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Simple Elegance

Current design for bath sinks and faucets favors clean lines and simple elegance, with new finishes, technology and creative sink placement offering endless design possibilities.

authors Elizabeth Richards 

Bathroom design is entering new territory with the plethora of options available in both features and finishes for sinks and faucets. With this ever-growing array of options, designers can create cohesive spaces that reflect individual style while catering to specific user needs.

Custom design that communicates the personality of the homeowner is crucial, especially in spaces used for entertaining, like the powder room. “Consumers are looking to create spaces that are perfectly suited to their individual style,” says Julie Everson, wholesale bath product manager at North Olmstead, OH-based Moen, U.S.

“For baths, I think the ‘must have’ feature is design that’s not boring. The 15″ oval basin and nondescript widespread or anonymous single-lever faucet simply won’t do,” says Greg Rohl, v.p., design leader at The House of ROHL in Irvine, CA.

“The House of ROHL alone offers sinks made from natural fireclay and volcanic limestone in myriad functional and aesthetically interesting shapes and colors. Our faucet offering is even more diverse in style and finish. Designers are more empowered than ever to employ distinctive products to tell their clients’ own story,” he says.

Some trends carry over from one bath to another, while others are unique to how the space will be used. “It’s all about the experience for the space – each should be seen as a blank canvas, waiting for a vision to be executed,” states Chris Wilson, product manager at Brizo in Indianapolis, IN. “The master bath is the ‘kitchen’ of the upstairs. It’s not solely functional or utilitarian, but rather stands as its own personalized, stylized and highly decorative space. The powder room is an opportunity to showcase personal style or make a design statement. It’s less about the function, more about the design.”

Other top trends in bathroom sinks and faucets include simple, clean lines and minimalist design; new finish choices that include mixing and matching to create customized looks; unique options for fixture placement, and innovative, functional technology. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Simple and uncluttered

In line with trends throughout the kitchen and bath, current design for sinks and faucets favors clean lines and simple elegance.

“The most popular sink and faucet styles right now are those with clean, simple design lines, as they are easy to clean and bring a calming, uncluttered effect to the bathroom,” says Katty Pien, chief marketing officer at Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas, home to American Standard brands, DXV and GROHE. “Neutral tones, natural materials and warm metal finish accents are also popular, as they complement minimalist shapes and provide an inviting and approachable setting,” she adds.

Lea Mendoza, design manager at TOTO USA in West Hollywood, CA agrees. “With the growing cultural trend of ‘less is more’ and [people] leading a more organized, simplistic lifestyle, as promoted most notably by Marie Kondo, we are seeing an increase in simple, contemporary, clean lines that are softened to promote ease of cleaning,” she says.

Industrial style sinks and faucets are also trending, she points out. These faucets have simple silhouettes and refined subtle detailing such as knurling around the handles and coining around the escutcheons.

Peggy Gallagher, senior product manager, trade bath for Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN, says that unique faucet handle designs and textures are also trending, such as wheel, cross, helo and knurled handles.

Wilson adds, “The traditional style aesthetic is not what you remember. Gone is the heaviness and over-wrought style of yesterday, in favor of smaller design details and simplified elegance. Lavatory sink drains should impact, not detract from the space.”

Specialty Finish Shifts

Classic finishes will always have a place, whatever the current craze. In recent years, matte black has been the specialty finish of choice, a trend that remains, but manufacturers are starting to see a shift. Champagne gold continues to be a top choice for more traditional designs, but other metallic finishes are on the rise as well. And, there’s a move toward combining finishes and metals for a unique, highly personalized look.

“Chrome is timeless and continues to remain our most popular finish. However, we are seeing a huge shift toward specialty finishes in both the kitchen and the bath,” says Gallagher. “A couple of trending specialty finishes [at Delta] are the Champagne Bronze and Black Stainless finishes. These really satisfy the household trends toward black and gold,” she adds.

“While classic finishes like polished chrome and satin nickel are still popular with consumers, new metallic finishes are perfect for a more daring bath design,” Pien notes. “Designers can now choose from finishes that range from matte black and brushed brass to exciting new options like graphite. These new, unexpected finishes elevate a design-centric bathroom and provide a sophisticated twist on the everyday experience of water. Faucets with rich, textured finishes are also growing in popularity in luxury settings,” she adds.

“Today’s homeowners want pieces in their homes that stand out, and they’re becoming more adventurous when it comes to experimenting with color,” Everson shares.

Although matte black and champagne gold are still very much in demand, manufacturers say they see change on the horizon. “Finishes make the space. While matte black continues to dominate the contemporary aesthetic and gold owns traditional, look for softer, mid-range finish tones to begin to assert themselves,” Wilson states. “With a wide range of warm and cool tones available, [designers can] explore options beyond the expected chrome finish, such as nickels, which are up-and-coming finish options. All work exceptionally well with the ever-popular neutral décor focus, which lends itself to natural materials. Pairing concrete with wood or soft golds in the lavatory or tub space makes for a calm, sophisticated spa-like environment.”

“On the heels of the ‘matte black craze’ we are seeing a lot of ‘matte white’ metals being used in the bathroom space,” adds Ryan Ramaker, senior director, product and marketing at Hansgrohe North America in Alpharetta, GA. “In fact, in addition to having an ultra-clean look, white provides a striking contrast against the other colors and definitely catches the eye. This effect tends to make the overall spaces in which the products are installed look larger.”

Mendoza foresees matte black and champagne gold hitting their peak this year, then starting to trend out in favor of something new. “There’s a new finish that is starting to trend and different brands are calling it by different names: pewter, gunmetal, titanium…but essentially, it’s a black nickel finish, both shiny and matte. It could potentially become the new Matte Black,” she maintains. Mixed metal finishes are also emerging, she adds, and though they may not become mainstream choices, she believes they could find a place in contemporary “trend forward” powder rooms.

Rohl says mixing and matching faucet and sink finishes is a trend for all bathrooms. “There are eye-popping faucet colors – including black, rose gold and gold finishes mixed with chrome, brass or other colored sinks to create the perfect look for any style,” he says. “The Pewter/Gunmetal/Black Chrome palette is also becoming more prevalent,” he adds.

Unique placement

Placement of sinks and faucets is far more innovative and interesting than it used to be. Gone are the days when a sink was simply dropped into one hole in the vanity, and faucets into another.

“Lavatory faucets do not need to be anchored at the top of the sink. Wall-mount lavatories and off-angle, single-handle lavatory placement can create visual appeal, while still remaining highly functional,” says Wilson. “Unconventional lavatory configurations allow for a simplified, yet streamlined look, and provide more functional space on the counter.”

Gallagher believes that both trough-style and wall-mounted sinks are increasing in popularity, which has also spurred demand for more wall-mounted bathroom faucets to coordinate with those styles.

Floating vanities are on the rise, and these are being complemented with vessel lavatories in powder rooms and undermount lavatories in the master bath, Mendoza notes. “The floating product trend is growing as people realize how much space they can save by having their fixtures off the floor and how much easier it is to clean and keep clean.”

Ergonomics plays a role in fixture placement as well. “As people’s schedules remain hectic and they run from event to event, it’s important that they have a relaxed, seamless experience when interacting with the products in their home,” Ramaker says. “Aesthetics only mean so much when ergonomics and performance are not considered.”

Functional Technology

In today’s world, the word “technology” often evokes images of screens or gadgets of one kind or another. But when it comes to sinks and faucets, technology should add purpose, rather than simply being the latest gimmick, manufacturers say.

“In the past, we’ve seen technology impact the bathroom in trendy ways that may not actually create long-lasting value to the product or the people’s lives,” Mendoza says. “Rather than adding voice commands to our products simply because we can, TOTO considers the user first and their needs before incorporating technology. What we’ve found through our extensive human factors research is that technology is important in the bathroom, but it should be integrated in meaningful and subtle ways that don’t intrude into the quiet sanctuary that is the bathroom in most people’s lives.”

Some key technological solutions, Gallagher says, include temperature control, water conservation, Internet-connected products, leak detectors, occupancy sensors and voice-activated controls. “More smart faucets [with] motion or touch-control technology are also emerging technologies for the bath,” she notes.

Features that make products more user friendly for all are also important. “In the past, many manufacturers have achieved universal design-suitable faucets through oversized lever handles, or made the design easier to use through battery-operation,” says Ramaker.

Another technology impacting faucet trends is 3D printing, Pien states. “3D printing is a trending technology that allows the user to experience water in new and unique ways.”

“Technology offers a nearly limitless opportunity for manufacturers to create new experiences for consumers, but the most popular and exciting products fuse these modern technologies with authentic design and emphasize the experience and enjoyment of the user above all else,” Pien adds.

Private vs. Public Space

Bathrooms are unique in that the way each is used has a great impact on trends for that space. What homeowners desire for the master bath, their own personal refuge, is quite different than what they want in the powder rooms used for entertaining, and guest baths tend to be more functional than fashionable.

“The master is the place of retreat, self-care, wellness, while the powder room is typically the most ‘public.’ The guest baths are more about essential functionality – so I think that the scale for trend expression varies across these different spaces,” says Rohl.

Because the master is seen as a private refuge, designs trend toward calming elements and functional features specific to the homeowner’s needs, but with universal appeal.

“We know master baths are viewed as a sanctuary, a space to incorporate distinctive materials and finishes, as well as luxury amenities. This room often provides the space to accommodate a double sink with dramatic widespread faucets,” says Pien.

“In a master bath, homeowners may want to consider a two-handle faucet, as counters typically offer a generous amount of space or fixtures with a higher arc style, which can make everyday tasks, such as brushing teeth or shaving, a little easier,” Everson explains.

“Master baths take on styles and products that have long-lasting, more universal appeal and that are more functionally focused,” says Mendoza. “Most grooming tasks are performed in the master bath, which demands a highly functional space that is easy to clean and keep clean. A master is also the most expensive and inconvenient for homeowners to remodel, so it is best to keep the look of the master as timeless as possible,” she adds.

Powder rooms, on the other hand, can showcase trends that may pass more quickly, and tend to be more about how they look than pure function.

“The powder room is the homeowners’ opportunity to reflect their design taste. Powder room lavatories are typically only used for hand washing as opposed to shaving and brushing teeth, so cleanability is not as much of an issue in a powder room,” Mendoza says.

This makes the powder room a great place to try out a vessel sink. “Vessel sinks do well in powder rooms where they can create a stylistic impression that reflects the owners’ taste,” she notes.

“Powder rooms are the perfect place to make exciting design statements that showcase [the client’s] own personal style, since this is the bathroom most of the guests will see. Choose faucets and fixtures that push boundaries and celebrate iconic design to take full advantage of the opportunity to express personalized design,” Pien concludes. ▪

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