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Water Works

Sinks and faucets pull double duty as beautiful focal points of design and powerful workstations in the kitchen.

authors Elizabeth Richards | February 8, 2018

Kitchen sinks and faucets cannot rely on beauty over performance, or vice versa. Both qualities are essential as these fixtures both illustrate the homeowner’s individual style and contribute to easy workflow for home chefs.

Aesthetic appeal plays a central role in the selection of sinks and faucets. “Kitchens are the heart of a home, and designers often look to the sink and faucet to set the tone for the entire space,” says Naomi Neilson, founder and CEO at Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA. “There has been a rise in demand for natural, sustainable materials as well as one-of-a-kind pieces that offer a ‘wow’ factor to kitchens. Mixed organic and textured finishes coupled with the proliferation of sleek high-tech appliances has led to an eclecticism in design that, frankly, we just love and want to see more of!”

Tom Tylicki, senior product manager – kitchen for Moen in North Olmsted, OH, says faucets are an easy way to update a space and incorporate personal style elements, both in terms of design and finish. “Whether it’s a large, open kitchen with an island or a narrow galley kitchen, the faucet is a simple and affordable way to create a personalized style statement.”

At the same time, the way a homeowner uses their kitchen will help determine which sink or faucet they select, says Erica Sprangers, interior designer at Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WI. “A home chef may select a large sink with a spacious basin paired with a semi-pro style faucet. These would create a more industrial aesthetic in the kitchen. A cast iron apron-front sink paired with a pull-down faucet offers a warmer feel, which can carry into rich cabinet colors and soft tones for countertops.”

Current kitchen design style is very transitional, says Lars Christensen, v.p. product development at Franke Kitchen Systems, LLC in Smyrna, TN. “It is often a mix of contemporary designed cabinets or countertops with more traditional designed sinks and faucets, or the other way around,” he says. “Many different designs are being mixed up in the new kitchens.” These transitional looks open the door for plenty of variety in finishes, materials and style.

Clean and contemporary looks are also trending in kitchen design, and sinks and faucets are following suit. “These minimalistic shapes provide a certain calming effect to their environment, providing an inviting, approachable setting for the user. The finishes – instead of the design details – create the focal point,” says Noelle Giblin, senior director, Faucets at Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas, the business unit under which American Standard, DXV and GROHE operate.

Sinks and faucets also must be able to withstand constant use, and facilitate convenience and efficiency in the kitchen. Products that incorporate essential accessories are on the rise, and pull-down faucets with multiple spray features are in high demand. Single basin and apron front are currently sink styles in high demand. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

BEYOND STAINLESS

Some finishes, like stainless steel, stand the test of time, but there’s room for a wide variety of other options. Manufacturers say color is being used more than ever, including matte black, gold and other artisan finishes.

“One of the biggest trends we are seeing for kitchen faucets is the variety of finishes, specifically an interest in living finishes,” says Greg Rohl, v.p. of marketing at ROHL in Irvine, CA. “This love of brass/gold finishes hasn’t waned; in fact, brass is once again a neutral. But, one difference between the brass of the 1980s and today are living finishes. A living finish is untreated and therefore will patina over time as it is exposed to various elements.” He adds that people are no longer afraid to introduce color, including black, into their kitchens. “Having witnessed the popularity of black stainless steel appliances, you are now seeing this same trend in both sinks and faucets,” he says.

Noah Taft, senior v.p. of marketing and sales at California Faucets in Huntington Beach, CA, says that polished chrome, satin nickel and stainless steel remain the “go-to” finishes in the kitchen, but the firm has also seen significant interest in matte black, brass and gold-toned finishes. “It’s worth noting that, because of the extra wear and tear of kitchen use, PVD finishes are increasingly desired,” he adds. “PVD, which stands for physical vapor deposition, is a molecularly bonded finish that is light-years more durable than standard finishes.”

“Historically, stainless steel has been the most popular finish in the kitchen and bath faucet categories,” says Russell Levi, CEO at Kraus USA in Port Washington, NY. “Matte black is becoming increasingly popular and is quickly becoming the new alternative for stainless steel,” he adds. Other great options for an updated look include solid brass and two-tone faucets, he notes, and adding color to plumbing accessories and fixtures is becoming increasingly popular for 2018. “Painted kitchen cabinets and colorful faucet hoses create dynamic conversation pieces in any kitchen.”

Tylicki agrees that consumers are adding both gold and matte black finishes into their spaces. “Gold finishes are a popular choice for homeowners who want to elevate their design schemes with color,” he states. “In the past, gold fixtures have been associated with traditional design. Now, the finish also is being incorporated into homes with a modern aesthetic for a fresh take on this classic style.” He adds, “Consumers want unique finishes that make a statement, and matte black offers a modern look that allows homeowners to experiment with fresh ideas.”

HIGH AND MIGHTY

Manufacturers say larger, high-arc designs lead the way for faucets because of the increased utility these models offer. “High-arc pull-down kitchen faucet models represent a growing trend for the convenience and functionality they provide for everyday kitchen tasks,” notes Giblin, adding, “The taller design provides additional room beneath the faucet to accommodate large pots and pans while also serving as a stylish focal point in the kitchen.”

“Commercial-style, high-arc 18″-high faucets are becoming increasingly popular for urban kitchens,” adds Levi.

Rohl, on the other hand, sees designs becoming more refined and less commercial feeling. “Over the last few years, there was definitely a push to design kitchen faucets that were oversized, especially pull-down faucets, to resemble faucets used in a restaurant kitchen. I think we’ll start to see that trend diminish in favor of faucet designs that aren’t so commercial feeling,” he states.

Where you live has an impact on faucet size as well, Taft believes. “The trend is clearly toward larger, more stately faucets that really make a statement,” he says. “The exception is for densely populated urban areas or anywhere else where space is a concern. Those situations understandably prefer a smaller-scale design, so it can fit more comfortably into a constrained space.”

BEAUTY AND BRAWN

When considering sink styles, both aesthetic appeal and performance are important. Not only must sinks look great, materials must be durable and easy to maintain.

Though stainless is still on top for sink materials, followed closely by fireclay, manufacturers say that variety matters in the sink market, and color and texture have an impact on design.

Commercial-grade stainless steel is popular because of its durability and style, Rohl notes. “People have come to realize they need a sink that can withstand the rigorous use of today’s busy households, and using a sink material that is flimsy or inadequate won’t cut it anymore.”

Christy Emens, marketing communications manager for BLANCO in Lumberton, NJ, says that, in a recent internal survey of kitchen designers, stainless steel and granite composite were found to be head-to-head in popularity. In 2018, she notes, BLANCO will introduce a new material technology: scratch-resistant stainless steel. “By nature, stainless steel requires maintenance, and sink grids can only go so far to protect from scratches, especially if you have an apron front,” she says.

Textured materials are a current trend as well, says Neilson. “The great thing about the texture trend is that, depending on your design sensibility, that can play out in a few different ways. Some designers and homeowners prefer the aesthetic of our hand-hammered copper sinks, while others seek out the smooth yet earthy look that a concrete like our NativeStone provides.”

But looks aren’t everything. “While the look of a sink is important, functionality also plays a huge role in the decision-making process,” Neilson asserts. “For this reason, single-basin apron-front sinks that look beautiful and offer more generous dimensions continue to dominate.”

Manufacturers agree that single-bowl and apron-front sinks are currently the most requested styles. “Single bowls are almost the only thing selling these days,” Christensen maintains.

Emens sees strong interest in both large and small single-bowl sinks. “For sink designs, single bowls are more popular than a double- or 1-3/4-bowl design. Apron-front sinks are rising on the charts,” she adds.

Giblin states, “Spacious single-bowl sinks are popular because they can easily accommodate large pots and pans. We’re seeing that larger single-bowl sinks ranging from 30-33” wide are trending right now.” Undermount sinks are also trending, she adds. “No matter the shape or size, they provide a custom look. They also streamline cleanup, as crumbs from the countertop are much easier to simply wipe into the sink.”

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING FEATURES

Features that boost the capabilities of a sink or faucet can be as important as design, materials and finish. No one wants to work harder than they need to in the kitchen, and when accessories are built-in and right at the user’s fingertips, there’s more time for enjoying family or guests.

“Consumers want it all when it comes to selecting a kitchen faucet,” notes Tylicki. “They are seeking fixtures that are not only stylish, but durable and functional, as well.”

Popular features for faucets, says Sprangers, include pull-down sprayers with spray options, magnetic docking and touchless technology. And in sinks, she adds, included accessories like basin racks, cutting board, and/or a colander are a must.

The shift toward transitional and modern décor means that homeowners are choosing pull-down faucets over the two-handle or pull-out styles that were more popular in kitchens with traditional décor, Giblin says, because of their sleek style combined with increased functionality. “A multifunction pull-down sprayer is quickly becoming a must-have feature in kitchen faucets because of the versatility they bring to the faucet. This feature keeps the user in complete control over the faucet, which becomes an even more useful and responsive kitchen tool,” Giblin notes.

Christensen sees pull-down faucets with different spray settings as the hot trend, followed by semi-professional designs with oversized spouts that are specifically used for larger sinks and kitchen islands, where additional space is needed.

Just as with faucets, sinks with features that improve their functionality are frequently incorporated into kitchen spaces. “A kitchen sink is more than just a kitchen sink. There is a growing need for it to become a multifunctional fixture,” states Levi. “We are seeing the growth of workstations that marry style and durability, giving homeowners more function with less space, and these fixtures are changing the way people think about and use their kitchens.”

“When working with a designer, customers tend to demand grids and other accessories to save counter space and protect their investment. They want their sink and faucet to be multifunctional, easy to maintain and durable,” notes Emens. She adds that there is also an increase in demand for Universal Design and ADA-compliant sinks, where accessibility is more important than size alone.

Rohl agrees that function takes precedence over size. “For a while, it was about the size of these sinks, but not everyone has the space or need for a 74″ sink. Instead, it’s about the functionality and utilizing the space most people do have, and maximizing it,” he says. In 2018, ROHL will introduce a stainless steel sink design that features a sloped sink floor and offset drain. “What’s so unique about this combination is that it helps to maximize under-the-sink cabinet space – enough space that you can fit two 35-gallon trash/recycling containers under the left side of the sink, and keep your plumbing and garbage disposal contained in a separate cabinet.”

SMOOTH OPERATIONS

Technology that aids in the easy operation and maintenance of sinks and faucets is on the rise as an important trend, manufacturers note.

“Around the sink and faucet, sensor and touch technologies are trending, as are hygienic materials,” states Emens. “Consumers want the functionality they see in restaurants and hospitality in their own home environment to assist them when their hands are otherwise dirty or busy. They want faucets to turn on easily and surfaces to be easy to maintain.”

“Electronic touchless and touch on/off faucets are quickly gaining in popularity, particularly in the kitchen, where this technology can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination in food preparation,” says Giblin. “Electronic faucets are also very convenient in situations where the user’s hands are full or dirty, so it’s no surprise that this technology is taking off.” ▪

To see more kitchen sinks, click here. To see more kitchen faucets, click here. For the digital edition of this article, click here.

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