accessories such as a tumbler/holder, a soap dish, a towel ring and a soap dispenser.

47. The Séura Television Mirror has an LCD display built into a mirror. It can be installed in a bath, as well as other rooms of the home. Shown is the firm’s R6936-20 model.

48. The SQ Series of mirrors from French Reflection includes tabletop (shown) and wall-mount models with three-times magnification, a 7"x5-1/8" viewing area and a brushed nickel or chrome finish.

49. The Thermique towel warmer by Engineered Glass Products/e(g)p features glass that heats up. The glass can also be customized with personal designs such as a monogram.

50. TFI/Avanté Hardware’s line of pewter cabinet knobs and pulls encompasses 21 items.

51. Jaclo Industries has added decorative grab bars to its extensive line of decorative specialties. They’re available in 14 distinctive finishes.

Coordinated Finishes Stay Strong, While Storage Adds Functional Value to Bath, Dealers Report
In practical application, dealers still believe that hardware and accessories follow the faucet choice, with one or two notable exceptions.

“My rule on this is pick your faucet first,” says Barbara Anderson, president of Preferred Designs in Kennett Square, PA. “The trims on the shower doors will usually match the faucet, but the lighting fixtures can match the hardware on your vanity. It’s all about coordinating.”

In terms of finishes, Jonathan Carson, sales representative at Modern Kitchen and Baths, Inc. in St. Louis, MO, sees a large trend toward the rustic tones. “We’re seeing a lot of oil-rubbed bronze and satin nickel,” he says.

“The trend is not Tuscan,” says Michelle Mendes, owner of Rustic Rooster, Inc. in Delray Beach, FL. “It’s rural, but with a deep tone. It’s eclectic.”

“While chrome will always be huge, I’m seeing some black come into the bath, especially in vanities. I’m also seeing a lot copper,” adds Anderson. “It’s warm. It’s something new.”

Another big trend that Anderson sees is customized knobs. “These are unusual, very unique and specific,” she relates. “It’s not about matching them [to other hardware]. It’s very personalized.”

Mendes agrees, adding that she finds hardware is “usually hand-selected by the customer. It’s a very personalized process.”

Carson is further witnessing a boom in shower seats in his market. “A 5' tub is kind of an undersized, underwhelming feature in the home,” he says. “But a 5' shower with a shower seat is a luxurious, oversized, wonderful thing.”

Anderson indicates that many of her clients are not installing medicine cabinets, but, instead, opting for open shelving units. “We’re doing a lot of shelves over the toilet.”

It’s clear that while consumers are interested in storage solutions, they’re no longer content with traditional answers to this issue. “The unique pieces [of bath furniture] that come in from all over the world are outselling our pre-manufactured ones,” shares Mendes.

“Form and function should be one,” says Carson, “joined in spiritual union.” To that effect, he notes that the new generation of medicine cabinets are a hot new pick. “These medicine cabinets have mirrors on the inside at the back of the cabinet and also on the backside of the cabinet door, so when you open up the door, you can still see yourself.”

He is also seeing an interest in white-lamplight for after-shower use. “It doesn’t look or feel like a traditional heat lamp,” he concludes. “But it really puts heat out. Within two seconds, you’re feeling it.”

Bath Hardware and Accessories Trends at a Glance

  • Following the overall bath trends, hardware finishes and accessories are taking on a warmer palette.
  • Whether traditional and coordinated or contemporary and eclectic, today, it’s all about attention to the smallest detail when it comes to selecting bath hardware and accessories.
  • European manufacturers are trending toward the eclectic, while American manufacturers are opting for matching suites in a plethora of finishes.
  • Manufacturers are selling contemporary styles, but in traditional finishes, allowing the consumer to make the transition from traditional to contemporary, but without the big stylistic risk.
  • Lighting fixtures are becoming part of coordinated bath suites, and are being offered in as many styles and finishes as other accessories.
  • Floor-mounted accessories in a wide array of styles and finishes are now available for consumers with limited wall space.
  • Glass shelves and other “open” storage solutions are gaining ground.
  • Decorative grab bars are becoming standard options for the bath.
  • While faucets have long driven bath hardware and accessory design, one-of-a-kind, free-standing furniture are increasingly driving hardware and accessory choices in the bath, as well.
  • Cabinet design continues to impact hardware choices, where consumers are opting for less ornate looks in hardware to match the clean, simplistic lines of their cabinetry.
  • Customized knobs and pulls allow consumers to personalize their hardware like never before.
  • Built-in shower seats, following the rising tide of the super shower, are an increasingly popular option in the bath.
  • To answer consumer demand for more versatile accessories, many manufacturers are adding new items to their pre-existing lines, including glass shelves, double towel bars, and curved shower rods.
  • Consumers still want metallic finishes, but they want them to be more warm and inviting, moving away from polished chrome and toward oil-rubbed bronzes and other antique finishes.
  • Stainless steel finishes continue to make inroads in the bath because of their durability and versatility.