It used to be, metal surfaces in the bathroom consisted mainly of a faucet, knobs on the vanity and a towel bar. They all matched because all of the items were only available in chrome. "Ten years ago, you never thought of making your bathroom a place where you enjoyed being," notes Jeffrey Robboy, president of Baci by Remcraft, in Miami, FL.
Now, of course, the bathroom has become the focal point of a comfortable, relaxing, sanctuary environment in the home. A home where "coccooning" is the aim is likely to include a huge master bathroom with "super shower," whirlpool, steam and/or sauna, as well as a downstairs powder room that's the height of luxury and style to show off to guests.
New products are constantly being introduced into the market to meet this new aim but now, they have to match myriad designer finishes, according to the manufacturers surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
"The bath accessory market is pure style," declares Gene Carpenter, product manager for Geberit Manufacturing, in Michigan City, IN. "You can still go into the local hardware store and buy a $10 towel bar, but right next to it is a $250 towel bar."
"People are being much more creative in buying the quality products they want, yet customizing for their personal touch and flair," adds Peter Dircks, product manager for Broan-NuTone, in Hartford, WI. He adds that design-conscious mainstream stores such as Pottery Barn are making consumers more aware of style overall.
"People are [also] more conscious of buying products that [have] quality and craftsmanship, [rather] than stuff that's just out of the box and price-driven," adds Robboy.
For many, a coordinated, high-quality look begins with a distinctive finish that starts with faucetry and is carried throughout the bathroom, from shower heads to knobs to such exotic items as designer exhaust fans. "People are trying to tie everything together in their homes," notes Patsy Nickum, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Hardware, in Hailey, ID.
"Everything should look seamlessly integrated," agrees Ari Zieger, v.p./sales and marketing for Interbath, Inc., makers of Ondine, in Los Angeles, CA.
"A lot of the work we're doing [in towel warmers] we see in satin finishes nickel, brass, gold, rather than the traditional chromes," says Sanford Hunter, North American sales manager for Myson Inc., in Colchester, VT. "Those are the finishes that are attracting people."
Similarly, Sandy Kartzman, national sales manager for Jaclo Industries, in Mountainside, NJ, cites "super shower" components such as a ceiling-mounted "rain" showerheads, decorative wall bars, hand-held showers and body sprays as popular. "You basically get in there, you turn everything on and drown yourself," he laughs. All are now available in exotic finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze.
Kartzman explains that what's hot in finishes is very much a regional proposition. "Other than in New England, polished brass is pretty much dying away." In the West, oil-rubbed bronze and antique copper are the top picks, he believes. In the Southeast, antique brass is an up-and-comer. Overall, satin nickel remains the most popular pick. Raymond Lombardo, president of Afina Corp., in Patterson, NJ, also mentions stainless steel as a hot pick. "People love the stainless steel factor, because it won't corrode or rust."
Carpenter cites brushed nickel, and "there's a couple of new [finishes] on the horizon the pearl nickels." A pearl finish has a reddish tone instead of a hard silver one, with more depth and dimension. "People are just going nuts over brushed nickel. They want that warm tone," adds Robboy.
Nickum names bronze in various patinas, from light to very dark (the bronze equivalent of gunmetal gray) as a hot finish, and adds that the coordinated look can now be extended to a bronze sink. "It [makes it] really easy to create a cohesive look where everything flows together," she notes.