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High-End Projects Seen Leading Kitchen, Bath Market Surge

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ — Although forecasts for low- and mid-range project spending have each been revised upward, it’s the high end of the kitchen and bath market that will “shine” in the months ahead, according to the latest forecast issued by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

According to the latest NKBA forecast, released this summer, the high end of the kitchen/bath market is now expected to surge by more 28% compared to 2020 ­– topping the association’s initial 19.8% projection) ­– as pent-up demand, robust savings and sharply rising home appreciation “encourage homeowners to go the extra mile” when it comes to spending.

In its latest market forecast, the Hackettstown, NJ-based NKBA revised its 2021 industry sales projection to $170.9 billion in kitchen and bath spending, up by 21.4% from 2020’s $140.8 billion and nearly 8% higher than the association’s initial estimate for the year. New construction kitchen and bath spending is now expected to exceed 2020 by 28.5%, while kitchen and bath remodeling expenditures are expected to climb by 12.5%, according to the NKBA. Total kitchen spending (new construction and remodel) is now targeted at $81 billion, with bath spending estimated at $89 billion, both more than 20% above last year and appreciably higher than the NKBA’s initial forecast.

The “red-hot market,” according to the NKBA “is a continuation of a positive ‘perfect storm’ that began in the second half of last year and hasn’t let up, all related in one way or another to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“First came the buildup of savings, as homeowners experiencing the unknowns of the COVID-19 lockdown decided to err on the side of caution,” the NKBA said, adding that “much of it wasn’t voluntary, as spending on dining, entertainment, travel and leisure came to a screeching halt.

“Adding to the dramatic savings growth were the generous government stimulus programs that poured $5 trillion into the hands of consumers. As homes suddenly began doubling as schools and offices, configuration changes practically became mandatory. The kitchen morphed into the family hub and previous health and wellness trends for both bathroom and kitchen accelerated in urgency. And all that extra time at home made more homeowners realize a makeover was badly needed.”

“Add to that record-low interest rates that have made home-related loans very attractive, and steep home appreciation with demand far outstripping supply, and all the elements have neatly fallen into place.”

Among the NKBA’s other key conclusions:

n Home Improvement Tops Discretionary Spending: Nearly 1 in 3 homeowners plan to boost their home-improvement discretionary spending this year, well above the 1 in 5 (or fewer) who plan such increases for eating out, entertaining, travel or health. In fact, the average home-improvement project price point is 25% higher than last year, according to the NKBA.

n Kitchen & Bath Are Top Choices: For those planning home improvements this year, kitchens and primary baths rank #1 and #2, respectively, among a dozen home areas offered. More than half of those surveyed (55%) said they planned to remodel their kitchen, while 40% cited their primary bathroom. Exterior (37%), patio/deck (29%) and primary bedroom (29%) round out the top five areas for anticipated remodeling, the NKBA said.

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Product, Labor Shortages Seen Impacting Design Firms

PALO ALTO, CA — More than three quarters of businesses in the construction and architectural/design services sectors report that product and material shortages and costs impacted their businesses in the second quarter of this year, while more than half of firms in both sectors report labor shortages and costs impacted their businesses, according to Houzz, Inc., the Palo Alto, CA-based online platform for home remodeling and design.

According to the Q3 2021 “Houzz Renovation Barometer” – which tracks residential renovation market expectations, project backlogs and recent activity – more than nine in 10 businesses across both sectors reported second-quarter increases in costs for lumber, copper, steel and aluminum, although about half of the surveyed businesses do not believe that costs will continue to increase in this year’s third quarter. Additional materials that construction pros anticipate increasing in cost include plastic, concrete, paint, foam, and drywall. Interior designers anticipate increased prices for appliances, furniture, and cabinetry in the third quarter, Houzz said.

More than nine in 10 construction businesses report moderate to severe skilled labor shortages, with carpenters, laborers, framers, cabinet specialists and plumbers in particularly short supply.

The Houzz Barometer also revealed that construction pros experienced their busiest quarter in six years, and that confidence among construction and design businesses for home renovation activity remains strong.

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Housing Affordability Reported Down on Rising Prices

WASHINGTON, DC — Soaring building material costs, high demand and low inventory have added tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home, causing housing affordability to fall to its lowest level in nearly a decade during the second quarter of 2021, the National Association of Home Builders reported.

According to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index, released in August, 56.6% of new and existing homes that sold between the beginning of April and the end of June were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $79,900. This is down sharply from the 63.1% of homes sold in the first quarter of 2021, and the lowest affordability level since the first quarter of 2012, the NAHB said.

NAHB analysis reveals that higher costs for lumber products have added nearly $30,000 to the price of an average new single-family home, observed Robert Dietz, chief economist for the Washington, DC-based trade association, who reported that the national median home price surged to a record $350,000 in the second quarter, up $30,000 from the first quarter, the largest quarterly price hike in the history of the series.

“With the U.S. housing market more than 1 million homes short of what is needed to meet the nation’s demand, policymakers need to focus on supply-side solutions that will enable builders to increase housing production and rein in rising home prices,” Dietz said.


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Kohler Details Progress on Key Corporate Initiatives

KOHLER, WI — Kohler Co., the Kohler, WI-based manufacturer of plumbing products, tile, cabinetry and lighting, has outlined a series of steps the company is taking to adhere to corporate commitments tied to social, governance and environmental issues.

Kohler’s 2020 Believing in Better Metrics Report, released in August, addressed the progress being made to reduce the company’s GHG emission intensity, waste-to-landfill intensity, water-use intensity and other key initiatives.

“While Kohler celebrates creativity, diversity and innovation in all its forms, we know we can do more to protect the planet, build resilient communities and enrich the quality of life for everyone,” said Laura Kohler, senior v.p./human resources, stewardship and sustainability.

Among the highlights of Kohler’s “Believing in Better” initiative were:

n A reduction in operational intensities since 2008 that has cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 48%, operational energy use by 22%, waste-to-landfill by 47% and water use by 46%.

n  Generated more than $1 billion in sales from environmentally favorable products in 2020.

n Completed more “Design for Environment” (DfE) projects, an incubator for developing products that are better for the planet, than in all previous years combined.

n Pivoted manufacturing facilities to produce and donate 80,000 face shields for frontline workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

n Provided 3,500 showers for the unhoused.

n 26 teams competed in the annual Innovation for Good I-Prize, an internal competition that encourages associates to develop solutions with a social purpose. Three ideas were awarded funding for incubation.

n  More than 1,600 associates from around the world united around various communities and their allies, including launching a “hate has no home” education and fundraising campaign.

“Kohler is committed to providing access to safe water for communities around the globe, delivering innovative solutions to address pressing social issues and strengthening its efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion,” Laura Kohler said.

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Lighting Supplier Acquired by WAC Subsidiary

PLATTSBURGH, NY — W Schonbek LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of WAC, has acquired the assets of Swarovski Lighting, Ltd., including the Schonbek Worldwide Lighting brand, the company’s factory in New York and all associated intellectual property, the companies announced.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“There will be a period of significant investment in the new W plant in Plattsburgh to ensure that it can execute this direction and is able to support products for the WAC, Modern Forms, dweLED, and AiSPiRE brands,” a corporate spokesman said. At the end of this phase of transition, the largest introduction ever of new products under the SCHONBEK brand is expected to be unveiled within the next six months, the spokesman added, noting that W Schonbek and WAC have also hired more than 100 employees at the company’s facility in Plattsburgh, NY.

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Sustainability Initiatives Launched by Formica Corp.

CINCINNATI, OH — Formica Corp., the Cincinnati-based manufacturer of decorative surfacing materials, has announced a suite of new sustainability initiatives, including a goal to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030.

“Consumers are seeking surfacing options that are better for the planet, and we are laying out a clear and aggressive action plan to meet their expectations,” said Mitch Quint, president of Formica Corp. North America. “While Formica Corp. has always prioritized sustainable practices, the company’s 2019 acquisition by Netherlands-based Broadview Holdings helped accelerate its progress,” Quint added.

As part of its goal to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030, Formica Corp. said it is aiming for a midpoint benchmark of a 25% reduction of CO2emissions and 10% reduction in primary energy demand by 2026. In addition, the company will pursue a 5% reduction of its water footprint in the next five years.

Alongside its goal to achieve net carbon neutrality, Formica Corp. has pledged to publish its environmental impact data every year, along with its targets and initiatives for the coming year.


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KSI Acquires MI-Based Cabinet Company

BRIGHTON, MI KSI Kitchen & Bath, a leading kitchen and bath design firm in southeast Michigan, has acquired ASA Cabinet Corp. from second-generation owners Steven, Eddie and Mickey Shapiro, the company announced.

Under the terms of the transaction, the Wall Lake, MI-based ASA Cabinet Corp. will become a KSI Kitchen & Bath location. A renovation, scheduled for 2022, “will create a fresh, contemporary showroom experience to welcome additional retail traffic,” KSI said.

“We’re incredibly excited to welcome ASA Cabinets’ associates into the KSI family,” said Tony Achatz, president and CEO of KSI, headquartered in Brighton, MI. “Their combined decades of experience supporting the cabinetry needs of southeast Michigan’s builders will aid us in fulfilling our mission to be a leading provider of home interior products for builders, contractors and consumers.”

ASA Cabinet Corp served as a partner company of ASA Builders Supply, a leading supplier of mouldings, doors and stair parts that was founded in 1952. The Shapiro family will retain ownership of ASA Builders Supply, KSI said.

“The sale of (our) cabinetry division allows ASA Builders Supply to focus on our mouldings, door and stair parts business, while creating the opportunity for ASA Cabinets customers and associates to grow and the business to flourish under the leadership and vision of KSI,” said David Shapiro of ASA Builders Supply.

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Luxury Clients ‘Crave Experience,’ NKBA Research Reveals

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ — Luxury kitchen clients want an authentic, original design that marries beauty and function, along with elegance in simplicity, precise execution and a personalized scheme – from aesthetics to function – that meets their specific needs. Above all, they “crave the overall experience” that results in their dream kitchen.

Those are among the key findings revealed at a recent National Kitchen & Bath Association summit entitled “Luxury Defined.” The online event, sponsored by Cambria, the Le Sueur, MN-based quartz surfaces supplier, was based on exclusive, qualitative research that studied the key factors that elevate a kitchen to the luxury space, according to the NKBA.

“Luxury is a differentiated renovation experience that provides an ‘elevated’ living experience,” said Tricia Zach, head of research for the Hackettstown, NJ-based trade association. “It’s not about the amount of money that’s being spent.”

Rather, Zach said, “luxury happens when proven designers navigate clients skillfully and efficiently; numerous possibilities are optimized (needs, preferences, values, the art and the science, expertise, materials, products) and options are intentionally curated and executed to deliver an elevated living experience, with less risk and regret.”

“A luxury kitchen is an experience,” Zach said, “how it makes the homeowner feel and how it serves their family’s needs. It’s personal, a clear reflection of the client’s personality and lifestyle. It’s simple, with everything having its discreet place and no room for the extraneous. And it’s beautiful, emerging from a layered design, a harmonious blend of color, materials and surfaces (with) natural and organic elements combining to showcase artisan details, and create a unique and compelling space that’s timeless.”

Besides being affluent, luxury clients, said Zach, “are discerning, lead full, active lives and love to travel.

“They recognize beauty in everything, from nature to architecture,” Zach said. “They’re also collaborative and excellent listeners, but they want and expect to be heard. They’ve thought about their dream kitchen for a very long time and come prepared with examples of the design elements they want to consider.

“They’re definitely outcome-driven,” Zach added. “Most have a specific vision, or if they don’t, they expect their kitchen designer to deliver a finished product that will delight them, and they’re willing to invest to get that result.

“Finally,” she said, “they value and trust expertise, and understand that they absolutely need a kitchen designer to navigate this lengthy and complex undertaking. They know it’s going to be a process, not always smooth, but the result is a realization of a dream.”

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Waterstone Faucets to Host Contest

MURRIETA, CA — Waterstone Faucets, the Murrieta, CA-based plumbing products manufacturer, will host its inaugural design competition to recognize designers, builders and architects who feature the brand’s products in their residential projects, the company announced.

Entry is free and will be open through Nov. 30 to all Waterstone installation projects across the U.S. and Canada, the company said. Waterstone will choose four winners across four categories: best traditional kitchen design, best contemporary kitchen design, best mud room or laundry room space, and best bar or butler’s pantry space. Winners will receive a cash prize, a three-piece faucet suite from Waterstone and promotion across Waterstone’s marketing and sales platforms, according to the company.

“It’s always exciting to see how designers use our products to create inspiring spaces,” said Chris Kuran, Waterstone founder and president. “We’re looking forward to recognizing the immense innovation and creativity within the design community through our first Waterstone Design Contest.”

Information about entering the competition can be obtained by visiting waterstoneco.com.

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Key Trends in Safety & Wellness Design

Safety has always been a key component of the design and construction industry, but it has taken on added importance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ventilation and indoor air quality have been squarely in the spotlight, as has the need for accessibility, as many people were bringing relatives out of assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.

Even before the public-health crisis, however, clients were concerned about water quality in the wake of the Flint, MI lead-contamination disaster; about preventing falls as they or loved ones aged; about indoor air quality as smoke and ash rained down from nearby wildfires and, for those with respiratory or immune system conditions, about toxins in their home materials and furnishings. Those concerns have increased, as well.

All these factors, along with an increased focus on wellness design, has spurred a boom in real estate, design, remodeling, technology and new-home construction. What follows are the perspectives of eight professionals regarding the latest trends. They are:

  • National homebuilder Shea Homes’ Marketing V.P. Janet Benavidez;
  • New Jersey-based smart home technology integrator, speaker and author Ryan Herd;
  • Denver-based full-service interior designer Jennifer Lowry;
  • Maria Stapperfenne, CMKBD, a former president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association;
  • Colorado-based CMKBD Jan Neiges;
  • Shea Pumarejo, a San Antonio-area CMKBD;
  • Real estate broker Mauri Tamborra, with RE/MAX Leaders serving Colorado and California’s Central Coast;
  • Debra Young, a Delaware-based occupational therapist specializing in inclusive design and a certified specialist in environmental modifications.

Non-porous surfaces, like engineered stone, are increasingly popular with homeowners and design pros.
Photo: Caesarstone


There’s nothing like a natural disaster or global pandemic to make people feel less safe – and crave a feeling of security at home. “Health and safety preferences were already growing,” says Shea Homes’ Benavidez, “but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated homebuyers’ interest in wellness.” This extends far beyond germ reduction to what the building executive calls “emotional, financial and physical wellbeing.” She cites a recent study showing technology, better-equipped kitchens and sanitation as the most desired home features.

Real estate professional Tamborra agrees. “We have noticed heightened interest in technology-based solutions,” she comments. Pre-pandemic, fewer clients were discussing air filtration or indoor air quality, she adds. All types of safety and wellness features that make child-raising or eldercare easier are being discussed now, too.

Design clients are all safety conscious, albeit with different concerns, says designer Lowry. For young couples, it’s about parenting, especially with bathroom choices of tubs, shower sets and the like. For seniors, with some now home from nursing homes or assisted living facilities, falls are the biggest consideration.

Occupational therapist Young has seen an increase in interest in universal design since the pandemic began. “Some features have certainly gained in popularity due to how the pandemic has changed our daily habits and routines,” she reports. With more multi-
generational households and greater interest in cooking, she’s seeing an increased focus on accessible kitchen storage and appliance placement. She’s also seeing interest in accessibility, antimicrobial low-maintenance surfaces and smart-home features that increase safety and convenience.   

“Since the pandemic began, everyone has become somewhat of a germaphobe!” declares designer Pumarejo. “Kitchens and bathrooms are the first places that come to mind when we think about germs, and clients are definitely looking at ways to stop the spread and kill (them).”

This has spurred growth in the popularity of antimicrobial surfaces and technologies for countertops, lighting, ventilation and flooring. Nonporous porcelain and quartz (now including outdoor options) continue to trend, and specialized technologies that kill germs of all kinds in kitchens, bathrooms and living areas are gaining in popularity.

Products and technologies that kill airborne viruses and other germs have accelerated with scientific evidence that COVID-19 is mostly spread via aerosolized transmission. Some contractors and builders are adding antimicrobial functionality to their residential HVAC systems. Some fixture companies are adding it to their product lines, and research is continuing on UV-spectrum technologies that are safe and effective for occupied spaces.

Also showing up on the safety front is heightened demand for power generators. Anyone who lived through Texas’ winter outages can appreciate this concern.

“Losing power has gone from being a temporary nuisance to a work and life-stopping event,” Young comments. “More of my clients have become interested in ensuring that their daily activities are not interrupted by a power outage.”


One of the biggest growth areas for home safety is smart-home technology. It’s showing up from front entries to garage doors, with plenty of kitchen and bath features in between.

“I believe the pandemic has pushed technology 10 years into the future,” says technology integrator Herd. “The pandemic has also made us more aware of our environment, inside and out, more health-conscious, and more concerned for our well-being.”

The designers, builder and realtor agree. Young sees it in her practice as well, working with clients and their remodeling teams. On a whole-house level, she’s seeing increased interest in lighting, video doorbells and temperature control.

Shea Homes has introduced two home wellness packages with air filtration, water filtration and touchless faucets, Benavidez says. Resale buyers are looking at wellness tech, too, real estate broker Tamborra notes.

“We have noticed heightened interest in apps on smartphones and tablets to control everything,” she observes. “Installations of remote window treatments have also been of increased interest, especially for elderly family members who benefit from the automation. Our clients with children also appreciate the hands-free element for added safety.”

“Every age group has a different need for technology,” Herd comments. For seniors, as he and Young agree, it’s often about safety. Not having to strain or climb to close a window shade helps prevent a fall, and video doorbells help them see who is at the door from a safe spot at home. Smart toilets let seniors enjoy the benefits of hygiene without stepping into a tub.

Induction cooktops and connected hoods that deliver the right ventilation level increase kitchen safety.
Photo: Bosch Home Appliances


Smart technology helps in kitchen spaces too, the professionals all say.

“The number-one concern in the kitchen is fire,” Herd points out. Smart appliances can alert you to a burner left unattended and remotely turn it off. Induction cooktop sales are also steadily increasing, in part because of safety considerations; they are much less likely to be the cause of a fire or burn.

Smart new ventilation hoods that pull smoke and gases out of the air by syncing with paired induction cooktops for the right performance level also add safety to a kitchen. Smart faucets that let homeowners access water without spreading viruses or food-borne contaminants serve a similar function. These aren’t new products; they’re just increasingly interesting to home buyers and homeowners.

Young sees changing trends in microwave placement, locating the appliances more frequently “at an easier and safer reach range below the counter, either integrated into the cabinetry or using a microwave drawer,” she reports.

Safety can be stylish with integrated grab bars.
Photo: Ponte Giulio, pontegiuliousa.com
Wellness by Design (Tiller Press, 2020)


Bathrooms are another potential injury and illness zone, particularly for seniors.

Herd, for one, is seeing growth in voice-control tub and shower features to add safety in these spaces. “Enabling our aging loved ones to ask Alexa to fill up the tub with 80-degree water or to turn on the shower allows them to be a bit safer from bending over and having a fall in the bathroom,” the integrator points out.

Designer Stapperfenne is seeing “mainstream acceptance” in toilets with bidet functionality. These also add an element of bathroom safety by eliminating the need for often-risky tub visits for personal hygiene tasks.

Designer Neiges is adding bathroom safety by specifying antibacterial lights in her Colorado projects, she says. She first spotted this technology at the 2020 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in the Broan booth, she recalls, as the manufacturer showcased it as a new feature of its bath ventilation products.

Pumarejo is doing a lot of curbless showers in San Antonio, she reports. Linen textured slip-resistant tiles are also a go-to for her. Both she and Neiges cite wall-mount toilets as an easy-to-use safety feature for many clients. “These toilets make for easy cleaning with no grooves for germs to hang out,” the Texan designer comments.

“We’re seeing more interest in touchless faucets, automated toilets and automated soap dispensers in the bathroom,” designer Lowry notes. “Touchless lighting in the bathroom and throughout the home is also showing increased demand,” she adds, as is antimicrobial or non-porous surfaces in bathroom spaces.

Flip-down shower seats and integrated grab bars are also gaining favor, Stapperfenne comments. “Beauty, luxury and safety can all co-exist in the same space,” she adds. The designer looks for “items that look inconspicuous,” she says, like “corner and shower shelving with integrated grab bars.”


We have survived the pandemic, “but it has changed us,” Pumarejo observes.

“Clients are now asking for things like bulk pantry storage, home generators and even indoor hydroponic gardens that can grow your own food,” she notes. These all result from living through COVID and anticipating future potential challenges to the food supply and our ability to provide for our families, she adds.

“I, for one, don’t think it’s a bad idea to be more self-sustainable,” the designer opines. It’s definitely not a bad idea for the kitchen and bath industry to help achieve that goal, either.”▪

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an author, wellness design consultant and industry speaker. Her third book, Wellness by Design (Simon & Schuster), published September 2020.  You can learn more about her Wellness Market presentations, books, Wellness Wednesdays Clubhouses conversations and consulting services at jamiegold.net.

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