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From finishes to fixtures to new technology and lighting regulations, it can be hard to keep track of everything that’s going on in the kitchen and bath world. For Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, (NKBA) the nonprofit entity responsible for putting on the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS, the industry’s preeminent trade show) and certifying tens of thousands of kitchen and bath professionals across the country, it’s all in a day’s work. Last month, the NKBA put out its latest Kitchen and Bath Market Outlook, an extensive report on the state of the industry and what to expect in the coming years. AD PRO caught up with Darcy to learn about the most important takeaways—and how they’ll affect anyone designing a kitchen or bath in the near future.
AD PRO: How does the NKBA go about collecting these results?
Bill Darcy: We partner with Farnsworth Group to get out data. The report was developed using info from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Center for Housing at Harvard. We also did interviews with contractors, builders, and designers.
AD PRO: What surprised you most about this year’s report?
BD: The smart home technology era has begun and continues, but what interested me is that as fast as it’s entering the marketplace, consumers haven’t totally yet embraced it.
AD PRO: Interesting. So what does that mean for designers?
BD: Designers need to prepare to incorporate more tech into designs and contractors and remodelers need to really educate themselves so that they can help clients make these decisions. The amount of advanced planning that’s required for smart homes is incredible. There are so many new products coming into the market, so we want to make sure that when the pace picks up we’re prepared. It really has to make a difference in their lives.
AD PRO: What are the other takeaways that are most important to professional designers?
BD: Besides technology, it’s really about universal living. A lot of homeowners are considering adapting their homes for all phases of life. Data tells us that now through 2036, 10,000 people each day will celebrate their 65th birthday. There are millions of people who have no plans to sell their homes, so renovating for the universal home is key. This means wider doorways, halls to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, voice-controlled systems. This isn’t just for older people, it’s anyone regardless of physical abilities. Its a huge opportunity for our designer members to make sure they’re prepared to provide the most exciting spaces for people for the long term.
AD PRO: So we’re seeing more renovation than new builds in the future?
BD: Yes. And it becomes more interesting when you add in new technology because all of these products are available, so you have to think about how you prepare for them even if they’re not being added in at the time. For example, putting wiring behind the wall for products they might add in the future. You have to think beyond the immediate use. If people are staying in their homes, the kitchen and baths are where they’re remodeling.
AD PRO: What other major changes can designers expect in the next year or two?
BD: For kitchens, specifically, as far as style goes, demand for farmhouse, transitional, and contemporary have overtaken traditional, and we see that continuing. We continue to see white and gray painted cabinets in bathroom and kitchen. Quartz continues to lead in countertop, while hardwood floors dominate. There’s more path lighting under cabinets, more of a general focus on lighting. As for storage, we’re seeing more of a demand for customized storage. I went to Eurocucina in 2014 and I was blown away by the storage and obviously, in Europe they often have smaller spaces, so it seems that that is now even flowing into larger kitchens. In the bath, we see similar trends with gray and white, baths with built-in furniture, wood cabinets, quartz, and porcelain tile floors. And we expect that all to continue.
AD PRO: In what ways are new technologies changing kitchen and bath projects?
BD: We’re seeing lighting, heating, voice-controlled systems, app-based controls from a smartphone. It’s interesting to think about what defines a smart home. Is it just having an Alexa on the counter? It’s what the consumer feels. And again, it’s what adds value. How important is it, really, for your dishwasher to tell you it’s done? We need to be finding the tools that really change your quality of life.
AD PRO: How do environmental factors affect the kitchen and bath industry?
BD: Regulations affect the way products are manufactured; stains and paints, how trees are harvested; that’s impacting pricing. There’s also now a greater interest from the customer and the designer in using more sustainable materials, recycled products. Anything that impacts air quality is important; people are sensitive to health in that way, which ties into environmental factors.
AD PRO: What’s next for NKBA?
BD: We’re going to be focused on giving strong digital presence, so we’re launching a new website, which will show examples of trends to make it easier for designers to follow. We want to be as much a service to our designers as we can be.