A three-pronged trend toward larger bath quarters, a greater number of bathrooms per house and an increased interest in luxury, spa-like amenities has meant good news for the whirlpool market, with consumers increasingly looking toward whirlpools to provide a luxurious and therapeutic centerpiece to their bath havens. The growing desire for a "bath retreat" has also led to an increased interest in a variety of high-end whirlpool features, according to manufacturers interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
"One of the biggest trends we’re seeing today has to be how the bathroom continues to grow in size," says Jeannette Long, v.p./marketing for American Standard, in Piscat-away, NJ. "Homeowners want bigger, more comfortable bath quarters, so they are building new homes or remodeling current ones with master bathrooms that often rival the master bedroom in size." With all that extra space, whirlpools are a natural choice to provide a visual centerpiece and a therapeutic "relaxation center."
This ties into the second trend Long is seeing, that "homeowners are relying on their bathrooms as an escape – a place where they can retreat to." While she sees these trends as "still in their infancy," she believes they mean good news for the whirlpool industry, filling a need with today’s multi-featured whirlpools – which not only provide visual appeal and therapeutic benefits, but also help to enhance the overall sense of the bath as a luxurious getaway retreat.
"The most important aspect has to be the focus homeowners are putting on their baths," Long notes. "They’re starting to create bathrooms that meet their wants and needs while providing them with a little personal luxury."
Charles Scott, director of marketing for Walnut Creek, CA-based Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath agrees. "There are more bathrooms in homes these days, [so] homeowners want larger master baths with all the amenities – along with bathrooms for almost every member of the house." This means consumers are not only demanding more whirlpools, but whirlpools in a variety of sizes, from opulent master bath models to smaller versions for secondary and tertiary bathrooms. However, regardless of size, everyone wants a feeling of luxury, so upscale features such as multiple jets and hydromassage remain popular in all price ranges.
Scott notes that there is also a trend toward buy-it-yourself jobs, driven by remodeling sales. "These are jobs in which the consumer buys the product from one individual and gets another to install it. This bodes well for luxury products like whirlpool tubs and shower systems."
Ken Piper, national sales manager for Aquatic Industries, Inc., in Leander, Texas says, "Adding baths has always been popular for two reasons; they not only increase a home’s value, they also provide added convenience. We see this trend continuing. Bathrooms are becoming more elaborate with new, high-end products [such as whirlpools]."
Tubs vs. showers
However, not everyone interviewed by K&BDN seems to agree that there is a dramatic increase in the demand for whirlpools. "There’s a shift in the bathroom from an emphasis on whirlpool tubs to a focus on the shower," explains Dan Reinert, v.p. for Long Island City, NY based Sussman Lifestyle Group.
"Tubs are still being installed, but they are getting smaller, whereas showers are becoming much larger. With the added emphasis on the shower, homeowners, designers, and architects are putting more emphasis on accessories in the shower henceforth the growing use of steam units."
Reinert adds, "Going forward, the focal point of the bathroom will be the shower, and because of this, there will be more multi-gang showers and steam units sold along with upscale shower doors."
John Gunderson, sales and marketing director for Woodinville Washington based Amerec Sauna and Steam agrees. "Current trends are headed toward showers only in bathrooms. People are now aware that they do not take baths as often as they take showers. Large whirlpool baths drain your hot water heater, and the water will stay warm for only a short time in these tubs."