What were the top trends for 2018? What is the kitchen and bath sector anticipating in 2019? This is the traditional time for our Trend Spotting department to wrap up the current year and look forward to the new one. Here are the thoughts of leading industry pros from around the country. These are the individuals who weighed in:
- Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of New York City-based renovation matchmaking service Sweeten;
- Designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon of Pensacola, FL-based In Detail Interiors;
- Mary Hannah Fout, senior marketing manager at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery;
- Manuel Gutierrez, consulting economist for the National Kitchen & Bath Association;
- David Pekel, president of the National Association of Remodeling Industry and owner of Pekel Construction & Remodeling in the Milwaukee, WI area;
- Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz.
On the plus side, Houzz’s Sitchinava says, homeowners are spending again. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen consumer confidence reaching record levels, a near complete recovery in home equities and a larger share of current homeowners staying in place as opposed to moving.”
NARI president Pekel sees the same: “Business is strong. More and more homeowners are deciding to stay where they are and remodel. Overall, the biggest trend we’re seeing is people wanting to update space – either building in aging-in-place designs to accommodate accessibility and safety, or just building more beautiful environments.” He sees these trends continuing into 2019, with larger, barrier-free showers and more clear space in bathrooms and kitchens.
Homeowners are also spending more on their remodels, Sitchinava notes. “Our ‘Houzz & Home Study’ shows that the leading reason homeowners cited for going over budget was that they decided to buy more expensive products or materials.” That’s a choice designers, retailers, contractors and manufacturers can all embrace. “These trends bode well for home upgrades and customization, and we expect kitchens and bathrooms to continue to receive significant attention in 2019,” the Houzz economist predicts.
NKBA’s Gutierrez points to labor as the key economic challenge for the industry: “Unquestionably, worker shortages were the dominant issue for a majority of businesses in 2018. Difficulty of attracting workers, either professionals or tradesmen, was front and center throughout the year. With the economy quickly absorbing new entrants to the work force [and] the unemployment rate hitting record lows month after month, businesses faced difficulty throughout the year in filling positions.”
It’s hard for contractors to set those project schedules when they don’t have the tradespeople in place to execute, but they’re not the only ones dealing with labor shortage headaches. Designers and retailers also have difficulty filling openings to meet homeowner demand. “A side effect of the worker shortages is increased pressures on wages and salaries in order to attract workers,” Gutierrez notes.
Clendenon is definitely seeing that effect in her design projects, she says. “We have done bathrooms recently over $100,000 – and in our area, that is a ton of money. Labor is more expensive, and now so are some products with tariffs imposed – especially countertop materials.”
Mother Nature has played a role, too, Gutierrez comments. “Economic shocks, such as hurricanes, have a major impact on the kitchen and bath industry through the destruction, or major damage, to houses and buildings. But their impact is localized in specific areas, and they do not have a major national impact.”
Home technology trends
“Almost every manufacturer has incorporated smart home technology into their kitchen and bath products in some way,” declares Ferguson’s Fout. “In years prior, it was more for the ‘wow’ factor. Now, we are really seeing a shift to technology homeowners can actually use in their daily lives. Voice activation and integration with platforms like Alexa and Google Home is a good example. Many homeowners already use these platforms, so it’s not completely foreign to connect a shower, vanity or oven and control [it] through voice commands.”
Style and performance still outweigh tech features, she notes, and many homeowners are still somewhat leery of the new technology. “This is changing as manufactures continue to launch products that are truly smart and can save time for a busy homeowner.”
“Last year was all about making cooking easier through wifi connectivity, usually through the manufacturer’s app,” Fout notes. Looking ahead, she sees more voice control integration in the new year. She sees more refrigeration appliances incorporating technology, but also flexibility: “It’s all about creating products that best accommodate lifestyles and intended use: for instance, instead of just a wine refrigerator, combining wine storage with refrigeration and freezer drawers with an automatic ice maker.”
Here’s what she’s seeing in cleaning appliances: “Smaller, more compact dishwashers were popular for urban areas. High-powered cleaning and noise level (the quieter, the better) were still a focus.” Looking ahead: “In 2019, thoughtful features are important. For example, a dishwasher with fan-assisted drying to eliminate the need for towel drying. Or a third top rack to clean even more. Connected dishwashers will also be a hot topic – monitor and adjust settings as well as download custom wash cycles through a manufacturer’s app.”
Fixture and faucet trends
Functionality was important this year, Fout says, with the workstation sink still trending. What she’s seeing, though, is more personalization in this category. “Farmhouse sinks are still popular, but [there’s] the ability to change the color and material of the sink on a whim for full customization.
“Touch and hands-free faucets have been popular for the last few years and widely adopted by the homeowner audience. We also saw a lot of black kitchen faucets that pair nicely with clean white kitchens.” This is what she’s predicting for next year: “In 2019, you’ll see manufacturers really think about what’s next for the kitchen faucet – how can it truly help the homeowner in the kitchen – special sprays for rinsing dishes, settings that deliver a precise set volume of water on demand, etc. We also think homeowners will start to adventure into new finishes like rose gold, warm brass and others that have been on the market a while but not widely adopted.”
In the bathroom, “under-counter sinks for vanities were popular, as well as console sinks, [and] white still reigned supreme,” the Ferguson manager shares. “In 2019, we believe homeowners may start gravitating toward mixed metals [like copper or cast iron], texture or pattern, sometimes hand-painted.” On the faucet side, the Ferguson executive predicts that warm brass will trend in 2019. She also sees matte black faucets trending in the bathroom.
Toilets saw some interesting trends, as well: “In 2018, homeowners began opting for skirted one-piece toilets because of their seamless, easy-to-clean design. Self-cleaning toilets also began to gain traction. Looking ahead, we think toilets with integrated bidet functionality will continue to increase in popularity. A number of luxury hotels now include bidets in the bathroom,” she notes, “so customers want to bring that experience home.”
Freestanding focal-point tubs will continue their strong trend into 2019, Fout predicts, but with whirlpool upgrades, like “heated surfaces and air jets.” She also sees the styles getting more personalized. Along with shapes, “color options are expanding for freestanding tubs; we’ve seen everything from matte black to gray and even matte white finishes.”
Salvage and vintage are also making a comeback, according to Sweeten’s Brownhill. “Repurposed fixtures are a triple win: they’re eco-friendly, come with a back story and lend character to any space,” she notes.
Cabinetry and surface trends
“Countertops are the top feature to splurge on during kitchen renovations, and engineered quartz is now the most popular countertop material,” says Sitchinava, who sees transitional and contemporary styles taking the lead in urban and suburban areas. Farmhouse leads rural markets.
In her New York metro and suburban markets, Sweeten’s Brownhill observes, “Blue is the new neutral in kitchen cabinetry – we’re seeing it in city and suburban renovations alike.” She’s also seeing appliance garages, matte black hardware and a shallow shelves trend.
Clendenon predicts more personalization in 2019. “Everyone wants uniqueness to some degree. But mixing the wood tones for sure is on the way back in and multiple finishes on cabinets.” She dubs the look “refined rustic. We are doing four kitchens like this. We think the natural organic look with bright splashes of color is really the direction people are moving and we encourage it. We do not love the all-white and gray look, and we find more and more are saying the same. I think people want warm and not too industrial, and for sure not too sterile; we do not see much high-gloss laminate in the kitchen anymore.”
NARI’s Pekel also sees mixing colors in the kitchen as a continuing trend, and says about other surfaces, “Hardwood floors still outpace any other flooring options; engineered is popular for durability. In bathrooms, tile reigns supreme [and] textured tile will continue to trend. Clients are expressing themselves on a smaller scale, introducing wallpapers in smaller spaces. Examples include powder rooms or foyers.”
“Over the past few years, kitchen pendants have grown to dimensions that make them a design focal point,” Ferguson’s Fout observes. “Although lighting fixtures in chrome and brushed nickel still are the mainstream, gold fixtures became very popular in 2018. The variation of gold hues is what’s really trending, from soft rose gold to a deep burnished gold. Circular shapes will also be very popular – from globes to orb-like pendants – and pairing with natural materials, beads and shading,” she predicts for 2019.
“LED bulbs now come in a variety of colors that shed less of the clinical blue light and mimic the warm glow from incandescent bulbs,” NARI’s Pekel says. Keep an eye on tunable or human centric lighting, which was featured strongly at this year’s CEDIA home technology conference, and seeks to mimic natural daylighting.
While light layering will still be popular for 2019 bathrooms, it will be even more dramatic, Fout predicts. “Backlit mirrors, LED dimmable and color-change lighting around the vanity itself or in the toekick. Homeowners will also start to add more visual interest by mixing finishes – for instance, matte black faucets with warm brass lighting fixtures.”
“Kitchen renovations are the top ticket item, followed by [the] master bathroom,” NARI’s Pekel says about remodeling trends, which is certainly good news for the kitchen and bath industry. If you’ve already tapped out your client list in both spaces, you can look beyond for new sales opportunities with existing clients, the contractor says. “For those fortunate homeowners who have completed all interior renovations, garage remodeling has grown in popularity.” ▪