Cohesive Work Hubs

by Ashley Lapin Olian

Kitchen sinks and faucets can no longer be pigeonholed as simply the “workhorse” in the kitchen. Functionality is still a top priority for these essential products, but style and design are just as important. Sinks and faucets are the most used elements in the kitchen, but they also create a great focal point and accent for the overall design of the room.

“When it comes to faucets, it’s all about ensembles now. Clean and compelling design dictates the need for accessories to match the style and finish of the main faucet,” says Noah Taft, senior v.p., marketing and sales, California Faucets in Huntington Beach, CA. “Like the bathroom faucet, the kitchen faucet is the jewelry of the room, but it also plays an enormously important functional role. Imagine a luxury kitchen without a solid, beautifully designed kitchen faucet, without matching accessories, and what do you have? It’s like buying a luxury car today, but without a navigation system. You can do it, but really?”

Judd Lord, senior director of industrial design for Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN, agrees that homeowners are looking for a consistent look with a uniform finish throughout the kitchen. “Full suite kitchen collections with pot fillers, bar/prep faucets and soap dispensers create a cohesive look throughout the space,” he says.

Greg Rohl, v.p. of marketing at Irvine, CA-based ROHL says homeowners are placing more emphasis on the size and functionality of kitchen sinks and faucets as uses become more varied. “While the sink and faucet used to be a lower priority to cabinetry, countertops and cooking appliances, the ‘water appliance’ is becoming one of the first areas specified,” he says. “Kitchen sinks aren’t just for washing dishes anymore. Larger, more specialized sink designs, combined with features such as filtered and hot water, and accessories like cutting boards, colanders and dish racks, are now at the heart of any ‘chef’s kitchen,’ serving as a food preparation and entertainment centerpiece.”

Eric Moore, interior designer at Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WI, says that, while the kitchen sink space has historically blended in rather than stood out as a place homeowners wanted to show off, there is a shift occurring. “There are many options for homeowners in technology, size, color, shape and materials. As more technology and different types of functionalities are incorporated into other areas of the kitchen, we are excited to see how the sink and faucet space are adapted and enhanced to match.”

As sinks, faucets and their accompanying accessories garner more attention, some trends emerge. Large sinks and taller faucets are on the rise, pull-down faucets are becoming more standard and simple functionality is important. A coordinated look with flexible options is desired, and unique materials and finishes are gaining interest. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

FLEXIBLE AND FUNCTIONAL

Although specific features vary with the lifestyle of individual homeowners, a consistent demand is for sink and faucet areas that offer flexibility and qualities that enhance the functionality of the space.

“Today’s homeowners want elevated design choices that don’t compromise the space’s functionality, for an opulent yet livable kitchen. To accomplish that, we are seeing more high-end, industrial materials in the kitchen,” says Lord. He’s also seen a rise in all-in-one concrete sinks and countertops, as well as increased demand for the company’s Articulating Kitchen Faucets with SmartTouch Technology.

Offering both stream and spray options is important, as is flexibility in how these operate, manufacturers say. “Consumers demand their kitchens be beautiful and functional – requiring the sink/faucet to do everything from rinsing greens to scrubbing pans,” says Katie Hayes, senior product manager for Danze, Inc. and Gerber Plumbing Fixtures in Woodbridge, IL.

Sprayheads that go from stream and spray modes without needing to be turned off improve the experience, says Taft. “Sprayheads that allow you to toggle back and forth give you the ultimate flexibility,” he notes.

Durability is another essential element in sinks and faucets, according to Javier Korneluk, senior director, global sales and marketing for Graff, headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. “Since both the kitchen and bathroom are two of the most used rooms in a house, homeowners want sinks and faucets that will stand the test of time, while also providing them with a pleasant day-to-day experience. Strong water pressure, water-saving flow rates and spouts that are ergonomic and adaptable are all market features that are in high demand,” he says.

Optimal flexibility means including exactly the right accessories integrated seamlessly into the sink area. Multi-level sinks with integrated accessories are trending, according to Moore. “It is about making the space smart and hardworking,” he states.

Eric Gunderson, product manager for Blanco in Lumberton, NJ, says that it’s also essential for a sink to be easy to clean and maintain. “You cut a countertop to put in a sink, so it’s not going to be replaced easily. And it’s one of the most used and abused areas of the kitchen,” he says. Other important elements, according to Gunderson, include grids to help maintain the bottom of the sink, and multifunctional accessories like built-in cutting boards and colanders, which save space.

Lifestyles have a huge impact on trends, says Rohl. As people become more health conscious, they are adding specialty faucets into their design, such as a filter faucet or an on-demand hot water filter faucet for blanching vegetables, making oatmeal or brewing tea, he states. “We believe the properly designed water appliance truly reflects the lifestyle and life stage of the homeowner. It’s extremely important to the overall design style of the kitchen, especially now that they’re taking up more ‘real estate’ in the space. With so many options now available, it’s so much easier for a designer to find a sink and faucet that enhance the overall design while being extremely functional.”

DISTINCTIVE MATERIALS AND FINISHES

There are certainly material and finish choices that will hold steady, regardless of changing trends. Stainless steel has long been a popular choice, and isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. Polished chrome and satin nickel are others that will stand the test of time, manufacturers agree. But in addition to these choices, there’s increased interest in alternative materials and finishes, manufacturers note.

Blanco’s Silgranit sinks continue to take off, says Gunderson. “As more players enter the granite composite marketplace, consumers and designers will have to get up front and close to these materials,” he says. Blanco focuses on smart colors, he adds, that can either blend in or stand out with the counter surfaces. “Flashy colors may not work as well for the lifespan of the kitchen,” he adds.

Jeffrey Buckley, national sales manager for Hamilton, NJ-based Houzer, says there are more sink options available than ever before. “From size, shape, material, texture and color, there is a rich palette of options to choose from to make any vision come to life.” He notes that white fireclay sinks are popular, as are black and gray/taupe granite sinks.

According to Lord, sinks are seeing growth in non-traditional, alternative materials such as concrete, marble and soapstone. To offset these neutral raw materials, he sees homeowners infusing the area with warmer finish tones – such as brushed and satin golds, dark pewter, cognac or brass. These warmer tones are being selected for faucets as well, he says. “Matte black finishes are increasingly popular among homeowners looking to make a bold, contemporary statement in the kitchen,” he adds.

Hayes has also seen increased interest in black finishes. “It makes a striking statement and beautiful contrast in a crisp white kitchen and when complementing black appliances,” she says. She also cites deep bronze tones, like the Tumbled Bronze finish offered by Danze, as being popular among those looking for warmer tones.

Taft sees his company’s decorative physical vapor deposition (PVD) finishes in demand. “Given the wear and tear of daily kitchen use, PVD presents a notable extra value for those who want an elegant looking finish but don’t want to deal with extra care,” he says.

While stainless steel leads as a sink material, Rohl notes that there is a wide range in quality, with true commercial-grade gauges with robust sound-deadening properties being the standard. “These new ‘workstation’ sinks need to handle heavy use without sounding like a drumming circle when the water’s running,” he says.

In faucet finishes, Rohl is starting to see interest in matte finishes rather than polished. “A variety of brass and copper tones have become kind of the ‘it’ look, matched with clean white cabinetry and countertops but, again, most kitchens need finishes that provide function as well as a decorative appeal,” he says.

Graff Business Development Manager Céline Marcotte, on the other hand, says, “There was a large demand for matte finishes last year, but as we move into the new year, we think we will see people going back to the classic, clean look of chrome and nickel.”

STATELY STYLE

The way people are using their kitchens, the trend toward more professional-style cooking and a desire for heightened functionality impacts the styles more often chosen. Many manufacturers say sinks and faucets are getting larger, for added function and enhanced design.

“Kitchen faucets have grown increasingly taller, and more stately,” says Taft. “With the exception of Manhattan and areas with serious space limitations, these more striking and solid-looking faucets add a robust and powerful feeling to the kitchen area. For people who are seriously into cooking, culinary-style faucets continue to increase their market share.”

Lord adds, “Staying true to the current want for added functionality among home chefs, high-arc, pull-down kitchen faucets are increasing in popularity. This option brings the industrial-style flexibility of a chef’s faucet with 360-degree swivel capability. To accommodate the unrestrained style of the high-arc kitchen faucet, we’ve seen larger, farmhouse-style sinks trend up to offer more space to rinse and prep.”

Marcotte says consumers are starting to play with scale in different ways as well. “We see size shifts depending on the function and style of the overall design concept. For example, many designers and homeowners are choosing to pair a smaller faucet with a taller sink, or a longer faucet with a flatter sink. The overall stylistic partnership of the sink and faucet is taking prominence over function or preference.”

GOING SOLO

The desire for more space in the sink area also means a move toward single-bowl sinks and single-hole faucets. “There is so much more you can do with a large, single bowl,” Buckley says.

Regardless of whether a sink is undermount, farmhouse or top-mount design, single-bowl sinks are popular, agrees Hayes. The reach of the spray is an important consideration in selection of the faucet for a single-bowl sink, she adds. “Kitchens are being designed without upper cabinets above the sink, which allows for a taller pull-down style kitchen faucet and provides a more open feeling kitchen space,” she says, adding that the single-handle pull-down faucets are dominating. “With so many kitchens using solid surfaces and undermount sinks, you can achieve an uncluttered look with only a single hole.”

Gunderson agrees that single bowls are trending, but says Blanco sees a need for both small and larger bowls. This can mean more than one sink is incorporated – perhaps matching laundry, bar and kitchen sinks, for instance. “Low divides are also expanding as people remodel with one foot in the past and one in the future,” says Gunderson, “wanting that single-bowl look, but not giving up on two bowls completely.” He adds that a single-handle faucet is easiest for both aging in place and multigenerational households.

CREATIVE PULL DOWNS

Pull-down faucets have long been on the rise, and this trend continues, with added flexibility and functionality. “For faucet selection, pull down remains a popular demand from homeowners, along with more and different functionalities like aerated sprays, a spray to help clean and sprays for rinsing fruits and vegetables,” says Moore.

Gunderson adds, “We are seeing pull-down faucets with dual sprays and high arcs. These are livable or organic in design. They have clean lines that fit into modern and classic settings – but with a nod to organic shapes that are softer than professional chefs’ faucets and therefore fit better into furnished Great Room settings. A pro faucet with its high functionality and high arc is still desirable, but we’ve reimagined those features to be more sophisticated and fit in better with the living kitchen home environment.”

Rohl says the functionality of pull downs has been adapted to a wider range of decorative styles. “In recent years, we’ve seen the popularity of professional or commercial designs. Now we’re seeing a demand for more decorative interpretations.”

HANDS OFF

Sometimes, a new technology changes the way a product is perceived. This seems to be the case with the hands-free option in faucets, at least for some. “Touchless technology certainly has changed how we think about faucets,” says Moore. “Faucets are no longer the last item chosen. With new technologies like touchless, homeowners are more aware of the benefits of having the right faucet.”

Taft says that although touch-free kitchen faucets have clearly arrived, the reviews are mixed. He has heard complaints about touch-free faucets being ‘buggy,’ he says, and there is no ability to change the temperature without touching the handle. “It’s pretty subjective as to whether or not touch-free faucets bring true value, or are still a bit gimmicky and not yet ready for prime time. Time will tell, but I applaud manufacturers’ commitment to innovation,” he concludes. ▪

To see additional sinks and faucets, go to our Product Guide.

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