Before you look at what’s trending in layouts, cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring and all of the other components that go into creating a successful kitchen or bath, it’s helpful to understand the macro trends driving the particular choices homeowners make. These are more revealing, more important and more enduring than the paint color of the year or the latest appliance finish. Macro trends showcase what people value in their lives and what they prioritize with their home investment dollars.
I’ve asked five industry pros to weigh in on these macro trends for the first in a three-part 2020 kitchen and bath trends forecast series. They are:
- Michele Alfano, principal at Michele Alfano Design, design blogger and influencer;
- Janice Costa, editor of trade magazine Kitchen & Bath Design News;
- Lee Crowder, Dallas-based designer for national homebuilder Taylor Morrison;
- Erin Gallagher, chief of insights for RICKI (Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence);
- J. Pickens, host of HGTV’s The Work Around.
“Smart devices are influencing every aspect of our home life, so it’s no surprise that the idea of the connected kitchen is beginning to gain a foothold as consumers gain a greater comfort with this type of technology,” observes Costa. “But technology needs to be useful and practical, not gratuitous,” she cautions.
The kitchen and bath market is being flooded with technology, the veteran editor says, some of which helps people work easier in their homes, and some which complicates life. “Just as people want clean lines and clutter-free environments, they want to minimize mental clutter, so tech needs to be intuitive, streamlined and purposeful if it’s going to appeal to a broad base of homeowners,” she predicts.
Gallagher also sees technology as a strong trend. “Smart home products will move from the high end to more mainstream design starting in 2020,” the researcher anticipates, adding, “customization to suit homeowners’ lifestyles and efficient use of space will be far more important than connectivity.” This ability to customize is driving manufacturers to make their products theme-friendly, so you can integrate them in sophisticated smart home suites.
This mirrors Alfano’s predictions, especially in the kitchen. “As our modern lives become busier than ever, our kitchens are getting smarter and steadily becoming the most high tech room in the house,” she says.
It doesn’t stop there. Technology has become a major feature in master bathroom design, including “steam options for shower, heated flooring and towel rods and lit mirrors with technology built into the mirror,” comments Taylor Morrison’s Crowder.
Efficiency And Convenience
Efficiency ties into the technology trend, but also into people being challenged by multiple obligations – family, self-care and career, to name just three – and wanting their days to be a bit more convenient amidst this complexity. As Costa notes, it’s not just about bells and whistles, it’s about being purposeful in simplifying life. Alfano adds. “These days, kitchen design is also about efficiency, convenience and making life easier.” The designer sees this in her practice: “People are now expecting a user-friendly lifestyle with less maintenance, less problems. We live in stressful times so it seems fitting for people to seek simplicity in their homes and what could make your days run more smoothly, and save you time.”
“When forecasting trends for 2020 the word I like to use is efficiency,” HGTV host Pickens shares. “It’s the thread that weaves through most homeowners’ choices now. Efficiency in layout and design, in energy usage, in materials choice, maintenance, etc. Even home technology additions are at their core a reach towards efficiency.”
Crowder agrees: “Convenience is the name of the game,” she says, and it shows up in numerous kitchen and bath aspects. “For example, an all-in-one one washer/dryer, compact ice makers, convenient drink fridges, warming drawers — essentially, any room in the house can be outfitted with an appliance to make the space more convenient,” she points out.
Pickens sees efficiency extending into water and energy conservation and smart home features. “There are many reasons for this trend, the largest of which is just the pure ideology of the generation that’s making its way into the home market,” adding, “integrated tech, (smart meters, smart appliances) makes it possible to see and track wasted resources and what that waste costs.”
Alfano sees wellness as “minimalism with humanism,” describing it as “simplicity with the importance of the human experience. Purist, ergonomic design allows people to focus on the important things in life, which is the enjoyment of family and friends.” The designer also sees biophilia – the term for incorporating nature and natural influences into design – as part of wellness.
Wellness is showing up in design publications, as well, KBDN’s Costa reports. “We’re seeing this through the incorporation of cooking appliances that offer healthier food prep options (steam, sous vide, and more recently air frying), ‘green’ products that minimize VOCs and off-gassing, water and air purification products that minimize toxins and provide a cleaner environment, and a growing interest in bringing the outdoors inside, whether through plant walls or other greenery, skylights, and large windows or nature-inspired colors and materials that promote psychological wellness.” There’s that biophilic influence again!
Wellness has been a significant trend for the kitchen and bath industry, as well as for the real estate and new construction fields. Homes and communities with wellness features are highly sought after by fitness-minded Millennials, health-conscious Boomers and the emerging, sustainability-oriented Generation Z. It crosses paths with sustainability, especially in emphasizing non-toxic materials and energy-friendly LED lighting tied to smart home technology for circadian benefits. “Good lighting can minimize seasonal affective disorder and enhance the homeowner’s mood and energy levels,” points out Costa.
Homeowners have long valued spa-inspired bathrooms, and this trend is increasing, Crowder predicts. “With the term ‘self-care’ being so prevalent, buyers are taking their dollars and using them to ensure their master bath is a retreat that meets their needs.” Taylor Morrison includes “Day at the Spa” as one of its top 20 national trends, with features like rainfall showerheads, freestanding soaker tubs and luxurious finishes to fulfill it.
Connecting The Dots
You’ll see these three macro trends, technology, efficiency/convenience and wellness, show up throughout the kitchen and bath world in 2020. Expect to see them in the choices designers, manufacturers and homeowners include in these spaces. The second part of this series will focus on kitchen trends. The third part will focus on bathroom trends. All three parts will publish this month.