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Personal Escape

Design trends for bathroom sinks and faucets move towards softer shapes, styles and finishes as homeowners seek to create a place to retreat from stress in the wake of the pandemic.

authors Elizabeth Richards | May 10, 2021

More than a year after COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., kitchen and bath manufacturers say that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on trends in bathroom sinks and faucets as designers help consumers create relaxing spaces that reflect their personalities and lifestyles.

“After such a peculiar year, the main trend we can [see] in 2021 is definitely an increased interest in the bathroom area, both in terms of size and functionality,” says Maurizio Meloda, sales director for GRAFF, based in Florence, Italy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift in design trends, where consumers are focused on health and wellness while also looking to create spaces within their homes that serve as an oasis,” says Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff, leader at Piscataway, NJ based LIXIL Global Design, Americas, which produces the American Standard, GROHE and DXV brands. “Pulling inspiration from a professional spa, we’re seeing consumers upgrade everything from the color and texture of finishes to the shapes and styles of their sinks and faucets to replicate that experience at home. These include sleek, smooth and continuous lines, elegant finishes and a space with a unified design,” he says.

The pandemic has inspired a sense of escapism, says Jeff Harwanko, senior customer experience design manager for Glen Mills, PA-based Professional Plumbing Group Inc., which includes the Speakman, Wolverine Brass and PlumbMaster brands. “Without the ability to travel, many people are replicating the hotel and spa experience at home,” he says.

Todd Alexander, v.p. of operations and product development for Kraus USA in Port Washington, NY, agrees. “As working from home continues, there is an increased emphasis on the bathroom as an escape or an oasis within the home. Homeowners are choosing to take this time to create their ‘dream bathroom,’ and the popularity of the DIY approach is growing,” he says. These factors have prompted growth for vessel sinks, he adds. “They add a flair of luxury while also being exceptionally easy for the DIYer to install. Likewise, vessel faucets create a striking focal point in the room and are easy to install in minutes.”

Alejandra Ochoa de Thompson, founder and creative visionary of Thompson Traders, based in Greensboro, NC, says she’s seen trends for sinks change significantly in the past year. In the past, she says, white porcelain sinks were the primary choice. “You went to a bathroom and it was very predictable what you were going to find,” she says. Thompson Traders has a wide array of designs, textures and colors in their hand-hammered sinks, and Thompson sees consumers stepping outside their comfort zone to experiment.

This elevated interest in the bathroom space has led to demand for personal spaces that use both sinks and faucets to make a statement, creating demand for myriad choices in finish, shape and style. Matte finishes and soft shapes top the list currently. Other trends include a move towards products that promote a cohesive look throughout the home environment, as well as demand for hygienic, easy to maintain products that last. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Personal Space

It’s always been important for designers to help homeowners create spaces that reflect their personal taste and style. The increased time spent in these spaces has emphasized this need.

Thompson says she’s seen a big change in the way people view the environment of their homes, particularly the bathroom. Being home so often leads people to want to identify with objects personal to them. “I also see that people are not afraid to experiment,” she adds.

“Homeowners are really looking to add touches of personalization to inject their own style into their bathrooms, and one easy way to do so is through the incorporation of different and unique colorways available in fittings,” says L’Hénaff. “When it comes to finishes, warm tones can promote a sense of calm and bring a level of tranquility to the space,” he adds.

Customization is a must, believes Meloda. Consumers are looking for personalized fixtures that can reflect their individual taste and inspirations, he adds. The Mod+ collection from GRAFF rises to meet this demand, offering sophisticated “mix and match” at its best, he says, with more than 20 finishes, 11 faucet styles, three shades of marble, as well as tub and shower combinations and accessories.

Jason McNeely, senior brand manager for Hansgrohe North America in Alpharetta, GA agrees that customization is key, particularly when it comes to faucet finishes. Premium and luxury consumers are demanding choices, he remarks. Hansgrohe’s Axor brand offers the “My Edition” faucet, which allows for customizing the top of the faucet with interchangeable wood, marble, leather or glass tops – and even offers the possibility of using specific stone to create a personalized top. “The luxury consumer loves that because they want personalization. They don’t want what everybody else has,” he stresses.

Thompson notes that, because her company’s products are individually handmade, customization comes easily for them. Whether it’s an extravagant sink using semi-precious stones for the powder room or a more practical undermount for the master bath, “We have it all. We can do anything,” she states.

Her daughter, Samantha Thompson Lizarraga, marketing v.p. for Thompson Traders, says that they’ve recently discovered that people also love the story behind the product. “Showrooms and designers are asking us to tell the story of our family and then they share that with their customers, and the customers share it with their friends. That’s adding a lot of value right now into the product,” she explains.

Tying it all Together

While both faucets and sinks can be used to make an artistic, eye-catching statement, they can’t stand out so much that they deter from the overall design.

“Faucets are the quiet gems of the bathroom space,” says Tim Schroeder, president at Duravit North America in Duluth, GA. “They are important to defining the overall design language of the space. It is important to not overlook the small details in bathroom design, as they tend to set the tone,” he says. Still, he adds, “A big trend is the perfect fit: where a washbasin perfectly matches the rest of the bathroom furnishings, creating a complete look.”

“We have noticed a growing demand for a full, coordinating suite that helps make the design process easy, with faucets and finishes specifically designed to go together,” L’Hénaff reports. “Choosing a full suite of products gives a seamless and complete look to the space.”

McNeely says they’ve also found that customers want to create that cohesive look throughout the home, in the kitchen as well as the bathrooms. “[Customers] want a consistent look. So often, with multiple bathrooms in the house, they can take on their own personality, but in the home there’s a commonality or flow,” he says.

Muted Tones

The desire for personalized spaces and custom finishes makes pinpointing specific finishes, shapes and styles as the top trends tricky. But manufacturers agree that matte finishes are seeing a surge, with matte black at the forefront.

“We are still seeing homeowners make the case for matte black, since the finish helps add to the urban, minimalist look and feel of their carefully designed space,” says L’Hénaff. “This contemporary finish is incorporated into American Standard’s Studio S Collection, which offers modular pieces and a range of finishes that allow homeowners to mix and match.”

Schroeder adds, “Chrome is most popular thanks to its timelessness and seamless ability to fit into any space, regardless of style. Black matte remains a popular finish as well, thanks to its soft appearance and its function as a statement piece that pairs well with modern, moody finishes.”

McNeely offers, “Matte black is no longer a trend. It is a staple and it’s not going away.”  Companies are expanding their collections to offer more in matte black due to the high demand. “Matte black is a neutral color, so it really fits into anyone’s home,” he continues. Because it doesn’t disrupt or clash with other elements, it has kind of taken over, he adds. Matte black is so popular, he says, that it’s been significantly outselling chrome in the company’s Joleena collection. “Chrome has always outsold every finish in every collection historically for us since the beginning of time. So, it’s become that staple.” The look is available not only in luxury products, he says, but also in DIY collections.

Matte white, however, is a trend, McNeely states. Hansgrohe has this finish available in two faucet collections and a shower fixture collection and will be adding more next year.

“Any finish that adds a pop of color or visual contrast is extremely popular,” Alexander remarks. “On the warmer end of things, brushed gold finishes remain popular, and on the colder end of the spectrum matte black is still on top. Matte black finishes are a really great way to create a high-end feel in your bathroom for minimal investment.”

Harwanko agrees that matte finishes, specifically matte black and satin brass/gold tones, are increasingly popular. “These finishes offer a bold, powerful statement in any bathroom,” he says.  “We are also seeing mixed metal finishes like these two finishes being paired together.”

Lizarraga says she thinks that, when it comes to the sink, people are branching out and using a variety of finishes, as well as mixing metals.

In sinks, Anna Popielarz, marketing director for Lacava in Chicago, IL, says white is the top color choice, but matte black is also in style. “Other neutral colors in matte are also gaining popularity,” she adds. The first choice for bathrooms is porcelain, followed by solid surface, she remarks, and then more refined materials that make a fashion statement, such as natural stones like marble, and concrete.

Soft and Simple Lines

Manufacturers say round, softer shapes dominate, along with simple, minimalist design. “Clean, pure and minimalistic forms are still trending, with round shapes being predominant,” says Harwanko. “Faucet profiles are thin and smaller in scale.”

Schroeder says they’ve seen an increase in more youthful and organic bathroom designs, with an emphasis on softer shapes and forms.

“In the case of both sinks and faucets, rounded fluid shapes that add to the soft rejuvenating feel of the bathroom space are extremely popular, as are textured surfaces that create a greater sense of overall visual depth,” observes Alexander.

McNeely notes that sweeping faucets with a curvature in the spout and handles add flair to existing shapes. One of Hansgrohe’s new faucets, for instance, features a hexagonal base but sweeps as it climbs. This allows for a sturdy base but more whimsy at the top, giving it some personality, he states.

Schroeder remarks, “For faucets, geometric and straight-lined, simple designs are most desired. Creating a sublime visual touchpoint across the bathroom space, geometric faucets pair seamlessly with angular or rounded washbasins.”

Meloda adds that there’s been increasing demand for faucet collections that offer an industrial look, inspiring two new collections at GRAFF – Harley and Vintage.

The size of the sink, Schroeder says, depends on the footprint of the bath. “In smaller powder rooms, for example, a bold faucet paired with a uniquely shaped washbasin will pack a punch when it comes to a memorable, powerful aesthetic. In larger baths, double-wide washbasins [and] two separate sink/vanity combinations remain popular.”

Popielarz reports, “The American market is still committed to undermount sinks when it comes to bathrooms for practical reasons. We see demand for small, single-person sinks and larger sinks to accommodate two persons. Vessel and pedestal sinks are perhaps starting to make a slow comeback, but this remains to be seen over the high construction months.”

Heightened Hygiene

Awareness of hygiene, as well as demand for easy to clean, durable products is climbing steadily, manufacturers report.

“Not surprisingly, more and more attention is dedicated to hygiene and, together with it, surfaces that are easy to clean,” notes Meloda. GRAFF’s Sleek-Stone sinks combine dolomitic stone with a unique resin that guarantees 100% safety when it comes to hygiene, he says.

The attention to hygiene has even inspired HamatUSA, primarily a kitchen product manufacturer, to introduce its Clear faucet, a single-lever, single-post bathroom faucet with a PVD copper finish, says Peter Raleigh, president at the Hamilton, NJ-based HamatUSA. The finish is antimicrobial and kills 99.9% of household bacteria within two hours, Raleigh reports. “The faucet is a high touch-point surface and therefore needs to be virus or microorganism free,” he says.

“Continued emphasis on hygiene will remain an important trend in bathroom design, including touch-free components of the bath, such as faucets,” states Schroeder.

“I believe the global pandemic is driving awareness to the benefits of technology with regard to bathroom faucets,” Harwanko adds. “We have seen a significant rise in the desire for sensor-activated products. Trends show we will continue to see increased adoption of sensor-activated bath faucets not only in public spaces, but also in homes.”

He adds that the demand for no-touch, sensor-activated products is especially important in the powder room. “The powder room faucet is most visited by guests and is typically only used for hand washing. Especially during times like now where hygiene is top of mind, choosing a sensor- activated faucet is ideal for this location,” he stresses. ▪

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