Heads up

15 Jun, 15

Kitchens & Bathrooms News reports it’s not all about the drench-type shower

For most bathrooms, the shower is an integral part of a new or refurbishment project. In fact, with bathroom interiors being minimal in styling, with low level shower trays and frameless enclosures, it is the shower itself which can often be a design focus. That’s certainly the belief of marketing manager for Roca Group UK Georgina Spencer who comments: “The shower head holds a lot of purchasing power, as it plays a key part of the aesthetics of the bathroom, particularly with the current trend towards open-plan showering area where the brassware is instantly visible.”

Heads above

And, arguably the most dominating feature of a shower is the showerhead. Brand and design director of Aqualisa, Joanne Savage says: “It’s a very important factor. Consumers often view the shower head as the main interaction point of their showering experience and as a result may overlook the controller which actually determines the main features of the shower.” It’s not a view shared by all, as managing director of Hansgrohe UK Martin Mongan says: “All the elements are important when considering the design of the shower”, but he adds: “the way the water is delivered is paramount to providing a truly individual experience.”

Sponsored Video

Spa-like drench

And the darling of the showerhead world, without question, remains the drench head. Sales and marketing director Michael Sammon explains why: “The much sought after ‘drench effect’ was promoted by the trend for spa-like bathrooms dedicated to wellness and luxury. Because this style is still popular, the drench shower is still very much in demand.” Or even, put quite simply, bigger is often (if not always) considered better. Certainly those were the finding of consumer research conducted by Methven, as product manager at Methven UK, Barbara Osborne explains: “The research revealed that perception was ‘big is best’ but when we delved deeper, what consumers are actually looking for is a powerful shower that maximises water force and coverage.”

Whether it’s the sheer size or volume of water coverage driving sales, the majority of manufacturers would concur, the drench model is among their most popular models. Georgina Spencer of Roca comments: “Our large overhead showerheads are among the best sellers, with the new Rainsense and Raindream models having been launched in response to this growing trend.” And sales director of Just Taps Plus, Jeevan Seth says he has noticed this in his company’s sales: “The most common seller would have to be the drench effect shower head but we are experiencing increasing demand in the cascade effect too.”

Small(ish) but perfectly formed

Of these, industry experts suggest drench heads that measure 200mm or 300mm, large but not extravagant, are the fastest-growing models. Jeevan Seth at Just Taps Plus points out: “Our most popular type of shower head is 200mm in size, which we believe is probably common to many manufacturers. We have found a fairly equal split between round and models.” And Michael Sammon of Frontline Bathrooms adds 200mm shower heads are also significant to his showering sales: “Our fastest-growing shower head model is the LED Stainless Steel Round Shower Head which measures 200mm in diameter. The shower head’s affordable price is another reason for its growing popularity and illustrates how all sections of the market, not just the tope, are now seeking additional features synonymous with wellness and luxury in shower heads.”

Slimmer shower pickings

It means manufacturers are turning to design to differentiate their higher-priced shower heads, and here is where slim is king. There has been a distinct design trend for thinner profile, not to mention the added luxury of lighting. Marketing manager at Abode, Helen Clark says: “Our 3mm, stainless steel Storm showerheads, measuring up to a huge diameter 400mm, with the circular design are still proving to be the most popular.” While, marketing manager of Utopia, Sam Ball says slender profile shower heads were introduced with its Aras showers to meet the demand from retailers: “So far, they have been the best-selling products in the new brassware range.” And it’s a trend that looks set to continue for the next couple of years. That’s the belief of Joanne Savage from Aqualisa who says: “We’re seeing a shift towards thinner heads, as well as heads with integrated LED lights and chromatherapy lights in particular.”

Twice as nice

However, as we reported last year, it’s not all about the deluge as consumers want the flexibility of overhead and handshower. Enter the dual head model. This is now an established trend for bathroom designers, with Joanne Savage reporting: “Over 50% of our sales are now dual outlet showers”. For ageing consumers or those with young families, the dual head shower really comes into its own as users can swap from a powerful overhead to a more manageable hand-held option. Sam Ball of Utopia adds: “Many parents find the dreaded hair wash session much easier with a handset and likewise the elderly seem to prefer using a handset rather than getting blasted with a deluge of water from an overhead rose. However a drench head is often the wake-up call that so many of us need, especially on a Monday morning.”

And dual head shower sales are supported by the mega trend of an ageing population. This combined with higher-priced housing and care homes, means more generations could be living under one roof. Michael Sammon of Frontline Bathrooms agrees: “The focus on inclusive design will grow in the coming years due to a growing ageing population and an increase in the number of multi-generational homes.”

Water efficiency and performance

With all this talk of deluges and dual head showers, designers could be forgiven for thinking that water-efficiency has been ‘thrown out with the bath water’ in terms of design. But not so. The showerhead has now been finely tuned to optimise rather than sacrifice water use. Sean McGran of Alchemy Design Awards says: “Whether it’s due to a growing eco-conscience on the part of the consumer or indeed, the ever more stringent UK water-regulations, specifiers are increasingly looking for something which has all the bells and whistles but which falls within reasonable flow-rate limitations and therefore doesn’t use excessive amounts of water to operate effectively.”

However, this message may not have filtered down to consumers, as Georgina Spencer says: “Saving water is a huge issue for the bathroom industry and the showering market is not an exception to this. However consumers are increasingly opting for a shower over a bath because of the amount of water they can save by doing so, but they really want a powerful showering experience. It is therefore important that any water-saving technology is introduced carefully [to consumers], with the message that less water does not mean less performance.”

Certainly showering manufacturers have sought to introduce technologies, and accomplished designers will explain how aerators, air injection systems, not to mention two patented technologies exclusively offered by Methven UK, will mean consumers can save water. Senior technical manager at Triton, Steve Saunders adds: “Looking at the future, as homeowners continue to become more environmentally aware, we expect the demand for eco products to increase. Retailers therefore have a growing market to target with the latest generation of water-saving shower heads.”

Shape and sound

The design of showerheads will not stand still, which apparently is a good job as Joanne Savage says: “Design savvy homeowners are moving away from the ‘typical’ shower head look – they want a striking feature in their bathroom so shower head designs will become more adventurous.” And manufacturers have already made a good start, whether that’s been through form such as a rounded rectangular overhead to mimic the shape of shoulders underneath, or halo shape for a spa-like  ‘breathing hole’ , or even advances in fluid dynamics, such as TOTO’s laminar flow with two speeds of water in the same jet to hug the body. Already we have seen the addition of lighting, and recently even music with the likes of the removable Bluetooth speaker, in the Kohler Moxie showerhead. One thing is for sure, showerhead design now can be considered anything but typical and will be central to bathroom project design.

 This feature first appeared in Kitchens & Bathrooms News April 2015 issue