David Belman, President of Belman Homes, shares his observations regarding home bathroom trends from the International Builders Show. In this blog, we take a close look at the future of bathroom vanities—how they are built, what materials are being used in 2019, and how technological advancements are influencing design.
Traditionally, a designer or homeowner has two main options when choosing an arrangement for the primary bathroom area: 1) Traditional wood cabinet with a countertop and sink, or 2) Pedestal base with inset sink. The 2019 International Builders Show, however, revealed some blessedly fresh takes on these time-tested designs.
Whether a designer tends toward a more classic look or something along modern industrial lines, it is hard to get away from the dated aesthetic of bulky, furniture-like vanities. These pieces are typically designed toward retaining the functionality of cabinetry or a chest of drawers while incorporating the plumbing and other necessary hardware for one for more sinks. The modern spin on solid-unit vanity bases, however, loses a bit of the storage capacity compared to vanities of old, but the integration of new technology makes up for this loss with a whole lot of added versatility.
Some of the more futuristic pieces coming out this year combine multiple components, like an open metal base with perhaps a wood or glass shelf and a counter mounted on top. The more versatile styles incorporate additional glass features and multimedia elements, which manage to offset a heavy, solid metal base to create a very open look and feel.
A vanity’s impact on the overall look and feel of a bathroom is also affected by the type and arrangement of the mirror and lighting. Instead of having a typical mirror mounted above the countertop with top-of-mirror lighting, there might be lights mounted on the side or even behind the mirror where direct light is generally unnecessary. A lot of metal vanities have LED lights built in that result in a clean look where the lighting is often sufficient most purposes and additional mirror lighting is unnecessary. When additional light is needed, however, a user can activate the LED-lit mirror option where the mirror itself actually lights up. For the more futuristic user who needs occasional close-up reflection, technological advancement puts two mirrors in one—normal and zoomed-in—with a single pressure-activated touch.
One of the more futuristic ‘vanities of tomorrow’ is part the Kohler Konnect system where one or more components—e.g., the pedestal or mirror—are sensor-rigged where they light up when a user touches their foot to the base or passes their hand under a sensor like they would to turn on an automatic faucet.
With the Kohler Konnect smart vanity system, a second sensor setting can be used as well where the glass becomes frosted and, with a single motion, turns from a window to a door. For example, a metal vanity might have a glass door and shelving where the user can place or store decorative or personal items. If the vanity is in a common-use or guest bathroom and contains decorative items on the interior shelving, the user might like to have that area within the vanity lighted as to display the decorative items. If the same bathroom is repurposed for private use and the user now uses the same shelving to store personal toiletries, they would not want the vanity to appear as a display case. Instead, the user could trigger the frosted glass setting, which could disguise the vanity such that one might not know there is an interior section with shelving at all. This open, mixed-media vanity design provides both privacy and display options that can be switched with less than the flip of a switch.
Use of more non-wood and non-resin materials, such as metal and glass, brings innovation to the traditional pedestal sink setup, and smart LED lighting provides a lot of versatility and options for low-profile lighting that is just as clear and bright, if not clearer and brighter, than traditional bulb lighting.
Most modern ‘smart’ bases are designed for broad spectrum integration and can be fitted with a countertop of the designer or homeowner’s choosing. Many of these bases have sinks that protrude above the counter level as opposed to being set into or below the countertop, which is a common modern look for bathroom sinks, but traditionally set sinks can be made to work in many cases.
Finally, one cannot forget to leave space near or behind the vanity for a power outlet. All features of the smart vanity system and its individual components require electricity, so the user must be able to either have the system hardwired or able to be plugged in. While individual features are independent and optional, these smart home systems work best when the integrated components are active and functional, which also requires a reliable wireless internet setup.