The New American Home continues to evolve along with the New
American homeowner and the design parameters for 21st-century
kitchens and baths.
However, it’s not entirely certain yet whether many of today’s
kitchen and bath designers are fully in tune with these important
evolutionary changes and are truly poised to meet the needs of the
market’s emerging new customer base.
And that’s an alarming disconnect that could result in
immeasurable lost opportunities throughout the trade.
The disconnect, seemingly, is between who today’s kitchen and
bath customer really is, and who the industry thinks it is.
According to the latest statistics, the “traditional” kitchen
and bath prospect a married couple with children living at home now
makes up substantially less than one-third of all U.S. households.
At the same time, the makeup of the average household continues to
be transformed from the traditional nuclear family into something
far different: a diverse mix of multi-generational households,
single-parent households, senior-citizen households and minority
In other words, today’s kitchen/bath market is clearly no longer
the static, homogenous market of easily categorized, predictable,
“mainstream” buyers that it was in the past.
Far from it. In contrast, today’s market is growing more and
more segmented, seemingly by the minute. It’s becoming more of a
melting pot than ever, splintering into smaller and smaller groups
with widely differing cultures, living arrangements, income levels,
demographic characteristics, lifestyles, buying patterns, design
needs and product preferences.
This is precisely where the disconnect occurs because, despite
all of the changes in today’s customer base, what do we continue to
We see most advertising targeted at so-called “traditional”
householdswhen they no longer dominate the retail landscape.
We see virtually no marketing campaigns aimed at the 55+ age
groupdespite the fact that this demographic cohort has more
disposable income than anyone.
We see even fewer promotional programs aimed at influential and
growing markets of Hispanic, Mideastern and Asian immigrants, who
have as much desire to retain their traditions and lifestyles as
they do to blend into the shrinking mainstream.
In other words, we see the kitchen and bath industry’s
marketers, for the most part, approaching the prospect base as if
it’s still being shaped solely by familiar and comfortable
metaphors, including the perfect suburban family living the perfect
This is clearly something that ought to be fixed.
The fact is, the kitchen and bath customer base is changing
along with the design trends in today’s home and it will continue
This industry’s mindset needs to change along with it.
Kitchen/bath designers and manufacturers need to understand who
today’s new customers are, and need to reach out to them in an
enlightened, proactive fashion.
There will be a growing need to understand what makes these very
different types of customers tick their habits, their expectations,
their hot buttons and their needs. There will be a growing need to
think outside the box, and to move away from the mismatched,
out-of-touch design techniques, product applications and visual
sameness that mark many of today’s kitchen designs.
Kitchens, in short, will need to be re-thought entirely to
reflect the customized needs and preferences of an emerging new
generation of homeowners. They’ll need to address the notions of
“quilt cuisine”of unique new storage requirementsof different, and
unfamiliar, forms of food preparationof different techniques in
cooking, and more.
We’ve already seen many encouraging new developments. Kitchen
and baths are clearly being planned with a higher level of
sensitivity to issues such as universal design and accessibility.
We’re seeing more products and designs aimed at diverse,
multi-generational users, a broader range of home-related
activities, new lifestyles, and people with special needs.
Now it’s time to push the envelope even further, in recognition
of even more change.
Kitchens, as always, remain important vehicles for personal
However, what’s needed, as the industry and its customers
continue to evolve, is an even more flexible design language one
that enables the wide mix of 21st-century homeowners to tell
stories about who they really are, where they came from, how they
feel, and how they live.