Warm floors are also increasing in popularity, but have more installation concerns because the floor has to be ripped up. However, "Tile is naturally cold no matter where you live," says Carpenter. "You'll see a lot more floor warmers in new construction in the next three years."
"People love it," offers Robboy. "It's a nice little touch, and it's going to become more and more popular."
"If people are gutting [their bathrooms] out and spending 30K, 40K or even 50K, they might as well spend [a little] extra and get that," adds Lombardo.
Carpenter also cites floor-warming systems that recirculate hot
water as a growing trend. "They use that in Minnesota in parking
lots and driveways so they don't have to plow [snow] as often," he
The customization and coordinated look that consumers request in hardware is also reflected in medicine cabinets, explains Dircks. "You can recess or surface mount them, you can have wood frames or metallic or no frame at all," he says. "The sizes and variety of finishes keeps growing."
In addition, the interiors of medicine cabinets have become more high end, featuring such materials as stainless steel, glass shelves and a mirrored back wall.
Customized touches such as this have rejuvenated the medicine cabinet, which had been getting replaced by plain glass mirror walls for some years. "A cabinet is still a major feature of a bathroom," says Kartzman.
New styles such as the new glass sinks with exposed plumbing along with old-time pedestal sinks have also contributed to the medicine cabinet's resurgence, manufacturers report. Since there is no more cabinet under the sink, "there's an even greater need for storage," points out Karen Collins, marketing communications manager for Broan NuTone, in Hartford, WI.
Dircks adds that a linen closet is an increasingly popular addition for new houses. "But, people still need storage for the little things," he points out.
To make the medicine cabinet an integral part of a bathroom design, people often buy cabinets with unfinished frames to match the finish of a vanity. Or, they buy the cabinet with no frame at all and customize the frame via molding from the cabinetry company, Dircks elaborates. Lombardo also cites the expansion of frame styles into both contemporary and traditional styles.
Overall, bathroom design is all over the place, manufacturers report. Nickum notes regional differences. "In the South Atlanta, New Orleans and Miami they're a little bit more decorative than Seattle [where consumers prefer a] cleaner, more minimalist look."
Dircks thinks consumers increasingly prefer an eclectic combination of several styles. When it comes to soap dishes, shower caddies and knobs, "I have seen the gamut," adds Carpenter. "I've seen the old wire style that you'd see in the 1920s. I've seen very nice clear acrylics, high style almost water shapes, no sharp edges, no corners at all; they look like part of the bath. A lot of it is coming in from Europe, especially Italy and Spain. Sweden is doing some very nice geometric stuff. The consumer has a better choice than ever." KBDN