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Consumers focused on details for the bathroom

Homeowners still looking for luxury out of the bathroom, experts say

February 07, 2011

The bath may be considered the most private room in the home, a space most commonly used by only one person at a time. Even though it is usually a solo experience, research has found that consumers are concerned with every detail of their bathrooms.

One bedroom, one bath
En suite baths are really hot and “the new definition of luxury is a bathroom for every bedroom in the home,” says Gray Uhl, American Standard’s director of design. When remodeling, people are designing baths for specific users like grandma or guests instead of everyone in the house.
“If you are working within an existing floor plan, then size and scale of the bath matter,” he notes. Units like their Tropic wall hung lavatory and sink provide functionality in small spaces.
Multiple sinks remain popular in bathroom remodels, notes Angela Sheehan, Elkay’s director of marketing and production development, Residential Plumbing Products. They create a sense of balance while letting two people use the bathroom together.

Styles and colors changing somewhat
Uhl sees a slow move from traditional toward modern styling. This goes along with Sheehan’s recognition of new trends toward curvier and more sensual shapes.
“These signify a break from conformity and embody a free spirit with soft, rounded sinks, faucets, toilets and tubs replacing hard, straight-edged designs,” she notes.
A natural or organic feel remains prevalent in the bath, Sheehan points out, while the idea of utility-chic is gaining popularity. This is the practice of mixing wood and stainless steel and showcasing items like exposed lightbulbs and art. Wood tones in the bath have extended beyond vanities into teak tubs and sinks and fixtures like Webert’s Lotho which comes in chrome with a wood handle.
For sinks, toilets and tubs, white is the expected color, Uhl says, “because the range of materials and colors in the bathroom has exploded. You no longer define the color of a bathroom by the tub or the sink. Instead we see wood, metal and glass providing the hue and tone. In bath furniture for 2011 we are seeing the emergence of clean white surfaces or dark to black woods. This is a trend that has allowed previously traditional designs to skew modern.”

Finish matters
The detailed consumer focus extends to faucet finishes. “Whether consumers are purchasing faucets for a remodeling project, replacing an existing faucet or selecting one as part of their new home construction, we’re finding that the finish does matter,” says Jack Suvak, Moen’s Director of Research and Insights. “And it’s much more than just selecting chrome instead of brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze. Consumers are looking for product lines that have a number of finish options available to fit any style they desire.”
Research shows a shift in consumer bath purchases away from chrome since 2007, Suvak says. While it remains the most popular, chrome purchases have decreased from more than 60 percent to less than 50 percent. At the same time, stainless steel and brushed nickel have increased from 24 percent to 36 percent. Uhl sees a continued trend to warmer tones like nickel or bronze, but with a resurging chrome preference just starting for top end contemporary faucets and accessories.
Sheehan says Elkay’s top selling finishes remain brushed nickel and chrome, but more natural and organic looks like oil rubbed bronze and antique copper hammered are gaining ground. Their Asana stainless steel, copper and cast brass sinks add both design and textural elements.

Personalizing the bath
“Kohler continues to personalize the bathing experience for homeowners,” says Shawn Oldenhoff, marketing manager for Kohler Bathing. For example, their BubbleMassage technology has recently become available in their cast iron bathtubs instead of just in their acrylic tubs. Along with a complete and balanced hydromassage, these cast iron tubs’ deep, rich colors and graceful design lines coordinate with widely varied decors.
Consumers who want time-saving luxury are choosing showers, notes Don Gamble, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Basco Shower Enclosures.
“Taking a shower is more efficient than taking a bath and many time starved homeowners are putting in elaborate showering systems,” he explains.
These showers feature multiple showerheads and even TVs. Basco’s high end RODA brand offers 3/8- and 1/2-inch-thick glass shower doors and walls that can be custom made to fit any size and shape shower space. Sales of these thicker, more robust, frameless shower doors are the category’s fastest growing segment. Because people want to show off their fancy shower’s features, clear glass is the most popular finish. Rain and silk finishes are preferred by those seeking shower privacy. Opting for Basco’s Aquaglide XP glass coating reduces post-shower cleaning time because it repels soap film and spotting. RODA offers eight design collections for handles and hinges available in 14 different metallic finishes to match all types of showerheads and faucets.
Moen’s ioDIGITAL control personalizes bathing with its easy-to-use consumer interface for setting and maintaining water temperature and flow with electronic precision. Available for vertical spa, shower and Roman tub, consumers can turn on these fixtures remotely using pre-programmed settings. The required valve can be located up to 30 feet from the fixture for installation and retrofit flexibility.
Steam showers allow homeowners to relieve stress while at home. Steamist’s Total Sense Collection delivers a complete, customized spa experience with user-friendly programmable digital control technology plus optional aromatherapy, chromatherapy and music.
Add-ons like Webert’s Wolo Floor Standing Tub Filler with Hand Shower can add functionality to existing bathrooms. Handheld showers remain popular and add to a bath’s spa feel. With its contemporary styling, this fixture can create a focal point in a modern bathroom while providing a soap dish, tub filler, and leather strap for towels, magazines and more.

Saving water while retaining function
The Environmental Protection Agency has devised the WaterSense label for water saving plumbing products. Since more water is consumed in bathrooms than in the rest of the house, several companies offer bath products that conserve water without sacrificing performance. For toilets, this includes American Standard’s Cadet 3 Flowise high efficiency toilet and the 75th anniversary version of Kohler’s Wellworth toilet, which both flush with just 1.28 gallons, and Niagara Conservation’s Stealth toilet, which uses only 0.8 gallon per flush.
The Cadet 3 is an easy to clean one piece toilet with American Standard’s EverClean surface to inhibit the growth of stain and odor causing microbes. The Wellworth’s generous water surface keeps the bowl clean and reduces odor. Its versatile updated tank design complements a wide range of bathroom decors. The toilet relies on a standard three-bolt installation, ideal for adjustments and leveling, and its large toilet base covers existing footprints for replacement applications.
American Standard’s Flowise showerheads are engineered to deliver a drenching spray from only 1.5 gallons of water per minute. Their entire bathroom faucet line works on just 1.5 gallons per minute with no perceived loss in performance.
Combining a high efficiency toilet with water conserving showerheads and faucets lets homeowners save significant water and dollars without giving up any convenience, says Uhl.
Water savings can also be expected from Niagara’s high-efficiency, high power Tri-Max, Earth Massage and Soap and Soak showerheads. The non-aerating, adjustable Earth Massage uses a flow compensator to maintain even shower pressure and comes in both handheld and wall-mount models. Moen has 17 WaterSense certified showerheads in handheld, wall-mount and hand shower models. Available in needle and bubble spray patterns, Niagara’s bath faucet aerators have flow rates as low as 0.5 gallons per minute.
Steam baths like those made by Mr. Steam and Steamist reduce water use significantly although they don’t completely replace a shower’s cleansing function. A one-minute shower uses five times more water than a 20-minute steam bath which also consumes about 25 cents worth of electricity.  
The use of recycled materials is another eco-friendly feature to please “green” consumers. Elkay’s stainless steel sinks use up to 60 percent recycled steel, while their antique copper hammered sinks and cast brass vessels are made of 100 percent recycled materials. Kohler’s cast iron tubs are constructed from 93 percent recycled and reclaimed materials.

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