In-home research reveals pivotal kitchen and bath trends

Sure, focus groups are fine. But Design Central aims to deliver excellence. And that starts with understanding consumers.

We had long honed our intensive research process with other industries when a leading kitchen and bath manufacturing giant knocked. The company wanted valuable insights as it continued rolling out new sinks and faucets. And it tapped Design Central to deliver them.

Instead of asking people in focus groups what they wanted, we headed straight into kitchens to observe the way homeowners interacted with their spaces as they prepared meals. The insights (including the observation that cooking was becoming less a solo chore and more a joint effort) resulted in groundbreaking changes still relevant today—new materials, new finishes and new ideas that elevated high-end brands.

More than 30 years later, our in-home research and ability to understand consumers continue yielding successful, and ultimately profitable, results. And it will continue helping brands move into the future with products consumers are excited to buy.

When big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot first emerged, we were there to help kitchen and bath manufacturers navigate the changing tides.

The DIY market was beginning to surface. Consumers would no longer rely on their plumber or contractor to recommend and install a product. Instead, people would go to the store, choose a product, and install it themselves.

It became imperative, then, to create products that would stand out on the shelves of those big-box stores and then be easily installable by anyone. Since products were displayed without packaging or obvious branding, we worked with manufacturers to draw in customers with fresh designs and finishes.

People also began staying longer in their homes and making significant investments in their homes by remodeling kitchens and bathrooms with the understanding that when they did sell, those spaces increased resale value. This told us appliances needed to be more durable and timeless.

We observed that alongside the DIY trend, people began cooking together as a form of entertainment. The traditional kitchen evolved into an interactive living space for family and guests. People started seeing the space as one to design and decorate more intentionally than ever before. So we began working with manufacturers to create suites of stylish appliances with customizable finishes that made a lasting impression.

As time moved on, we helped upgrade kitchens in myriad ways. We crafted high-end, high-style vent hoods, and used LED technology to create impactful lighting in refrigerators. We designed countertop food storage for fresh vegetables, all to make cooking the lifestyle experience consumers were craving.

Then, we tackled laundry. We helped design front-end washing machines that conserved water and spun quickly enough to cut drying time. And we designed a washer with a lid that converts to a water basin for pre-wash stain removal. As our products grew in popularity and the market for appliances expanded around the world, we applied our in-home research methods to help clients create kitchen and bath products for consumers in Europe and Asia.

Today, we’re at the forefront of innovation as technology-driven products enter the home faster than ever before. Having a connected home is essential as consumers look for new and exciting ways to interact with their appliances and adapt them to their busy lifestyles.

Tech products are advancing beyond supporting the time-pressed parent yearning for ways to create a healthy family meal or the gourmet entertainer orchestrating a feast for special guests.

For instance, homeowners can remotely look up their refrigerator's inventory while shopping at the grocery store to know what to purchase for a recipe.  At home, faucets deliver a measured quantity of water for cooking and voice-controlled ovens heat to temperature upon command. And the timed control of appliances has adapted to remote and voice-controlled apps that enable the consumer to initiate the start of a device, get status reports and more, so that dishwasher that someone forgot to run can now start-up with the tap of an app, with the user arriving home to clean dishes. Tech is now integral to the home experience – and every other part of our lives.

We understand the consumer because we know how to uncover their pain points and desires. And we can help our partners design and develop products that deliver on those aspirations.

Our commitment to consumer research inside the home is, and always has been, the not-so-secret secret to our ability to spot key trends and anticipate needs in the home, whether it’s in the kitchen, the bath or other space.

Our final goal will always be the same: to create consumer-focused strategies and products that redefine the industry and leave a lasting, positive impact.

We’ve proven it for the past 30 years. And we’ll prove it for the next 30, too—and beyond.

Contact Tim Friar for more about collaborating with Design Central: