Pivotal Workstations

by Autumn McGarr

In the kitchen, the sink and faucet are central to both design and function. Visually, these pieces make a bold statement of personality and style. Functionally, the right features can make work in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable.

“The sink and faucet are the focal points of the kitchen, not only from a visual perspective but also functionality,” remarks Rhyan White, industrial design, R&D and analysis at Elkay in Downers Grove, IL. “Whether it’s for meal prep, bathing babies or pets or cleaning purposes, most of the action in the kitchen revolves around the kitchen sink.”

“Kitchen sinks and faucets are on the front lines of keeping a home clean and safe – used continuously for food preparation, hand- and dishwashing,” offers Edyta Drutis, director, brand & communications at BLANCO North America in Lumberton, NJ. “Often overlooked, these fundamental fixtures have an essential role to play, delivering thoughtful options that enhance wellness in the kitchen while still looking contemporary and beautiful.”

Todd Alexander, chief operating officer at Kraus USA in Port Washington, NY notes, “If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the sink and faucet is the heart of the kitchen.” Aesthetically, he adds, the sink is a central statement piece in the kitchen. “With countless color, material and style options, it is the best opportunity for a designer or homeowner to express their individual style. Perhaps offering even more aesthetic variety, with an ever-growing assortment of available finishes and designs, the faucet can be thought of as the crown jewel of the kitchen.”

Sink and faucet trends this year have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, creating demand for features that promote hygiene as well as allowing homeowners to create the look and feel they desire as they spend more time at home.

Aspirational style choices and technology are on the rise, as are unique combinations of styles, materials and finishes that reflect homeowners’ personalities and functional needs. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Elevate and Expand

Manufacturers have seen trends towards expanding the functionality of the kitchen, the usage of sinks in other areas of the home, and more elevated design and function.

“The kitchen faucet is increasingly becoming the statement piece and many luxury consumers desire a well-known, high-end brand that can be front and center, similar to high-end appliances,” stresses Katharina Adrian, product manager at Dornbracht Americas in Duluth, GA.

The lifestyle changes due to COVID-19 have also influenced design, adds Maris Park, color material finish designer II at Delta Faucet Company in Indianapolis, IN. “We are asking more of our homes than ever before. These increased at-home tasks are changing the way we see our homes and how we want to renovate them,” she says. “Many have been wanting elevated, aspirational designs they never got around to doing, while others are trying to add functionality to simplify their lives.”

“Advanced technology – such as touchless faucets and connected apps – are enhancing efficiency and bringing kitchens to life in ways that people never would have imagined,” observes David Ramia, v.p., business development at Zip Water USA in Rosemont, IL.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting trends in sinks as we are seeing a shift towards larger [pieces] and a desire for a more special sink than a commodity sink,” states Jake Khoury, general manager at Nantucket Sinks, based in North Kingstown, RI.

“We’re seeing an increase in interior design projects, given many are at home and inspired to make updates,” remarks Chris Wilson, kitchen product marketing manager for Brizo, in Indianapolis, IN. “People are looking to change up their environments and continue to make their space their own.”

“Consumers are spending more time in their homes, and this has led them to notice the need for certain upgrades they’ve been holding off on. [They are] conducting easy swaps and upgrades that can make a subtle yet impactful difference,” states White.

Homeowners are also expanding their living spaces, White adds, from creating an outdoor kitchen or bar to converting garages into gyms or offices. Since these spaces are far from the kitchen, she says, this creates new opportunities for adding sinks and filtered bottle fillers to eliminate the need to return to the kitchen for water.

Making It Their Own

Personal style and preference are important in all aspects of design, including kitchen sinks, faucets and water accessories. That may mean mixing and matching finishes or styles, choosing bolder colors, adding specialized accessories or a combination thereof.

“People are leaning into products that offer variety and personalization,” Wilson notes. For many, this means using a variety of materials and/or finishes in the same space.

“Decades ago, matching was the ultimate luxury. Now, designers and homeowners are pushing back because many believe the matching lacks character or personality,” states White. “We are seeing a mix of metals and colors within the kitchen space. A heavy mix of metals, finishes and textures give the kitchen an artisan feel.”

Park says they see a lot of mixed metals and alternative materials, such as wood or stone, being used in faucet designs. There’s also a craving for specialty finishes and finish treatments, she adds. “Blackened finishes like matte black and black stainless were on the leading-edge years ago, but now they’re a new neutral and not seen as polarizing.”

Adrian reports that darker finishes and brass tones are very popular right now, along with the mixing of metals, such as dark finishes with brass accents. “We’re also seeing a rise in popularity with pull-down faucets with spray features, sinks with integrated accessory selection, and matching color options for the sink such as dark stainless steel or gold tones,” she offers.

Color choices are shifting as homeowners become more confident in selections that make a personal statement. Peter Raleigh, president at HamatUSA in Hamilton, NJ, believes color is taking off. “I think people are growing more and more confident with the faucet manufacturers’ ability to make finishes like copper [or] brushed brass in a PVD finish, and consumers are gaining confidence that it’s going to last and be more durable,” he says. Finishes that move away from the standards – brushed brass, polished nickel and polished chrome – are gaining momentum, he stresses, though he adds, “Polished chrome is always going to be the number one product.”

“When it comes to finishes and materials, brushed metallic finishes such as brushed gold continue to be in high demand,” Ramia asserts. “And, the timeless finishes like chrome and brushed nickel never go out of style.”

Farm sinks are still the most popular, Khoury reports, in all finishes and styles. Fireclay and granite composite are the most popular materials, he adds. Matte black and concrete are the most popular finishes after white, he notes, followed by colored granite composite.    

Raleigh stresses that white fireclay sinks are doing well for them, with the movement towards light colored kitchens. As more manufacturers offer fireclay, he adds, “people are beginning to understand that it is a very durable sink and something that is going to stand up to the test of time.”

Focus on Health

It’s no surprise that, this year, consumers have called for a greater emphasis on health and hygiene. Awareness of germs, and how to avoid them, is a top concern, manufacturers say.

“The biggest thing that consumers are looking for are products that help to cut down on germs in the kitchen,” emphasizes Alexander. “That is why Kraus has created a Healthy Home initiative that embraces low-maintenance solutions to help customers create a cleaner and safer living environment. Since we are all spending more time at home and cleanliness is a top priority, this initiative is focused on limiting the spread of bacteria in high-traffic spaces where it matters most,” he says. As part of this initiative, he adds, Kraus has two antibacterial material technologies for kitchen sinks.

“COVID-19 is impacting home trends across the board, and as people continue to spend more time at home, they are looking to upgrade and refresh their space – especially when it comes to incorporating a healthier and hygienic lifestyle,” notes White. “We will continue to see more commercial products being made specifically for the home, such as touchless faucets and sink materials that help prevent the spread of germs, like copper and quartz.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people worldwide to spend more time at home than ever before, in addition to putting a greater emphasis on health and physical well-being,” reports Ramia. “That combination makes having access to quality drinking water even more important.”

Drutis says it’s also important for designers and retailers to point out that easy maintenance is key to maintaining a clean home. “Closed coils or pull-downs are easier to wipe clean, along with hydrophobic or nonporous surfaces like SILGRANIT that clean effortlessly without harsh chemicals,” she states.

Consolidated Function

In the kitchen, reducing clutter without losing function is important. Manufacturers say this is creating a trend towards multifunctional spaces that combine many functions into one area, such as versatile faucets and “workstation” sinks.

“A current trend in faucets is to provide multiple functions within a single product,” observes Ramia. “Gone are the days when a faucet only delivered hot and cold water for washing dishes; in its place are all-in-one taps that also dispense instant boiling, chilled and sparkling filtered water. These faucets are gaining popularity and will become a standard feature in the coming years,” he says.

Alexander notes there is a focus on doing more with less and saving space where possible. “In recent months, the heightened dependency on our homes has led consumers to seek durable, high-quality options that boost functionality and add lasting value to their homes,” he states.  “Consumers have a growing need for fixtures that make their lives a little easier and improve their kitchen workflow. They are willing to invest in products that do more, last longer and change the way they interact with their homes for the better.”

“In 2021, we will see homeowners swapping out sink hardware and plumbing options for those that can do more. Today, there are easy swaps people can do to update their kitchens now that products have been upgraded to include better technology and more customization, including new colors, metals, hands-free capabilities and improved spouts,” reports White. “Workstation sinks are becoming highly requested among homeowners because they not only take up less counter space but allow for prepping and cleaning up in the same area.”

“BLANCO is re-imagining the sink and faucet as a seamless, fully integrated kitchen water hub solution that makes everyday life in the kitchen easier. It’s a sink, faucet and accessory system that works together to enhance your experience with water,” offers Drutis. “The most time spent in the kitchen is at the kitchen sink, so planning the perfect kitchen water hub to meet household and lifestyle needs is essential. “

Khoury believes there’s a need for utilitarian sink spaces as people spend more time at home. “No longer do homeowners settle for a basic sink; they want a sink that works for them, their pots, pans and cookie sheets, etc. Workstation sinks with integral cutting boards help offset the lack of counter space and have large integral trays that double as serving areas,” he stresses.

Raleigh says that these workstation sinks – which hold a cutting board, have multiple levels and allow for more tasks at the sink than ever before – are very strong in all materials for the company. He adds that, as part of this trend toward workstations, people are getting more daring in their drain choices, as well, using color and deep basket drains.

Durability is also a key consideration. “The kitchen faucet is a hardworking and important piece to help accomplish kitchen tasks, so designing with durable materials and reliable craftsmanship to avoid leaks and cracks is a top priority and the reason why we use only solid brass in our products and ensure that each faucet undergoes our rigorous leak testing program,” notes David Emmons, marketing director for Brasstech, the parent company to Newport Brass and GINGER Brasstech in Santa Ana, CA.

Hands Off

Hands-free faucets have been growing in demand for a number of years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened the move towards touchless options, manufacturers say.

“Touchless faucets are moving from being primarily a commercial product to one that is used more and more in homes due to COVID-19,” Emmons states.

“Since touchless is becoming the new normal, touchless faucets with filtered water and sensor-activated options will help keep the kitchen sink area sanitary,” White adds.

“While in-market for some time, SmartTouch and hands-free kitchen faucets are more relevant now than ever,” concurs Wilson. Brizo also offers VoiceIQ Technology, she says, where – in connection with a smart device – people can turn their faucet on or off, or dispense an exact amount of water, just by speaking. With the handwashing module, users can simply say “Tell Brizo to wash hands,” and a pre-set handwashing cycle will begin, he adds.

Delta Faucet also offers voice-command technology and a timed handwashing feature that follows CDC handwashing guidelines. “Spurred by the pandemic, many are looking for technologies that better support health and wellbeing,” Park notes. “They want these technologies to transform their home to a place of retreat for wellbeing.” ▪

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