New Research Outlines Human Behaviors Impacting Kitchen and Bath Design

As part of its ongoing commitment to provide leading insights into the kitchen and bath industry, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) has released benchmark research on the impact people’s behavior, life stage, and habits have on kitchen and bath design. NKBA Living Impacts Design research is a comprehensive study that examines the outside influences transforming how kitchens and baths will be designed over the next three years.

“The role our homes play in our lives has never been so evident as it has these last few months,” said Bill Darcy, NKBA CEO. “Even before months of quarantine and working from home created new challenges, understanding the impact of how we live in these spaces and its effect on design, specifically in the kitchen and bath, was something we wanted to investigate. It’s extremely important for our members to better understand the ‘why’ behind what’s impacting design, not just the ‘what.’ It’s critical to know how people’s personal goals and habits change the way the kitchen and bath are designed, as well as the products used in them, to improve our lives.”

From the data four overarching themes emerged: Connected Living, Simplified Living, Healthy Living, and Living in Place.

  • Connected Living: The need for increased human interaction, information access, and a connection with nature. 87% surveyed listed need for greater inclusion and visibility with open kitchen layouts, multi-function spaces within the kitchen to work for a variety of activities (meal prep, entertaining, school, and work-from-home).
  • Simplified Living: Home is a shelter and a retreat from a chaotic world. 80% of respondents said minimizing clutter, cleaning, and targeted storage are critical design needs for the kitchen and bath. 69% want their bathrooms to be an escape, and 61% want design spaces for easy meal-prep.
  • Healthy Living: Creating spaces that fuel and heal the body; establishing a deeper connection to nature; focus on wellness. 48% want kitchens that help them to be more health-conscious.
  • Living in Place: Multiple generations are living together under the same roof, so there is an increased need for spaces that work for all, no matter their age, ability, or physical challenges. 67% surveyed have a desire to age in place, and more than 60% want kitchens and baths that are easily used for all ages and skills.

“People need an escape from a chaotic world, and their home provides that safe haven,” explained Tricia Zach, Head of Research for NKBA. “Our lives are bursting with responsibilities and commitments. We’re tasked to do more with less time, and this research provides valuable insights to the specific tools and solutions people need to help them achieve a better quality of life.”

Key Design Trends Emerging

Several significant design trends are becoming evident as a result of these lifestyle changes and are identified in the research.


  • Larger kitchen islands — multifunctional for meal prep, dining, work-from-home
  • Open floor plan with fewer walls, allowing increased visibility and broader sight lines to other rooms, entertainment, media, nature/outdoors
  • Increased number of charging outlets
  • Landing counters for groceries and food delivery
  • Larger sinks and refrigerators to wash and store fresh produce
  • Commercial finishes and fabrics for easy cleaning and durability
  • Recycling and composting stations


  • Large-format tile, thinner grout lines for easier cleaning
  • Compartmentalized storage with integrated outlets (hairdryer, razor, toothbrush, phone)
  • Self-cleaning toilets
  • Larger, zero-clearance showers with integrated seating and decorative grab bars
  • Heated flooring
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Voice activation for shower, lighting, entertainment
  • Larger windows for increased natural lighting
  • Use of natural materials including bamboo, stone, live plants

The NKBA Living Impacts Design research also examines which lifestyle habits are most important to homeowners in various life stages (Millennial, Gen X, Boomers and Greatest/Silent generation). While the majority of the themes were universal across each life stage, there are specific areas of importance for each generation.

In the kitchen, Millennials with kids and Gen X are driving many needs. In the bath, younger generations place higher importance on the environment, while older generations rank the need to heal and age in place as a top priority.

Design Theme Prominence Based on Life Stage

Millennials Without Kids

  • Kitchen: Health-conscious, connection with nature
  • Master Bath: Limited impact on the environment, feeling of the outdoors

Millennials with Kids

  • Kitchen: Ease in meal prep, open layout
  • Master Bath: Multi-tasking and productivity, limited impact on the environment

Gen X

  • Kitchen: Open layout, comforting place to spend time, love to cook
  • Master Bath: An escape, minimal clutter


  • Kitchen: Comforting place for spending time, entertaining, open layout
  • Master Bath: Comfortable for all generations, promoting wellness


  • Kitchen: Comforting place for spending time, organization, minimal clutter
  • Master Bath: Comfortable for all generations, minimal clutter

More than 750 design professionals in North America, including designers, architects, showroom managers, remodelers, contractors, dealers, and manufacturers, participated in the study.

Additional details and a complete copy of the NKBA Living Impacts Design research is available for purchase in the NKBA store at NKBA members receive a complimentary copy of the executive summary and reduced rates for the full report.

Source: National Kitchen & Bath Association

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