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Classic Style, Modern Flair

Distinctive materials and finishes add a contemporary touch to standard favorites, while current technology and accessories boost convenience in kitchen sink and faucet functionality.

authors Elizabeth Richards 

Kitchen sinks and faucets have a tall order to fill. Often, these hard-working fixtures are used as a focal point, creating demand for highly stylish materials and finishes put together in inspiring combinations. But function is also a top priority, since food preparation and clean-up are the primary work in a kitchen – and you can’t do either without a sink and faucet.

“Consumers want it all when it comes to selecting a kitchen faucet. They are looking for fixtures that are not only stylish, but functional as well. In addition, homeowners and designers especially are seeking clean, sleek faucets that can add a contemporary flair to the kitchen,” says Danielle Radic, product manager at North Olmstead, OH-based Moen, U.S.

Sink and faucet styles lean toward contemporary but are often including elements of both modern and traditional design, manufacturers agree. “Contemporary styles such as rectangular sinks with clean, precise edges are also popular. Consumers and designers seem to be leaning toward contemporary, clean lines, durable materials and transitional styling that has the best of both modern and traditional archetypes,” says Tim Maicher, director of marketing at Blanco in Lumberton, NJ. “For faucets, we are also seeing a return to traditional elements like the bridge design, but with clean, modern lines and functional options like a pull-down spray,” he adds.

Manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News cite other top trends, including consistent demand for farmhouse sinks, work stations throughout the kitchen, the inclusion of convenient accessories, a return to color and a steady interest in newer technologies.

Classic farmhouse style with finesse

Farmhouse sinks have always had a following, but these days they are trendier than ever, manufacturers say. “What’s old is new again, but with a modern twist,” states Jake Khoury, general manager at Nantucket Sinks based in North Kingstown, RI.

The style, inspired by the deep, sturdy sinks found in farmhouse kitchens before the days of indoor plumbing, is a good match for the current trend that leans toward combining modern and traditional elements. The variety of materials that can be used to fashion these sinks can really make the apron front stand out, adding a sense of personal style to the space as well.

“Customers have fallen back in love with this classic style,” says Mark Webster, marketing director at Karran USA in Vincennes, IN. “These days you won’t find farmhouse sinks made from just cast iron. Quartz, fireclay and stainless steel are some of the materials that we find farmhouse sinks constructed from.”

Katty Pien, chief marketing officer at Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas, home to American Standard, DXV and Grohe brands, notes that the farmhouse style is a popular choice among consumers looking to make a design statement. “These types of sinks highlight simple lines that never go out of style, and also offer homeowners a roomy basin for tackling most kitchen tasks. Farmhouse and other apron front sinks also provide a more comfortable work setting because there is no counter edge to act as a barrier between the user and the sink bowl.”

She adds that stainless steel, when used for an apron front sink, delivers a unique, contemporary take on a classic design.

Making a statement

While functionality is a primary concern in kitchen sinks and faucets, manufacturers say that consumers and designers also use these fixtures as a focal point. That’s one reason the farm-style sink is in such high demand; the apron front draws attention, especially when unique materials are selected. The use of color for sinks is also on the rise, and combining finishes creates visual interest as well.

“We are seeing more and more color, texture and material options as the trend for sinks,” says Khoury. “We have found that customers who were not willing to jump into a bold kitchen color design statement are willing to look past the standard white fireclay offering and dip their toe into a unique sink color or finish,” he states. “As consumers keep testing the waters in their kitchen designs, we will keep creating new design offerings for evolving design palettes.”

Webster has also seen a move toward greater use of color. “Concretes and grays are popular, as they have a similar color palette to stainless steel. Blacks and browns are bold and make a statement in any kitchen,” he notes.

Radic says that, when it comes to finishes, bolder is better. “Designers and homeowners alike are looking for statement pieces that will stand out in a space and get noticed.” The rising trend of combining various finishes and textures led Moen to create a sophisticated Brushed Gold finish, she adds. “Historically, gold fixtures equate to traditional design, but now, homeowners are incorporating the finish into their homes for a modern aesthetic.”

“Additionally, homeowners continue to give in to ‘the dark side’ by incorporating dark finishes into their spaces,” Radic points out. “Our customers want unique finishes that make a statement, and Matte Black offers a modern look that allows them to experiment with fresh ideas.”

Ryan Wilson, director of product marketing at Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN, says, “Stainless and chrome finishes are still the most popular, but golds, blacks and black stainless finishes are growing in popularity. Style wise, more transitional and contemporary styles are in most demand.”

Maicher notes, “Polished chrome and satin nickel are still the most popular faucet finishes, but dual-finish faucets that match the color of a sink are also an interesting niche.”

Lucia Bayt, brand manager at Brizo in Indianapolis, IN, maintains that while stainless steel and brushed nickel are typically the most preferred faucet finishes, the firm is seeing an upward trend for specialty finishes. “With the growing trend and comfort level of mixing metals, we are seeing our consumer using their faucet as a way to add a unique finish into their kitchen space,” Bayt states.

Spacious sinks, smaller faucets

Many manufacturers note that there is a growing demand for kitchen sinks that provide enough space for any necessary cleaning task. “Ever growing in popularity is the large single bowl,” says Webster. “Typically, these sinks range in widths from 30″ to 34″ and feature just one bowl.”

“Spacious, single-bowl sinks are prevalent because they can efficiently accommodate large pots and pans,” states Pien. “We’re seeing that larger single-bowl sinks ranging from 30″- to 33″-wide are trending right now. Many home cooks find a double-bowl sink to be useful for multi-tasking in the kitchen, while those who regularly use large pots and pans might prefer a generously sized single-bowl sink.”

Though roomy sinks are in demand, when it comes to faucets, some manufacturers see a trend toward a smaller profile. “I would say there is a trend towards smaller faucets. Not small, but smaller than they have been in the past,” Wilson explains.

Bayt says that, in faucets, there’s a growing preference for cleaner, more slender faucets. Bar and prep faucets that can be used in smaller spaces or in additional work spaces in a kitchen are also in demand, she notes.

Of course, as Radic points out, a wide range of options is important. “For example, pull-out faucets are great for tight spaces as they have a lower profile, making them ideal in kitchens with low-hanging cabinetry, whereas faucets with a high arc can make it easier to fill large pots or clean bulky pans.”

Functional add-ons

A top priority for consumers is to make both prep work and clean up as easy and convenient as possible. In sinks and faucets, various elements, from high-tech options to simple accessories, are added to allow for peak performance.

“From adding SmartHome/Connectivity or SmartTouch Technology to faucets, to installing pot fillers or beverage/RO faucets in a coffee bar area, more than technology is impacting the kitchen space. People are looking for ways to add new levels of functionality and convenience in the kitchen, but also unique experiences and touch points,” says Bayt. She notes that adding accessories and using the sink area as a more functional workspace is currently trending.

The rise in farmhouse styles and single bowls means counter space is lost, Maicher points out, creating demand for built in accessories like cutting boards, colanders and floating grids that conserve counter space and make best use of the available space for cooking and cleaning. “Little features, like a low divide, help consumers enjoy the look of a big bowl – but have separate areas for cleaning and prepping. These newer designs or styles – like transitional designs – are halfway points between the comfortable styles of the past and the contemporary styles of the present,” he adds. 

Demand for convenience leads to incorporating additional work stations throughout the kitchen. Multiple faucets in the kitchen space, such as prep faucets, pot fillers, RO faucets and instant hot faucets, are a big trend, says Wilson.

Prep-sinks are also important. “The prep station-type sinks with all the accessories continue to be very popular as consumers seek to explore their inner chef,” notes Khoury.

Faucet features that simplify kitchen tasks are key, and a pull-down sprayer is top on the list of must-haves, manufacturers say. “The feature of choice in faucets is the multi-function, pull-down sprayer because of the versatility this device brings to the faucet,” states Pien. “A pull-down spray transforms the faucet into an even more useful and responsive tool in the kitchen, while keeping the user in complete control over the task at hand.”

Technology that allows for faster water flow is also having an impact on trends. “Moen kitchen faucets that come equipped with the game-changing Power Boost technology also offer improved functionality that fills pots and pitchers faster and cleans 50 percent faster than those without the technology – saving time and energy at the sink,” says Radic.

“Consumers are also very interested in any uses of technology that can save time and effort in food preparation,” adds Pien. She cites American Standard’s Beale MeasureFill Touch kitchen faucet as an example. This faucet delivers an adjustable, set amount of water on demand. “Whether the user wants to fill a cooking pot or measure out just the right amount of water for a recipe, this innovative faucet is there to help – eliminating the need for a clutter of measuring cups on the kitchen counter.”

Easy-to-operate technology is important as well, manufacturers agree. “Kitchen faucets that offer touch-activated or touchless functionality are no longer new, but they continue to gain in popularity. As new innovations are introduced, even more consumers are finding them to be a worthwhile investment,” Pien says, citing Grohe’s Foot Control technology, which turns water flow on or off by the tap of a foot on an activation plate installed into the toe space of the cabinet.

“Homeowners are looking for ways to integrate technology into their kitchens, as smart products can help make tasks at the kitchen sink easier,” notes Radic, pointing to Moen’s MotionSense Wave technology, which turns water on with a simple wave.

High durability, easy maintenance

Performance demands aren’t limited to the features a sink or faucet offers. Consumers also expect sinks and faucets to last, and they don’t want to spend much time cleaning and maintaining them.

“Customers are looking for sinks that withstand daily use and don’t age quickly,” Webster says. “Sinks are intended to have a long service life and customers are seeking sinks that will be extremely durable and withstand regular abrasions from pots and pans.” This demand has consumers leaning away from easily scratched stainless steel sinks, and toward more durable materials such as quartz, he says.

“Material technology makes the sink more durable and easy to maintain,” adds Maicher, who believes consumers want materials that provide hygiene, durability and easy cleanability.

“One other key aspect we are seeing is consumer interest in low-maintenance fixtures,” says Khoury. “Consumers are asking what the maintenance requirements are before making purchases. They want a product that will stand the test of time.”

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