AUTHORS Jamie Gold
What were the big kitchen and bath industry trends for 2017? What will likely trend in the new year? This is a great time to look back and forward with some industry leaders:
- Brenda Bryan, executive director of RICKI – Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence;
- Amy Chernoff, v.p. of marketing for appliance and fixture retailer AJ Madison;
- Tim Schroeder, president of fixture and bathroom furniture manufacturer Duravit USA;
- Manuel Gutierrez, consulting economist for the National Kitchen & Bath Association;
- Leah Peterson, executive v.p. of SEN Design Group dealer buying and business development group.
The kitchen and bath industry tracks strongly to housing trends, as well as to labor, regional differences (including natural disaster effects) and numerous other “Econ 101” factors. Happily, most of our panelists are bullish on 2017 and 2018.
SEN’s Peterson reports, “Entering 2017, most members projected 5-8% increases.” Many are exceeding that range. “Assuming no cataclysmic global event and interest rates remaining low, 2018 looks like 10-12% growth,” she projects.
This is in part due to natural disasters in Florida, Texas, the Caribbean and Northern California, where there will be massive rebuilding.
NKBA’s Gutierrez is also bullish on residential remodeling: “This year is shaping up to be one of the strongest years since the end of the recession. Through August, homeowners have spent 16% more than last year on home improvements and remodeling.” This is five points higher than the past three years, he shares, citing Census Bureau figures. He expects some moderation, but predicts that “2018 will be robust for the kitchen and bath industry.”
Despite the favorable outlook, the economist cautions, businesses will continue to be plagued by labor shortages eating into productivity and profitability.
PROJECT SCOPE AND BUYER PROFILES
So what are people spending on, and how can you find spenders for your business?
Duravit’s Tim Schroeder is seeing “boomers starting to transition their bathrooms into something that’s retirement-friendly, transitioning to showers with benches and vanities at comfortable heights.” He’s also seeing younger clients showing up in the remodeling market. “Millennials have such a focus on health that we imagine there will be a greater push in their bathroom purchasing in 2018 as they incorporate wellness into their homes.”
SEN’s Peterson is a bit more cautious on the younger set: “Boomers still provide the bulk of major [projects] for our members. Gen-Xers come in a strong second. Millennials have entered into the remodeling market, but on smaller-scale budgets.”
She also sees many projects expanding in scope from kitchen to kitchen plus pantry, powder room, laundry and family room. Most budgets remain close to the “Better” category (on a Good-Better-Best scale), Peterson notes.
AJ Madison’s Chernoff also sees interesting expansions beyond the basic kitchen and bath, including “garages, family rooms with coffee nooks, snack/beverage centers and mini kitchens in guest rooms.” These are all new profit opportunities.
Bathroom projects were plentiful this year, Peterson shares. Here’s what was trending there, according to Duravit’s Schroeder: “In 2017, we noticed more and more residences embracing wall-hung toilets. In 2018, we predict a great acceptance of bidet seats in the U.S. market, as well as experimentation with toilet shapes, exploring more angular options that add visual interest.” Schroeder also saw vessels and non-white neutrals like gray and sand make comebacks in the sink category.
For tubs, he’s seeing satin finish solid surfaces that deliver a matte look. “In 2018, we think free-standing tubs will really reign supreme.” He also sees a resurgence in the desirability of tubs over large, stand-alone showers.
That doesn’t apply to small and medium suites, SEN’s Peterson believes, but larger spaces are definitely getting these statement tubs. The showers are getting rain heads, body sprays and aging-in-place features.
Schroeder adds: “We have been seeing designers create larger spaces that incorporate [a] shower, bench and perhaps a tub, too, all in the same wet zone of the bathroom.”
Finish-wise, satin nickel still reigns, Peterson notes, but she has noticed a surge of polished chrome with gray and white painted cabinetry. “For 2018, we project satin and brushed brass to come on strong.” As far as storage goes, “Darker-stained cabinets have seen strong growth this year,” which she expects to continue in the new year.
Schroeder is seeing color as a huge trend: “Consumers and designers moved away from the all-white bathroom and started using different lacquers and wood finishes [in 2017]. In 2018, in addition to color, we think matte black will be prominent in furniture. Also, custom storage solutions, like high-end drawer organizers, will appeal to buyers.”
KITCHEN APPLIANCE TRENDS
AJ Madison’s Chernoff reports that two of the top kitchen appliance trends were smart technology and black stainless. “The smudge-resistant, minimal and sleek look was in line with 2017 kitchen trends.” Also popular in 2017 was the ability to “see into” your refrigerator, whether through smart, built-in cameras or glass “InstaView” doors. “In 2018, we think column refrigeration will definitely move toward a lasting trend,” Chernoff predicts.
Tech is definitely a strong trend: “Ovens with smartphone capability to control timers and temperatures, and Wi-Fi connectivity to look up recipes or program favorite ones into your device, have both seen a surge in 2017.” Dishwashers got full third-tier racks and steam, as well as smart features, Chernoff comments.
“Another trend we think will catch on with a bit more depth in 2018 is induction. Cost is starting to come down,” the appliance retailer adds, “making it likely there will be more consumer adoption. French door ovens are also a trend we’re starting to see emerge.”
RICKI’s Bryan says customers really want energy-efficient, quiet dishwashers with shorter cycles and spot-free performance. “Large-capacity refrigerators with water/ice dispensers and specialty drawers are key product features for refrigeration. Homeowners are looking for ways to make food last longer and reduce waste.” Like Chernoff, she points to the view-inside fridge features that make food shopping easier.
“New cooking technologies such as induction, steam ovens, sous vide and advances in convection/microwave technology are seeing more appeal, particularly [with] high-income homeowners,” the research executive adds. Cooking appliances associated with healthy eating and fresh food are also trending, she notes.
KITCHEN FIXTURE AND FAUCET TRENDS
Bryan reports, “Homeowners tell us they want deep sinks that are easy to clean. Pull-down kitchen faucets with high arcs are still number one in demand. Hands-free and motion-sensor faucets are becoming more mainstream and practical, and they appeal to those who are worried about germs.” SEN’s Peterson also sees pull-down faucets and workstation sinks trending strongly.
Chernoff points to farmhouse and undermount deep basin sinks with hands-free faucets in matte black, bronze and brushed nickel taking center stage. “For 2018, we definitely see this trend continuing, with a minimal look overtaking traditional.”
KITCHEN STORAGE AND SURFACE TRENDS
RICKI’s Bryan observes, “Soft-close cabinetry features are now becoming standard, and we expect this to continue. Deep, wide cabinet drawers are on the rise [and] storage features continue to trend up, including rollouts, pullouts, cutlery drawer and spice organizers. Waste and recycling bins are ‘must haves’ in the kitchen. Interest is growing for lighting inside the cabinetry to improve visual access, and we see under-cabinet lighting as a key feature.”
Style-wise, SEN’s Peterson comments, “Neutral painted Shaker doors are still popular; white and off-whites dominate. Taupe is emerging as a new neutral, slowly replacing gray. Islands tend to be a darker stain or paint.”
With regard to countertops, Peterson and Bryan agree: Quartz is where the marketplace is trending. “Among designers who do mostly high-end kitchens, quartz is the top countertop material, followed by granite, wood or butcher block, and marble,” Bryan shares. “Matte surfaces are also seen as trending up.”
After appearance, being ‘easy to clean’ is the next most important feature, the researcher notes, especially among households with children. “To address this need, we expect to see more advances in sealants for natural stone and microbial protection.” SEN’s Peterson is seeing growth in Dekton and porcelain slab, both family-friendly, low-maintenance surfaces.
For flooring, “The wood plank style in porcelain tile and luxury vinyl tile is still popular,” Peterson notes. “The innovations in look and texture of LVT have helped increase this category. We also see large-format tile continuing to grow. Using different textures on walls like rustic wood or different tile sheens continues to be popular. We see these trends continuing into 2018.”
You’ve seen a lot of smart technology in this space in the past few years, and that will likely continue in 2018 and beyond. It’s not just impacting design, but business, as well. “More kitchen/bath owners are seeking total operational automation for their businesses,” SEN’s Peterson shares. They’re doing this “to streamline efficiencies, improve team productivity and maintain the quality of their customer service, while still achieving annual revenue growth.”
It may also help them with their exit plans, a growing priority for aging business owners. “Most members are boomers and have invested their retirement money into the company to get through the recession. Now exit planning is a Top Five on their priority list,” Peterson shares. One of their challenges, she notes, is that there are more individuals wanting to leave the business than there are people wanting to get into it. Depending on your entrepreneurial spirit, that could be a new business opportunity.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work and the New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a design journalist, NKBA Chapter Presenter and industry consultant. Her website is jgkitchens.com. She was just named one of KBDN’s top 50 innovators.