The Newest Kitchen
Consumers want ‘everything and the kitchen sink,’ with
super-sized sinks boasting such extras as drain boards, colanders,
water filtration systems and more.
By Daina Darzin Manning
The oven has evolved from a basic appliance to a souped-up,
professional grade, high-end and high-tech wonder. Cabinet storage
has become vastly more sophisticated from the days of the lazy
susan, with complex systems to utilize every inch of space.
So, is it any wonder that kitchen sinks have followed suit?
Larger sizes, innovative inserts and faucetry that combines
elegance with function and purified water are just a few of the
bells and whistles available in today’s kitchen sink and faucet
market, according to manufacturers surveyed by Kitchen & Bath
The sink used to be a simple proposition pick a material, decide on
undermount vs. drop-in vs. old-time farmer style, and you’re done.
“The kitchen is the heart of the home,” says Diana Schrage,
interior designer, Kohler Design Center, Kohler Co., in Kohler, WI.
“Accessories that allow more people to be in that gathering space
and share [food] preparation reflect a lot of lifestyles we’re
seeing. Formal or informal gatherings, the trend is still the same:
“People want to gather and share. Especially with the time crunch
we’re able to eat and visit and work simultaneously.”
The first step to a sink that works best in this scenario is a
Timothy Mullally, president and general manager of KWC Faucets
Inc., in Norcross, GA, cites a growing demand for “the spacious
bowl [that consumers] can wash any size pot or pan in.” Items that
are too big, or too dirty, for the dishwasher as well as pro-style
non-stick cookware, which is supposed to be hand washed all fit the
new giant size sinks with ease.
“Bowl depth is key,” adds Chuck Burhans, president of Blanco
America, in Cinnaminson, NJ. He says the 10″-deep sink is the
predominant trend. “[Consumers] prefer larger, deeper bowls so they
can maximize that space with their pots and pans.”
“You lose space under the counter, but you gain work space,”
says Angie Coffman, director of Delta product for Delta Faucet Co.,
in Indianapolis, IN, about the larger bowls.
Often, a second compartment to the sink accommodates the garbage
disposal or a cutting board. Schrage mentions a Kohler sink, where
one can slide in a chopping board or drain board, and combine that
with “the ergonomic friendliness of faucets with multiple spray
options. We can just flip that little lever up and have [the
faucet] be gently rinsing the spinach while we’re doing something
Other accessories can include a second snap-in bowl, draining
grates, colander or measured mixing bowl, notes Jay Beaumont,
v.p./sales for Franke Kitchen Systems, in Hatfield, PA. Sinks are
“the most used and abused appliance in your kitchen,” he declares.
All of the accessories “nest into the sink so you don’t have to
take up cabinet space. Everything is stainless steel except the
cutting board, which is a high-density commercial polypropylene,
like they use in butcher shops.”
Schrage also cites “bottom basin racks [which] have the soft
rubber coated feet that saves a lot of glasses from breaking and
pots from damaging the sink as they slip out of our wet hands,” she
“Virtually every sink [now has] a grid drainer at the bottom,”
agrees Mullally. “You can put it in the bottom of the sink and then
just wail away at a pot that needs a scrubbing, and you’re not
hurting the sink at all.” A grid drainer also protects the sink
bottom from abrasive edges on the bottom of saucers and the like.
“It keeps [the sink] showroom pretty for a long, long time.”
Similarly, a remote basket strainer gets high praise from
consumers, Mullally continues. “You know how, in your lavatory
faucet, you just pull a little knob and your drain opens or
closes?” A similar knob is now available for the kitchen sink. “It
really comes in handy when you have a broken glass in there, or the
water is filthy and greasy and you don’t want to put your hands in
it, or the water is extremely hot.”
Other, more traditional accessories such as soap dispensers,
chilled water- or hot water-dispensing extra faucets remain popular
with consumers, and are increasingly available to match any faucet
finish, those surveyed noted.
In today’s “living room” kitchen, one sink is often not enough.
Mullally cites a second sink in an island or wet bar as a growing
trend. “It’s used in a variety of ways,” he says. “The kitchen is
the heart of the home and the heart of the party. You can use it
for food prep while you’re standing there talking to your guests,
or you can use it as a hospitality sink to fix them a drink.”
Sinks are also taking on new shapes in utility rooms, says
Schrage, with shallow floor-installed sinks for such activities as
washing the dog, or cleaning dirt-encrusted vegetables straight
from the garden.
“Not only is the work triangle changing, so is storage [and] the
expansion of the utility areas,” she notes.
Form and Function
“The kitchen is becoming more of a centerpiece,” declares Coffman.
“All of the pieces are becoming more important as to style. The
faucet is a huge detail.”
Coffman believes that consumers are trending to more traditional
looks. “[Traditional] continues to grow in popularity,” she
believes, with people “trying to return to simpler times, moving
away from the cold, sleeker lines.”
But, she adds that, while consumers may want a warm, retro feel
to their kitchen, they want an efficiency level that’s strictly
21st century. This brings transitional style which combines both to
the forefront, “lending that Old World charm and styling but then
also taking into account the functionality requirements for daily
Predictably, the pull-out spray is the number one wish for
kitchen faucetry. “It’s a trend that’s so functional, it’s never
lost popularity,” says Mullally.
Today’s pull-outs have been greatly improved since the days of
leaky hoses and such and have moved over to the central faucet.
“Once you’ve tried it and recognize the ease of use, it’s hard to
move away from that,” says Coffman. “You’ve [also] opened up a
space. If you have a four-hole sink, you [now] have an extra hole
for increased functionality,” such as a soap dispenser or a hot
water tap for tea and instant soup. Additionally, today’s pull-outs
are available in a greater variety of styles, allowing a consumer
to mix traditional styling with modern efficiency.
The other trend in faucets higher arcs or other design to
maximize faucet height is designed to go with the new larger sinks,
manufacturers report. Delta has increased the height of its
faucets, notes Coffman, “so [consumers] have [increased] working
Stainless steel is still the predominant material for sinks and
increasingly, for faucets, manufacturers agree. But traditional,
softer looks are also in vogue.
“Stainless steel absolutely dominates the market,” reports
Mullally. “[Its market share] actually seems to be growing.
It’s just so durable, you can polish it or re-polish it if you
wish. But, it’s there forever.”
Schrage adds that “the more forgiving brushed finishes are very
well received,” while Mullally notes that any scratches can be
eliminated by taking a scotch brite pad and rubbing it along the
Surprisingly, steel has also found a place in the overall
kitchen trend towards a warm, serene, often more traditional
Schrage adds that steel paired with a variety of woods, concrete
and other warm materials meets this aim.
“Stainless in the past was always seen as a very commercial,
contemporary finish, utilitarian,” agrees Coffman. “It’s now
blended with more transitional styling.” For instance, a stainless
steel faucet with a steel sink gives a sleek, commercial kitchen
look. But, that same faucet paired with a white sink and
traditional cabinetry makes for an eclectic, warm feel.
But other materials are still an option for sinks, especially
for an integral bowl. Mullally cites soapstone and concrete as
adventure picks, while Beaumont cites Franke’s alliance with the
250-year-old German company, Villeroy and Boch, which specializes
in ceramic and fire clay. “They are building a fire clay product
for us which is a very hard, dense, ceramic material. We’re
marketing a line of very traditional farm sinks made of this
He adds that a new proprietary finish on fire clay makes water
bead off the sink. “Food doesn’t stick to it, either,” says
Beaumont. “Because it’s fired on, it won’t wear off. It’s
guaranteed for life.”
Similarly, Burhans reports an overwhelming response to Blanco
America’s new composite granite sinks, which also come with a
lifetime warranty. “The sink is the workhorse of the kitchen,” he
says. “It’s a catch-all for hot items, cold items, items that could
stain, some pretty wicked chemicals. There are so many composite
sinks on the market, and most of them [can’t] withstand that
abuse.” The new sinks come in a variety of colors, including the
popular Anthracite a slate color in a satin finish a solid white or
biscuit, and the newly hot metallic gray, which coordinates well
with stainless steel.
Stainless steel is also gaining in the faucetry market, though
Mullally notes that brushed nickel has become the dominant finish,
even surpassing shiny chrome. “It’s very warm, and it has that
brushed look that goes fabulously with stainless steel and
granite,” he says.
Living finishes such as oil rubbed bronze have been an adventure
pick in the last few years and remain a striking choice for
high-end design. Some, however, have noted that many consumers
prefer the “froze” version of those finishes. “In certain really
retro-looking faucets, it’s a nice looking finish,” says Mullally.
“But, [consumers in the U.S.], for the most part, want everything
to look perfect. And, oil rubbed bronze, by its nature, is an
imperfect finish. The handles don’t match the spout.”
“The trouble with [living finishes] is that, in time, [they] can
literally wear off,” agrees Burhans. “The color will age over time.
Our research [has indicated] some people didn’t have the idea it
would turn as significantly as it does.”
However, bronze finishes that capture the antiquing process at
the optimum point continue to grow in market share. Coffman cites
Delta’s Venetian Bronze line. “It looks like it’s been worn to
reveal the copper highlights, and then we freeze the finish,” she
Coffman notes that non-reflective, muted finishes continue to
grow in popularity, with subdued tones working better with the
homey, serene feel consumers want. People want to recall the
feeling of the kitchen they grew up with, she concludes. “They’re
trying to make their new money look old.” KBDN