Clear glass enclosures spotlight Mediterranean transitional styles in shower surrounds.
Dealers See Consumers Desiring More Shower Amenities and Warmer, Nature-Inspired Colors
Consumers want more amenities in their showers, but not necessarily more technology. They're also seeking warmer colors and more natural looks, which complement a vital living environment. This is the sentiment of dealers and designers surveyed by KBDN.
"Clients want the fixed showerhead and the adjustable head for the option of having two different things," says Bill Wrape, sales manager for Distinctive Kitchens and Baths in Little Rock, AR. "We're doing a lot more seats in showers now," he adds. His is a mild-weather market, though, and consequently, many of his clients perceive steam showers as a potential headache. "They have to enclose the whole shower system in order to make it work. It's a lot of trouble. People who have bad backs or allergies, however, love them," he concludes.
In her market Leslie Cohen, CKD, ASID, owner of Leslie Cohen Designs in Encinitas, CA, sees a trend away from all of the technological bells and whistles and toward a simpler conception of a spa-like master bath. "Several of my clients have had those… [complex shower systems]," she explains. "They didn't really end up using them. They're going back to a nice, quality shower with a hand-held that has different settings on it and maybe a rain showerhead. But they're not going for these million-jet systems."
Tim Sweeney, sales representative for Chown Hardware in Portland, OR and Bellevue, WA, agrees: "I'm selling less body sprays and more showerheads out of the ceiling, big rain showerheads that are 12" in diameter, and then a stationary showerhead and a hand-held unit."
"I think in the ultra high end you're going to find that people are still going for the complex technology," adds Cohen. "But in the mid high end, which is my market, they want simplicity. They want ease of cleaning. They want things that are [durable], and they're realistic about what they're going to do at home."
In terms of color, the palette is warming, but glass tiles and unique textures are also working to transform the bath into a more inviting environment. "We're definitely doing slates and marbles," says Wrape. "We're seeing interesting glass for the glass doors instead of just plain slab glass – rain glass, waterfall glass, corduroy or grooved glass."
Mixing glass with natural stone or ceramic tile is a way to add a bit of sparkle to enclosure materials that might be a bit on the heavy side, suggests Cohen. "We're absolutely seeing natural materials and natural colors in the surrounds, but also tons and tons of glass tiles of every shape, size and texture."
"We're doing a lot of granite, a lot of marble and tile, especially very small, glass tiles in multiple colors," adds Sweeney.
In his cool, Northwestern climate, Sweeney is selling almost all soaking tubs. "People are taking the extra money they would have spent on an air or jet tub and spending it on steam, ceiling-mount showerheads and on 'his and hers' units."
Cohen says she is doing everything from walk-in showers without doors to clawfoot tubs to ceramic tile surrounds that incorporate a truly unique, pillowing effect. "My clients want a relaxing experience. That's really in terms of the design and the function. They want things that are easy to clean, easy to use, and have a certain feeling, but that don't necessarily have a million bells and whistles," she adds.
Looking ahead, Sweeney sees what many are calling "water sculpture" as the next hot trend in showers. A slightly more sophisticated cousin of the rain showerhead, the new modules are already available in Europe. Sweeney says, "Imagine a flat, 24"x24" showerhead that's recessed in the ceiling. It's completely programmable [at the touch of a button] for all of the elements: mist, wind, rain, showers and deluge… Aromatherapy and lights are also available [for them]."
Shower and Tub Trends at a Glance
Natural stone in bath and shower surrounds is exploding.
Larger ceramic tiles and acrylic-mold, simulated tiles in warmer colors and decorative patterns are contributing to the transitional, Mediterranean trend in bath suites.
Though the vertical spa has claimed a dominant space in the master bath, tubs and tub/shower combos will continue to have space reserved for them in either a four-fixture master bath or a secondary bath.
The outdoor shower is expected to become a hot trend in the future, as the growing interest in creating an open, airy, close-to-nature bathing experience begins to take hold.
The wide variety of shower system products continues to rise and be reconfigured in order to meet the consumer’s desire for more control of his or her bath experience.
Though chrome continues to dominate the mid-level market, the recent trend in the “Roman bath” look for the high-end bath means more antiqued finishes and authentic hues in surrounds, ranging from amber-tinted glass to earth-tone ceramic tiles.
Tub manufacturers are answering the vertical spa movement by introducing innovative designs that incorporate “foot-soaking” and other instant gratification impulses.
Neutral colors are being accented by warm, richer tones that provide the feeling of being in a “hardscape” outdoor environment while inside the bath.
As bath surrounds become more unique and expressive, the clear glass enclosure acts as a “display frame” for the artwork inside, like a Faberge egg under museum glass.