Faced with rapid change, people are drawn to that which is familiar and less complicated. The latest designs in baths and kitchens respond to consumer demand for simplicity, comfort and tradition. Manufacturers are addressing this with clean lines and retro designs for kitchen and bath products and fixtures.

Charlotte Barnard, editor-in-chief for Hearst Special Interest Publications, discussed the latest design trends for the bath and kitchen in a workshop at the National Kitchen and Bath Conference, held in conjunction with the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in April in Chicago.

Demand is growing for universal access designs, such as adjustable or pull-out shelves and strategically placed counters and fixtures that limit the need to reach or bend. Although homeowners are attracted by the look of the 1950s to 1970s for products and fixtures, they also want today's level of efficiency and convenience, she said.

The bathroom is now a spa, while the kitchen has become a multi-purpose room for the extended family, she said.

Emerging trends in kitchen design include: Multiple sinks and work stations for multiple users; fixtures and products that are easy to operate, easy to clean and easy to read; finishes and glazes on fixtures and cabinets as a creative outlet; curves - on handles, counters and faucets; natural materials such as wood, stone, tile and stainless steel; micro-kitchen with wet bar and cooking appliance for the home office or pool area; and point-of-use water filter.

The bath has become a place for peace and pampering. Trends for the bathroom include doorless showers; showers adjacent to tubs; vanity cabinets that resemble fine furniture; and fully exposed plumbing. A drop-in sink can be placed atop a vanity as a vessel. Among the popular colors and finishes are matte, various shades of blue and translucent colors.

"Consumers are looking for attractive, easily integrated design solutions that will enhance their lives in the home environment," Barnard said.