With budget in the forefront of everyone’s mind these days, homeowners are searching for value and a more reserved look when it comes to designing their kitchens and bathrooms
When it comes to residential design, most would agree that kitchens and bathrooms are considered high priority. And while function is a necessity, many homeowners have come to desire much more for the design of these spaces. Aesthetics play a primary role, and homeowners are turning to the assortment of textures, patterns and sizes found in the limitless tile collections now available to create their dream kitchen and bath.
Once thought of as just a room for cooking and cleaning dishes, the role of the kitchen in a home has expanded tremendously. Nowadays, kitchens are a gathering space for entertaining. Often they spill into an open living space -- making it easy for hosts to socialize with their guests. Moreover, bathrooms have become a retreat. They are a place where homeowners can relax and soothe themselves after a long day. Taking these factors into consideration, it is only natural that homeowners are taking the designs of these rooms more seriously -- particularly when it comes to product selection.
Cautious spendingBut given the current financial situation, it is understandable that the down economy has affected the way people are spending money. While they still seek high-quality designs for their kitchens and baths, they are proceeding with caution, and in many cases, minimizing their look.
Modest designsHomeowners are also using stone and tile within designs that are less ostentatious.
“As a continuation of what has happened before in recessionary times, people tend to pick colors that are more muted,” Zanger went on to explain. “They are choosing the flashy products less. It’s not less expensive, just less in your face.”
The consensus among many leading industry members is that homeowners are now seeking a clean look for their kitchen and bath designs. “I feel that since the times are turbulent, people want things simplified,” said Fanelli. “They want a transitional contemporary design. New Jersey is a very traditional market. New York is very clean lines -- not overdone. Designs are much simpler when it comes to using mosaic sheets and borders.”
Walter Iberti, a long-time veteran of the industry who has moved into the manufacturing business for the past 11 years, also sees a strong trend towards white. “A new distribution company recently asked our factory to help create its very first line,” he explained. “They wanted a core product that would sell every day. Our research, and the factory’s historical data, identified that product as white and off-white. Since glazed wall tiles are used primarily for backsplashes, showers and tub surrounds, and Carrara and Calacatta are two of the most popular stones for counters in these rooms, we felt a safe palette would be the two whites with the addition of a light gray and anthracite gray. This four-color offering provides solid stand-alone colors that also coordinate with the two most popular stones nationwide. On top of this, we kept the focus on rectangles, which for walls seem to outstrip the demand for squares. This line offers a 3- x 6-inch classic subway tile, as well as a 6- x 12- and 1- x 3-inch mosaics in stacked and running bond patterns.”
Sophisticated porcelainIt also is apparent that customers are gravitating towards porcelain tile for their kitchen and bath designs. “The interest in porcelain is growing,” said Zanger. “Porcelain tile has traditionally been commercially oriented, but it is now making its way into upscale residences -- not mid-market but the upper market because of its design and technology.”
“I recently did a 40,000-square-foot home with about nine or 10 bathrooms,” Fanelli went on to say. “All of the bathrooms were the same. The owner just wanted to keep it very simple. We chose 18- x 18-inch Statuary White marble and large-format porcelain wall tiles. That was in Florida. They wanted it very couture, but they didn’t want maintenance because it was a second home. I feel like porcelain will be on the forefront for a very long time.”
Sustainable designWith the green building movement as an ever-growing component in the trade, many more tile manufacturers are investing their research and development on products that are considered green -- whether they contain recycled content or are produced with environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. In the commercial sector, it is evident that sustainability has become a prime objective, but there seems to be wavering thoughts on if it has caught on in the residential market yet.
“We do have people that are specifically interested in green products, but not as much for residential work as commercial work where it is sometimes mandated,” said Zanger. “But, we certainly have clients that are interested in it, and sometimes it is the tipping point. If all things being equal, they might choose the product with recycled content.
“People buy for emotional reasons,” Zanger went on to explain. “That is one of them. They are happy that what they are purchasing is something that is sustainable. Some people are looking to do their homes or offices sustainable and ask us to show them the products with recycled content. Others are happy to find out when something they like is. Interest in sustainability and green products is certainly growing, but it is not the main focus.”
“I will pull something out and say this is environmentally friendly, and at the end of the day, it goes back to the specifier,” Fanelli continued. “There needs to be consumer awareness. It is there, and there is some awareness, but we still need a push.”
Stoffer, who is in the process of working on her own tile line, also believes there needs to be more consumer awareness. “My new designs are available in recycled and non-recycled, and I can tell you that only one out of 10 will buy the tile because of the recycled [content],” she said. “They seem to be drawn to the collection because of the way it looks. Government, schools and some high-profile companies are where recycled is the more commonly requested and purchased.”
On a more positive note, Levinson is seeing growing requests for green products among Artistic Tile’s clientele. “When the green building movement began, clients inquired about green products, but were not willing to pay the up-charge to carry through on their ideas in many cases,” he said. “Now, with an increased awareness of green products, and price competitiveness between green and non-green products, many more consumers are following through on the purchase of green products. In addition to products with recycled content in our inventory, including Vetrazzo recycled glass surfacing, we have also increased our inventory of domestically manufactured tile and stone as well as thin porcelains.”