authors Elizabeth Richards | January 10, 2020
Kitchen sinks are high-traffic areas that must be set up to make the essential work in the kitchen more efficient and orderly. They’re also an essential element in the kitchen design, requiring options that allow designers and homeowners to create exactly the look they want with functional capacity tailored to individual use.
“The sink area sees a lot of traffic every day, and having a sink and faucet combination that best matches homeowner needs is critical for a functional and efficient kitchen,” says Danielle Radic, product manager at Moen in North Olmstead, OH.
Katie Hayes, senior product manager at Gerber Plumbing Fixtures in Woodridge, IL states, “More than ever, we’re now seeing increasing interest from homeowners looking to create a very personal space, with unique combinations of materials and design elements. Of course, form and function are always in demand, as everyone wants to make sure their fixtures are equally gorgeous and easy to clean and maintain.” This is evidenced by the surge in designer finishes, as well as the growing popularity of single-hole, pull-down kitchen faucets, she says.
“People no longer want just a sink; they want a sink that works for them and gives them more than just a place to do the dishes,” notes Jason Silverstein, global insights and design manager at Oak Brook, IL-based Elkay. “In addition, one trend we’re noticing is a growing user preference for complete sink and faucet solutions, supplemented with add-ons. This includes bottom grids and drains, cutting boards that fit atop the sink, while providing a one-stop shop of curated kits vs. having to piecemeal everything together,” he says.
Other top trends include creative finish combinations, increased demand for durable products that add convenience and specialized water delivery using a variety of newer technologies. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Much of the work in the kitchen centers around the sink, from food prep to clean up. That’s behind the rise in demand for features that make food prep and cleanup more efficient, manufacturers say. Integrated accessories make the most of limited space and help keep the area tidy and uncluttered.
Katya Palat, creative director at Kraus USA in Port Washington, NY sees a trend toward multi-functional workstation sinks that offer the capacity to store, serve, display, entertain and otherwise make the most use of limited space. Sinks with workstation ledges that allow users to work over the sink rather than using valuable counter space are in high demand, she says.
Dawn Robinson, marketing and communications director at Alpharetta, GA-based Bocchi USA notes, “Homeowners are taking advantage of products that make their lives simpler and increase the functionality of their workspace. As a result, features like 360° rotating spouts, taller-industrial sprayers that can make filling stock pots, vases and other tall items easier and faucets that offer more flexibility are rising in popularity.”
In sinks, she adds, her firm has seen increased demand for sinks with integrated work spaces. “Combining the sinks with the integrated accessories not only increases functional workspace in the kitchen, it also maintains a cleaner, more hygienic space by reducing spills from food prep,” she states.
Accessories allow homeowners to set up their sink area in a way that matches their individual needs, and shouldn’t be an afterthought, manufacturers agree.
“Matching kitchen accessories to complete the ensemble are increasingly sought after,” says Noah Taft, senior v.p., marketing & sales at California Faucets in Huntington Beach, CA. “If you specify just the faucet, you risk ending up with a hodge-podge group of accessories that don’t match in either style or finish. Many people are starting to realize that the kitchen faucet is just the main fitting on the back of the sink. They need the supporting cast to fully capture the proper look,” he explains.
David Ramia, v.p. of business development at Zip Water in Rosemont, IL says, “The evolution of the home and its sense of place have influenced our changing lifestyles and behavioral needs. Throughout the years, architects and designers have made it a priority to address the essential needs of the users, their wellbeing and their connection to the home.” This means anticipating the needs of the homeowner, including how they want their water to flow. “No longer an afterthought, multifunctional taps that promote wellbeing and place pure tasting, instantly available, boiling, chilled and sparkling water at the center of the kitchen are now a must-have appliance when building or updating an existing home kitchen,” he states.
The vast range of finishes and materials available and an increased tendency toward using multiple finishes in the same space make it easy for designers and homeowners to create a personalized design intended to garner attention.
“In terms of finishes and materials, designers and homeowners alike are looking for statement pieces that will stand out in a space and get noticed,” Radic notes.
“We’re seeing an unprecedented surge of interest when it comes to decorative finishes,” says Taft. “While polished chrome, the ‘vanilla’ of finishes, remains dominant in the kitchen, it has ceded some ground to a wider palette of artisan finish options,” he maintains. One finish with a notable increase in interest is the Graphite (PVD) finish, which bridges the color spectrum between black and silver/gray tones, Taft states. “Graphite (PVD) gives you a darker, more rustic alternative to polished chrome or stainless steel, but still remains in the comfort zone of mainstream metallic color.”
“We are seeing a rise in demand for matte finishes for both kitchen sinks and faucets,” Robinson adds. “The trend toward a softer look [for] these matte finishes gives an elegant and sophisticated look. For our kitchen sinks, we are seeing an increasing demand across the board, from matte white to matte black and shades of gray in between. For faucets, it could be anything from matte black to matte gold.”
Palat sees matte black and gold finishes, both separately and together, as the most popular finishes. Dual-tone finishes that mix metals in a single fixture, such as matte black with stainless finish, are also gaining in popularity, she adds.
“We are seeing people taking a lot more risks in the kitchen space with finishes,” points out Lucia Bayt, brand manager at Brizo in Indianapolis, IN. “There’s a lot of interest in matte blacks, golds and split finishes like Matte Black/Luxe Gold. We also are seeing matte white as an emerging finish trend in the kitchen.”
Hayes sees a growing trend toward mix metals and fixtures throughout a single space. “We’re seeing a lot of stainless steel appliances and sinks paired with brass and bronze faucets or lighting. A brushed brass kitchen faucet can be a real design focal point, bringing warmth to any space,” she says, adding, “the satin black finish in kitchen faucets has also gained popularity in recent years.”
“Consumers are becoming more open to combining finishes and colors to achieve an intentional, mixed metal look,” Radic agrees. “Homeowners are looking for products to suit their individual tastes by offering an element of personalization to make their kitchen design feel unique,” she adds.
Ramia believes that the most important factor in incorporating specialty products like the firm’s HydroTap by Zip Water into the design is to understand how people will use it. “How the HydroTap is used determines the installation location – for the keen chef it could be a standalone system next to the cooktop for quick access to instant boiling water, for the family with children on the kitchen island for easy access to chilled drinking water, for the entertainer over a sink on a wet bar,” he says. “With so many options, you really don’t need to be afraid to mix and match different materials, textures and finishes to create a more layered and inviting look.”
The general consensus among manufacturers is that larger sinks are trending, though dimensions depend on the overall size of the kitchen and available space. Designers are often incorporating more than one sink into the space to add versatility.
“Large single-bowl kitchen sinks continue to be popular,” says Tim Maicher, director of marketing at BLANCO in Lumberton, NJ. “Homeowners want sinks that are functional with the ability to accommodate large pots while also being stylish. Many homeowners are opting for transitional design in their kitchens and are looking at elements with geometric, clean lines to incorporate into their spaces,” he says.
“Overall, the 30″ remains the most popular size by a wide margin, but the larger sinks are definitely on a sharp rise,” states Robinson.
Silverstein says, “Larger sink bowls with more usable space and taller faucets allow for more room to move around the kitchen. The larger sinks also allow for customization and added work spaces.” He adds that there is growing demand for multiple sinks in the kitchen to assist in food preparation and entertainment, which leads to more interest in smaller bar sinks as well.
“Kitchen designs today often feature multiple sinks,” notes Hayes. “Single-basin sinks continue in popularity thanks to their clean visual lines and ability to hold larger pots.”
Sink style, space considerations, convenience and personal taste all impact faucet selection, with pull-down, pull-out and bridge faucets garnering a great deal of interest.
“Regarding faucets, everyone wants cleanup to be as easy as possible so pull-down, semi-professional and pull-out styles continue to be top picks,” Maicher believes. “Customization is important, and using faucets as a focal point or to pick up other design elements in the kitchen like cabinet hardware continues to be a trend.”
Adriana Miller, product manager at Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN says, “Bridge faucets are a style that is growing in trend. Regarding features, pull-down and touch faucets are very popular and enhance the user experience. Once you experience them, they are must-haves in the kitchen!”
Bayt says that pull-down faucets are still the most requested, but they also see the traditional bridge faucet gaining popularity, especially when there is added functionality.
Palat sees interest in smaller versions of faucets that used to only be available in very tall sizes, while Taft cites a trend toward larger, more stately faucets, but adds that size needs depend on where the homeowner lives. “In urban centers where space may be limited by cabinetry hung over the sink, lower profile kitchen faucets are needed,” he says.
“Industrial-style kitchen faucets continue to capture many people’s imaginations,” Taft adds. “Faucets with industrial details like knurled handles are increasingly popular.”
Strength and Convenience
New manufacturing technologies and materials that add strength and convenience to sink construction are important in delivering the stylish, durable, easy-to-maintain products consumers are looking for, manufacturers agree.
“We are seeing developments in our fine fireclay technology that offer a more modern, streamlined look to the material,” Robinson says.
“Moldable composites such as quartz continue to open design possibilities, allowing us to integrate useful features right into the sink design, like cutting board rails and drain boards,” Silverstein notes. “Incorporating these details on more traditional materials like cast iron is either cost-prohibitive or not possible.” Durability is also very important to their customers, he adds. “Quartz is a great, durable alternative to stainless and allows for more color options,” he says.
Palat notes, “Easily maintained materials/engineered stone are trending, with technology aimed at improving durability while maintaining a beautiful look.”
Efficient water delivery
From voice activation to sensor controls, advances in technology are making water delivery simpler and more convenient.
“Homeowners are looking for ways to integrate technology into their kitchens, as smart products offer added convenience, provide more control and can help make everyday tasks at the sink easier,” maintains Radic.
Silverstein says what’s happening with smart technology components, such as voice activation, AI and sensor controls, cannot be ignored. “At Elkay, it’s already allowing us to take the user experience to next level on our water dispensers, and we see the same opportunities for the kitchen sink space: improving convenience and driving awareness for more efficient water usage.”
“Touch and filter faucets are growing in popularity, as this technology is extended to a range of styles so that it can find a place in any kitchen,” adds Palat.
“The biggest trend for faucets is the rise of voice-activated faucets,” Miller notes. “Today, technologies such as VoiceIQ Technology pairs with your connected home device to give you exactly the amount of water you need. Features include metered dispensing and custom container commands.”
“In today’s connected world, we sometimes forget that the evolution of technology is different for various product categories; case in point, home drinking water products,” Ramia says. For years, this category has been scattered throughout the kitchen to include kettles, filters under the sink and on the fridge, and countertop appliances. The HydroTap combines all functions into one product, eliminating the need for multiple appliances or bottled water, he says. ▪