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Smart toilets, enhanced medicine cabinets, porcelain slab walls and automation are a few of the top bath trends showcased in the “New Bathroom Idea Book.”

authors Jamie Gold NBIB_CH4_HT_Bidet-Seat_Kohler-683x1024

Click on the pictures to see gallery of new fixtures

 Books about kitchen and bath design need to be updated every few years to keep up with this fast-moving industry. Photos, trends and technology grow stale over time, even though much of their reader advice is evergreen. That’s why publishers like The Taunton Press continually come out with “new” and “all new” versions of their popular series. Among the latest is Taunton’s New Bathroom Idea Book, publishing this month.

Like the author’s previous Taunton title, New Kitchen Ideas that Work (2012), each chapter has a trends-focused section. The writer for both Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS shares her byline with this monthly Trend Spotting section. Here are some of the trends discussed in the latest volume, accompanied by related images from the book and some thoughts from other industry trend spotters.

SMARTER TOILETS

“Toilets are offering some tremendous new features that go far beyond their original purpose and capability,” the Hot Trend for the Fixtures and Faucets chapter reads. This includes self-cleaning toilets, toilets with hands-free flushing, toilets with bidet functionality and even connected toilets. What types are you manufacturing or specifying?

Anne-Marie Brunet of Ottawa, Canada likes smart toilets: “I see a continued growth for this trend as it seeps into the mainstream media and their design remains modern and fresh. It is a great option for those aging in place and does not scream ‘old.’”

Cheryl Kees Clendenon, a Pensacola, FL-based interior designer, shares, “We use integrated washlets when the client wants to spend the money.”

Las Vegas-based designer Patricia Gaylor likes American Standard’s New ActiClean toilet that is self-cleaning. It actually works and doesn’t cost a fortune, she says. “Touchless flushing from Kohler that you can buy for existing toilets and easily install yourself” is another technology she likes to offer clients. Gaylor also likes toilets with built-in nightlights.

ENHANCED MEDICINE CABINETS

“While some homeowners are forgoing medicine cabinets in favor of more integrated cabinetry, there are some enticing new offerings on the market worth considering,” notes the Hot Trends section for the Storage chapter. These include TV, Bluetooth streaming, phone chargers, organizers, magnifying mirrors and even lock boxes for prescription medicines.

Clendenon and Los Angeles-based architect Dean Larkin build medicine cabinet features into the custom cabinetry they specify, since the traditional configurations and styles don’t fit the ultra-luxury projects they design.

“My clients still request medicine cabinets, so I customize them with moldings to accent or match cabinetry. I also install plugs inside,” shares Gaylor.

Manufacturers like Duravit, Robern and Ronbow are manufacturing sleeker, higher-tech medicine cabinets than the builder basics of years past. “Consumers are looking for functional pieces to remove clutter from the bathroom, which is why we’ve included Bluetooth technology, USB ports, electrical outlets and even LED lighting into many of our medicine cabinets,” says Jason Chen, CEO of Ronbow.

Enhanced medicine cabinets are “a big thrill for my clients,” shares Jan Neiges of Highlands Ranch, CO. “When they see the outlet inside the cabinet, and mirrors inside and out – they love it. An easy sell!”

PORCELAIN SLAB WALLS

“Large, thin porcelain tile slabs and the very similar sintered compact surfaces have emerged in recent years as a stylish, low-maintenance wall covering that can handle moisture and daily use. The differences between the two are slight and relate mostly to manufacturing specifications and branding,” starts the book’s Floors, Walls, Windows and Doors chapter’s Hot Trends section.

Have you started designing with these surfaces yet? Most of them are from factories in Italy and Spain, which are not only offering sizes exceeding 5’x10′ now, but are continually improving their designs to better resemble wood or stone, and even offering book-matching. They’re an easy-care solution for higher-end clients – given the still-high price tags – but greater competition should bring down costs in the not-too-distant future.

“We love solid shower walls, but they’re expensive, so we use rectified tile when budget is an issue,” comments Clendenon.

“Yes, porcelain slabs are still a luxury item, but I’m seeing more and more every day,” notes Gaylor. “Digitally printed tiles are so realistic now, I use them continually in bathrooms. Much more sustainable [than natural stone], and very reasonable.”

“You can get the luxurious look of marble for a fraction of the price,” confirms Ceramics of Italy’s Cristina Faedi. “Our prediction is that large-scale tiles will be used to expand the apparent size of the bathroom,” she adds. This is accomplished by largely eliminating grout lines.

Brunet agrees: “Clients want the luxury look without the distraction of grout lines, and easy maintenance.”

BATH AUTOMATION & ENTERTAINMENT

“Room lighting, climate, privacy through automated window coverings and sound are getting automated for bathrooms. Many of them can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet, or from sleek wall controls. All of these sophisticated systems can meet 21st century needs while turning your bathroom into a spa-friendly environment,” reads the Hot Trends entry for the Entertainment, Electronics and Extras chapter of the New Bathroom Idea Book. Here are what some designers and manufacturers are seeing in their practices.

Brunet says, “Home automation is growing leaps and bounds here in the Northeast. We’re seeing a rise in motorized shades. Also rising in popularity and sales are automated lighting systems and audio systems.”

Clendenon’s take comes from the Gulf Coast: “We do Hunter Douglas automated shades when there is a difficult window to get to.” TVs aren’t a big item for her clientele, or for Larkin’s Southern California clients either.

“I’m installing more outlets with USB ports in all areas of the house,” shares Gaylor from Las Vegas (she also designs for out-of-town builders).

Ronbow’s Chen observes, “In most of our bath vanities, we have taken our designs a step further by integrating USB ports and electrical outlets into our vanities. We’ve also added motion controlled on/off switches to LED mirrors and built-in Bluetooth speakers.”

LAST WORDS

Not every hot trend, including the four described here or the six additional ones spotlighted in the book (available this month at Barnes & Noble, Lowe’s and Amazon), will show up with the same strength in every region or demographic. Clients hire designers to choose the ones that make the most sense for their project.

Many of the design books out today, including the New Bathroom Idea Book, are published for the large middle and mid-high “aspirational” buyer. They’re the largest audience in the publishing and manufacturing worlds. Where do they fit in your design business? ▪

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