We’re almost through the second year of the pandemic and vendors and showrooms are boldly sharing what they think will be popular in 2022. A common thread in many of these predictions is that people are starting to work bold colors and patterns into rooms. This simple prediction tells me it is time for the decorative plumbing industry to move outside — way outside — the chrome and white box.

As I have written quite often, people know that beautiful bathroom fixtures exist and function flawlessly. It’s not often a customer enters your showroom and utters, “I had no idea that bathroom faucets could be so lovely.” We have changed that mindset. Bravo. Now, let's retool and work to move our showrooms’ products to the next level. Let’s start to motivate the design world to think of all plumbing fixtures, from faucet to toilet, the same way they think of a fine piece of furniture. Can you imagine if every couch you sold was white with chrome trim? Our products should be on the same level as designer furniture, fabrics and wall coverings. We have the products, we have the talent and we certainly have the style. We have been awarded a hot market with clients craving new, unique options.

We have been awarded a hot market with new clients craving fresh, unique options.

Where do we begin?

Our vignettes must stop a person in their tracks. They must be on par with a retailer’s window on 5th Avenue. The days of simply presenting a coordinated selection of products on a soft blue wall are over. That space is too valuable in both rent and opportunity.

To my earlier point, if people see a faucet they immediately know that the brand also offers a complete selection of coordinated fixtures to complete a 21st-century bathroom  These new luxury showroom vignettes must grab the client's mind and change all they think they know about bathroom design. So do something “crazy.” Create great vignettes that could never exist in the real world.

For example, think back to the birth of boutique hotel in the 1980s. Before that time, hotel lobbies had grown predictable. Developers realized they needed to separate their brands from the Hilton, Sheraton and Holiday Inn models. All of a sudden, hotel lobbies became interesting places to see and be seen. Today, boutique hotel lobbies are great places to work by day and places to socialize after five. They are unique, eclectic and memorable. They are not places we could live but we will steal some design ideas for our home spaces. That is the fundamental foundation of designing and presenting show-stopping showroom vignettes.  

Your new vignettes should be full of inventive applications in fixture placement, colors and combinations. Here is a simple example. Present an elegant, tarnishing raw brass exposed thermostat shower system installed as an outside shower on a Tiffany Peacock Blue concrete wall with a wild pink blooming bougainvillea vine winding its way through the pipes with a hose bib replacing the showerhead. Add an all matte black shaker vanity, top and faucet.  

This collection tells a number of stories:  

  • Unlacquered brass will tarnish, elegantly;  
  • Unlacquered brass and matte black are popular;  
  • Shaker is still popular;
  • Plumbing fixtures can be installed outside;
  • Your showerhead can be just about anything you want; and  
  • You can and should shower outside on a beautiful day with your beautiful bougainvillea.  

Is it practical? Heck no. But, since when have the wealthy been practical? Since when have captivating retail windows been deportations of real-life? Decorative plumbing works can be installed just about anywhere on anything and is versatile in application. Challenge your clients, remove their limited bathroom application norms and replace them with wild ideas. If you dream it, we will source it.  

Let’s go one step better, “crazy” vignettes play well in social media. Innovatively merchandised vignettes can be imaged from many angles with lighting from anywhere. Posts of displays like these will slowly separate your business from the other plumbing showrooms and give you greater reach into your target market. Bathrooms are not boring, they can amazing!

This takes dedication. When you start presenting experiential vignettes, customers will gravitate to and remember your creations. This can decrease their “WOW” factor over time. A normal cabinet, toilet, faucet and mirror vignette can last for years because it does not stand out and your professional trade clients will only recall it if they need that look. The rule here is that each dynamic vignette should be replaced every six months. You can stretch it to nine months but that is the maximum, in my opinion. If a high design vignette remains on display for too long it will become yesterday’s news and work against your creative imagine in the market.

This does not have to be difficult. Setup a design team. You can leverage your more creative employees and reach outside to a good designer client, an eclectic architect, local art professors and students.

This is not a simple task, but when carried out effectively will elevate your showroom’s image above your competition and offer a reason for designers, builders and design engaged homeowners to close their laptops and visit your showrooms.

The premium and luxury remodel markets are on fire and people are looking for design partners that can help them create their look. They do not want a matchy-matchy collection for their bathrooms.  People and professionals are looking for multi-line showrooms and brands that will both challenge their view of design and help them create looks that are unique and amazing.