5 Kitchen and Bath Trends for Bold Apartment Investors

Apartment design and construction recommendations from the key players at this year's KBIS and IBS conferences.

The multifamily sector is facing a huge challenge—single family rentals. Now more than ever, apartment investors need to show off all their advantages. It’s not enough to have amazing amenities. You also need a great sense of style. The kitchen and Bath Business Show (KBIS) and International Builders Show (IBS) have been inspiring apartment developers for decades, and in 2022 they were once again co-located in Orlando, FL as Design + Construction Week. Here are five trends that will continue to resonate with prospective residents in 2023.

A pop of color

Some multifamily owners and managers still feel that adding color is a risky proposition. But playing it too safe can result in a bland property that doesn’t attract residents. One way to subtly introduce color throughout common areas is to borrow from the palette used by the marketing team for the brand messaging.

Incorporate color while also adding a visual upgrade to apartment units by combining colored and neutral cabinets. Blues and greens are trending now. Like others at KBIS, German kitchen manufacturer Nobilia introduced its Natura collection—featuring cabinets in Fjord Blue and Mineral Green—with an emphasis on organic living.

The color green is known to reduce stress and is associated with opulence, luxury and nature according to Wellborn Cabinets which recently introduced a new green option called Celtic. Celtic would be effective as a focal point in amenity spaces especially paired with bronze, brass or gold hardware.

Pattern adds personality

Walking the comps might reveal that a colorful appliance is needed in the amenity spaces or apartment units. Image courtesy of Smeg

Colorful kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures are another way to add personality to amenity spaces. Manufacturers are expanding beyond basic stainless steel with colorful options that are designed to grab attention.

Market research might show bolder options like colored kitchen or bathroom sinks are the right choice for a bespoke property with a design-forward or “maker” demographic. House of Rohl offers an array of colors from buttoned up navy blue to a bright violet. This year’s KBIS also saw the continuation of urban loft-inspired cement-colored and black fixtures.

Decorative tile flooring. A patterned floor will grab the attention of prospects and is an easy way to rehab a drab package room or hallway. Photo by Diana Mosher

A patterned floor will grab the attention of prospects and is an easy way to rehab a drab package room or hallway. Photo by Diana Mosher

Tile continues to be an effective way to introduce pattern and color to pool areas, kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls. A patterned tile floor can make prospects want to stop and take pictures while they’re touring. It’s also a great way to rehab a drab package room or hallway. Ceramic tile is an affordable option with limitless style options. And, as a faux material, ceramic tile technology has advanced to the point where it’s hard to tell it apart from wood, marble and other organic materials.

Hands-free technology

COVID-19 has made everyone aware of high-contact surface points. Homeowners are increasingly turning to hands-free and voice activated technology to reduce the spread of germs. Devices offering touchless technology have become the breakout stars within the single family kitchen and bath space. Apartment investors are exploring hands-free technology for amenity spaces and units as well.

Legrand sensors. Image courtesy of Legrand

Occupancy sensors are an ideal way to achieve energy savings throughout multifamily properties. Radiant occupancy/vacancy sensors automatically turn lights off when a room has been vacant for a period of time. Image courtesy of Legrand

Legrand’s motion-activated light switches were on display at KBIS, featuring an innovative touchless control for a convenient, germ-free way to turn on lights—using a simple wave of the hand. Made for use in both residential and commercial applications, Legrand’s motion-activated light switch installs easily in 15 minutes or less, fitting into an existing electrical box. It is usable in both single-pole and three-way applications.

KBIS and IBS are also the places to see the latest from a wide array of manufacturers rolling out new technology for kitchen and bathroom faucets that turn on and off with a wave of the hand. TOTO’s touchless smart-sensor faucets and flush valves for toilets harness technology that generates electricity each time water spins a small internal turbine. This electrical energy powers the touchless faucet or flush valve. There is no minimum usage requirement.

Apartment investors with an eye on the amenities race are also watching the evolution of smart toilet technology. Toilets with a lid that automatically open and close hands-free are a luxury item now (maybe worth a splurge for the clubhouse or pool area). But future iterations are likely to have lower price points.

Health and wellness

Delta Rainstick. Image courtesy of Delta

Delta Faucet’s eco-conscious showerhead is partially composed of recycled and ocean-bound plastics and uses at least 20 percent less water than the industry standard. Image courtesy of Delta

Spa-inspired living is attractive to single family and multifamily residents alike. Organic finishes, biophilic references and a quiet space away from the family to relax or meditate are in demand. Protecting the environment is also a high priority. These consumer preferences were expressed at KBIS and IBS where conservation and reused materials were big themes.

The RainStick water-saving shower promises single family homeowners an attractive ROI by saving an average $500-$700 a year. RainStick starts with fresh grid-supplied water. But, instead of going down the drain, the water is captured, circulated and cleansed in real-time to avoid waste. RainStick’s UV-LED technology disinfects shower water from any bacteria or viruses.

Eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Delta’s First Wave Innovation Lab has created a showerhead that is partially composed of recycled and ocean-bound plastics. The fixture is WaterSense-certified—it uses at least 20 percent less water than the industry standard—and boasts eight different spray settings.

Beko has been in the U.S. for five years, but in 2022 it launched a major expansion at KBIS with new initiatives, partnerships and products. For example, Beko’s RecycledTub washing machines and washer dryers are designed to reduce plastic pollution. They use high performance materials that have been created from recycled plastic bottles.

Finishing touches

Barndoor. Image by Diana Mosher

Swap out some of the apartment community’s usual doors for a stylish alternative. Image by Diana Mosher

As always, differentiation is a key to success for multifamily investors. Properties must have relevant focal points along the way to capture the interest of prospects as they’re weighing their options. KBIS and IBS showcased products that can help apartment properties create Instagram moments and also retain residents for the long term.

For example, consider replacing the classic stainless steel hood in the communal kitchen with a more memorable option such as wood, plaster, brick or mixed metal hoods. Swap out bland doors in a couple of key locations for more unusual ones. And never forget that apartment residents love to gather around a fire pit or indoor fireplace. Strategic custom touches placed around the property can help multifamily investors keep pace with the new pool of single family rentals flooding the marketplace.

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