Choices in the bathroom

Making the right choices when designing a bathroom can make all the difference in a successful development. With more options available than ever before, Lisa Ward of Bristan looks at how housebuilders can best meet consumers’ rapidly evolving needs.

Like all interior design trends, consumer preferences in the bathroom are constantly changing to fit with modern lifestyles. It is up to housebuilders to adapt to these changes with new ideas that are attractive to consumers, fast and efficient to install, and which maximise the space available.

Market reports consistently show that choice is increasingly important when it comes to specifying bathroom products, and having a variety of bathroom set-ups available within a large-scale development can be a highly beneficial sales tool for housebuilders. From innovative wetroom layouts that offer convenience, to new shower technology that caters for multiple- generation households, bathroom design can be a make or break factor in a buyer’s decision-making process.

With this in mind, it’s important for housebuilders to be aware of the rapid advances in bathroom technology that the sector has experienced in recent years, and how these impact different buyer demographics.

Wetroom options

Demand for wetrooms has increased significantly in recent years, and they continue to grow in popularity. They are no longer the preserve of upmarket homes with several bathrooms, but in fact can provide a stylish and practical option at almost any market level.

To put it into context, in value terms the wetroom market is predicted to grow between three and five per cent per annum to 2021, representing an increase of 18 per cent when compared to the market size in 2017.
As an open-plan alternative to the traditional bathroom, wetrooms provide a space-saving and design-led solution that is regarded as a luxurious and accessible feature in the home. This makes the wetroom an ideal option for aspirational design-led buyers, and also for those with reduced mobility, capturing two markets in one.

Space-saving showers

Another bathroom trend that is proving popular in modern housing developments is concealed showers. The minimal, modern look of a concealed valve adds a sense of sophistication to the bathroom, which is bound to appeal to house hunters looking for an emphasis on style.

In the past, developers were faced with a number of challenges around the installation of these units. When fitting a concealed shower valve into a solid wall, the brickwork needed to be chased out to allow the valve to sit at the correct depth, receive the water supply pipes and allow connection to the water outlet – for example a shower arm and fixed shower head, or a wall outlet and flexible shower hose.

However, new innovative slimline valves are available that can be fitted into a cavity as small as 35 mm, making it easier for housebuilders to specify the most stylish possible bathroom, without traditional concerns about installation.

This makes these the perfect option for builds which are tight on space, offering style, without compromising on ease of fit.

Electric showers

Deciding on what type of shower to fit in a development can depend on a range of factors, including cost, ease of installation and the standard of shower experience for the end user.

For the most powerful showering experience, mixer showers are typically recommended. However, advances in electric shower technology mean they are increasingly seen as a good option.

Convenient for families and large house- holds, electric showers heat cold water instantly, so users don’t need to worry about running out of hot water or waiting for the flow to heat up.

Limescale has historically been an issue that has plagued electric units, as residue build-up can have a significant impact on the heating element of a shower. This can have a major effect on performance, with limescale coated heating elements taking more time and more energy to heat water, increasing bills for users, and eventually shortening the lifespan of the product.

In response, manufacturers have devel- oped models with anti-limescale mechanisms. One such feature is phased shutdown technology, which ensures that once the shower is turned off, cold water is drawn in to cool the heating elements and prevent limescale adhesion.

Advances in design have also contributed to the rising popularity of electric showers. Customers once viewed the electric shower very much as the ‘kettle’ of the bathroom – all function, no flair. However, in today’s market, you don’t have to look far to find a sleek, slimline electric shower which bears no resemblance at all to the drab boxes of the past.

Multi-generational living

The UK’s ageing population has led to a boom in the building of retirement communities and homes that need to cater for multiple generations through improved accessibility. Increasingly, new technologies are coming onto the market which reflect these trends in every area of the home, including the bathroom.

Specifically taking into account the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities, leading products often incorporate features such as large, easy to move dials for ease of use, raised markings, and an audible click when settings are adjusted.

Additionally, an illuminated stop/start button, an LED digital setting display and a grey contrasting back box can make units easier to use for those with impaired sight.

Bathroom trends are changing rapidly along with user needs. With more choice than ever, housebuilders that stay on top of these trends, and give consumers what they want, will be the ones that succeed.

Lisa Ward is senior product manager at Bristan