Bathrooms have evolved from outhouses to throne rooms, latrines to spas. Not just for hygiene and the call of nature, they’re now spaces to relax, refresh and recharge, both ourselves and our gear.
Architects, designers and contractors, how are you equipping the bathrooms you design for your clients? Manufacturers, distributors and retailers, what new releases are you planning this season and next?
If you’re tracking trends – and you probably are as a reader of this publication and space – these might be among the choices you’re making for bath storage this year. Many have been spotted at European shows like LivingKitchen and Salone del Mobile in Milan. Some have already made their way across the pond to KBIS and ICFF. If they haven’t yet, many of these trends should be coming to a showroom near you soon. Here’s what to keep an eye out for, according to trend-spotters across the industry, including:
- Tim Schroeder with Duravit USA
- Bob Gifford with Hastings Tile & Bath
- Dean Larkin, AIA of Dean Larkin Design
- Linda Yang with Robern
- Shari McPeek with Rev-A-Shelf
- Scott Kaminski with Häfele America
- Anna Paola Snaidero with Snaidero USA
There are still clients who request the floor-to-ceiling vanity wall, but the trend is definitely toward floating and modular. Tall cabinets install on walls feet above the floor for a lighter look, typically level with the vanity cabinet for symmetry.
Modular components can include an integral sink-counter combination, LED-illuminated mirror, base cabinet, tall and wide wall cabinets and, increasingly, open shelving. “Open shelving is very in for storage,” points out West Hollywood-based architect Dean Larkin.
It’s becoming more common to see multiple counter heights that incorporate the sink on one level and base cabinet tops extending below it on another. (This may accommodate increased accessibility for wheelchair users.)
Modular systems offer flexibility, comments Snaidero: “The system gives the customer the freedom to design the units that will best suit their home, both functionally and aesthetically. Interior designers, architects and their clients can configure modern storage units that have at once a very delicate look and an undeniable architectural presence.”
Hastings’ Gifford adds, “Experts also want to know that they can customize vanities to suit individual needs. Whatever the application, personalization and flexibility in the bathroom is key.”
“The design principle of modularity to bathroom styling expands the functionality of the space, allowing designers to select the ideal building blocks for a flexible storage solution,” notes Robern’s Yang.
“A major trend we’re seeing in storage includes integrated, innovative options for any sized bathroom,” observes Duravit’s Schroeder. “With the increase in urban and small house living, smaller bathrooms require smart storage designs that maximize as much space as possible. We’re seeing this translate through an increase in built-in storage features – like open shelving, drawer inserts and bathroom cabinets with designated areas for toiletries.”
Bathroom storage is increasingly accessorized with specialized features and power access. Those can include GFCI-rated outlets and USB ports. “A huge trend we are seeing is electrical inside the cabinets,” comments Rev-A-Shelf’s McPeek. These accommodate device chargers, as well as curling irons, hair dryers and other corded bathroom items. “By adding an electrical outlet to the cabinet you reduce cords running across the counter and allow additional access to the appliances,” she says.
Accessories include magnifying mirrors, scale holders, grooming tool holders, waste bins and more. “Anything that reduces clutter and gets things off the floor is in. We’re seeing lots of purpose-driven storage like pullouts with integrated power, hair dryer holders, etc.,” comments Häfele’s Kaminski. Charging stations built into base and wall cabinets are both popular.
“Homeowners and designers are specifically looking for vanities with extra storage applications when making purchasing decisions. Not only does integrated storage help enhance the bathroom aesthetic, but it provides practical solutions, too,” Gifford comments.
Yang points to Marie Kondo’s minimalism as an influence in bathroom design – albeit a challenging one. “It is an exceedingly functional space, and its convenience and usefulness depend heavily on the ability to efficiently store a wide array of everyday essentials.” While Kondo’s philosophy is to reduce your possessions to those that truly add value and “spark joy,” the bathroom is a tough place to do that. Using the space well becomes critical; that’s where designer and manufacturer come together in providing creative, strategic solutions.
Space is optimized by using the recesses under sinks and around pipes with pull-out drawers, and expanding wall storage that might once have been met with medicine cabinets. The latter are not going away either, though they’ve certainly gotten sleeker, more sophisticated and, in many instances, larger.
Wall, tall and base cabinets are likelier than ever before to incorporate technology, with charging space for phones, built-in speakers and TV and smart home access for news and information. It’s probable that in the next few years, biometric information will also be made available through linked fitness trackers.
Technology is showing up in other ways, too, acknowledging our ever-present phones. Several bathroom accessory lines now include phone shelves above toilet paper holders, so your clients don’t have to worry about their devices tumbling into water or crashing onto tile floors.
There are certainly still traditional and transitional bathrooms being designed, but the dominant trends right now are modern. You see it in the clean lines and shapes. Some feature sexy curves. Others pursue linear forms.
Finishes range from wood-toned neutrals to “pops of color,” says Larkin. It’s not uncommon to see two finishes in one installation. This is a great opportunity to express your own and your clients’ creativity. You can also do this by venturing into one of the newer surfaces.
Thin porcelain cladding, seen at recent shows and accommodated by new European hinges, is coming on strong in cabinetry. It offers some advantages in durability and low maintenance. Glass is coming on strong, too, showcased at numerous European shows, both for fronts and countertops.
Don’t overlook sophisticated laminates and interesting hybrid materials like Fenix NTM, a velvety soft, smooth laminate-solid surface blend, when choosing surfaces for your bathroom cabinetry and tops.
Hardware is going minimal, like in small finger loops, Larkin says, or it’s disappearing altogether, as shown in numerous kitchen shows here and abroad. Hardware that is included is most often transitional or contemporary, beautifully sculptural and in one of the newer finishes, like matte black or brushed gold.
“Good design becomes great whenever it becomes easier to organize a daily routine,” says Hasting’s Gifford, and where does daily routine begin and end, but in the bathroom! These can be challenging spaces to design – and not necessarily the most profitable ones in terms of storage sales – but rewarding in their tremendous potential to enrich clients’ lives and create new repeat and referral business. ▪