When designers keep their eyes and ears open, it’s easy to spot trends in new product introductions and homeowner preferences. But those trends don’t create themselves. Gray Uhl, director of design for American Standard, shed some light on what’s driving product design and selection.
“Our design team tends to work three to five years out,” Uhl says, “so these are definitely megatrends we see coming, and that we’re working long-term to address.”
1. Smaller Spaces
The trend toward downsizing or right-sizing is driven by baby boomers, Uhl says. “We saw maximum growth peak in 2007, 2008. Construction is coming back now, but physical size is smaller,” he says. “In the next three years, we’ll see a jump in the amount of the population moving into urban areas.”
As a result, bathroom footprints are also staying small. “Knowing that,” he says, “there’s development in new products and fixtures where the functionality is there, but the scale is smaller.” Uhl adds that contemporary design in general, and freestanding bathtubs specifically, are seeing an uptick, since sleek design elements create the illusion of space.
2. Multigenerational Access
Uhl says his design team hears regularly about customers whose grown children have moved back in, or who have aging parents that can’t live in their homes anymore. “We try to design products that work across generations,” he says.
Rising vanity heights are a trend attributable to this driver, moving from 32 inches to 34, and now 36. “I liken it to what the boomers did for SUVs,” Uhl says. “They can sit up tall and it’s easy to see. Raising the height of the bathroom vanity makes them feel as young and mobile as they were years ago” because everything they need is at a comfortable height.
3. Water Consumption
While consumers have yet to adopt a philosophy of designing for water savings, manufacturers are proving that well-designed fixtures can use less water without sacrificing an ounce of performance.
Uhl says that American Standard went to a 1.5-gallon-per-minute flow rate on all its bathroom faucets last year—without a single phone call or complaint from consumers. In showerheads, many manufacturers work to analyze the shape and size of water droplets to maximize the sensation of a drenching shower at a lower flow rate.
So, why is water savings so important? “The statistic at the moment is that 64% of the U.S. population is experiencing some level of drought,” Uhl says. “We’ve also found that the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day, compared to Europeans who use 50 to 60 gallons per day.” Just changing out fixtures, he says, can have a dramatic impact on household water use.