The heightened awareness and changing nature of the home was the dominant trend throughout the past year and a half, and the large percentage of consumers still working from home as we head into the end of 2021 — combined with health and wellbeing being top of mind — homeowners recognize that the primary bath can be a refuge from Zoom fatigue, a wellness center and a space where they can spend a few minutes for themselves, devoid of emails, texts, video calls, school assignments and family obligations.

Spending nearly 24 hours every day inside homes made many owners recognize what currently exists is old, outdated or not meeting the needs of the family. Homeowners are willing and able to invest to create a new bath with clean lines and a current design trends.

Modern, spacious designs 

Across most Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association (DPHA) showrooms, the most popular design trend is modern and contemporary, followed by transitional motifs and then organic, natural styled baths that feature gray, blue and beige color schemes that are calming and more reflective of a natural environment. Expect the use of natural materials such as stone, clay and concrete and calming color schemes to continue to trend higher, along with designs that offer cleaner spaces to help visually minimize the stresses of everyday living.   

Industry surveys reflect that homeowners want to increase the size of their baths because they want to improve performance and capabilities. If physically expanding the size of the bath is not possible, savvy showroom professionals are recommending products that can make existing spaces appear larger and more functional. 

This trend bodes well for the increased sales of wall-mounted vanities and toilets and open concept showers with linear drains that eliminate the need for an enclosed shower stall. We expect wet room bath design to continue to increase in popularity for a home’s primary bath.

Tubs: In or out?

A place to relax and recharge is a driving motivator for homeowners to renovate existing baths. This is helping to fuel demand for soaker tubs, tub systems and multifunctional shower systems. In some markets, homeowners are removing tubs during a remodel, opting instead for larger, multifunctional showers. 

However, this isn’t the case for Garrison Hullinger, principal at Garrison Hullinger Interiors, a Portland, Oregon-based designer. “With our clients, we’ve never seen bathtubs leave the owner’s primary baths,” he says. “We’re currently completing the interiors for a new townhome community in a Salt Lake City suburb and market data shows that families want a free-standing tub in the owner’s suite.” 

Alena Capra, owner of Alena Capra Designs, an award-winning designer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, finds there are two schools of thought when it comes to adding a separate tub and shower in the primary bath. 

“There are those who want tubs mostly for the beautiful look (typically choosing a pretty, free-standing tub) and those who want one for therapeutic benefits. Sometimes we are combining both beauty and function.” 

Many tub manufacturers are responding to the trend for soakers and tub systems by producing customizable free-standing, flat-bottom tubs. Hydro System’s Alamo tub that was honored with an honorable mention DPHA 2020 product of the year award is offered in five different sizes. The tub caters to consumer demands and preferences regardless of available space.  Color options also span a wide spectrum, providing almost an endless number of customization possibilities. 

As Capra notes, manufacturers are responding to consumer desire for increased wellness and relaxation by producing a number of products that provide the therapeutic benefits of water, light, color, sound and scent in both shower and tub systems. At no other time has it been easier for showrooms to sell steam systems, even in warm weather or high humidity climates, especially after explaining steam’s therapeutic benefits.

Hullinger adds that an increasing number of clients want to include space in their bathrooms for plants in the shower or even plant walls that provide biophilic benefits. The desire to connect to nature in the primary bath is fueling another trend — outdoor showers and baths.

High tech baths

Anna Stocks, who manages Best Plumbing Supply’s showroom in Manhattan, says smart home technology has been taking the lead recently. “Smart home technology has been growing exponentially for the last few years, but in 2020, we’ve seen the everyday consumer come to embrace it even more,” she says. “Touchless faucets and voice-controlled lighting are now seen as necessities, not just wants. Ease of use is important and reducing touchpoints is definitely what our customers are looking for.” 

A recent survey found that nearly 50% of faucets and more than a third of toilets in renovated bathrooms feature advanced technology, including enhanced water efficiency, finger-proof finishes or self-cleaning toilet systems. 

Advance Plumbing’s Joshua Moss agrees, “Smart toilets are becoming the norm in many households and are now widely available in many styles and price points,” he explains. “They have become essential to many different lifestyles and are changing the way people use the bathroom. Smart toilet features and benefits include increased comfort, hygiene and less care and maintenance.” 

Other smart products that will continue to trend higher are shower systems and shower interfaces, such as 2020 DPHA Technology Product of the Year, ThermaSol’s ThermaTouch 10 shower kit. The kit allows users to customize the shower experience by controlling shower and steam functions, aromatherapy, music, apps and videos from a single wall control.  

Currently, smart faucets are more popular in the kitchen than in the bath, but that is likely to be short-lived. Smart faucets that can be operated by touch, voice or remote control are not only more hygienic, they are also easier to use.

Customizable finishes 

Customization will continue to trend higher not only in tubs, but in almost every other bath product category. Showrooms are seeing customers gravitate to mixed materials for bathroom furniture and mixed materials and finishes for lavatory faucets. 

Mindy Sevinor, showroom brand manager for Beverly, Massachusetts-based Designer Bath notes that specialty finishes continue to be hot and will continue to trend in 2021. “The many varieties of brass — satin and unlacquered, matte black and other unique finishes allow showrooms to provide customization options for all fixtures in a bath,” she says. 

“Mixing finishes among lighting, hardware and fixtures is a strong trend while mixing fixture finishes — continues to grow.” 

Stocks agrees, “2020 design trends have been anything but plain. We keep seeing mixed finishes and textures. Not in a 1980s throwback kind of way, but beautiful industrial matte black paired with polished golds or polished nickel paired with copper and rose gold. Our clients love adding texture to their homes, be it in faucet handles or on the outside of a free-standing tub.” 

Capra’s clients in South Florida are gravitating to matte black and gold for bathroom fixtures and hardware. “There are so many great options for gold and brushed brass finishes right now that it makes it easier to find the items you need to coordinate when selecting bathroom materials,” she notes.

Barring some unforeseen impactful event, 2021 shapes up to be a banner year for the decorative plumbing and hardware sector. With interest rates not expected to change from near record-lows, and many homeowners not returning to an office in the immediate future, focus on the home, along with health and wellbeing, spells good news for decorative plumbing pros.