NKBA Research: Living Impacts Design

The home environment is changing—perhaps more quickly than anyone could have anticipated. Weeks of quarantine and working from home created new challenges and routines in the residential space. But even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on lifestyle and its impact on design, specifically in the kitchen and bath space, was already occurring.


Photography courtesy of Laurence Carr, Laurence Carr Design. 

In its latest research, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) examined the motivations behind certain design elements with a deeper dive into how the functional and emotional needs of homeowners impact design, and why the designs of kitchens and baths are headed in various directions.

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

The research—Living Impacts Design—uncovered an interesting lifestyle and life stage evolution that’s changing the impetus for 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 space—especially kitchens and baths.

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

This first of two articles focuses on Connected Living and Simplified Living.

Connected Living

It’s easy to assume that the phrase “Connected Living,” means connected devices, Wi-Fi enabled products, smart appliances, app-based and voice-controlled operation of faucets, lighting, security, audio, video, and home theater.

But especially because the world has become so “connected” in the technology sense, it’s important to emphasize the connection among people—something most people crave now more than ever.


Photography courtesy of Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. 

According to the research, homeowners want their kitchens to promote human interaction—and the connected devices, appliances, and systems will be in place to serve that end. Open-plan kitchens will be inviting, cozy and warm—perhaps to take the edge off of all the tech.

Kitchens will need to work for different styles and skill-levels of cooks—from those who love the experience and experimenting with food, to time-stressed individuals, to multiple cooks, and sometime several generations, working in the same kitchen.

Among all life-stage groups, 82 percent said inclusion is so important, especially with visibility from the kitchen to other parts of the living space. Other top priorities include spaces that are conducive to entertaining, and the needs for great Wi-Fi and Internet connection to call up recipes, cooking inspiration and instruction.


Photography courtesy of Laurence Carr, Laurence Carr Design.

Finally, a connection with nature—whether through big windows and expansive views to the outdoors, indoor gardens/herbs, or natural material selections.

Simplified Living

The days of tchotchke-filled rooms are becoming a thing of the past, especially for Millennials, who far value experiences over “things.” So appropriate storage becomes a critical component of design.

Some 80 percent of respondents said minimizing clutter, cleaning and a sense of organization is a critical design request; 69 percent want their bathrooms to be an escape and 61 percent design spaces for easy meal-prep—plenty of countertops, easy access to tools and ingredients, and non-congested layouts so cooks, kids, and guests aren’t in each other’s way.


Photography courtesy of Sarah Robertson, AKBD, Studio Dearborn.

This includes utilizing cabinetry that organizes more in less space and specifying low-maintenance material choices or commercial finishes and fabrics that are easy to clean and long-wearing.

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.

The second installation of this article will appear in May.

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