Elevating bathrooms & kitchens

By Simon Bowden

At first glance, kitchens and bathrooms can appear to be mere functional spaces where many of life’s daily chores are taken care of, but many homeowners are looking for spaces that go beyond function. They demand rooms they want to spend time in, that inspire them to create, or that simply allow them to relax and let the stresses and strains of busy lives float away.

From unique lighting fixtures to underfloor heating, and everything in between, manufacturers have stepped up to ensure that whatever the customer wants is now available to them.


Bath time’s not just for kids

A recent survey showed that half of North Americans take a bath every week, and more than half wished they could take more baths than they do.

Results showed that a lack of time was a factor in fewer bathing opportunities, but also high on the list of reasons for spending less time bathing was a poor bath environment – namely the tub being too small, dirty or poorly grouted.

With most people wanting to spend more time bathing than they currently do, that desire is an opportunity that contractors can tap into.

“A bathroom is a very personal space and people should take the effort to make it their own,” says Kenana Al-Yakobi, channel manager of Pfister Canada for Spectrum Brands. “Creating a space that exactly fits your needs is the ultimate form of self-care. Investing in a home spa
will bring peace of mind for the long-term.”


Toilet gets a lift

“Spa” is one of those words that contractors often hear from their clients when they are describing the kind of bathroom they want to have. It smacks of luxury getaways to the Arizona desert or the mountains of B.C. It encapsulates luxury, relaxation and self-indulgence.

To fit this mood, even the toilet has been transformed over recent years. Multi-functional electronic smart toilets can run to many thousands of dollars. Some include the functions of a bidet, allowing for a more hygienic experience.

Common in Japan and parts of Europe, the smart toilet is making inroads in the North American market. Beyond the cleanliness factor, those who suffer from increasingly common IBD disorders such as Crohn’s and colitis find added relief.

Skirted and wall-hung toilets are also proving to be a hit in the modern bathroom. The advantages of these fixtures is both in cleanliness and design. The lines are much sharper and match with the spa feel, while making cleaning also quicker and easier. Let’s face it, anything that means you spend less time with your head stuck behind a toilet is a winner.


They have a size for that

The bathtub versus shower fight has swung one way and then the other for many years, and with the rise of apartment living it seemed the more compact shower was set to win the day. However, the bathtub has staged something of a comeback, with many condo owners still wanting to enjoy a soak after a long day despite the smaller size of their bathrooms.

Rather than leaving condo owners with showers as the only solution in the bathroom, manufacturers have stepped up to provide a more relaxed option.

A number of companies realized that alcove tub sales were being negatively affected since these smaller bathrooms would require significant construction to fit a standard 60” tub,
explains Diana Di Carlo, operations manager with The Water Closet showroom in Mississauga, Ont.

“So, in came the 55” tub,” she says. “It’s a smart response as it gives someone the opportunity to keep a tub in the home, not disrupt the layout of that bathroom and still get that spa
feeling everybody wants.” Sinks have also been shrunk in size to make the most of a tiny bathroom’s square footage. There are even products available that can transform the unused real estate on top of the toilet tank into a spot to wash hands.

Almost half of Canadians plan to renovate their home this year and will spend an
average of $10,211. Nearly 90 per cent of Canadians view the money spent on
renovations as an investment.


A wise investment
In the kitchen, advancements in materials and finishes are feeding the move away from more traditional styles for a sizeable number of Canadian consumers.

Composite materials and an array of available colours means it does not take a lot of effort to deliver a unique look and feel that will keep customers happily working on their raspberry coulis or apple and cheese frittatas for hours at a time. But customers are also looking for more under the countertop.

Garbage disposers and water filters are even becoming important items in the kitchen, but are options that may be overlooked by a homeowner whose focus is on granite countertops, so they are worth mentioning to clients.


Making water smarter
Out of sight, but bringing peace of mind are intelligent, self-learning water systems that can now be hooked up to water lines to monitor water usage over time. These systems mitigate against leaks and damaging flood events by sending an alert to a smartphone if they sense more water than usual is being used. If the user is away from home, smart systems can be used to turn off the water supply and even send an alert to a homeowner’s plumber.

“By making water smarter through innovation, we’re giving consumers the power to be proactive in protecting themselves from costly water damage, while offering an advanced solution for water conservation in the home,” said Garry Scott, vice-president, marking and eCommerce, Moen Canada.

“Our proactive system runs daily tests on the home’s water supply to help identify vulnerabilities, including microleaks increased water pressure, both of which are early indicators of a potential catastrophic pipe burst, which could lead to mould behind walls and
other types of water damage.”


Bringing value to the customer

Thinking about the individual needs of each customer will ensure they get the room they
want and the contractor doesn’t miss any opportunities.

A spa bath can feel like a luxury item to many, but if you are working with a family that has a child with severe eczema, or a parent with arthritis, suddenly what seemed like an indulgent, big-ticket item transforms into a valuable investment in their health.

It doesn’t get much better than creating a room that not only functions well and looks good, but actually makes the customer feel good when using it.