It's all about choice.

Danze Inc. Tiburon Suite
Many times, bathroom accessories to plumbing contractors mean drain wastes, valves and flexible hoses. But the ability to think past your nose and offer the “softer side” of plumbing accessories can make a difference in your bottom line.

Plumbers can become a complete bath source for their customers by providing homeowners access to coordinated product lines. It ultimately takes the guesswork out of picking and choosing pieces for the bath - from toilets and sinks to faucets and accessories.

“No matter what you select, it all goes together,” Gary Uhl, director of design for American Standard, tells homeowners in the company's “Ideas” booklet. “You just can't make a mistake.” Suites, like the company's Town Square series, are designed to offer an extensive selection of fixtures, trim kits, towel organizers and accessories to eliminate the hassle of finding matching accessories.

Danze Inc. views its faucets as an accessory, or the jewel of the bathroom; they're both decorative and functional. Just as with your wardrobe, accessories finish your look and complete your style, says Ed Detgen, Danze director of marketing.

Because the faucet is sometimes the first item chosen during a remodel, accessories offer the opportunity to make a selection, and customers love choice.

“Decisions can be made over a period of weeks or months,” Detgen says. Homeowners visit other houses, stores and showrooms. They choose styles between Euro, Victorian, traditional, French country, Art Deco, contemporary and more. They want everything to match: from doorknobs to showerheads to toilet paper holders.

Detgen tells us there is roughly only 1.6 million new houses built a year in the United States, so that leaves a large amount of existing homes in the remodeling pool. “There is a huge turnover in the housing stock.”

In some new construction, homeowners are not involved in the choices made for their bathrooms. “When people are allowed to make these choices, the possibilities grow,” Detgen explains.

What people want the chance to choose today are options for storage and organization. For instance, double towel bars for extra towel hanging capacity are becoming very popular. Rack and bar combos, too, allow for hanging space for fresh and used towels and robes. These types of accessories in the past mostly were seen in hotels and spas, but homeowners are looking for that luxury in their own spaces.

Where's The TP?

Towels are essential in the bath, but even more so is toilet paper. Previously regulated to single-access rolls, roughly has come out of the linen closet and into its own.

Double-size holders, vertical fixtures and inventive in-the-wall units can increase paper storage size. Even sink consoles, like American Standard's Brook™ table for undermount sinks, has a drop-down door on the side for concealed TP storage.

In the shower, relieving the clutter of soaps, bottles, sponges, toys, etc., can be even more of a hassle. This year, shower door manufacturer Sterling debuted its Stor-ganize™ bypass shower doors. It provides sturdy, modular - and easy-to-clean - storage shelves and hooks integrated into a column on the door. Gone are the days of rusty shower caddies, flimsy wall brackets and suction cups. Aesthetically, Stor-ganize fits seamlessly, and homeowners have a choice of glass textures and frame finishes.

Also in the shower and near the commode, grab bars and safety feature demands will increase, as more people choose to age in the home. The trick is to produce components that are subtle and don't shout “disability.”

Modular cabinets and drawers clear counter top space and eliminates clutter and health hazards. Detgen also points out the movement away from wall-mounted features, such as toothbrush holders, soap dishes and tumblers, to freestanding countertop accessories. They're easier to change out if the homeowner changes her mind on design, which happens more often these days, according to Tim Bitterman, senior brand manager for Creative Specialties International, a division of Moen Inc.

“There is a whole subculture now of serial remodelers: They see it, they like it, they do it,” Bitterman says. “Remodeling has become a hobby. Picking and choosing theme, style and finishing touches is fun.”

The continuing rise of the number of bathrooms in a house, especially the increase in powder rooms, allows homeowners more chances to get creative. In powder rooms, because of the generally smaller size and its proximity to the heart of a home, people are more likely to take design chances, says Bitterman. Special powder room suites - such as ShowHouse™ by Moen's Bamboo™ powder room suite and accessories - can expand on a theme and create a showcase. The style can be completely different from the rest of the house.

The Nonconventional & Beyond

Going past the realm of function, other accessories recently introduced to the bath address homeowners' needs for a bit of luxury.

Items such as flat screen TVs, fireplaces, towel warmers and exercise equipment, even compact fridges and wine storage, are finding their way into master suites. And still on the rise is the use of furniture - old chests and armoires - modified for vanities and storage units. Homeowners have stretched the limit of what goes into their bathrooms, Bitterman says.

In the 1990s, faucets became “stylish.” The mid-1990s saw a growth in bathroom accessories, but people are looking to update now. While manufacturers will continue their expansion into finishes, they'll need to understand modern consumers and their choices, and how they use their bathing spaces.

“Overall the trend is 'upgrade,'” says Detgen. “More people seem to have money. They're spending that money on what's important to them, and most homeowners see their home as an investment worth putting money into.”

If you're an installer or builder, offering choices and coordination helps your products sell better. The complete package is an easier sell than limited features.

“The selling process is all about simplicity,” Bitterman concludes. An added usefulness: Matching tank levers for toilets, an added sale that's often overlooked.

“A savvy plumbing contractor will offer not just replacement toilets or tubs, but the complete package of matching accessories as well,” Detgen says. This way, you become a resource where all things decorative for the bath can be found through you.

“By offering this design guidance, you're adding to your sales, and tapping into what the customer is really looking for: Installed service for all his needs.”