Grab bars are critical to resolving accessibility issues. The problem with grab bars, according to many manufacturers, is that they tend to have an institutional look, rather than the personal style designers and homeowners are looking for. “This type of plain, industrial look hardly contributes to the overall design, so the idea is to help it blend seamlessly with the other fixtures and accessories,” says Mockett. “While the basic functionality in preventing slips and falls is still the main focus, simply adding a soft grip or oval design not only improves the grip surface and allows for more leverage, but can also lend itself to more aesthetically pleasing qualities.”
A linear drain can enable users to easily enter the shower enclosure without having to step over a curb, Taft says. Decorative linear drains support Universal Design without sacrificing the aesthetic, he adds.
Overall, “Universal Design has impacted most organizations to ‘think outside the box’ to develop products that have not traditionally been a ‘must-have’ accessory in a bathroom,” says Hamilton. For homes designed with aging in place in mind, he adds, items such as ADA-compliant grab bars, decorative shower seats and zero-threshold shower drains are critical.
With technology an ever-present influence in daily life, it’s no surprise that technological advances have some impact on hardware and accessory trends. From simplifying the design process to the development of straightforward, easy-to-use products, technology is important, even if not in the obvious ways.
“To some degree, technology does play a role in hardware and accessory trends,” says Hamilton. “Technology can be used to attach shower plates with magnets rather than screws, resulting in a much cleaner, aesthetically appealing final product. Using small parts and other technologies, toilet tissue holders no longer require a spring loaded roller. The arm of the toilet tissue holder pivots upward to allow for a tissue roll to be easily changed without the hassle of a spring roller.”
More efficient products, such as Amba’s towel warmer technology, are also being developed. Using cables rather than heating oil, the warmers heat in 10 to 15 minutes instead of 30 to 45. Salati says that other advances include digital heat controllers for many towel warmer models, as well as the ability to modify wall bracket lengths, which is important when the wall is not level or there is tile on the bottom of the wall, but not the top.
Additionally, Mockett finds power and communication systems becoming increasingly important in bath design. “Bathrooms are experiencing growth and expansion, sometimes borrowing square footage from the adjacent rooms to showcase their newfound grandeur style. Power and data connectivity demands are growing virtually everywhere to keep everyone connected,” he says.
The emergence of 3-D printers has also had an impact, according to Taft. “This amazing and growing technology significantly accelerates time to market for manufacturers,” he says. This technology has also enhanced design abilities by enabling flexible and cost-effective experimentation, he adds.
McJoynt, however, says that because accessories are static products, technology has a limited role. “Spot-free, fingerprint-free is a nice application, but not prevalent in the accessories business quite yet,” he concludes.