The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recently polled member kitchen and bath dealers from across North America to gauge their general financial state based on third quarter figures and get sales or project predictions for 2012. The NKBA also surveyed more than 350 member designers to ascertain upcoming kitchen and bath design trends. All results point to an exciting year for the kitchen and bath industry.

The NKBA’s Kitchen and Bath Market Index (KBMI) estimates market expectations for the upcoming quarter based on predictions made by member dealers. The total number ranges from +60 down to -60, depending on how dealers see prospects for future sales and remodeling projects. During the final quarter of 2011, the index surged from +9 to +32, showing a steep increase in optimism for spring 2012 based on client inquiries and showroom visits. Significantly more than half of the dealers surveyed believe increases will occur in spring 2012 in several major economic categories. In overall showroom visits, 70 percent of NKBA members forecast an increase and 73 percent envision kitchen remodeling sales to climb this year. Although that number drops to 62 percent for bath remodel sales, more than half still expect improvement. And 68 percent of those surveyed also predict combined kitchen and bath revenue to increase.

In addition to taking the temperature of how showroom dealers feel things will go in 2012, the NKBA also polled its member designers to find out what trends are emerging in kitchen and bath design. Similar to the dealers, designers foretell some big changes in what clients want in these key residential spaces. “For the first time since the NKBA began tracking annual design trends, traditional is no longer the most popular type of design,” states the NKBA press release about the survey results. Requests for traditional kitchens and baths both fell more than 15 percent at the end of last year and what the NKBA calls transitional design—a blend of subtle classical detailing with cleaner, more modern design—rose to the most popular spot with nearly 60 percent reporting projects in this style. Contemporary design requests also climbed to just above 50 percent in both kitchens and baths. Following the shift in style preferences, other envisioned trends for both kitchens and baths include darker wood finishes, the decline in use of cherry wood on cabinets, increased use of solid surfaces, the return of polished chrome fixtures, and the incorporation of gray into color schemes.  A few anticipated product choices include LED lighting, pull out faucets in kitchens, and medicine cabinets finding their way back into baths. And while glass surfaces have been strictly a niche market in the past, 52 percent reported clients requesting glass backsplashes, hinting at a more widespread use of the material in unexpected ways.