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Keeping It Clean

Vanities have a dual role in the bathroom. First and foremost, they need to enhance the visual appeal of the overall space. But just as important is the need to provide functional storage to hide the clutter.

“People want their vanity to resemble and relate to the rest of the bathroom. It has to be functional, beautiful and natural,” says Mark Wolinksy, president of Wetstyle in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Certain trends are emerging in the bath that impact not only the vanity, but the room as a whole. “Zen-inspired bath design with contemporary features and forward-thinking technology is playing an important role. Blending eye appeal with functionality is often requested,” says Cindy Draper, marketing manager at Canyon Creek Cabinet Co. in Monroe, WA.

Functionality is essential, whatever the vanity style, and storage space tops the list of what people are looking for. Stuart Stanton, executive v.p. at Ronbow, Inc. in Fremont, CA, says that traditional two-drawer vanities left more items on the countertop. In Ronbow’s new collections, there’s a space for everything from hair dryers to built-in outlets, USB ports and drawers to hide away all bathroom supplies, he says.

In addition to plenty of storage space – which means a move away from open shelving and toward drawers or doors – vanity trends include a rise in furniture style and floating vanities, clean finishes and transitional styling. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

VISUAL VARIATIONS
The number of style and finish choices available allows for designers to capture the personality of the homeowners using a broad range of shapes, materials and accents. Because of this variety, it can be difficult to pinpoint specific trends.

John Weinstein, brand president for the Ryvyr brand of Roswell, GA-based XYNC Brands says “safe” is still what sells best. He has seen a move from traditional to modern design, and restoration hardware with a washed or weathered look is popular, he notes. Mixed materials are also showing up, but are not, at this point, big sellers, he notes.

Despite the vast variety available, some styles and finishes appear more often than others. Shaker styles are still very popular, according to Stephanie Lowe, product manager for decorative products at Hardware Resources in Bossier City, LA, and lighter shades are coming out on top. “Gray and white are both really hot and growing in popularity,” she says.

Paint dominates the finish selection, according to Christopher Reynolds, v.p./sales & marketing for Roanoke, VA-based Custom Wood Products. He agrees that light grays and white are top paint color choices.

Draper notes that, in addition to white and gray painted cabinetry, there is a trend toward mixing gray and white, black and white, or a combination of all three colors.

Nathaniel Mucha, v.p. of sales/bath at Buena Park, CA-based Fairmont Designs adds that, while grays continue to do well, he is also seeing a trend toward taupe and beige, and sometimes a little mixing of beige with gray. “On the wood tones,” he adds, “rustic finishes continue to flourish.” In some cases, he notes, the company also sees a rustic finish on a modern design, such as in the new Acacia collection.

Wolinsky believes people are craving sustainable style and natural elements in their bathroom design. “An all-wood vanity lends an organic feel to the bathroom. Plus, wood is timeless, and bathrooms should be designed to last,” he states.

“Vanities have long been seen as a ‘box with a top,’ so we felt it was incumbent upon us to add excitement and sizzle,” states Stanton. To do so, he notes, Ronbow uses different shapes, materials and textures as well as unusually shaped sinks in its vanities.

Stanton adds that it’s important to note that manufacturers are catering to a new audience “There are 80 million millennials who are looking for smaller-sized vanities, different colors and lots of options,” he reports.

SIMPLE PIZAZZ
Consistent with overall kitchen and bath design trends, manufacturers say that transitional styles with clean lines and less ornamentation are leading the way in vanities as well.    

Clean lines in the bathroom define a sophisticated retreat, stresses Wolinksy. “Most people want their bathrooms to project an aura of calm, so simple lines with a few surprising details are extremely popular,” he says. “Less truly is more in bathroom design! Minimalism makes the most sense in a small space – a lack of clutter creates a calming room.”

Another way to achieve the simple, uncluttered visual is integration of the sink into the vanity top, something that Naomi Neilson Howard, founder & CEO at Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA, sees big demand for. “The clean aesthetic and easy maintenance is a big draw, and the overall look can make a big statement from a design perspective,” she says. The company’s Palomar vanity top in NativeStone is a good example of this, she adds, as well as its hammered copper Sedona vanity top.

FURNITURE STYLE & FLOATING VANITIES
Although storage and a clean, uncluttered look are important, people also want a sense of style and personality in their vanities. This need for personal expression is drawing some to vanities that function more like furniture, and floating vanities mounted to the wall.

The bathroom furniture market continues to grow, offers Mucha. “Homeowners are becoming more aware of bath furniture as a viable option to give them that unique look,” he says.

Karen Wistrom, v.p./marketing for Dura Supreme in Howard Lake, MN notes, “Furniture vanities continue to trend strongly for style, with beautiful detailing like turned posts or bun feet or moldings that create a freestanding sink console.” In smaller spaces, she adds, floating vanities can make the room appear more spacious. “By ‘floating’ the vanity off the floor, it creates an easy-to-clean space without sacrificing storage,” she continues.

“Floating vanities are [getting more attention] as the contemporary and modern market has increased in popularity,” adds Rob Nusbaum, president and CEO at EuroAmerica Distributors and EuroAmerica Design in Troy, MI. “Many of our customers are looking to combine a minimalistic design while maximizing storage. The trend is no longer large cabinetry on the walls, as designs incorporate a few shelves to display and one or two floating cabinets.”

CONCEALED CLUTTER
The desire for clutter-free environments is driving a move toward closed storage. But this choice will also depend on size and style of the room, as well as the amount of actual storage required. The decision is really a matter of personal preference, manufacturers say.

Nusbaum believes there is a give and take to find the balance between design and storage. Drawers under a sink, for instance, maximize storage while offering a more minimal look. “Homeowners might give up a little storage in order to create the look they would like to achieve,” he says.

Stanton notes that closed storage outsells open. “In reality, no one has [that] vanity seen in a shelter magazine with baskets and neatly folded towels in their open storage compartments. No one wants to show their choice of toothpaste, or nail polish remover out in the open.”

Mucha agrees, saying the trend toward open shelves is on the decline as consumers express concern for keeping appearances clean and tidy. Even in small spaces, he notes, features like concealed drawers are a big selling point, satisfying the desire for functional storage.

Though Lowe says her firm doesn’t see a strong preference between open and closed storage, maximizing storage space in a vanity is always important. To address this need, many vanities from Hardware Resources include a top drawer fitted around plumbing as well as spacious cabinets with adjustable shelves, she notes.

“Storage capacity will always be an important element in bath design because of the limited space in bathrooms,” says Wistrom. “The challenge is to create an open, airy feel and to maximize storage. In bathrooms, the preference is toward closed storage, but with more spacious rooms, a floating shelf or single open area for a stack of towels or glass storage containers can be an attractive element.”

Size and layout of the room contribute to storage decisions as well, says Amanda Maresca, art director for Whitehaus Collection in West Haven, CT. While small spaces with big storage needs might require closed cabinetry for better organization, she explains that open shelving is very popular in interior design. “A vanity with an open base where you can store a basket that’s spilling over with towels will look very spa like.”

DIVERSE SPACES
All bathrooms are not created equal, and how the room will be used impacts vanity selection. For master baths, a sense of tranquility and spaciousness prevails; children’s baths are often more functional and focused on storage, while rooms that guests will use often include a bit of dramatic flair.

“The major difference between trends in master baths and other bathrooms is in color and style,” Wistrom says. “Master baths trend toward a serene, tranquil, spa-like environment with simple lines and transitional styling. Powder rooms and smaller bathrooms trend toward a bit more drama in the use of furniture-style, freestanding cabinetry with more daring or dramatic color.”

Budgets tend to be directed more to the master bath, says Wolinsky, while consumers are looking for more affordable options in other spaces. “People will go all out in the master bath to make sure they aren’t compromising storage for a minimalistic and clean look,” he says. In secondary baths, he notes, people gravitate toward floating vanities or smaller fixtures that don’t overwhelm the space.

People are also still looking for consistency between the bathrooms, Wolinsky adds. “They want the rooms to relate to each other and reflect the overall aesthetic of the home.”

Draper believes that the same treatments are applied in secondary baths as in the master. Although designers may opt for lower-level cabinetry and fixtures, she says, they still want the high-end look.

Double bowls are quite common in a master bath, according to manufacturers. “Typically, a master bathroom is shared by more than one person, and it’s helpful to have a ‘his and hers’ sink area,” says Maresca.  

Small units have always been the category driver, Mucha says, but he’s seeing increased growth in larger vanity sizes, including single 60″ vanities and double-sink vanities in both 60″ and 72″ sizes. To respond to this trend, Fairmont Designs added larger sizes and accessory pieces, such as linen towers, to several of their collections this year.

“When designing a master bathroom, builders and homeowners usually want the biggest vanity for their space,” says Stanton. Because the majority of people have smaller bathrooms, he concludes, it’s important to have the ability to customize and provide choices.

Find more bathroom vanities in our Product Guide.

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