Beyond the Bath

by Kacey Larsen

Research from HomeAdvisor’s 2018 True Cost Report indicates that almost one-quarter of homeowners report planning for a bathroom remodel in the next year. The two biggest demographic groups, millennials and baby boomers, contribute to this interest in bathroom remodel in differing but important ways. Millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to complete such a remodel, according to the True Cost Report, but baby boomers plan to spend as much as 51 percent more in the next 12 months on bathroom projects.

While each demographic seeks different scopes of work for their bathroom projects, it can be presumed that a shower space is a topic of conversation. LIXIL Senior Director of Bathing Joe Nuzzolo says the company takes a “consumer-centric” approach to its product development, which includes noting the wants, needs and wishes of millennials and baby boomers.

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American Standard

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in freestanding bathtubs, and when people remodel their bathroom and put in a freestanding bathtub, they also need a place to shower. Typically, you’re seeing a standalone shower being installed as well even though it’s not in lieu of a bathtub,” he explains. “We know there’s a lot of people, specifically within the baby boomers’ generation, who want to continue in their retirement years living in their current residence; but for the most part, they’ve done very little to accommodate their lifestyle as they get older. In those situations, we are seeing shower bases being installed and showering being more prevalent. We’re also seeing walk-in baths being installed in those demographics as well, so there’s a combination that’s happening there. But having said that, I think a lot of people also recognize for resale value of those homes, they need to have a bathtub somewhere in their house—at least one and typically, if you will, that’s in the kids’ bath.”

Duravit USA President Tim Schroeder also observes a mix of prioritizing freestanding soaking tubs or larger, walk-in showers for bathrooms. “Three big trends right now we’re seeing in the bathroom include a focus on freestanding bathtubs for relaxation; those who require a more space-friendly option, for which our Architec series is a nice solution, in light of increased apartment living; and those opting for expansive showers at the expense of a bathtub,” he explains. “We have an answer to each preference and each application. For those looking for a luxurious focal point in a larger bathroom, our soaking tubs fit the bill, and for those who need an innovative, space-saving solution, our OpenSpace B showers speak to this trend directly.”

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Duravit

The OpenSpace B system features glass doors that can fold against a wall and are held in place with a magnetic handle strip, thus concealing tap fittings and the shower hose. As for those seeking an expansive shower, Schroeder says the company’s acrylic shower trays include extensive sizing—up to 70 7/8 by 35 3/8 inches—to provide the basis for a luxurious, walk-in shower space.

“Freestanding soaking tubs continue to be of interest for those who appreciate bathing as the focal point of bathroom design. Showers have become a larger consideration in the design process, and for bathrooms not large enough to accommodate both a freestanding soaking tub and a shower, we are seeing more emphasis given to the shower as of late,” says Mark Wolinsky, president of Wetstyle. “Wetstyle sees the shower as an exciting growth area. While we [already] have the DC and Glacier shower programs, we have additional shower products for the shower planned for 2019.”

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Delta Faucet

Delta Faucet Company sees the trend of predominately bathtubs evolving, and the company ensures its shower product offerings fit common spaces and sizes left behind. “There used to be a pretty lopsided percentage of people using bathtubs, but that percentage is changing and it’s flattening out more toward a more even split between bathing and showering,” says Landis Archer, product manager. “The great thing is a lot of those bathtubs that have been in place for a long time [in spaces being remodeled] are going to be in the 60 by 30 inch or 60 by 32 inch alcoves, and our product for showering actually fits directly into that. Our product offering allows that remodeler to go in and replace that bathtub option with a showering option.”

Eric Moore, interior designer at the Kohler Design Center, makes a distinction between shower wants and needs for a master bathroom versus additional bathroom needs. “I am actually seeing my customers wanting both tubs and showers in their master bathroom spaces—they want the best of both worlds. Kohler can provide a simple solution to a full blown-out custom showering experience, [and] we can do the same with bathing, whether it’s a freestanding tub or a tub full of hydrotherapy options,” he says. “In the shower, we definitely see a lot of different sizes, but for the most part they are pretty standard in most spaces besides the master. Kohler offers shower receptors from 36 by 34 inches to 60 by 60 inches. In the master, it may be a little more custom in size, so usually tile is used in these applications as well as custom glass.”

LIXIL’s Nuzzolo echoes the idea of different shower enclosure products being sought for different bathroom spaces, but notes that American Standard sees this as an area of opportunity. “In certain homes in the second bath [or] the kids’ bath, there’s been the tub combination with the plastic walls that have predominately been in the market; but over the past couple of years, there’s been a wider offering of wall systems that provide textures and patterns that are very pleasing and appealing products that I think allow you to get out of the second bath and into the master bathroom,” he says. “You’ll see more from us in that area that I think is truly different than on the innovation side, and from what you would see from competitors on what we would say traditionally are the plastic walls. We’re excited for it because we think it’s going to be a sizable opportunity and believe they’re going to be appealing.”

Another opportunity Nuzzolo notes is the pairing of shower bases with wall systems instead of tile, thus saving on installation time as well as cutting down on some of the maintenance associated with tile and grout.

Customize It

Along with the previously noted interest in expansive showers and showers paired with freestanding bathtubs, there is also a trend overall toward customization. While this manifests in shower spaces with things such as custom tiling throughout a shower, steam showers, digital showering platforms, bodysprays and much more, a shower enclosure offers the foundation for such personalization.

“Customization is certainly in demand in the bathroom, and the shower can be a top priority in this respect,” Schroeder says. “For uniquely sized bathrooms, small spaces or those who want a walk-in, larger-than-life experience, custom sized trays and encasings are a great solution. On the Duravit side, we offer a wide variety of shower trays in various sizes and shapes with options for semi-recessed or built-in accommodate applications, adding a unique, personal touch to any bathroom.

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Wetstyle’s Glacier Collection

Wolinsky of Wetstyle notes the company’s use of WETMAR BiO, its composite material used to fabricate all bathtubs, sinks and shower trays, adds a differentiator. The material is a GreenGood design award winner, and it can be repaired if damaged on a jobsite before or after installation. Because its tub walls and shower trays are often 2- to 3-inches of solid material, Wetstyle’s products will feel solid and will not flex or bend.

“Customization becomes a factor when the project must work with nonstandard sizes, or when physical obstructions that are too expensive to remove must be addressed,” he says. “Wetstyle addresses this by offering a very broad range of sizes and configurations to meet almost all installation scenarios. Wetstyle presently offers custom cuts, custom sizes, custom hole drilling and [will add] custom color options in 2019 to help address additional market needs.”

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Kohler

While size and shape of shower enclosures is likely a fairly obvious place for customization, Kohler Design Center’s Moore points to color and texture as other ways he is seeing personality come into the shower space. “I feel like white will always be a very popular color [for shower enclosures], both now and in the future. It is a safe option and tends to be one that many consumers default to,” he says. “However, Kohler is always going to provide color options for our products. We have been known for our bold designs and colors for decades and pride ourselves on being able to integrate color in a seamless and beautiful way. The neutral palette is still popular with our clients—almond, biscuit, dune, ice grey and sandbar. As for the shower walls, I see a lot more customers going toward natural and textured patterns.”

Kohler’s Choreograph shower wall and accessory collection offers shower walls in a range of colors, patterns and textures that can be customized with storage solutions as well as seating. The Choreograph shower planner gives users the ability to design and play  with the shower walls, which can then help clients envision a space. Moore also recommends the Pro Toolbox on Kohler’s website as a resource of tools and support for remodelers.

Similarly, Duravit produces a pro section of its website as an aid. “Our pro.duravit.us website is designed for specifiers and installers, and offers detailed information to get a project off the ground and brought to fruition. Here, specs and installation instructions are available, and each piece of material outlines exactly what can be paired with which collection,” Schroeder says. “Architects and designers can select according to size, shape and even style to ensure the tub/shower/tray will work within the allotted space.

“The Architec shower tray, for example, is an excellent retrofit solution, as it is the same size as a standard 5-foot tub. The most important thing to consider is the space requirement. And rather than using ‘remaining space’ for the shower tray or tub, factor these items in from the very beginning,” he adds. “Often these pieces are treated as an afterthought in a standard bathroom and, as a result, the size available for them to fit into becomes compromised.”

Another piece that should not be an afterthought is whether a shower space should be universally designed. Duravit’s Starck Slimline shower trays provide ample space, Schroeder says, and a reduced rim height of ¾ inch for ease of entry. Moore notes that Sterling offers tub/shower and shower modules that are ADA-compliant and can include factory-installed grab bars. LIXIL’s Nuzzolo adds the trend he sees is the continued lowering of thresholds for shower bases.

“As the baby boomer generation continues to age, products designed for aging-in-place will grow in interest,” Wolinsky says. “Today, Wetstyle offers a zero-threshold, ADA-compliant shower collection called Glacier. Our Glacier shower tray is 60 by 36 inches with the linear drain on the 60-inch side well-suited for this need. [Additionally] our new ADA-compliant, foldable wall-mounted shower bench is well suited for those looking for design, comfort and accessibility solutions for the bath.” |QR

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