Americans are restive consumers who change their perception of what's hip and cool faster than you can say “all the rage.” Yellow becomes the new beige in the blink of an eye. One minute you're installing dark-colored faucets in your baths, and the next minute buyers are running out of your design centers in horror. The trick is to discover trends that are likely to last longer than the next Fox reality show.
We're here to help. You're about to read our latest collection of Next Big Things—all guaranteed to put you in the know. These trends are not about the next finish (despite what trend watchers say, chrome is still king) or the next hot paint color (white is a color!); they are about products that will enhance the way Americans want to live. New products that will soon become must-haves, such as wine coolers for the burgeoning number of wine enthusiasts. Or, as kitchens become the home's most lived-in space, cabinets designed to keep everything in line.
Trend 1:Tile Style
Thanks to imaginative architects and designers, tile is a hot category, showing up in almost every new house built today. No matter your preference, it's all good. Ceramic is and always will be a popular material, and, with the influx of products from Spain and Italy, there are now a lot more stylish offerings. Stone products such as marble and slate are also an option. But the hottest of all is glass. Because of its translucent and iridescent qualities, glass is excellent by itself for adding drama to a kitchen or bath, or it can be paired with ceramic or stone as an accent. And if you're environmentally conscious, many manufacturers offer tiles that are made entirely from glass collected at curbsides and other recycled products such as windshields and stoplights.
AMAZING GLACE: Drawing inspiration from the light-transmitting qualities of ice, the company's Glace sticks are handmade iridized glass. Each 1-inch-by-6-inch piece is made in the traditional method of ladling molten glass into steel molds and then cutting them once they have cooled. The result, the company says, is ancient-looking glass with varied hues of color. The sticks come in four colors. Ann Sacks. 800-278-8453. www.annsacks.com.
SHIMMERING TEXTURES: Made using the “slumping” technique that subjects standard glass to high temperatures to slump into a mold, this product comes from the manufacturer's Textures line. Shown in a subtle “linen” texture, the product measures 5/16 inches thick, but the line may be ordered in a variety of thicknesses, in 31 through-body colors, in virtually any size, in specified shapes, and with a variety of finish options. UltraGlas. 800-777-2332. www.ultraglas.com
Trend 2: Shower Me
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that people shower way more than they bathe—at least, most people do. This means that for millions of Americans, the tub is a wasted apparatus that takes up space and presents an obstacle to climb over. But some manufacturers see this as an opportunity. “The growth in showering will outpace bathing two to one over the next five years,” says Bill Pavilonis, marketing manager for Sterling's bathing and showering products in Kohler, Wis. This growth is partly related to Americans' busy lifestyle, he says. “Today, showering is preferred over bathing, and consumers want to create an environment in their bathrooms that reflects their very active lifestyle,” he says. “Aging baby boomers also prefer showering and not having to step over a high threshold of a bath.”
FLAT LINERS: The manufacturer says that buyers who prefer to shower will appreciate the Ensemble shower receptor because it has a lower step-over front threshold than a tub. Moreover, the easy entrance and exit are safer for aging populations. Measuring 60 inches wide and 30 inches deep, the unit has a lightly textured, slip-resistance bottom for secure footing and a molded draft toward the drain. Left-hand and right-hand configurations are available. Sterling. 800-783-7546. www.sterlingplumbing.com.
ROYALE WASH: Sometimes a relaxing shower is preferable to power washing. For those times, a rain showerhead is the best choice. Measuring 14 inches across, the Downpour Air Royale is the queen of all shower-heads. The unit's air-injection technology draws the surrounding air inside the showerhead and infuses the water with air bubbles for an invigorating shower, the company says. It is available in chrome. Hansgrohe. 770-360-9880. www.hansgrohe-usa.com
Trend 3: Clean Water
The amount of money Americans spend on bottled water every year is staggering—about $4 billion, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington. Whether or not this is money well spent is a question worth asking: Tap water is not as bad as people think, and bottled water can be worse than you might imagine. It is estimated, the NRDC says, that about one-fourth of bottled water is bottled tap water—sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not—and as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water. Manufacturers believe home buyers can eliminate the middle man and filter their own water at home, which is why filtering faucets are making a splash. “We believe there is a real opportunity there,” says Danette Goen, a product development manager with Indianapolis-based Delta Faucets. Delta has teamed up with PUR Water Filtration Products to bring a new faucet to the market. “Water still varies from city to city, but some have that chlorine taste,” says Goen. “Our new product removes chlorine taste but retains the fluoride.”
CRISP 'N' CLEAN: The Simply PUR Water Filtration System delivers bottled-water quality via an all-inclusive filtration system that coordinates with a variety of the company's faucets, the company says. The unit filters dirt and rust, reduces 32 potentially harmful contaminants, and retains beneficial fluoride. A light indicator on the faucet notifies homeowners when the PUR three-stage filter needs to be changed. Delta Faucet Co. 800-345-3358. www.deltafaucet.com.
FILTER THIS: The manufacturer's popular Chateau faucet now comes with an integrated filtration system featuring ChoiceFlo that allows consumers to get both filtered and ordinary tap water from their kitchen faucets with no attachments. The product is essentially one faucet spout with two water options that are controlled via a separate handle. It uses an activated carbon block filter that lasts six months, says the company. Moen. 800-289-6636. www.moen.com.