A unique room scene, or vignette, is the best way to show product. It gives the customer a feel for how it can look in her home.

More and more consumers are opting for a deep soaking tub to wile away their aches and pains.
No matter what the style, the key trend in bath products today seems to be "the more luxurious, the better." Consumers looking to redesign a single bath, or remodeling their homes to include more, bigger and better baths, want the materials and finishes to be posh, make an impact and offer supreme functionality.

While the same could probably be said of the kitchen -- with the trend toward gourmet appliances, furniture-style cabinetry and stone counter surfaces -- the bath has become a personal refuge and retreat. Consumers are willing to spend more to obtain the luxury they feel they deserve in a bath. Is your showroom ready to meet the challenge?

When designing displays for your showroom, no matter what products you are selling, be sure to select products that have enough pizzazz to wow guests and make a powerful style statement in their own right. Function and easy-care products may be more of an issue when it comes to main baths geared towards families with children but, even there, stylish appearance and amenities are increasingly in demand.

Let's start with the plumbing fixture selection for master baths. (While you likely aren't selling these products, it's good to know what's popular because it affects the selection of your flooring products.) The choice of these fixtures is most often guided by style mixed with a practical sense of what works for individual lifestyles. The ultimate goal is creating a retreat that looks great and works even better!

For that reason, whirlpool tubs have become something of a status symbol over the years. But even more recently, shower systems and body sprays have been catching on with the consumer. These systems have evolved the shower into large, walk-in, spa-like rooms that also feature rain showerheads, handsprays and even steam. These two luxury bathing products are facing off, creating the need for larger master baths that incorporate large glass-enclosed showers that have all of the above mentioned accoutrements along with the tub.

What does this mean for the floor covering dealer? Well besides a larger bath that translates into the sale of more floor covering products, it also means that you need to be showing luxurious materials that complement these products. As I am always the advocate for model rooms and vignettes to enhance product selection, consider the above trends when planning your showroom displays.

If you can only afford to do one room vignette, make it the best you can. Align yourself with a plumbing dealer and exchange materials for your respective showrooms. Both of you will benefit from the effort by increased sales of more upscale products.

To play up the round shape of this tub, the designer continued the circular theme in the surrounding walls. Dramatic lighting accents the tile walls.
But back to product selection. Choose your materials for this vignette with an eye for luxury and upkeep. The idea here is to create that wonderful refuge that doesn't require a maid. Choose materials that are unique, not the everyday run of the mill. Sometimes it's the use of an interesting color or texture that sets your display apart from the norm.

Another tip: As I said, whirlpool tubs have been a status symbol for many years. But many in the bath industry are seeing a trend away from whirlpool tubs towards deep soaking tubs. Also, if the client is still interested in a whirlpool tub, they most likely are looking for a tub that just fits one person. And when I say deep soaking tubs, I mean at least 20 inches deep. If you handle ceramic tile, you could create a deep tub in your showroom without the need for the plumbing fixture at all! Create a custom-sized and shaped product out of tile.

In terms of toilets, industry leaders agree that the plethora of styles available in the marketplace make it easy to find the perfect product. The trend here is toward comfort-height seats. Bidets are on the wane. Most sources report that there is less interest in this product. What demand exists is primarily fueled by those who extensively travel in Europe.

Moving on to the vanity area, the popularity of vessel sinks (bowls that sit on top of the counter) seem to be the biggest news here. A second noteworthy trend is the use of glass sinks and counters with lighting from below. Currently, there is a surge in wall-mounted faucets to complement these sinks. In all cases, a shift toward higher countertop heights is seen in all areas of the country.

Other popular looks for sinks include porcelain, under-mounted sinks and hand-painted sink styles. In my mind, that means that the counter surface materials are of prime importance too. A unique selection of stone, or solid-surfacing material (due to easy care), is the ticket here. As the height of the counter rises, sometimes this is achieved by the use of wall-hung vanities, sometimes as much as 12 inches off the floor, which creates more opportunity to show off the floor!

Countertop materials continue to be natural stone, followed by increasing requests for solid-surface materials. Part of this trend may be attributed to the increasing ability of solid-surface manufacturers to improve the looks of their products, but also to the aspect of care and maintenance. Composite and onyx materials are experiencing growing demand because they offer some unusual colorations in the red and blue families that are non-existent or pricey in natural materials.

Designers who wish to make their installations more personalized and unique are looking to ceramic tile. The variety of sizes and materials, along with the ability to mix products, is the driving force that will keep this category alive and well.

Under the sinks, custom-made vanities are increasingly the rage. The key here is featuring plenty of specific storage options, or stand-alone vanities with some storage and other matching cabinetry that provides more specialized storage options. It's all about personalization. Furniture-style vanities are key here. Designs that currently are popular are retro styles of the 1920s and '30s. They're essentially reinterpretations of the Art Deco era.

Wood selection is also key. Look for continued consumer interest in exotic species, as well as the use of medium to darker woods. Richly stained woods are popular as well. These would include special techniques like glazing and antiquing. While blonder woods seem to be on the wane, whites are much softer and generally sport patinas and glazes.

As for finishes, polished or brushed nickel is now in heavy demand. Popular 10 years ago, the resurgence of this metal is attributed to its ability to hold its color over time. Another interesting aspect is the ability of nickel to absorb the colors around it, so it's constantly changing.

Bronzes and black finishes are gaining popularity in faucets as well as hardware. The finishes are getting more decorative and beautiful, whereas the styles are becoming simpler. There are now growing choices in these categories. Most industry leaders don't see a return to gold or polished brass for quite awhile.

Consider utilizing products in these luxury categories to create show-stopping displays in your showroom. Your customers -- and your bottom line -- will love it!