Knowing what’s hot and what’s not is important when remodeling a home — from product to size to finish. And while many faucets, fixtures and other products installed in kitchens and bathrooms are built  to last a generation or more, new innovative products are introduced every year that generate new insights for trend spotters.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association recently published its 2015 trends report identifying kitchen trends in the $20,000 to $49,000+ price range, as well as bathroom remodeling trends in the $10,000 to $30,000+ range.

“As our members specialize in full projects, not replacement items or DIY-driven projects, this study is most helpful to identify kitchen trends — such as the big shift from traditional to contemporary, the use of multiple colors and styles, the addition of smart storage options and more countertop space — and bathroom trends — such as a private and personal spa-like space,” says Maria Stapperfenne, NKBA president and manager at Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Tewksbury Kitchens and Baths.

“Homeowners don’t want to move, they would rather remodel to get a fresh, new updated space,” she adds. “They are cautiously optimistic about the economy, have saved for this and are willing to spend. It also helps that when they do decide to sell, they have spent wisely and invested in their homes.”

National Association of the Remodeling Industry member Dennis D. Gehman, president of Harleysville, Pa.-based Gehman Design Remodeling, says the current remodeling trend lies with larger projects, such as whole house remodels. “People are planning ahead; we’re getting calls now for spring and summer projects,” he notes. “I believe this means that people are feeling that the economy will be good for the foreseeable future.”

NARI’s fourth-quarter 2014 Remodeling Business Pulse data of current and future remodeling business conditions reveals that 67% of remodelers nationwide are seeing growth. The National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index also shows growth in remodelers’ businesses. It posted a record-high result of 60 in the final quarter of 2014 — indicating remodelers’ confidence in the quarter-over-quarter improvement. An index above 50 means that more remodelers are reporting market activity as higher rather than lower.

“The upward trajectory of the RMI results over the past year has shown that homeowners are ready, willing and deciding to remodel,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Paul Sullivan.

The NARI survey also provides detailed findings regarding energy-efficiency upgrades, including: 80% of remodelers discussed energy efficiency with homeowners; cost, savings and payback period are the dominant issues on homeowner’s minds; and 94% of remodelers are involved in one or more energy savings upgrades.

 “People remodel for many reasons — many want to incorporate the latest design trends, experience new technologies, gain additional space or simply to increase the value of their home,” explains Judd Lord, senior director of industrial design at Delta. “Whatever the reason a homeowner has to remodel, it’s important to consider functionality first — especially when evaluating kitchen or bath projects as changes in these areas have great impact on how you live your day-to-day life.”

One common reason homeowners remodel is to create a more open, livable space. “Both the bath and kitchen are so central to everyday activity,” says Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, vice president of design for American Standard Brands. “Plus, a bathroom remodel has the added benefit of increasing a home’s value. We know that bathrooms have among the highest return on investment of any room in the home.”

He notes that as the economy improves, consumer remodeling tastes are shifting away from a traditional aesthetic and toward cleaner, simpler design lines in fixtures, faucets and furniture used in both baths and kitchens.

Flow of the room also is important when making changes, especially in the kitchen. Many NARI members note that opening the kitchen to the living room space by taking down walls is a trending look because the kitchen has fallen into the “great room” category. It is where everyone is doing everything — from cooking to homework to watching television.

“The kitchen is the place where friends and family gather and so homeowners want it to look nice,” Gehman notes. “Unlike bathrooms, they’re not looking for a return on investment because most of the time, other than being dated, there’s nothing wrong with the kitchen they have.”

For those who wish for the latest and greatest in technology upgrades, plumbing product manufacturers are incorporating more technology into their products. “We’re seeing technology have a stronger impact in the kitchen and bath as our homes become more digitally interconnected,” notes Steven Ward, director of global design at Moen.

Sensor-operated faucets, for example, have become a popular remodeling request. “There’s no need to touch the faucet handle,” he adds. “It’s easy to use and perfect for when your hands are too full or dirty to turn on the faucet, while also helping reduce the spread of germs.”

The aging-in-place movement has made homeowners more aware of accessibility and safety issues — especially in the bathroom. “People are looking down the road and are interested in designs that will accommodate them as they get older, but still look stylish and modern,” explains Kathleen Donohue, senior designer of central Oregon-based remodeling firm Neil Kelly.

Baby boomers are the majority of remodelers and are behind the aging-in-place movement. “They have a high disposable income and a clear sense of taste,” says Jamie Dorman, group marketing manager of Pfister Faucets Wholesale.

Another group that tends to remodel are empty nesters. “I see the majority of remodelers as women between 40 and 65 years of age,” Gehman notes. “Most have kids and are empty nesters or close to it, and they have a disposable income that they didn’t have when raising their family.”

In addition to using the Internet to research manufacturers and products, homeowners use social media sites such as Houzz and Pinterest to look for design inspiration.

“With remodeling projects outnumbering new builds in many markets, consumers are looking for inspiration in many areas,” says Eric Moore, interior designer at Kohler. “It is important for designers, trade professionals and manufacturers alike to utilize social media and other channels to help inspire and educate consumers.”


Cooking it up in the kitchen

The NKBA report shows that the No. 1 kitchen trend for this year is a clean look with an overall contemporary feeling, along with a fusion of styles and multiple colors. Because the kitchen has become a family hot-spot, the focus is on the user experience, from easy maintenance to accessible design — considering the needs of all users in the space.

More than half of kitchen remodel projects last year had accessible or universal design features. Accessibility was cited by respondents as not just for users with special needs but to provide easier access for everyone in the home.

Green also is trending in the kitchen. The report states that 68% of designers specify energy-saving appliances and 42% expect to specify more in the coming year. Almost 40% of designers specified water-saving faucets in 2014 and 47% see the market expanding into this year.

“While consumers are increasingly conscious about their environmental footprint, they don’t want to sacrifice their experience,” Lord notes. “Instead of simply reducing flow rates, we innovate to find solutions that deliver better water efficiency and improve the end-user experience.”

In 2014, pull-out faucets continued to dominate the market, while touch-activated faucets were specified by almost half of respondents. Both faucet types are continuing to grow as homeowners look for convenience, efficiency and functionality in the kitchen.

“Homeowners want that technological ‘Wow!’ factor,” Dorman says. “The faucet is always on display in the kitchen and used the most of any feature in the room. Homeowners are excited about the new level of convenience and efficiency these kinds of next-generation products, such as touch-free faucets, offer.”

Easy-to-clean products are popular choices in remodels as well. Polished chrome and satin nickel are the most popular faucet finishes; expect to see them more in the future. However, alternative finishes, such as slate and matte black, also are becoming popular, Dorman notes, as are spot-resistant finishes due to their easy-to-keep-clean nature.

The addition of kitchen accessories can help homeowners with different tasks and needs. “Many homeowners are changing out their sinks for ones that function better with their needs,” Donohue says. “A popular accessory is the disposal, as it has become more reliable, durable and much quieter.”

Under-sink garbage disposals were used by 71% of designers last year. About half of designers specified soap/lotion dispensers and almost as many specified water filters or purifiers. Instant hot-water dispensers also were a popular addition. All are expected to hold steady into this year.


Keeping it neat

Clean, white, contemporary designs will dominate in the bathroom this year, notes the NKBA report, along with heated floors, showers and freestanding tubs. “Easy-to-clean sinks, toilets and accessories are what homeowners are looking for,” Stapperfenne says. “They are looking for something low-maintenance, with not as many nooks and crannies to clean.”

 NARI’s Gehman agrees: “People are turning away from tile showers and tub surrounds because they are tired of the work it takes to keep tile looking nice. Instead, large panels without grout lines are being requested for shower walls because of their easy-to-clean nature.”

Polished chrome has become the fastest-growing choice for bathroom faucet finishes, due primarily because it is easy to clean. The finish was used by almost 80% of designers last year and it is expected to keep increasing in popularity. The undermount sink also is on a growth trend; it is already the No. 1 style used by 90% of designers.

In a new twist on the old side-by-side vanity sinks, several commenters noted that they had installed single large trough sinks in master bathrooms, with two faucets. The report shows that showers are more popular than basic tubs. In showers, body sprays and jets were specified by 42% of designers, a level that appears to be holding steady. Also popular are pressure-balance shower valves, thermostatic shower valves, programmable controls for showers, towel warmers and anti-fogging mirrors.

“Consumers recognize the value in making the bath more spa-like, offering a place for relaxation and retreat,” Ward says.

A trending bathroom will feature a shower as well as a freestanding tub. “Freestanding tubs have been quite popular in bathroom remodels -— consumers really love the deep soak that they offer,” L’Henaff says. “Busy, stressed-out homeowners have the chance to relax and unwind without even leaving home. Plus, a beautifully designed stand-alone tub can become a lovely focal point in a bathroom.”

Universal design elements are specified at a high rate in bathrooms designed by NKBA members. More than 60% of respondents designed no-threshold showers for their clients last year and that is expected to increase dramatically in 2015. The other request high in demand is comfort-height fixtures. Comfort-height toilets were specified by 83% of designers and more than half forecast demand to increase. Shower seats/benches also were a popular 2014 specification.

 “I’m seeing a real preference for comfort-height toilets and vanities, water-saving dual-flush toilets, bidet seats and updated showers,” Donohue confirms.

Last year, 45% of designers specified water-saving faucets and fixtures for the bathroom as high in demand, and about a third of respondents expect to see more demand this year.

“Awareness of the water shortage situation plays a significant role in whether a homeowner will be environmentally conscious,” L’Henaff notes. “Many parts of the country have been suffering from significant droughts in recent years, so water conservation issues are top-of-mind. Also, when trying to convince a consumer to purchase a green product, it’s imperative to prove they won’t have to sacrifice performance in order to save water.”