While bath styles change with the times, it seems that eventually everything comes back to the basics. So perhaps it’s no surprise that simple, clean, contemporary design is back in style in the bathroom, and according to manufacturers interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News, it looks like it’s going to stay.
But while the trend toward clean and simple remains strong, the latest designs still allow consumers to make signature statements, adding a touch of flair and individualization.
In fact, “Personalization is the biggest trend in today’s bathroom design,” according to Jonathan Wood, v.p./sales & marketing for Ginger/Newport Brass in Santa Ana, CA, who notes that the sink area is the ideal place to add a personal touch. “Today’s trends are focused on combining function and beauty, creating a well-organized space that reflects the personality of the homeowner. Homeowners are looking at the bathroom as a personal retreat.”
Hansgrohe Inc.’s Kiel Wuellner is an interior designer and design studio manager in Alpharetta, GA. He says, “The biggest trend I’ve noticed is the end consumer seeking something different and unique; they want something special and unexpected.”
Manufacturers continue to see strong demand for a “clean and simple” look in bath sinks and faucets. “People seem to want clean lines, not necessarily modern,” explains Larry Jacobs, president, Strom Plumbing by Sign of the Crab in Rancho Cordova, CA. “There is definitely a trend toward simplicity and ease of operation.”
Inspired and Simple
Nothing says “clean and simple” like white. And that’s evident in bath sinks with the growing interest in all shades of white. “[Sink] colors are staying with mainly white, including biscuit,” explains Vince Roach, senior v.p./sales & marketing at Compass Manufacturing International in Louisville, KY.
Judd Lord, director of industrial design at Brizo in Indianapolis, IN, has also seen increased demand for the clean and simple look in bath sinks and faucets. “On a more contemporary front, we’re also seeing a continued interest in the all-in-one sink and countertop combination, often in a matte white,” he says. “These designs are smooth and seamless and incredibly easy to clean – all while presenting a fresh look not often seen domestically.”
While white remains a popular choice, JSG Oceana’s Christina Jansure explains, “The trend in color is showing that customers are going with more conservative and neutral colorations to match with the solid surface and countertops.” Jansure, who is v.p./sales & marketing at the Jeannette, PA-based company, adds, “We are seeing a popular push for browns, grays, blacks and even some soft gold.” Jansure has also seen a shift from “traditional white porcelain bathroom sinks” to glass. “The natural properties of borosilicate glass are enabling consumers to purchase a lifetime product that is also beautiful and functional,” she says.
Nothing makes a statement like a beautiful vessel sink in the bathroom. Vessel bowls, found in a broad array of styles, continue to be a fashionable choice. “Vessel sinks are becoming more and more popular, and we’ve seen a decrease in the popularity of recessed basins,” explains Al DeGenova, v.p./global sales and marketing for GRAFF in Milwaukee, WI. DeGenova maintains that consumers are very much focused on designing the bathroom space with unique and inspiring products. “Another trend we’ve observed is the desire for options and bespoke products,” he says, adding that this trend is expected to “continue and grow in popularity.”
Lord agrees there is an increasing trend toward using vessel sinks. “The one notable change here is there seems to be more people moving back to vitreous china and away from the glass bowls [in vessels] seen more often in the past few years,” he adds.
While several manufacturers see the trend toward vessel sinks growing, other manufacturers see a movement away from vessels for their clientele. Jansure says, “One major trend we are seeing is the increase in sales with our glass undermount bathroom sinks. Our customer base seems to be moving past the vessel trend into undermount bathroom sinks. We are now looking to new undermount sink designs or patterns to meet this changing trend.”
Roach agrees. “Sinks are moving toward undermount with granite tops with wave bowls verses ovals,” he explains.
Kevin McJoynt, v.p./marketing for Danze and Gerber Plumbing Fixtures, in Woodridge, IL, makes a case for both, and believes pedestals remain in high demand. “Undermount, vessel and pedestal sinks all continue to be strong in various bathrooms within a home,” explains McJoynt. “Undermount sinks are often preferred – versus drop-in – to keep the counter simple and to help with ease of cleaning. Vessel sinks give designers and homeowners the opportunity to have a ‘showcase piece’ as vessel bowls today are abundant in various materials, styles and colors.” McJoynt further notes, “Pedestal sinks continue to be a popular choice in smaller bathrooms and powder rooms. They are a stylish focal point and optimize these smaller spaces.”
McJoynt points to another increasing trend. “Square and rectangular sinks have surged in popularity in recent years. While oval is still often specified, square/rectangular shapes bring a fresh sense of style and uniqueness to many bathrooms.”
Either way, McJoynt gives a nod toward the clean and simple trend. “When selecting a sink material, finding options that avoid a seam between the sink and countertop is critical for aesthetics and ease of cleaning,” he says. He believes, “Clean, simple lines will likely be popular for years to come,” explaining that consumers have shifted to an “understated décor” and the trend toward clean lines actually mirrors other design trends. The overall design trend, McJoynt states, is “softer contemporary styling” with “lighter colors and sleeker, simplified lines.”
Urban consumers are, of course, always looking to maximize the use of their space. Manufacturers continue to see urbanites purchasing sinks that are contemporary and sleek. Wuellner says, “…our urban clientele is purchasing wall-mounted sinks and faucets to save space…”
While there’s still a strong tendency to have a minimalist design in an urban space, Lord explains that today’s savvy consumers everywhere have lots of options. “The plethora of media available has really eliminated many of the regional differences,” he says. “One is now able to view all of the style choices out there and [consumers can] really interject their own personalities and tastes into their spaces now, no matter what those tastes or preferences may be.” So, whether the consumer lives in Manhattan, Tucson or a small town in Iowa, the sky’s the limit.
A Clean Flow
The themes of personalization and clean and simple lines extend beyond the sink and embrace the latest trends in faucets. “Faucets remain a very personal choice to designers and homeowners,” explains McJoynt. “There are literally thousands of style choices from very ornate traditional to sleek contemporary, and everything in between. Generally speaking, we’re finding many designers and homeowners leaning toward more simplified, contemporary styling, especially in high-rise, urban settings. The ‘less is more’ philosophy is becoming more attractive in the selection process.”
DeGenova acknowledges the trend away from traditional faucet designs. “Contemporary and transitional designs are very popular,” he notes. “Consumers are demanding faucets with a wide range of finish options. The ability to choose a finish that fits the desired design schemes or personal taste is in high demand.”
Mike Purcell, director of product marketing for Grohe in New York, NY, agrees consumers are “turning to cleaner, more industrial designs.” Purcell recognizes demand for a clean and light design that is still elegant. He also sees interest in angular shapes.
With regard to faucet finishes, Purcell observes, “In the U.S., brushed nickel continues to be the most popular finish in the bathroom, after chrome. Internationally, chrome is the front-runner, offering a clean and professional appearance.”
Lord agrees that homeowners are “looking for sleeker, more modern bath fixtures.” He points out, however, that these consumers are also “pairing these contemporary pieces with more traditional finishes in order to maintain a warm, inviting feel in the bath space.” Consequently, Brizo is seeing a “resurgence in the popularity of warm finishes” such as brass and brushed bronze. “These finishes,” Lord explains, “when paired with the right faucet, can make a contemporary faucet blend easily into the most classically styled home. I believe this trend is here to stay for a while.” Nevertheless, Lord says chrome and polished nickel are still the top sellers.
McJoynt contends that although clean lines are in demand, consumers also want to add a bit of pizzazz to the mix. “Clean lines and simple styling [are popular], yet [are] sometimes enhanced with unique and interesting angles.” He adds that there is an expanding interest in single-handle faucets and smaller-scale faucets as well.
Hansgrohe’s Wuellner notes that, in spite of the trend toward sleek lines, the upscale consumer is still looking for the “wow” factor. “When it comes to finishes, it again goes back to personalization,” he explains. “My clients want something their neighbors don’t have. Polished nickel has resurged. Black and brushed gold are also in high demand,” he adds.
Specialty finishes such as “tumbled bronze and satin black” are also garnering interest according to McJoynt, although he says brushed nickel and chrome “continue to lead the way,” particularly in faucets with a sleek design.
Wuellner also mentions that flexibility is a key factor with today’s faucets because it allows for further personalization. He says, “Whereas faucets used to come in two sizes – single hole and widespread – they are now available in up to five different heights to suit the spaces’ use.”
DeGenova agrees that single-hole faucets are in demand now, along with vessel faucets. “Single-hole faucets deviate from the traditional widespread style that includes a spout and handles on each side,” he explains. “The vessel faucets are very similar to the single-hole design; however, as a matter of functionality, they are taller in stature to accommodate a vessel sink.”
Faucets of the Future
Technology has become an ever-important part of American life, incorporated into every room of the home. Several manufacturers surveyed agree that technology in the bathroom is here to stay and, in fact, likely to expand. “In the short term, I see bathrooms and faucets becoming fully digitized and water consumption being reduced significantly through smarter technology,” says Purcell. “Long term, I think faucets will increase in intelligence and automatically know the preferred settings.”
This trend toward high-tech faucets is translating into an interesting variety of options. Purcell explains that “precise control and customization” along with a “memory function” that will recall users’ “individual combination of water temperature and flow” can make a faucet work harder for the consumer
Temperature-sensing technology “senses the water before the user does,” according to Lord. He also anticipates more demand for an LED light “built into the top of the faucet [that] changes color from blue to magenta to red, letting consumers know exactly when water has reached the desired temperature.” This technology includes a high-temperature limit stop for safety.
Manufacturers also see an increase in the use of touch-less technology in faucets in consumers’ homes. “The use of electronic faucets in the home is definitely increasing,” says Wuellner. “Those with small children are using these products not only as an energy saver, but also to keep their bathrooms cleaner.”
Wood agrees: “With Baby Boomers aging into retirement in the near future and the increasing trend toward aging in place, Universal Design will be even more in demand. Touchless faucets would definitely fall into that category.”
Americans are becoming more aware of the amount of water they use daily. Particularly in parts of the country where water conservation is a key issue, consumers are becoming more interested in green products and manufacturers are responding. According to Purcell, “Eco-friendly products are becoming a big part of every industry, and they will continue to play a large role in the upcoming years. The main trend is purely being more eco-friendly through water savings.” Purcell points out that some “environmentally friendly faucets” reduce water consumption up to 30 percent.
“Green is here to stay and has moved into the mainstream,” asserts Wood. “For water-related efficiencies, the EPA created the WaterSense label. The WaterSense label has been setting standards in terms of water usage to conserve water and save the consumer money. “WaterSense faucets…will continue to grow in popularity as awareness grows about the importance of water conservation,” adds Wood. “This will especially be true as the design continues to improve and provide an indistinguishable experience for the end-user.”
Manufacturers have responded to this demand for water conservation with a selection of high-performing faucets that are ecologically sound. “It’s not enough for a faucet to offer water savings; it has to deliver on the performance expectations as well,” insists Lord. “Consumers are demanding high-quality, efficient products that don’t cause them to sacrifice time or experience.”