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Attention To Detail

Shower design requires careful consideration of details and features that create a customized personal wellness environment.

authors Elizabeth Richards 

Personal wellness is a hot topic these days, and when it comes to home design, the shower is one of the most obvious places to incorporate wellness in the home. The shower can become a relaxing, therapeutic, peaceful oasis for cleansing both body and mind.

“The shower is one of the most personal experiences of any person’s day. Whether it’s getting an early morning started on the right foot or winding down from a long day, the shower is more than just hygiene. It provides a brief escape from hectic schedules and the hustle and bustle of daily life,” says Katty Pien, chief marketing officer at Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas, home to American Standard brands DXV and Grohe. “A customized experience in the shower is king – from pressure to pattern, everyone has their own preference.”

“Finding physical and mental balance is more important than ever, especially for high-end consumers for whom privacy is the ultimate luxury. Transforming the bathroom into a personalized spa that addresses relaxation and recovery needs is a key step to achieving wellness and balance,” concurs Alexander Dornbracht, v.p., marketing for Dornbracht Americas Inc., based in Duluth, GA.

Showers must be as individualized as the homeowners who use them. “Consumers are looking to create spaces that are perfectly suited to their individual style,” says Suzy Street, product manager at Moen in North Olmsted, OH. She sees consumers leaning toward spa-like qualities to create a peaceful, pampering environment. “This means they’re incorporating elements such as overhead rain showers, multiple fixtures and even smart home elements to customize the experience.”

Customization creates the unique experience homeowners crave, and manufacturers must offer products that give designers options. Beyond personalization, top trends include the incorporation of smart technology, spacious enclosures, unique combinations in finishes and features that pay attention to water conservation. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Personal Design, Custom Details

In creating a personal oasis, every detail is important. For maximum comfort and usability, homeowners want beautiful elements that offer top function.

“Trends in luxury shower enclosures feature generously proportioned, architecturally inspired shower spaces with multiple showering options, including showerheads, rain domes, hand showers and body sprays,” says Erin Hoover, director, design – Kallista and Lighting at Kohler Co. in Kohler, WI. “Wellness and spa-like experiences continue to be a major trend in bathroom design as consumers seek opportunities to make their bathroom a place of serenity and personal renewal.”

“Modern day bathrooms are transforming into personalized day spas. New technologies make the experience more convenient and, in turn, more relaxing,” says Pien, who sees the shower transitioning “to more of an experiential space that gives the end users a moment of Zen in their day.”

Dornbracht notes, “The bathroom is a place of ritual and sanctuary. The shower design is a key component of this, creating a personal haven for the user, such as his and hers spa modules to deliver custom scenarios for muscle relief or mental relaxation.”

“Details matter,” adds Barbara Kratus, sales & marketing director at Amityville, NY-based Infinity Drain, who cites “niches for storage, a shelf for leg shaving, beautiful drains that are like jewelry and a bench or seat to take a moment to relax” as examples of these types of details. She adds that an attractive drain that complements the style of the bathroom is essential, noting, “I’ve seen too many showers that cost tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of poring over fixture and tile selections end up with a drain cover from the wholesale counter. The details matter.”

Innovative Functionality

Additions that make the shower space more functional are also trending, manufacturers say, whether through technological advances or other innovations.

“In today’s world, we often think technology equals innovation, but there are many forms of innovation that provide added functionality without requiring WiFi, electronics, etc.,” believes Kristen Baum, senior product manager for Brizo Kitchen & Bath Co. in Indianapolis, IN. “If push comes to shove, functionality will typically trump design in the shower space.”

“Designers and homeowners are looking for more functionality and more features but with less clutter throughout the shower,” adds Peggy Gallagher, senior product manager at Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN.

“Shampoo, soap and other toiletries are a necessity in a shower and storing these items must be accommodated. Combining the functionality into the design of the shower has led to a high demand for shower niches and shelves,” says Jarrod Persun, product manager at Schluter in Plattsburgh, NY.

Lyle Kelly, product manager at Schluter Systems, adds that the company also sees demand for floor heating that runs from the bathroom floor into the shower.

“A trend in LED lighting has recently hit the market, providing users with a relaxing glow in their showering space,” notes Bridget Hatter, product manager at Delta Faucet.

Dornbracht concurs: “Light plays an important role in shower design, whether it be ambient light or sensory light.”

When it comes to controls, “Less is more,” according to Dornbracht. “Concealed controls allow for cleaner design and pre-programmed scenarios simplify the shower experience. Integrated, invisible and voice controls are now possible thanks to new technology.”

Controls also need to be user-friendly, manufacturers say. “While consumers are often dazzled with the high-tech controls available on the market, many are now realizing they can be complicated to use, so easy-to-use controls have become highly sought after,” says Jason McNeely, senior manager – visual marketing and training at Alpharetta, GA-based Hansgrohe.

Favored Finishes

While classic finishes are top sellers, the trend toward personalization of the shower opens the door to a wide range of options. Currently, matte black and white as well as warm tones are on the rise.

“Matte black is the hot finish of the moment, but the majority of homeowners ultimately purchase classic chrome or nickel finishes that will look current throughout the lifetime of their bathroom,” Kratus says.

Pien adds, “Every few years, it seems like the trendy metal of choice for hardware, décor and finishes shifts in the design world. Matte black has become the preferred finish among many in the industry, offering a perfect mix of classic elegance and edge.”

“For faucets and showerheads, matte white is starting to be a trend,” Hoover notes. “Warm metals continue to be a focus, [including] unlacquered brass, rose gold, bronze and copper. But keep an eye out for polished nickel and chrome to return, especially when paired with matte white,” she adds.

Hoover believes that designers should think about the overall look of the space and select finishes that will be consistent throughout. But other manufacturers say mixing finishes is trending.

Mixing finishes and materials in bathroom design allows for individuality and personal expression,” says Dornbracht. “Selecting different finishes for the lavatory faucet and shower is a great way to personalize the bathroom.”

“Consumers are becoming more adventurous with regard to experimenting with color and on-trend finishes, and want their bathroom fixtures to stand out and get noticed,” explains Street. The trend of combining different colors and textures allows consumers to try new design styles without worrying about whether the finish will coordinate with the rest of their décor, she adds.

Brushed gold, Street says, is a perfect finish to either rejuvenate traditional design schemes or add an eye-catching focal point in modern homes.

Metallic finishes add a touch of class and elegance as well. “Gold has always been a symbol of luxury,” says Persun.

Open Concept

As designers create personal refuges for relaxation in the master bath, ample space is designated for showering, with large, open-concept spaces on the rise. Showers are gaining more favor than tubs, but if space allows, a freestanding tub may be included in the overall bathroom design, sometimes within the same enclosure space.

“For showers, most users prefer the largest dimension that works within the scale of their space,” states Kratus.”

Gallagher sees open-concept showers with dry spaces being designed in both new builds and remodels. “With remodels, individuals are removing garden tubs and replacing this space with an extended, more luxurious showering space. The benefits include the ability to incorporate additional amenities emphasizing safety and comfort: comfort heights, shower seats, lighting in showers and no-threshold showers,” she adds.

McNeely says, “Bathrooms that incorporate both a shower area and a separate freestanding tub continue to be in demand among homeowners. This provides them with personal options and a complete bathroom-spa experience.”

Ease of entry can be another important factor. As Persun notes, “Barrier-free or curbless showers are becoming more popular due to functionality and aesthetics. Open-concept bathrooms provide a spa-like retreat, especially when using luxurious materials like tile and stone. They are also functional for wheelchair accessibility or when planning for a home that will allow for aging in place.”

Enclosure Aesthetics

These larger, open-concept spaces are often enclosed in tile and glass, and the trend toward mixing materials and finishes allows for creative design.

“Spaces with the open concept are seen implemented with both luxurious glass and tile enclosures, allowing the fixtures to be showcased to highlight the design and style of the bath,” says Hatter. “We are seeing consumers mix style trends between the design concept of the glass/tile enclosures, whether framed or frameless, with the fixture designs designated for the entire bath. An example would be a contemporary or minimalist enclosure paired with the new industrial/new traditional fixtures in specialty finishes.”

Hoover says enclosure trends include clear glass, framed in warm metals like brass and bronze, or matte black. “The shower enclosure acts as a frame for dramatic, large-format statement marble, porcelain or ceramic tile on the shower walls. Another strong trend in shower enclosures drawn from the industrial look is a grid frame in matte black metal,” she adds.

Inspiration from nature is also on the rise in 2019, Pien says. “From more open enclosures reminiscent of a cavern to bringing in warm woods as an accent, incorporating natural elements into the design has been at the forefront. Creating that open look, yet still defining spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass, has become more appealing for both designers and homeowners, as those natural elements provide a calming, relaxing effect for consumers,” she says.

Kelly states, “In the past, showers were tiled different than the rest of the bathroom. Now, with larger-format tiles, the use of linear drains and single-slope floors, there’s a more unified look in the bathroom that encompasses the shower.” There’s also more awareness, he says, that what’s behind the tile matters. With increased understanding that tiles aren’t waterproof, he notes, more care is going into choosing an appropriate system.

Smart Technology

Smart technology is everywhere, and the shower is no exception. Street says that increased comfort with voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa has homeowners looking to use hands-free commands in the bathroom.

“Consumers and designers are looking for smart tech that can be incorporated seamlessly into their spaces and is easy to use,” Hoover believes. “Voice, gesture and sensor controls continue to move into every area of the home, including the shower. Personalization and the ability to tailor the experience seamlessly should be the lens for any technology going into the bathroom.”

“The smart home has moved into the master bathroom. Consumers and designers alike want simplicity. Smart showers provide simplicity of operation, automation and consolidation of controls while at the same time increase customization options and functionality,” adds Baum.

“Connecting the shower to a home automation system allows access to music, fragrance units, smart lights, heated floor, etc.,” says Dornbracht. “This not only allows for control but enables a personalized shower experience that can range from energizing to relaxing based on the user’s needs.”

Kratus adds that the desire for technology in the shower really depends on the end user. “Some people use their shower as a time to unplug and step away from screens, others want the latest and greatest in connectivity and want an app for everything.” When they do want an app, she says, they want an easy-to-use interface that possibly resembles what they are used to using on their phone or tablet.

Conservation Concerns

Water conservation efforts have impacted the market in a number of ways, the most noticeable being low flow rate regulations in more and more places. Still, consumers want a luxurious showering experience.

“Most end users are sensitive to and aware of flow rate restrictions, but they don’t want their showering experience hindered by them,” believes Kratus. “We’re seeing less body sprays and more emphasis on a great showerhead, rain shower and hand shower. Manufacturers are really upping their technology game with fixtures that feel luxurious that are low flow,” she says.

“Sustainability is an ever-increasing trend, and now, we are seeing a crossover between water conservation and technology,” adds Street.

Smart technology helps in the area of water conservation as well, Baum note, by communicating water usage to homeowners. “With awareness comes action,” she concludes. ▪

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