This year at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), we saw a lot of really cool new features on toilets, from self-lifting lids, to lighted bowls, to self-cleaning toilets. These kinds of features are fun, and there’s definitely an audience for high-tech (and high-cost) toilets, but most people have a different priority in mind when adding new toilets to their homes or buildings.  

Recently, my company, Niagara Conservation, commissioned a survey of U.S. consumers that found water conservation was the most important feature when thinking about a new toilet. With that said, more than half of consumers would prefer a toilet that is both stylish and conserves water, showing that while water conservation is important, people want their bathroom appliances to look good while doing good for the planet — and their water bills.

Some interesting statistics from this survey that stood out to us included that more men (12%) than women (5%) said they would prefer a toilet that is only stylish and those over age 45 are more likely to rank water conservation as the most important feature in a toilet versus those 44 and under.

High-performance features were also important among survey respondents, with functions such as power and dual flush coming in third in the ranking of most important features.


Design trends

All of this is to say that while style is important, style plus water conservation and functionality are the really the home run for today’s consumers. Knowing that, there are ways that toilets can fit into some of today’s top bathroom design trends, while also providing power and conserving water.  

Creating comfort: A continued trend in bathrooms is to create a personal spa-like experience. Once upon a time, bathrooms were function-focused. People didn’t linger – they did their business and moved on. Today, we prefer ample room to take care of our daily needs in a beautiful, relaxing environment.  

Believe it or not, toilets can help address this trend of elegance and comfort. Elongated bowls are often more comfortable than round or square bowls. The sleek design of one-piece toilets can also add to a peaceful, clean design. 

Creating space: As people look to remodel their bathrooms, they typically aim to make a small space feel larger, or they may remove storage to increase the square footage of the room overall.

Wall-mounted toilets can help create more space and help a bathroom feel bigger. These toilets definitely take up less room overall, and they look incredibly sleek since the plumbing is hidden behind the wall. They also generally save water, with most models featuring a dual-flush option that uses less than 1.5 gallons per flush. One thing we’ve heard, however, is people are sometimes concerned about the sturdiness of wall-mounted designs, since they “float” above the floor, meaning the installation must be flawless and solid. Maintenance can be somewhat challenging as well, since all of the plumbing is behind the wall — meaning if there is ever a leak or other problem, a repair isn’t easy to reach. Wall-mounted toilets also typically cost a bit more than standard toilets.

There are other compact toilet options available that leverage an elongated bowl design but take up the same space as a round bowl, making them ideal for smaller spaces. These toilets typically also come in one piece and are sleek and easy to maintain since there is no tank-bowl connection. While exposed hardware is a design trend for sinks and showers, toilets are an exception. Several space saving toilets introduced in the past year have very low gallons-per-flush — as low as 0.8 gallon. And, these toilets are available at a reasonable price.

Natural materials: Another trend is to use natural materials — especially wood — to create a modern, spa-like space in a bathroom. While we certainly wouldn’t recommend (nor do we know of any) toilets made of natural materials, we do think a toilet should be more than just an afterthought for those looking to incorporate wood into their bathroom design.
If you plan to incorporate wooden walls or paneling, make sure your bathroom fixtures are designed to prevent leaks. Again, a wall-mounted toilet on a wood paneled wall is very stylish, however, could pose a problem should there be any leaks or problems with maintenance. Incorporating well-built, one-piece toilets that have fewer parts and pieces to cause problems is going to be your best bet.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of toilets when it comes to remodeling and designing a modern, stylish bathroom, but they actually play a critical role in many ways. Whether it’s space, style or comfort you’re looking for, find a toilet that saves water and adds to the design. Besides, when you save water, you’re not only helping the environment, but you also have more money to spend on beautiful design features for the whole bathroom!