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Of all the products in the bathroom, arguably the best-sales performer over the past couple of years has been bathroom furniture. So much so, industry experts suggest storage is featured in the majority of bathrooms now. Certainly managing director of Duravit UK Marti Carroll believes this to be true, when he comments: “Over the last few years, we have seen bathroom furniture become one of the strongest growth areas for bathrooms and, more often than not, included as an important part of the overall bathroom sale." And head of group marketing at Pura Bathroom Group Stuart Newbury puts some figures to the increase in furniture sales, stating it has resulted in “year on year growth of approximately 10%.” He states this is because the company finds “that almost 80%” of its showroom sales now include bathroom furniture.
The growth in popularity could be attributed to the increase of awareness or, as some suggest, an increase in unit choice and styles to allow for wider use in a variety of projects. National sales and marketing manager of Mereway Bathrooms Tony McNeally points out: “Ranges now include more choice when it comes to storage. Typically you will find options of tall units, mixtures of open and closed shelving and the introduction of other options such as wicker baskets.” And this has been reflected in manufacturers who have expanded the offer of bathroom furniture in their portfolio. Laura Ashley and Roper Rhodes are both continuing to expand the cabinetry in its collection, while Stuart Newbury of Pura Bathroom Group continues: “In 2016 we expanded our range of D30 ceramic basins, which in turn required us to enhance the number of sizes and configuration options of the M Series Furniture range. This has given designers the flexibility to specify M Series furniture in a variety of bathroom sizes and shapes, achieving marked growth.”
But of all the unit choices now available to the designer, the most popular options remain the underbasin unit. Marketing services manager for Utopia Bathrooms explains: “The majority of orders will always have a basin unit and, owing to the ever popular modular look, the toilet unit is now moving into third place with a mirror or mirrored cabinet being purchase to match the wash basin unit.”
Similarly to kitchen furniture, while contemporary-style storage remains king for on-trend interiors, there has been a recent move towards more classical cabinetry. Joining the line-up of high and matt gloss handleless drawers and push to open wall units, has been the growth of handpainted furniture. Sam Ball of Utopia points out how this trend is reflected in her company’s sales, commenting: “The success of our Roseberry painted timber range says it all. Traditional kitchens have been particularly popular and so it’s no surprise how well Roseberry has been received but, having said that, it has surpassed even our expectations.” She continues: “At the same time, the modular sector is showing exceptional growth and Utopia has just launched three top-end modular ranges to take advantage of this opportunity.”
However, Tony McNally of Mereway Bathrooms argues that classically-styled furniture has now overtaken handleless sales: “Traditional freestanding furniture is currently most popular and one of the strongest growth areas. Our latest range Knightsbridge is a design-led collection that taps into the trend for painted furniture.”
A wider variety of furniture has also led to a greater choice of finish options, from wood decors through to cool, Nordic or neutral palettes. It’s no longer white high gloss which dominates sales. In fact, Tony McNally states: “We are seeing a rise in demand for colours rather than white”. While interestingly, industry experts tend to agree that colour or texture in bathroom furniture helps provide options to make the space tailored for consumers’ interior requirements, there seems to be some discrepancy about how much choice should be offered. Martin Carroll of Duravit states: “The introduction of a wider range of colours and textures in bathroom furniture is following the trend for individuality in design; customers want to create a bathroom to suit their personality and bringing in colour and texture is one way to do this. With 30 different surfaces, available for our L-Cube furniture series, the scope for design freedom is practically unlimited.” Yet some counter too much choice can be confusing, as Sam Ball states: “Rather than offering all products in every colourway, we are now offering a narrowed down range as our research has found that too much choice scares off the consumer rather than enticing them. Excessive choice can be overwhelming and it goes in the ‘too hard’ box!”
Whatever the view of suppliers, about the breadth of offer for bathroom furniture frontals, the key look seems to be for shades of grey, as well as wood. Stuart Newbury of the Pura Bathrooms Group points out: “UK bathroom tastes now seem to be moving away from traditional beiges and creams. The key trend at the moment is for every shade of grey.” He adds: “Alongside Deuco bathroom furniture’s grey options, our muted earthy tones of Cashmere, Mussel and Lava are still very popular – especially when complemented by natural wood finish carcases.” And product designer at Roper Rhodes Keith Alcock agrees, commenting: “Wood finishes continue to be popular, although the grain pattern and finish needs to be carefully selected and preferences are changing yearly. Outside of this, painted finishes in shades of grey continue to prevail.”
However, it’s not only the external appearance of furniture which is of growing significance to consumers. Just as kitchen cabinets now conceal a variety of wirework and drawer organisation, bathrooms are expected to have similar storage optimisation for ease of use. Keith Alcock of Roper Rhodes continues: “Our Scheme and Pursuit ranges provide really useful, additional storage organisers.” While, Sam Ball states such is the importance of internal storage, now, that: “Dividers in drawers are now the norm, not an upgrade.”
Therefore, to differentiate their furniture offer, manufacturers have sought to enhance their offer with integrated lighting, and even offering music with built-in Bluetooth. It provides more functional furniture, with LEDs able to offer discrete night time navigation or to illuminate the interior to make the contents easier to find. However, with the addition of Bluetooth streaming for music, it can also enhance the overall experience of the bathroom.
Stuart Newbury says: “Within the bathroom furniture market, top-end manufacturers like Deuco are investing in new technology to deliver better quality features such as integrated lighting, soft close drawers and thoughtful features like cut-outs in drawers to allow easier installation around pipework.” And Sam Ball points out the latest developments in her company’s modular furniture ranges, which are “all firsts for Utopia, such as motion-activated integrated lighting and Bluetooth integrated sound system.”
Certainly the market for bathroom furniture shows no signs of slowing, even despite Brexit, as there is still opportunity for sales. Keith Alcock points out: “I can only see continued growth in this area. There are still millions of bathrooms out there with insufficient provision and I’m sure homeowners will be convinced to introduce bathroom furniture when it is time to refurbish.” And Sam Ball agrees: “Although sales are healthy at the moment, we believe there is still a massive opportunity out there to encourage consumers to incorporate practical but stylish storage space into their bathroom.” In fact, Stuart Newbury goes as far as to say his company could witness double digit growth in bathroom furniture sales, similar to its current pattern of sales: “We see our Deuco and Pura Bathroom furniture ranges at worst holding their own over the next two years and at best improving sales a minimum of 10% year-on-year.”
So take a look at the latest lines in bathroom furniture, taking into account not only the range of fashionable frontals now on offer but also embedded technology for added functionality. And you can help consumers discover what’s in store for their future bathroom scheme.