Open and Shut
There’s a fine balance between finding a look that is unique and eye-catching and letting it all hang out. Designers are faced with the choice between open storage and closed drawers or doors, and most manufacturers feel closed still wins out. There is, however, a market for some creative open storage as well, manufacturers say.
“In practical terms, we see both. But, I would say the majority is by far for closed storage,” says Wilcox. “Open shelves and accessory items like woven baskets in place of drawers can make for a richer visual interior design experience as it is used for displaying items. Many of the open-shelf designs make for interesting subjects of photography and advertisements so they may be represented in larger proportions than they are actually selling at retail. The basic idea behind closed storage is that it gets the clutter of the bathroom out of sight.”
Wistrom says that closed storage is still in high demand, though the company is seeing some open storage areas being used. “For the most part, practical homeowners are still opting for closed storage to maintain a clean look that requires minimal upkeep,” she notes.
Liu concurs that closed storage is definitely the more popular option currently, and that has to do with keeping things looking good. “People need to have the plumbing hidden. If you open up a drawer and look at what’s inside of the cabinet, usually it’s an ugly pipe, made out of plastic or metal. It looks nicer if the door is closed,” he says. “I know it looks cool when you have the open shelf unit, but it can be a nightmare if you have a lot of plumbing.” However, he adds that he does see demand for open storage on the sides, where you won’t see the plumbing.
One-size-fits-all certainly doesn’t apply to vanities, and size varies widely, depending on where the unit will be used. In a master bath, Wilcox says the area is often used by two people at once, therefore requiring a larger vanity. Sagehill/SunnyWood offers standard sizes for larger vanities but also offers a custom service where all of the firm’s vanities are available in just about any size required. “We also offer modular designs in our most popular collections, so that a designer can customize the products for built-in or freestanding configurations,” Wilcox adds.
Liu also sees modular items trending – for instance two bath vanities and a center console in between. “You still get the look of a single piece, but it’s easier to ship and carry, and the items come fully assembled,” Liu notes.
Ptacek, on the other hand, says that, in the master bath, he’s seeing his-and-hers vanities as completely separate units, rather than one larger unit.
Manufacturers agreed that, in the master bath, storage is vital, which can also drive vanity-size trends. “Master baths typically require more storage, especially drawer space, though a minimalist look with open shelving is very popular right now as well. Truly, we see it all,” says Neilson Howard.
In the powder room, storage isn’t a necessity, and simple, clean decorative pieces are popular, according to Ptacek.
Wilcox adds, “The powder room can move toward ‘haute-couture’ very quickly, where form rules over function.”
Wistrom agrees. “For secondary baths and powder rooms, homeowners are willing to take risks and create more cutting-edge, trendy looks. Exotic veneers are a popular way to make a statement in a secondary bath, as are glossy acrylics and freestanding or floating vanities. These small spaces don’t require as big of an investment, so consumers seem more willing to push the envelope with attention-grabbing finishes, grain patterns and textures.”
Though discussions of environmental responsibility come up often, manufacturers say that these concerns do not play a great role in vanity trends.
“Green design has fallen on the back burner,” says Ptacek. “If companies can prove they are environmentally conscious, that seems to be good enough for the homeowner.”