Luxury bath accessories and hardware go mainstream in an
innovative design climate where minimalist and traditional
By Daina Manning
Good design should be accessible to everyone and these days, it
actually is. As consumers become more involved in their homes and
more educated about products, they develop more discriminating
As manufacturers respond to this new market, design features
that were formerly the province of the upscale become a broad-based
standard, with a host of new designs, finishes and luxury touches
becoming available at all price points.
This is especially the case with bathroom hardware and
accessories, which have become more stylish, more imaginative and
of better quality than ever before, even at lower price points.
Jeff Robboy, president of Baci by Remcraft, in Miami, FL notes,
“We’re starting to see a new trend: [middle income] people you
normally don’t expect to buy luxury items are gearing themselves
for it. They buy something expensive and show it off. They’re
starting to realize their home is their castle.”
However, regardless of income level, today’s savvy consumers are
investigating products before buying, willing to spend the money
but only for quality and real value, and items that genuinely
reflect their individual taste.
“A lot of people are becoming braver and bolder in their
choices,” says Tim Bitterman, senior product and brand manager for
Creative Specialties International, a division of Moen, in North
Olmsted, OH. “The more options and styles they see out there, the
more excited they get. The market is getting more niche [oriented[,
more fanciful and more playful.”
The new cornucopia of products enables bathroom designers to
create much more innovative and interesting rooms.
“Consumers want hardware and accessories that keep the
architectural integrity of their house, be it modern, Mid-Century,
Craftsman or Victorian,” says Adrienne Morea, president and
designer at Atlas Homewares, in Glendale, CA. “But they’re buying
[the components] new, not vintage, because they want to add all of
the modern bells and whistles.”
“They’re becoming a lot more receptive to intricate detailing
and themed rooms, especially in powder rooms. They want something
that speaks to their own personality,” notes Bitterman.
Larry Jacobs, president of Ashley Harris Marketing Inc.,
representing Sign of the Crab, in Rancho Cordoba, CA, notes that
homeowners who have multiple bathrooms might do each one
differently, showcasing several eras of design styles, with perhaps
a hardware finish used everywhere as a through-line.
Overall, there is no one overridingly popular style in today’s
market. Jerry Abel, managing director for THG USA, LLC, in Coconut
Creek, FL, sees “the higher-end market returning to
higher-detailed, more ornate design.” Jacobs says his company’s
mainstay is products for period bathrooms featuring claw foot tubs
and the like, but “we have introduced a minimalist line that’s
super clean, super simple.”
“There is a trend toward minimalism in design that’s gaining
acceptance beyond the urban areas, which is interesting and good,”
agrees Sharon Bickler, v.p./advertising and promotion for Ginger,
in Charlotte, NC.
Another burgeoning trend could be termed “minimalist
traditional,” wherein antique and vintage elements are used in a
very modern way in spare, unadorned, somewhat cold arrangements
with a lot of breathing space, no clutter.
“We’re seeing a lot of that mixing contemporary and
traditional,” echoes Avi Abel, general manager for Watermark
Designs, in Spring Creek, NY.
Kaijsa Kurstin, communications manager at Deco Lav, Inc., in
Deerfield Beach, FL, sees vintage, early 20th century looks, for
instance Art Deco, featuring pedestals and vintage furniture
pieces, as a strong trend. Bitterman also sees a surge in 1950s
Such a wide variety of trends demands a huge selection of
finishes which, luckily, is readily available.
Finishes with a flourish
In the past few years, chrome has tended to mean “starter home,”
while exotic finishes signified the upscale. However, this is no
longer the case.
“Retro is really big,” says Jeff Pratt, v.p./North American
sales for Danze Bathroom Products, in Bolingbrook, IL. This is
translating to high-end, elegant designs that use
period-appropriate chrome, such as his company’s line featuring
chrome and frosted glass that evokes the 1920s in New York
Minimalist contemporary looks also frequently utilize the clean,
stark look of chrome against white fixtures.
Jacobs emphasizes that high-end chrome differs from the home
center variety: “There’s a difference between a low-quality and
high-quality plating job,” he notes. High end companies usually use
triple plating, which produces a more brilliant, intense
Watermark’s Abel cites a new adventure pick: “a lot of the
minimalist [hardware] that is typically in chrome or nickel. People
are starting to do those in oil-rubbed bronze and antique brass.
When I first saw that order come thought, we actually called up the
customer because we thought it was a mistake,” he laughs.
Stark contemporary styling with an antique finish plays into the
“minimalist traditional” idea of design.
The re-emergence of chrome as an upscale material is the major
story in finishes, those surveyed agree. Elsewhere, satin nickel
still remains popular a new classic that’s in it for the long haul.
The same can be said of oil-rubbed bronze, a finish some once
thought might be a fad. “Old World finishes have staying power,”
notes Bitterman, who also cites antique brass and antique nickel as
up-and-comers. Antique copper and weathered finishes were also
mentioned as options for clients who want something different.
Jerry Abel cites THG’s rhodium and platinum tones as a richer,
deeper finish analogous to chrome, while Avi Abel likes gun metal,
which is similar to pewter, but darker. Manufacturers point out,
however, that the one down side of going with a very exotic finish
is finding all of the desired hardware and accessories in a bath,
in a matching shade, since the “suite” approach is still a must for
Including non-traditional materials in bathroom hardware and
accessories is also an upscale, adventurous trend. Morea cites “the
mixture of organics into bath hardware, which is a real throw-back
to the late ’60s, when Modernism was taken back by the hippie
generation and natural was ‘in.’ However, our generation of
consumers is putting it all together organically, but with lots of
Wrought iron remains an up-and-comer, though manufacturers
disagree as to its staying power. “It’s called the bird cage,
because it’s twisted to look like one of those finch cages,” says
Pratt. “Matte black is in; that’s a finish that’s come aboard
Jacobs, on the other hand, thinks wrought iron’s turn in the
bathroom limelight is a fad. “Things should shine,” he believes.
“Hygenically, things should reflect cleanliness, and some of the
darker finishes don’t.”
The perfect accessory
What’s the one bathroom accessory consumers want these days? How
about, “all of the above.” The number and kinds of bath accessories
available today increase seemingly by the hour, with more variety
of products and styles than ever.
Overall, high quality is the important thing, even in the
mainstream market, manufacturers agree. “Luxury products are really
taking hold, and they’re moving down market,” says Bickler. “The
trend [in the shower] is away from the plastic and the vinyl coated
wire. People are expecting more, they see the options out there and
they’re looking for something that’s closer to those options.”
The formerly lowly shower caddy is now a stylish, well-produced
storage unit that can also be used outside of the shower, notes
Watermark’s Abel. “People are putting them next to vanities, where
you get a shaving mirror, a wire basket and a cup holder for your
toothpaste [all in a] design matching the faucets, beading detail,
Ginger’s shower shelves are also designed to do double duty.
“They’re flat shelves meant for wet areas of the shower, but you
could also use them in the kitchen. They’re a very clean,
minimalist look,” says Bickler.
Shelves outside of the shower are a growing category as well,
especially decorative glass shelves that strengthen the matching
“suite” look of a group of bath accessories. This is a particularly
popular addition for the Art Deco “1920s NYC hotel room” look.
Along those lines, THG’s opulent Art Deco line includes door
accessories and an elegant bathtub with exposed drain assembly.
Other new accessory lines also take their cues from upscale
hotels. Bickler cites her company’s hotel-style towel shelves,
which provide elegant extra storage above a toilet. Similarly, Deco
Lav’s Kurstin cites “multi-function valets, that [consumers] can
put a newspaper or magazine on, or put their jacket on.”
Bitterman says decorative toilet tank levers are also a rapidly
Another overlooked category? Matching brackets to hold up the
mirror over the vanity, notes Avi Abel.
In other accessories, the standards toilet paper holder, towel
bars and rings in several sizes, robe hooks, cup holders remain the
biggest sellers. Bickler notes that “soap dispensers have become
big and are probably supplanting the traditional soap dish.”
In general, “accessories are going thin and petite,” thinks
Pratt. “[The trend is] definitely slight, fine lines.”
He concludes, “I think the biggest driving force is that the
accessories have become affordable. Before, to get any sort of
styling you had to go into very, very high-end kitchen and bath
showrooms. Now, they’re really available in a mass market.”