Sinks & Faucets Spotlight Flawless Function, Personalized Style
Kitchen sinks and faucets are a functional necessity, but the aesthetic appeal of these elements cannot be overlooked. As homeowners strive to create personal and unique spaces, designers must be tuned in to the options available to create exactly the right look.
“With the popularity of the ‘home chef,’ kitchens are not just a central gathering place for family and friends, but are trending towards chef-inspired luxury,” says Lou Rohl, CEO and managing partner of ROHL, LLC. in Irvine, CA. As such, spaces are filled with luxurious amenities, from top-of-the line appliances and large prep islands to commercial grade sinks and faucets, all of which create a space that can handle elaborate meal preparation without sacrificing style, he says.
“Livable design” is a leading trend in kitchens says Tim Maicher, director of marketing for German-based BLANCO, which has U.S. headquarters in Lumberton, NJ. This design style is transitional in feel, he says, but has organic lines that are naturally inspired and offer durability and easy-to-clean performance. “It’s not enough to walk the line between traditional and modern. Today’s styles must also be performance driven – they need to save water, last longer, be easy-to-use and easy-to-clean. They also need to offer organic lines – gently sloping and easy to match with today’s surfaces, cabinetry and flooring. Even modern cabinetry is reliant on nature’s palettes and textures so the fixtures must match,” he says.
The style of kitchen sinks and faucets selected varies greatly depending on the personal taste of each client. However, across the board, homeowners are looking for clean lines and efficient use of space, high functionality, accessories that customize their experience and the freedom to make a design statement all their own. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Designers aren’t creating spaces to blend in with the crowd. Instead, their clients are demanding elements, including sinks and faucets, which reflect their own personal style. To achieve this, manufacturers must offer a wide variety of options to suit many different preferences.
“We’re seeing that consumers ultimately want to better express their personal style, which means they’re in need of even more design choices when selecting products for the kitchen,” says Andrea Conroy, senior director of marketing, wholesale for North Olmsted, OH-based Moen, Inc. “Increased options allow them to find just the right solution,” she says.
“Most people use their kitchen sink and faucet between 10-30 times a day. That’s probably more than any other appliance in their kitchen,” says Rohl. “Because of the variety of styles, finishes and colors that are available in the market, consumers now have the ability to truly customize their water appliance based on their needs.
This current trend of customization includes the use of multiple finishes in a space, a mixing and matching of styles, and a push to achieve a more “historically relevant period look,” says Jonathan Wood, v.p./sales and marketing for Brasstech, Inc. in Santa Ana, CA. “There is more freedom in design and the use of materials now than we have seen in years past,” he adds. “The desire to have a mix of modern convenience and period design has allowed consumers to really customize their space.”
Design that caters to individual needs is prevalent right now, and the accessories homeowners choose directly correlates to how they will use the sink/faucet area, meaning it’s different for each end user. Manufacturers agree that whatever accessories are selected, integrating these into the sink or faucet adds both convenience and style.
“Kitchen sinks and faucets allow for greater multitasking, intelligent use, accessories that are both functional and efficient throughout the cooking process,” says Lynn Schrage, Senior Channel Manager for Kohler Showrooms at Kohler, Co. based in Kohler, WI. “The sink is now thought of as a multi-task work station with new enhanced in-sink accessories.” Kohler offers a number of built-ins and add-ons that add efficiency to the station, such as stainless bottom basin racks which protect the sink’s surface and add convenience to prep work, and their Reset Surface Swipe cleaning tool.
“Personalization in the sink and faucet category has created a strong demand for integrated accessories such as cutting boards, workstations, caddies and grids,” says Maicher. Because everyone uses their sink area differently, the same accessories aren’t called for in every kitchen. “Consumers and designers can personalize the sink area to match their needs for space, functionality and ergonomics,” he says.
An integrated beverage faucet is one accessory that should be included at either the kitchen sink or bar sink, according to Conroy. Consumer research conducted by Moen shows that 38 percent of people looking to remodel their kitchens in the next 12 months have an interest in a filtered water dispenser, she says.
Rohl anticipates an increase in popularity of hot water faucets for 2015, particularly those that include an integrated tank filtration package. Adding these faucets means eliminating the need to wait for water to boil, as filtered hot water at a temperature of 190-210°F is available at a touch of the handle. “”Whether you’re brewing tea, preparing hot cereal or blanching vegetables, the water is ready when you need it. It’s such a time saver for today’s busy lives,” he says.
The overarching desire to create unique spaces leads to a vast range of choices available in both finish and materials. While no one finish or material clearly stands out above all others, several standard options remain popular, and others are beginning to emerge as leaders.
The standard finishes, such as polished and satin nickel, are still very popular in the kitchen, says Rohl, but over the last year there has also been a resurgence and interest in warmer, gold brass tones. “We expect that to continue into 2015,” he says. “When pairing these warm-toned faucets with sinks, there are more color/finish options than ever before.”
Judd Lord, senior director of industrial design for Delta Faucet Co. based in Indianapolis, IN agrees. “In faucets we continue to see clean geometries paired with warmer finishes such as Brilliance Brushed Bronze, Cocoa Bronze, Champagne Bronze and Venetian Bronze,” he says. “Brushed and polished nickels also remain strong choices and matte black is gaining a small foothold, working as an updated alternative to wrought iron or as a contemporary statement.”
Schrage adds, “Brushed stainless faucet-matched finishes continue to be a popular complement to stainless appliance selections, but oil-rubbed bronze and polished nickel finishes can make wonderful design statements at the kitchen sink.”
Materials continue to focus on stainless steel and brass, says Wood. “Regarding finish, we see a continued strength in stainless steel and a resurgence in uncoated brass products that age over time,” he says.
Moen is seeing brushed finishes as the most popular choices in the kitchen and bath for the first time, says Conroy. “Chrome has been king for a number of years, thanks to its versatility and durability. However, there are now a number of advancements available within brushed finishes that improve the overall look and experience at the sink,” she says.
Sink materials are as varied as faucet finishes, and though stainless is still a top seller, other less traditional materials are up and coming.
“In the kitchen, stainless steel still has volume, but the trends now favor non-traditional alternative materials,” says Lord. “Finishes are really based on personal style and the room’s look but the trends we are seeing more and more lately are textured and tempered metals, such as a clean copper, paired with marble to add a feeling of luxury and warmth.”
Naomi Neilson Howard, Founder/CEO, Native Trails, Inc. in San Luis Obispo, CA has seen increased demand for nickel finish sinks. “Our brushed nickel-plated hammered copper kitchen basins have maintained a disproportionate growth in comparison to other products, even with their higher price point,” she says. Additionally, the firm’s recently introduced NativeStone Collection of sustainably made concrete sinks seems to have struck a chord, she says. “People are loving the earthy yet fresh and clean feel of the concrete.”
Durability is an important consideration sink construction, making stainless and fireclay popular choices, manufacturers say.
“Stainless steel continues to be the most popular sink material for consumers,” says Conroy. “It offers a uniform, wear-resistant finish that’s durable and withstands chipping, cracking, staining or peeling.”
Rohl says that fireclay sinks remain one of the most popular choices due to their extreme durability. “Authentically crafted fireclay sinks are resistant to acid, alkali and scratches and often outlive the very spaces for which they were created,” he says.
“Granite sinks are on trend as they fit the model of livable design [with granite being] organic, durable, functional and contemporary,” adds Maicher. Top selling colors are brown, grey/black and beige and the fastest growing colors include warm grey, grey/black and metallic grey, he says. “Grey is one of the fastest growing neutrals in both warm and cool tones,” he adds.
With the strong pull toward customized spaces, styles are moving toward a more transitional feel, with plenty of room for unique faucet, sink and accessory choices. Open design has also impacted the look and feel of the space.
“More relaxed and open kitchen designs require sinks and faucets that can complement any look and remain timeless in the space,” says Schrage.
Open floor plans make a standout sink more desirable than ever, says Neilson Howard. “Apron front sinks are in high demand, as they can be the focal point of a kitchen,” she says. She adds that transitional designs that marry modern and traditional elements continue to grow in demand. “Textural materials are also quite popular, meeting the elemental human need to touch and feel what is around them. Hammered copper, with its distinctive texture, has a very tactile draw and works well in a transitional setting,” she says.
Designers are also streamlining the space, and working to create a clean, seamless feel, Lord says. As a result, he is seeing more single-basin sinks which offer a cleaner look. He adds that homeowners are also finding ways to increase spatial efficiency while still touting high-design.
“Open kitchen designs have called for chef-inspired faucet designs that are lower in height and more transitional in design,” says Maicher. Matching fixtures, such as bar faucets and accessories, are also in demand he says. “Many kitchens are featuring multiple stations or prep areas and sinks. A two-sink kitchen may have a prep faucet and a super single. Both require matching fixtures and accessories,” he says.
Wood says that Brasstech has focused on matching any and all items that may be placed on the sink deck, updating some items like air gaps and soap dispensers to complete the unique look desired.
Conroy also sees a desire to create completely coordinated spaces, where fixtures, accessories, lighting and even hardware match perfectly in both style and finish. At the same time, she says, “Younger consumers are more apt to have an eclectic style, meaning they like to mix and match items they currently own with ones they might be purchasing during a project,” she says.
Neilson Howard says mixing of materials and design styles is common. “Homeowners and designers seem to be more confident about combining finishes and styles in less typical ways, to fit the needs and desire of the homeowners.”
Sinks and faucets are certainly the workhorses in the kitchen, and performance capabilities are top considerations in the selection of these fixtures.
Rohl says that large, deep sinks paired with “industrial-styled” pull-down faucets will be continue to be popular in 2015, especially for remodelers. “Commercial faucets are often too large for most residential kitchens. By adding a slightly smaller version, consumers maintain the design elements and functionality of a larger commercial faucet and bring a “pro-chef” feel to their kitchen,” he says.
Maicher says that “super singles” as well as undermount sinks are still trending upwards, but big does not always have to mean deep. Sinks with a 9-9.5” depth are desirable, he says, and keep the sink practical for aging in place. “Low divide sinks cleverly offer separation – but room for large pots and pans,” he adds. “These help with ergonomics and are a growing category for BLANCO.”
A continued urban/loft trend and more movement to cities where space is at a premium means a leaning towards slightly smaller spaces, and sinks and faucets are adjusting accordingly, says Lord. Brizo recently added a mid-rise pull-out faucet to its Solna collection at the request of many city kitchen and bath designers, he adds. “The slightly lower model still provides all the important functionality of its higher arc brethren, but fits better under cabinets and windows in tighter spaces.”
Often, one sink in the kitchen isn’t enough. Additional smaller sinks are integrated into many kitchen spaces, allowing for prep work like washing vegetables or quick clean-up. “Primary kitchen sinks typically range from 30” to 40” in width, and it is common, or rather, standard, to see multiple accessory sinks in larger kitchens,” says Neilson Howard.
Rohl agrees. “Having multiple sinks in the kitchen is becoming a standard, rather than the exception,” he says.
Design details that raise the performance level, convenience or efficiency of faucets and accessories make a big difference in the kitchen. Though there aren’t new technologies in play, according to Maicher, existing technologies, such as instant hot and touchless faucet features, are being expanded and refined for home use.
Faucet styles that increase ease of use continue to grow in popularity. “Pull-down faucets continue to be a popular choice for consumers as the simple push button controls provide functionality at your fingertips,” says Schrage. In addition, she says, “Hands-free faucets are a great Universal Design solution for all ages – from ease of mobility to activation by small kids.”
Conroy agrees that hands-free convenience continues to be important to consumers. She adds that the popularity of pull out faucets is also growing, and another emerging trend is a lower-profile faucet which allows for more design flexibility.