Landing on the right combination of style and functionality for each bathroom in the house can be tricky, but with all the choices available, designers have an opportunity to give clients exactly what they want. Paying attention to what the space will be used for, the personal style of the clients and practical details, designers can create bathrooms that stand out.
Sinks and faucets can be a springboard for the design of a bathroom space. “Whether it is a minimalist powder room or a spacious master bath, the faucet is an easy and affordable way to update a space and create a personalized style statement,” says Julie Everson, wholesale bath product manager at Moen, U.S. based in North Olmstead, OH.
“The faucet has grown in importance as an impactful architectural detail that completes a bathroom’s redesign or improvement model,” says Céline Marcotte, business development manager for Graff in Milwaukee, WI. “Often, the faucet determines the overall design of the space and sets the tone for styles that bleed into other rooms of the home.”
“I think people certainly want to create that ‘wow’ factor in their powder rooms or guest bathrooms,” says Alicia Kauffman, sales & marketing coordinator for Jeannette Specialty Glass/JSG Oceana in Jeannette, PA. “When a customer is in the process of remodeling, they are focused on a ‘look’ they want to go with in terms of paint colors for the walls, the vanity, the toilet, etc. We want customers to not think of a bathroom sink as an afterthought; rather take some time, do the research and find what will work best,” she states.
Bathroom sink and faucet design, like bathroom design overall, has been moving toward transitional and modern design for a few years now, which means sharper angles and simpler detailing. Mixing and matching of finishes and materials is increasingly common throughout the bath. Whether master bath or powder/guest bath, aesthetics and functionality are both important, though in slightly different ways, depending upon the space. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Frequently, bathrooms are a refuge; it’s the one place in a home to be truly alone. In master baths, homeowners crave a spa-like, serene setting. Even guest baths and powder rooms are trending toward a warm and welcoming feel, with earth tones and natural materials on the rise.
“We are seeing a big focus on earth tones and natural materials in sinks,” says Naomi Neilson, CEO & Founder at Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA “Natural materials such as concrete and copper are now available with incredibly durable finishes,” she adds. The firm’s NativeStone concrete material, used for sinks and tubs, is sealed with a highly stain-resistant nano-sealer. She notes that the MetalProtect sealer can be applied to copper and other metal finishes to maintain the finish over the long term, whether antique, polished or brushed.
Phil Cunningham, v.p. of marketing for Mansfield Plumbing in Perrysville, OH agrees that, more and more often, organic and natural materials are being used to make sinks. Though Mansfield has been limited to ceramic, it’s a trend the firm is watching, with an eye to expanding its offerings. “People are trying to incorporate more natural beauty into the bathroom,” he notes. “A trend I’m anxious to look at is incorporating living plants into the design.”
Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, v.p. of design for Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas, the business unit under which the brands American Standard, DXV and Grohe operate, sees bathroom sink and faucet trends heading toward “warm minimalism,” with a move to simpler design lines and neutral tones. “Popular sink and faucet styles highlight clean aesthetic shapes complemented by natural materials and warm, metal finish accents. These minimalist styles provide a certain calming effect to their environment and an inviting, approachable setting for the user,” he states. “The depth and soft contrast of a bathroom faucet’s finish can create an inviting focal point as compelling as the faucet design itself.”
Manufacturers see continued interest in tried-and-true colors and finishes: white and neutral tones for sinks; classic finishes like polished chrome, brushed nickel and satin nickel for faucet finishes. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room to get creative.
Cunningham says most people continue to opt for a white sink. “I don’t see the craziness that we saw in colors in the ’70s and ’80s,” he says. Rather, while there are small pockets of people who ask for grey or black, he believes most people use a white sink as an accent to whatever the main color is in the bathroom.
Neilson, on the other hand, sees “a big movement toward designing bathrooms with boldly contrasting finishes – the opposite of what was acceptable 10 years ago.” She is seeing the strongest growth in transitional styles and variants of modern styling, such as Industrial Modern or Modern Rustic designs. “Polished nickel, matte black, earth tones, brushed brass and rose gold are hot right now,” she maintains.
“Consumers are becoming more adventurous with regard to experimenting with color and on-trend finishes. Specifically, gold finishes, as an old style, get a contemporary upgrade,” says Everson. “In the past, gold fixtures have been associated with traditional design, but now, the finish is also being incorporated into homes with a modern aesthetic, for a fresh take on a classic finish,” she adds.
“A lot of interesting, new metal finishes are emerging to support the warm minimalist styling – from the current trend with matte black and warm golds, to up-and-coming matte metallic coatings,” L’Henaff points out. “Faucets with rich, textured finishes are also growing in popularity in luxury settings,” he adds.
“In recent years, we have seen many new finishes introduced into the faucet market, such as Unlacquered Brass, Brushed 24K Gold, Rose Gold, Black Matte and White Matte,” says Marcotte. While black matte and brushed 24K gold have been popular in powder rooms, she has noticed a resurgence of polished chrome in the master bathroom. “End-users still choose polished chrome for its classic shiny look, as well as its inherent durability that allows for simple maintenance,” she explains.
A move away from having all fixtures perfectly coordinated has opened the door for experimenting. “Consumers want pieces in their homes that stand out and get noticed, and with the trend of combining different finishes and textures on the rise, Moen’s Matte Black and Brushed Gold faucets allow these consumers to try new design styles without worrying whether the finish will coordinate with the rest of their décor,” notes Everson.
Sharp Angles & Modern Design
Style and shape are personal choices, and there are plenty of options to choose from. But overall, trends are leaning toward transitional and modern styles, manufacturers say.
“Trend wise, traditional bathrooms have turned into modern bathrooms, integrating elements that play to both aesthetics and functionalities. Transitional styles often are the result of the merging of these trends,” believes Marcotte.
“There is strong demand for transitional and modern-leaning design in bathroom sinks and faucets,” Neilson agrees. Size varies by location, she says, with sinks often smaller in large cities due to space limitations. “However, high-end homeowners also don’t want their options limited because of size restrictions – creative designers know how to fit in a larger bathroom sink if it’s important to the homeowner.”
Many manufacturers say angular styles are preferred. Kauffmann sees a trend toward clean lines and lots of hard angles, in simple and modern designs. Squares and rectangles have been the trend for the past two to three years, she notes, and JSG Oceana launched both a rectangle undermount and a square undermount model in 2017. “People want something clean cut, something unique and different.” When it comes to installation, she says, a semi-recessed look is becoming very popular. “People like the idea of having an above counter sink, but not a complete vessel.”
L’Henaff notes that his firm’s most popular sink styles are also under counter models, rectangular and moderately sized. “This style of sink provides a clean look and maximizes bathroom counter space. With undermount sinks, bath faucets are installed directly through the countertop and can accommodate any faucet configuration, including non-traditional installations,” he explains.
Popular faucet styles include compact two-handle faucets on 4″ centers, as well as 8″ widespread faucets further up in the price spectrum, L’Henaff notes. “Single-handle faucets that make a bold design statement are growing in use, particularly in upscale settings,” he adds.
“Single-handle designs are great for small spaces, whereas widespread faucets can make a statement in large master baths,” adds Everson.
Cunningham sees a mix in demand between rounded and angular, in part depending on geography. In coastal areas, he sees more sharp lines throughout the bathroom, where in the center of the country, more design details around the sink are evident. He adds that while Mansfield focuses on drop-in sinks, he has noticed a move toward integrated sinks and countertops, which make replacing a vanity top simple. And, he says, vessel sinks are still a trend. “The majority of the market is going to be a drop-in sink, but there are still people who want to put that vessel sink in there,” he notes.
As important as how the space looks is, it’s equally important that the sink and faucet function exactly as desired. That means features that add durability and water efficiency, while allowing all members of the household – and guests – to easily utilize them.
“Designers should continue to recommend faucets that work for all family members and guests, regardless of mobility issues,” says L’Henaff. “The use of single-handle and widespread lever-type handles can achieve this, while providing high-style design lines to the bathroom. Durability is also important. “Bathroom sink faucets – especially those in the family bathroom and powder room – experience heavy use in the home. We recommend looking for models that have a reputation for durability and are built to last, which will help prevent the need for repairs or replacement,” L’Henaff states. “Choosing a faucet that features all-metal construction and washerless ceramic disc valves is a simple way to reduce maintenance in the future.”
“Consumers are not only interested in the style and finish of the faucet, but also the functionality, and how those elements can work together,” Everson concurs. “For example, if a client plans to age in place, they may want to select a faucet with lever handles and temperature indicators, as they’re easy to use.”
“Quality is always top of mind for both clients and designers,” Marcotte notes. “Far from a new concept, but one that is still a driving force in the decision-making process, quality matters,” she adds. “Each piece, whether it’s a traditional free-standing bathtub or a faucet outfitted with the latest in technology, needs to offer longevity – and, ultimately, return on investment.”
Kauffman believes the USA-made glass sinks manufactured at JSG Oceana provide a decorative upgrade over white porcelain and stainless steel, and are maintenance free.
Cunningham cites customer research showing that, because of the overwhelming amount of choices in bathroom design, consumers tend to pick one thing they like and build the rest of the design around that. At Mansfield, he believes, they are looking at how to incorporate organic features into their traditional ceramic offerings to help bring some life to the bathroom. They are also focusing more on concealed drains, as opposed to the typical round drain, which can give a nice, new look to the bathroom.
Water-efficient performance is another must-have feature for bathroom sink faucets, says L’Henaff. “Whether homeowners are interested in greening their home, meeting local water use restrictions, or simply want to save money on their water and energy bills, we always recommend choosing a water-saving faucet,” he says.
Private Refuge or Splashy Showpiece
Whether a bathroom will be used solely by the homeowners or is a space guests will see makes a big difference in what’s trending for the space.
The master bath, says Cunningham, is all about relaxation, a spa-like getaway and, as a result, it’s a very personal space. The powder room, on the other hand, is all about functionality, he states.
“The master bathroom functions as more of a sanctuary. It demands that special attention be paid to distinctive materials and finishes, and often provides the space to accommodate a double sink with dramatic widespread faucets,” notes L’Henaff. “Guest room baths are used less frequently, and their compact size demands smaller sinks and space-saving single-handle or centerset faucets,” he adds.
And the powder room, though smaller like guest bathrooms, is typically on the main floor of the home and requires highly durable materials, fixtures and faucets due to high usage, L’Henaff points out. “Powder rooms are also the best place to showcase your personal style, since this is the only bathroom most of your guests will see.”
“People are more willing to be bold with their choices in secondary baths vs. the master bath,” says Neilson. “Even though people love the bold styles and finishes, they often view the master bath as more of a peaceful sanctuary.”
Everson agrees that powder rooms, primarily used by guests, should be highlighted as a showcase area. “Homeowners could make a statement by incorporating a finish previously associated with traditional design, such as Brushed Gold, and pairing it with unique cabinetry or hardware, for a contemporary upgrade on a classic style,” she concludes. ▪