Why wall panels are an attractive alternative to tiles in the bathroom

BathroomsFeatures Wed 12th Oct 2022 by Nicola Hanley

Why wall panels are an attractive alternative to tiles in the bathroom

Why wall panels are an attractive alternative to tiles in the bathroom

Feature by Nicola Hanley | Wed 12th Oct 2022

Nicola is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about interiors for 15 years. A former editor of Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine, she has also worked in PR and is now a freelance writer specialising in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. More

Advances in print and texture technology are helping wall panels take on tiles in the bathroom – Nicola Hanley looks at the latest designs in this fast-growing market, and finds out how panels are exceeding clients’ expectations.

When it comes to bathroom walls, tiles have long ruled the roost and been seen as the the go-to choice for designers looking to create sleek and stylish spaces. But recent years have seen wall panel manufacturers take massive strides, investing in design and development to make panels a hugely appealing alternative. “Design-wise, bathroom wall panelling has come a long way in the past few years with advances in print and texture technology,” says Steph Harris, product manager at PanelStyle. “There’s now a wide array of designs available to suit all tastes and budgets.” 

Reflecting the Subway tile trend, PanelStyle’s glossy Light Grey Metro design from the Proplas Tile range can be fixed over existing surfaces, including tiles, for quick and easy installation

Keely Greenhalgh, national sales manager at Mermaid, agrees. “The market has evolved to the point where there are no limitations to the trends that can be achieved with bathroom wall panelling.” 

One of Mermaid Panels’ bestsellers last year, Abruzzo features a monochrome colour scheme and mosaic style design. From the Elite range, these panels have a matt finish with a 100% waterproof core

As well as looking sleek and stylish, helping to create a highly coveted seamless aesthetic, wall panels boast myriad practical benefits. Waterproof, and with no grout lines, they are hygienic and easy to clean too, which has become increasingly important since the start of the pandemic, notes Scott Arundell, BerryAlloc’s UK & Ireland sales director. “Consumers became more aware of simplifying surfaces to prevent dirt build-up, so panels have naturally become a practical alternative to traditional tiles,” he says. 

White Snow is part of BerryAlloc’s Wall&Water collection, which comes with an impressive lifetime warranty. The HPL panels are said to be fully waterproof and UV resistant

Another benefit is that they are quick and easy to install. “Bathroom panels provide easy installation, and in fact, using bathroom panels instead of tiles saves on average 21 installation hours per bathroom, which positively contributes to accelerating bathroom installation timescales,” says John Mortimer, sales director at Multipanel. 

Available in nine decors, including Valmasino Marble, pictured, Multipanel’s new Tile Collection features a 2.5mm pale grey grout line engraved onto the 2400mm x 598mm panels to create a tile effect

While the bathroom wall panelling market has been growing steadily for several years, sales have increased significantly in the last couple of years as homeowners spent more time at home and looked to improve their kitchens and bathrooms. “We’ve seen double-digit growth year-on-year in our wall panelling sales and we estimate the size of the UK market is now over £100m,” says PanelStyle’s Steph Harris. “The market acceptance and understanding of the product, together with the design development and shift towards hygienic streamlined surfaces, all point to very healthy growth for this product. We tip this as one of the best growth products for retailers to get on board with.”

Part of PanelStyle’s Splashpanel Premium collection, Pietra Anthracite is designed to replicate the beauty of marble. These panels measure 2400mm high, 10mm thick and come in widths of 1000mm and 1200mm

Likewise, John Bagshaw, MD at Showerwall, says the sector has grown 25% year-on-year over the last few years. “With over 3.5m square metres of wall panelling sold within the UK in previous years, it makes it one of the fastest growing markets in home improvement.” 

Ideal for consumers that love the look of tiles, Showerwall’s Navy Herringbone bathroom wall panels have a smooth, glass-like finish and come with a 30-year warranty

Looking to capitalise on the growth, BerryAlloc recently launched its panels into the UK market, partnering with IDS, and other manufacturers are extending their portfolios with new designs. 

While laminate is the most popular material, acrylic is gaining ground. “We are starting to see a rise in consumer interest in our Acrylic collection, and this is down to the freedom of design choice,” notes Showerwall’s John Bagshaw. 

Showerwall’s botanical-inspired Bromelia design combines the look of patterned wallpaper with the benefits of waterproof wall panelling. Measuring 2440mm high, these eye-catching acrylic panels come in widths of 900mm and 1220mm

Decors that replicate the beauty of natural stone without the premium price tag are doing well,  continues Bagshaw. “Marble designs have always been popular for use in bathrooms and en-suites and these are particularly on trend at the moment,” he says. “Natural materials, vintage charm and neutral colour palettes are key, but bold is still proving popular.” 

Exclusive to Multipanel, the Linda Barker collection features 13 waterproof wall panels inspired by materials such as stone and wood. Made in Britain, the panels come with a 30-year warranty. Pictured is Bianca Luna

Tile-effect designs that etch grout lines onto panels are also trending. “Customers who love the look of tiles can reap the benefits of wall panels, while achieving a look that truly reflects their taste and personality,” says Multipanel’s John Mortimer. “With pioneering product development teams and investment into groundbreaking technology, the bathroom wall panel market can only grow. Products that work hard for the tradesperson, architect and specifier, as well as the homeowner, will shine in the market."

Featuring an abstract pattern, which Bushboard says is hard to achieve with tiles alone, Aqua Kaleidoscope is one of the latest addition’s to the Nuance Acrylic wall panel collection


Tags: bathrooms, features, bathroom panelling, showerwall, multipanel

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