Simple Embellishments

Hardware and accessories are the crowning touches in the bathroom, the elements that pull the design together. This doesn’t mean, however, that these details need to be fussy or fancy. Just as overall design trends are favoring cleaner, more streamlined looks, so, too, are hardware and bath accessories, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by KBDN.

Designers are seeing demand for baths that function as relaxation centers, and that calls for designs that offer a sense of calm and serenity. Stacey Singer, general manager of Alno, Inc. in Sylmar, CA says, “When creating a spa-like bathroom, designers will choose hardware and accessories that are predominantly minimal in design with soft and soothing lines.”

Lori Zeier, manager of Bemis Bath Shoppe for Bemis Manufacturing Company based in Sheybogan Falls, WI, agrees. She says the top trends right now are simple, clean looks, with nothing too ornate.

Even in high-end showcase-style baths, simplicity is a hot trend, according to Doug Mockett, CEO of Manhattan Beach, CA based Doug Mockett & Co. “With larger, more exotic bathroom layouts creating a very showy feel, simple design features can no longer go overlooked,” he says.

But while simplicity is in, cookie cutter designs are not; rather, consumers want their spaces to be fresh and original, adding a more personal feel to the home, manufacturers note. “We are seeing more and more interest in unique and different designs that are rustic and industrial in nature in order for projects to stand apart from the crowd,” says Erik Ambjor, president of Sonoma Forge in Petaluma, CA. “Customers are tired of the ‘vanilla’ and ‘me too’ designs that flood the market.”

TRANSITIONAL APPEAL

When it comes to overall bath design trends, manufacturers are seeing a move toward transitional looks, and this is particularly evident in hardware choices.

Ambjor says, “Our signature designs are hard to classify, but would closely position them as transitional. We focus on clean, simple lines, away from ornamentation and excessive detail. Industrial chic with a rustic country elegance is what we say!”

Lou Rohl, chief operating officer/managing partner for Rohl, LLC in Irvine, CA, agrees that transitional designs are hot due to the flexibility and versatility of these designs. “This style marries traditional and contemporary for a look that is simple yet sophisticated,” he says.

Jonathan Wood, v.p./sales & marketing for Brasstech in Santa Ana, CA adds that his firm has seen traditional designs meshed with non-traditional finishes, which help bridge the rustic and modern elements that are being used together in rooms. “We also have a call for ‘bling’ from some quarters,” he states. “We have recently been getting requests to add a bit of ‘pow’ to some of the more traditional designs for that added ‘wow’ factor.”

Benjamin Newcombe, quartz product manager for Casa Grande, AZ-based ACO Polymer Products, which manufacturers decorative shower drains under the QuARTz for ACO brand, says there are many variables that contribute to the style people choose, from geographic location and age to budget and size of project. “We actually try to fit our product into all of these design styles and more, by offering many different patterns, designs, finishes and accessories, and by incorporating lighting,” he says.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

When it comes to coordination, manufacturers note that many of the old rules no longer apply. “Traditionally, bathroom fixtures were matched in color, style and material,” says Singer. “The latest trend in bathroom design has thrown these rules out, and texture, different materials like glass, crystal, brass and metals, and bringing elements from the outdoors in have become the future.”

The style of the bath affects trends in the towel warmer and radiant panel lines, says Julia Billen, president/owner of Warmly Yours in Long Grove, IL. “Consumers are looking for towel warmers that are more square in design,” she says. In addition, she adds, the future trend for towel warmers will be very minimal, simple heated towel rails.

Mockett says that as bathrooms are getting bigger, hardware and accessories are getting smaller, or cleaner, in design. “This trend will likely continue with the idea of making the bath not only a showcase of the latest fixtures, but also a personal comfort space that integrates technology and convenience. The grander the design, the more that design calls for additional hardware. The trick is streamlining the hardware into the overall design and making it hidden and unobtrusive,” he says.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN

Universal Design, in particular, and sustainable elements are continuing to impact trends. Newcombe says, “The concept of Universal Design and aging-in-place is incredibly important.”

Singer sees the demand for products that facilitate aging-in-place as an opportunity to design bath accessories with both functionality and high-end aesthetic appeal. She says, “I am looking forward to the opportunity to develop fashionable products [for aging in place]. It’s our future, too.”

Mockett agrees, stating that grab bars are showing up in a lot of contemporary bathrooms. “No longer just a tool for the elderly, grab bars are now just as much a fashionable accessory as they are a functional safety device,” he says.

FLEXIBLE FINISH

The wide array of product choices leaves a lot of room for individual choice, and there doesn’t seem to be one clear trend in materials or finishes for hardware and accessories.

There is a leaning toward the warmer metal colors, such as nickel and bronze, over colder metals, according to Wood. “We see nickels used in environments that were once primarily chrome, while bronzes continue to be a top choice,” he says.

Zeier concurs, saying that brushed nickel, polished chrome and oil-rubbed bronze are still the top three metal finishes.

The desire for unique looks and personalized spaces also brings about a demand for living finishes that age or patina over time. Ambjor says his firm’s number one finish is Rustic Copper. The aging over time “adds character and personality to the project, as no piece ages the same way,” he notes. The firm has also seen more requests for “raw brass” and “raw copper,” which are finishes that are unprotected with a clear coat or even wax, so they age quickly, he adds.

Regardless of material, lasting value remains a key concern. “High-end quality products and durable materials are most desired,” says Singer, adding that long-lasting metals such as brass are preferred. Singer has also seen interest in recycled materials, incorporating glass elements in design, and adding crystal for a little extra sparkle.

Mockett says, “Another common trend is combining different materials to create balance. For instance, glass and chrome can be easily integrated into hardware, creating a functional piece of art. Other balancing qualities of different materials can create different moods altogether.”

Wood adds, “We continue to see a push into reclaimed materials such as old lumber and flooring that is mixed with more modern elements such as clean crisp metal fixtures.”

SMALL CHANGES, BIG RESULTS

Part of the popularity of hardware and accessories comes from their ability to create a whole new feel to a bathroom, without requiring extensive remodeling. And, the little things can make a big difference here, manufacturers say.

“Trends continue to show that people are spending time and money renovating their homes. Especially when it comes to the bath, consumers are making small changes to update and refresh the space, such as replacing a faucet or installing decorative towel bars,” says Rohl.

Wood says that accessories need to be both functional and beautiful. “In the product development process, we look for ways to make our accessories stand out – like adding a triple posted robe hook for more functionality, or adding a glass shelf to a toilet tissue holder to [provide extra storage] when space is at a premium.”

In keeping with the idea of creating a spa-like room, Singer says that towel racks, double towel bars and glass shelves are the new must-haves for 2012.

Rohl adds, “The bath rack is the perfect accessory for relaxation. Our brass rack attaches to the side of the bath and is the perfect place to rest a good book or a glass of wine.”

In the radiant heat market, Warmly Yours believes its infrared radiant panel product, Lava, will be the next big trend in radiant heating. The technology allows for radiant heat without the need to replace the floors.

“These radiant panels can be placed on a wall and/or ceiling and they radiate warmth in all directions. This trend ties into the green movement as these panels are quick to heat up a room – and are only used when the room is occupied.”

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