Bathrooms are getting larger, with deep soaking tubs and two-person showers.
NKBA / Julie Wescott
What’s trendy in the private bathroom? 600 respondents to an online survey – including designers, retailers, manufacturers, remodelers and architects – answered this question in the leading industry group’s just released 2023 Design Trends study.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association’s annual report sheds light on what homeowners are asking for and what professionals are delivering. These are the trends that the association and its respondents see for the new year.
Like kitchens, “bathrooms are bigger and more complicated,” noted NKBA research director Tricia Zach. “Creating spa-like bathrooms that enhance the homeowner’s experience while allowing for seamless on-site aging,” was a key focus of the responses, their report shared. As with kitchens, technology to improve functionality and convenience has been a strong trend. Also enlarged spaces for more accessibility and a relaxing feeling.
“Top bathroom trends include freeing up space by removing bathtubs for larger showers, removing walls and creating a cohesive dressing area,” says the report. A surprising 77% of respondents removed tubs to increase shower size. Of the bathrooms still getting tubs, 74% are freestanding and 68% are deep soaking tubs.
Removing walls to increase the footprint of the master bathroom was a trend for 63% of respondents. Connecting to a closet or dressing area (58%) or adding a laundry room (34%) were also popular. Additional convenience features include extra seating, coffee stations, exercise areas, and small refrigerators.
Sustainability concerns reported in the kitchen trends section of the report carry over to the bathroom. This is reflected in a preference for LED lighting (82%) and more natural light from larger, low-E doors and windows (55%). EPA WaterSense certified faucets, showerheads and toilets were reported by 56% of respondents. Also featured in the sustainability column are EnergyStar-certified appliances and vents, as well as recycled countertops and flooring, and FSC-certified and formaldehyde-free cabinetry.
“Homeowners are excited about underfloor heating, temperature/humidity control, voice/app control, smart toilets/bidets and smart mirrors,” reports the study. Underfloor heating that can be controlled by phone warms the bathroom on the way home from a winter hike or under the covers in the morning and was mentioned by 69% of those surveyed. Shower and flooring temperature controls were popular with 67% and sensor humidity controls were cited by 55% of respondents.
Digital showering, which allows one or more users to program their preferred flow rate, temperature and mode, and possibly control steam showers, was a 23% preference in the study, but a strong 44% would like the ability to start their shower with their phone . “Light and physical therapy options for showers – especially for active people” was particularly emphasized in the answers.
Integrated lighting and internet screens in the bathroom mirrors for convenience were also mentioned, as were leak detectors, vanity charging and heated towel rails.
Wellness functions overlap and are often made possible by advances in technology. For example, chromotherapy was selected by 25%, preset lighting schemes for different times of day received 29%, and the aforementioned steam shower and bidet features (45%) are all wellness-driven by wellness-minded respondents.
Low-maintenance, non-porous quartz countertops (82%) are also definitely a wellness choice. Floating washbasins (71%) ensure accessibility, another wellness facet. Bathroom fixtures also reflect wellness considerations, with 61% choosing accessible lever handles, 48% choosing movement, and 36% choosing touch or tap. A preference for voice controlled faucets was 12% and is likely to increase as more models become available. (I’m hoping at least one manufacturer will offer a bathroom faucet with voice control and temperature adjustment at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in February; Moen introduced this feature ahead of several KBIS kitchen faucet shows, but I still haven’t seen a bathroom version.)
A very strong 75% of trend study respondents choose heated floors, with ceramic or porcelain tile leading the way on the finish (71%), more than double the second best, luxury vinyl wood plank (33%) choice. LVP, as it’s often called, is softer underfoot, but some versions had issues with outgassing risks.
Large format tiles (59%) and slabs (40%) — “which require less grouting and maintenance,” the report found — were the top tub and shower surround materials that made life easier for users.
As mentioned above, showers are getting bigger, with 82% of respondents designing them for two people to use. They are often open plan (55%) with no door or part of a wet room (35%) that may also include a tub. For an age-friendly spa feel, these showers often have a seat (79%), a linear shower drain (78%), a handheld showerhead (77%), a floor-level entry (66%), grab bars (65%), and multiple showerheads (64 %), one of which is a rainhead (58%). Steam shows up in 41% of rooms, with body sprays, music, heating and color therapy also improving it.
“Windows over tubs (51%) and skylights (37%) are heavily used to maximize natural light,” the trend study notes. Ideally, they have smart controls for better accessibility. Reaching a window over a bathtub is not an easy task for users with upper body weakness or balance issues.