By Jamie Gold
What’s trending in residential bathrooms? Six hundred respondents to an online survey – including designers, dealers, manufacturers, remodelers and architects – answered that question in the leading industry group’s just-released 2023 Design Trends study.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association’s annual report provides insights to what homeowners are requesting and what professionals are delivering. These are the trends the association and its respondents see for the new year.
Like kitchens, “bathrooms are bigger and more involved,” noted NKBA research director Tricia Zach. “Creating spa-like bathrooms that enhance homeowner experience while allowing seamless aging in place” capability was a major focus of the responses, her report shared. As with kitchens, technology to enhance functionality and comfort was a strong related trend. So were enlarged spaces for more accessibility and a relaxing feel.
“Top bathroom trends involve opening space by removing bathtubs for larger showers, taking down walls and creating a connected dressing area,” the report noted. A surprising 77% of respondents were removing tubs to increase shower sizing. For those bathrooms still getting tubs, 74% are free-standing and 68% are deep soakers.
Removing walls to increase the primary bathroom’s footprint was a trend for 63% of the replies. Connecting to a closet or dressing area (58%) or adding a laundry space (34%) were popular too. Additional comfort features include extra seating, coffee stations, workout areas and small refrigerators.
Sustainability concerns reported in the kitchen trends section of the report carry into the bathroom as well. That shows up in a preference for all LED lighting (82%) and increased natural light with larger low-E doors and windows (55%). EPA WaterSense-rated faucets, showerheads and toilets were specified by 56% of respondents. Also showing up in the sustainability column are EnergyStar certified appliances and ventilation, as well as recycled countertops and flooring, and FSC certified and formaldehyde-free cabinets.
“Homeowners are excited about heated floors, temperature / moisture controls, voice / app controls, smart toilets / bidets and smart mirrors,” the study reports. Heated floors that can be controlled by phone mean warming up the bathroom on your way home from a wintry hike or from below the covers in the morning and were cited by 69% of respondents. Temperature controls for shower and flooring were popular with 67% and sensor humidity controls were cited by 55% of the respondents.
Digital showering that lets one or more user program their preferred flow rate, temperature and mode, as well as potentially controlling steam showering, was a 23% preference in the study, but a strong 44% want the ability to start their shower with their phone. “Lighting and physical therapy options for showers – especially for active people” was especially noted in the responses.
Integrated lighting and internet screens in bathroom mirrors for convenience were mentioned, as were leak detectors, vanity charging and towel warming.
Wellness features overlap and are often enabled with technology enhancements. For example, chromotherapy was selected by 25%, preset lighting schemes for different times of day got a 29% and the above-noted steam showering and bidet functionality (45%) are all wellness-driven by wellness-focused respondents.
Low maintenance, nonporous quartz countertops (82%) are also definitely a wellness choice. Floating vanities (71%) add accessibility, another wellness facet. Bathroom faucets reflect wellness considerations too with 61% opting for accessible lever handles, 48% choosing motion and 36% going for touch or tap. A voice-activated faucet preference showed up at 12% and will likely increase as more models become available. (I’m hoping to see at least one manufacturer offer a voice control bathroom faucet with temperature adjustment capability at February’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show; Moen introduced this feature to kitchen faucets several KBIS expos ago, but I still haven’t seen a bathroom version.)
A very strong 75% of trend study respondents are choosing heated flooring, with ceramic or porcelain tile being the surface leader (71%), more than double the closest second, luxury vinyl wood plank (33%), choice. LVP, as it’s often called, is softer underfoot, but some versions have had issues with off-gassing risks.
Large format tile (59%) and slab (40%) – “requiring fewer grout lines and maintenance,” the report observed — were the top tub and shower surround materials, making life easier for users.
As noted above, showers are getting larger, with 82% of survey respondents designing them for two-person use. They’re often open (55%) with no door, or they’re part of a wet room (35%) that might also encompass a tub. Going for an aging-friendly spa feel, these showers often have a seat (79%), linear shower drain (78%), hand-held shower head (77%), zero clearance entry (66%), grab bars (65%), and multiple shower heads (64%) with one of them being a rain head (58%). Steam shows up for 41% of the spaces, with body sprays, music, heating and chromotherapy also enhancing them.
“Windows above tubs (51%) and skylights (37%) will have high usage to maximize natural light,” the trend study observes. Ideally, they’ll have smart controls for greater accessibility. Reaching a window above a soaker tub is no easy feat for users with upper body weakness or balance issues.