NKBA Research: Living Impacts Design Part II

The home environment is evolving at a rapid pace. Even before months of quarantine and working from home created new challenges, requirements and habits in the residential space, the impact of various lifestyles, and generational needs were becoming evident in design, specifically in the kitchen and bath space.

Image credit: Svetiana Tryaskina, Estee Design. Photographer: Eric Rotter, Eric Rotter Photography. 

In its latest research, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) examined how the needs and motivations of demographic groups are affecting design directions and specific elements. The research took a deeper dive into the functional and emotional needs of homeowners, and how they’re shaping the look and performance of kitchens and baths.

Several ideas emerged, from technology for the connected home, to health and wellness, to sustainability and recycling, to simpler, more streamlined environments.

Image credit: Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

The research—Living Impacts Design—uncovered an interesting correlation between lifestyle and life stage evolution and certain design trends gaining traction. In other words, form is following function in a whole new way, accommodating not just actual use, but serving the way different generations, individuals, and family units design their home spaces—especially kitchens and baths.

Four macro themes emerged from the research. And while these themes are distinct, they are also very much intertwined: Connected Living; Simplified Living; Living in Place; and Healthy Living.

Part 1 of this series appeared in April and examined Connected Living and Simplified Living, and Part 2 reports on Living in Place and Healthy Living.

Living In Place

The NKBA has devoted a significant effort to this topic of making spaces safe, comfortable, and useable for all individuals and abilities. This design works for everyone—today, tomorrow, and for multiple generations living in the same dwelling.

Among specifiers, 67 percent focused on the desire to remain in the family home as the top factor influencing Living in Place design. This was followed by 65 percent who said ensuring that the bathroom is a safe and comfortable space for all generations, and 59 percent saying kitchens that are safe and easy for all ages and skill levels to use.

Image Credit: Garrison Hullinger, Garrison Hullinger Interior Design. Photographer: Blackstone Edge Studio

Among the top design solutions are non-slip flooring or tile in the bathroom, tub, and shower, cited by 86 percent of respondents; 81 percent put a seat in the shower; zero-clearance shower entry or no doors, wider doorways and attractive, non-institutional-looking grab bars were cited by more than 73 percent.

Healthy Living

Finally, the fourth major influence, which is becoming increasingly crucial in today’s environment: Healthy Living.

Image credit: Sarah Robertson, AKBD, Studio Dearborn. Photographer: Adam Kane Macchia Photography

Healthy lifestyles include a deeper connection with nature via maximum views to the outdoors, taking advantage of morning light, and balancing circadian rhythms with lighting; wide, zero-entry doorways to outdoor areas; selecting natural materials, like warm woods, natural stones, and reclaimed woods and metals; and quite significantly, according to the research, healthy eating.

Image Credit: Elma Gardner, CMKBD, By Design Studio. Photographer: Jeffrey A. Davis Photography

To meet these needs, design solutions for the kitchen include more refrigerator space and flexible cool drawers to accommodate fresh produce, meats, and dairy, giant sinks to clean all of that produce; integrated areas to prep meals, and recycling and composting centers.

Image credit: Lauren Levant, Lauren Levant Interior and Paul Bentham.

In the bathroom, health and wellness elements include body jets in the tub or shower, aromatherapy, a sauna, chromatherapy, and shelves for candles. Some even cited a float tank for sensory deprivation therapy among elements promoting the bathroom as a spa-like place to escape, relax and heal the body.

Additional details and a complete breakdown of the NKBA Living Impacts Design research is available in the NKBA store under “Market Research Reports” at store.nkba.org.

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