Consumer concern for the environment and stringent regulations on water usage can make designing a great shower experience a challenge. Innovative product development, options in water delivery and attention to customization help designers give homeowners the shower spaces they crave in an environmentally responsible way.
Showers continue to be a refuge for homeowners, a space away from the bustle of the world. The creation of a spa-like environment is still at the top of the list for bathroom trends, particularly in the master bath.
“We continue to see a need for spa-like bathrooms and shower spaces as homeowners place emphasis on holistic wellbeing within their homes,” says Justin Storm, group product manager of House of Rohl in Irvine, CA. “Today, there’s a transformation going on in how our segments define the showering space. It has become a luxury space, a serene sanctuary, where function marries with mindfulness. It is a place for wellness rituals and spa treatments, one that encourages immersion in a setting that helps erase the everyday.”
Both function and aesthetics are important. For a true spa feel, the space must have products that deliver a satisfying shower as well as promote a sense of calm, quiet refuge.
Adriana Bertolino, business development manager at Gessi North America in Anaheim, CA notes, “At Gessi, we see the shower trend going beyond the traditional concept of function to a space of aesthetic importance where an inhabitant can spend quality time for one’s body and mind.”
“Refreshment in the morning, relaxation in the evening or regeneration after exercise: the daily shower fulfills a variety of functions going way beyond personal hygiene. Its positive impact on physical and emotional well-being makes it an important component of a health-conscious lifestyle for many,” explains Christopher Barger, president & CEO of Dornbracht Americas, based in Duluth, GA. “Accordingly, there is an increasing desire for shower furnishings that take aesthetic ideas as much into account as functional and health aspects.”
Designing the space for the individual user is also important, particularly when it comes to technology. Digital controls are becoming more desired, but need to be intuitive and offer the user exactly what they’re looking for.
“You want to go in and have a great experience, but one that’s catered to you,” remarks Alisha McFetridge, CEO at RainStick Shower in Kelowna, BC, Canada. “Technology should add value rather than just be there. It needs to be thoughtful and intentional, tailored to the individual.”
Other top trends include expansive showers, particularly in the master bath; a move towards connectivity; a focus on matte black and brushed finishes; and a range of features to truly customize the showering experience. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
As people strive to create spa-like refuges in their homes, the ability to personalize is of utmost importance. Through customization of both water delivery and features that enhance the spa feel of the space, consumers can create the oasis they desire.
“Across the board, people simply want the ability to customize their spaces and make it theirs,” states Danielle Radic, senior product manager, Moen Inc., based in North Olmsted, OH. “The ability to choose what type of experience they have in their homes is essential.”
Storm says customization allows homeowners to showcase their style through the selection of products and finishes that reflect who they are as an individual. “Over the past two years, consumers have experienced firsthand the importance of the home and desire high-quality products that are a personal reflection of the individual. In fact, a House of Rohl survey from last summer found that 63% of respondents are more likely to select bathroom fixtures if they can personalize them, whether that’s through showerhead and valve options, materials or product colors,” he reports.
Simplified valve systems have made achieving this level of personalization possible, he adds. “Advances in our House of Rohl valve systems allow consumers to support three brands with the same valves.”
Barger notes, “Thanks to the stringent design language of all the Dornbracht products, designs, control elements, outlets and applications from all the series can be arranged together exactly as required. This allows maximum flexibility to add additional functions – such as a Kneipp affusion pipe, massage jets or a waterfall.”
Personalizing the space also allows homeowners to plan for their future in the home. Tom Sindelar, senior product manager, Performance Showering, for Kohler in Kohler, WI says people are adding flexibility to the shower by including a hand shower, as well as more lighting. “Seats and grab points make the spaces more relaxing and prepare for use when people’s abilities change over time due to age or an injury,” he stresses.
Efficient and Satisfying
Regulations and consumer attention to responsible water usage have driven trends that address water conservation and efficiency. Specifically, the desire for a satisfying showering experience that reduces water use has led manufacturers to be innovative in their product development. Solutions include products that alert users to their water usage, provide flexible flow options and reuse water.
“Ten years ago, water regulations in states like California greatly affected the future of showers and faucets,” reports Jason McNeely, senior brand manager for Hansgrohe North America based in Alpharetta, GA. “California was the first state to mandate a reduction of flow to these products to conserve water in their state. Since then, many states have followed suit, making water conserving products the norm. The challenge then and now has been how do you reduce the amount of water a fixture provides and still maintain the performance,” he states.
Sindelar agrees: “Everybody loves a great shower, one that is warm and has great water coverage and force. Achieving this while using less and less water over time is the balance,” he explains. “Consumers are looking for and using solutions that help them be mindful of how long of a shower they take and how much water they’re using, products that allow them to adjust water flow to use less during certain times in the shower, as well as solutions that can reuse water while providing a great and clean showering experience.”
McFetridge says water conservation was one of the things that led to the creation of RainStick. Coming from an area impacted by drought, the issue was a personal concern. They also noticed that regulations were constantly becoming more stringent in response to water challenges, which can be frustrating for the user. “We really hit a wall with compromise, which is one of the reasons we developed RainStick. It saves 80% water and up to 80% energy, but we do so in a way that provides almost double the flow rate, so it isn’t a compromise to the experience for the user while they shower,” she explains.
Barger notes that a primary question is how the shower experience can be balanced with water and energy consumption. “In the morning, for example, efficiency can be the focus for a quick shower, while on the weekend you might treat yourself to a little more and thus do something for your health, which tends to justify a slightly higher consumption.”
Digital solutions and smart technology are increasingly popular throughout the home, extending to the bathroom, manufacturers say. But, they add, technology must add real value to the showering experience, and needs to be simple to use.
McNeely says, “I do feel that, as the technology improves and prices come down, we will see digital controls of the shower be something that becomes more common. However, I don’t think it will ever outpace or replace the traditional controls in a shower.”
Adam Horwitz, chief marketing officer at Speakman, based in Glen Mills, PA says that digital controls in the shower haven’t quite caught on yet. “There are some decent ones in the marketplace but, at Speakman, we also believe that people are going into the shower to get away from the world and get a new experience. Digital controls must enhance the experience and not detract from it,” he remarks.
Sindelar, however, notes, “Homes are more and more connected and consumers expect that to extend to the bathroom and shower. Digital controls provide a host of advantages, from dialing in a precise temperature to setting presets so you can easily customize different showers for different users or times of the day. Digital showers can also help monitor and save water and go as far as being connected to [a] virtual assistant like Alexa or Google Home.”
He adds, “Technologies that can immerse different senses are becoming more impactful. An immersive shower engages your hearing with music or guided meditation, engages your smelling with aromatherapy, and engages your sight with relaxing and refreshing Chromatherapy.”
“Technology within the bathroom is becoming more of an expectation as the smart home era rises,” agrees Radic. “The Moen Smart Shower has brought a new level of technology into the bathroom and offers customization and connectivity. What’s more, users can control the entire system in the palm of their hand by using the Moen Smart Water App.”
McFetridge reports that RainStick has an optional WiFi application that allows users to track energy and water usage in real time. At the same time, she says, it’s important to keep the shower experience similar to what people are used to. “Digital controls and connectivity can be confusing,” she reports. “The shower experience cannot be complicated.”
The shower space occupies a significant portion of the bathroom, and when creating retreat spaces, the visual impact is important.
“There is an acknowledgement that body and mind are equally impacted by their environment, and by creating an aesthetically relaxing and invigorating space, people can bring the two into balance,” says Storm. Soothing colors like blues, greens and grays are trending, he adds. “The need for cleanliness has also extended to shower design, forms and materials – homeowners want products that look visually clean from a design perspective and are easy to clean as a result of the pandemic,” he notes.
Other manufacturers agree that there’s a preference for clean, simple shapes and lines. McNeely reports, “We see a mixture of shapes, but round and square are the two most popular and easy to match with other shapes in the bathroom. Both offer clean and modern lines and an easy surface to clean versus something more ornate.”
Barrier-free entry ways and liner-style drains are the biggest trends they see, McNeely adds. Barrier-free entries provide a clean, modern look in line with the clean lines of current bathroom design, he remarks. Linear shower drains allow more water to go down and keep the water from pooling up, provide a more attractive look, and popular finishes can be used to help the drain blend into the shower floor, he notes.
Finishes are used to accent the bathroom, notes Horwitz, with matte black being the biggest current trend. “Brushed bronze and gold are also finishes that are high in demand,” he reports.
Bertolino says that color as freedom of expression in the bath is important. “ORIGINI, just launched at Salone at Milan, was born from the union of archetypal forms with metachromatic harmonies, created by mixing and matching colors, materials and finishes. [It is] a collection that offers customers color choices based on five iconic shades and combinations according to one’s taste.”
A move towards showers rather than bathtubs and a desire for flexible options leads to larger, more expansive showering spaces, manufacturers say, especially in the master bath.
“We are seeing showers continuing to grow in importance as the main focus of the bathroom for wellness, and size depends on the particular application,” reports Bertolino. “We are seeing the expansion of the shower in the master bath to create a private wellness sanctuary in the home.”
“Though the industry trend of cultivating spa-like bathrooms applies to all bath spaces in the home, we have seen a particular focus in the primary bath as homeowners place emphasis on holistic wellbeing in their most personal spaces,” explains Storm. “The primary bath is no longer just another bathroom – it’s a space where one can relax, rejuvenate and recharge, and the showers within are now being designed as settings that can help homeowners retreat and erase the everyday.”
Sindelar states that main showers tend to be a little larger, and include multiple water outlets like a showerhead plus a handshower, rainhead or body sprays.
Secondary showers are smaller, or are a tub/shower combination, he says, and may include a single showerhead. However, he adds, many are upgrading to include a showerhead/handshower combination or showerheads that can play music via Bluetooth.
Horwitz notes, “Master showers can be more extravagant. They may use body jets to get a full body shower. They often incorporate rain showers and handshowers as part of the set up, whereas the kids bathroom may have a more simplified set up with just a fixed showerhead and a handshower.” He states that shower size isn’t expanding, but more consideration is given to aging in place, such as low-threshold entrances or moving handles closer to the entrance so it is easier to adjust water volume and temperature from outside the shower.
McFetridge notes that, in the master, not only are people increasing the size of their shower, but some are even putting double showers in their enclosures. This allows for personalization for more than one user.
Storm concurs. “We’ve also seen an increase in demand for double showers, with independent controls that can invite two people to share the shower experience, while each enjoys their preferred temperature and settings.” ▪