When it comes to kitchen sinks, faucets and water accessories, kitchen and bath designers and homeowners all want the best of both worlds. Beautiful yet functional, traditional yet modern, personalized yet professional, the trends in this category are as diverse as the two "Best of Both Worlds" hit songs (one by rockers Van Halen, the other by pop princess Hannah Montana).
The growing trend toward flexibility in kitchen appliances is increasingly evident in the water center as well, with consumers seeking personalized configurations that suit their needs, whether they be for a water purification system, instant hot/cold water dispenser, pull-out faucet or unusual sink shape or configuration.
"The ability to have a kitchen that is both functional and beautiful is not so much a trend these days as it is an expectation," says Judd Lord, industrial director of design, Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN. "Customized kitchens, much like those found in commercial spaces or custom homes, are more accessible for homeowners of all categories based on increased product offerings from many manufacturers and smarter product design."
He notes that designers at Delta Faucet have noticed a trend shift toward blending architectures and finishes outside "category" lines in the kitchen segment.
"The merging of traditional styles with modern influences is a red hot trend in the design industry in 2011," says Lord. "Today's consumer is looking for the charm and character of older homes with the upgrades, technologies and conveniences of a modern home."
Personalization is definitely a hot trend, agrees Christy Emens, marketing communications specialist for Blanco, in Lumberton, NJ.
"Homeowners realize that ‘anything goes' in home décor, and their eclectic styles can differ to their hearts desire," says Ed Detgen, v.p./marketing for Danze, in Woodridge, IL.
While the trend toward greater simplicity may have toned down the trend toward highly commercial-looking products at least somewhat, there's still plenty of demand for high-quality professional-style products, according to manufacturers.
"With the fusion of everything from food styles at restaurants to personal style, homeowners want their homes to be a reflection of their individuality," explains Ann Rottinghaus, marketing communications manager for Elkay sinks + faucets, in Oak Brook, IL. "Many homeowners not only select items for their kitchen based on style, but they want to ensure they are getting a high-quality, durable product that will stand the test of time. It is one reason why professional-grade products gained popularity in the home."
While some believe that there is a movement away from professional-style kitchens, Rottinghaus has noticed a different trend. "One trend we see changing slightly is the scale of some of the professional-style kitchens. With home sizes continuing to shrink, many homeowners are looking for products that may be slightly smaller in scale to match with the overall scale of their home," she says.
"Right Sizing" is the new buzzword, according to Diana Schrage, interior designer at the Kohler Design Center, in Kohler, WI. "It applies to all areas, from selecting your products to choosing your pets," she says. "[Consumers are asking themselves] realistic questions like, ‘How do we really live?' and ‘What do we really need?' and this is helping them feel good about their selections."
Pulling Out the Stops
A rethinking of the professional-style kitchen is yielding sleeker, simpler, smaller-scale designs when it comes to faucets, many industry insiders agree. However, that doesn't mean sacrificing function, they note.
"You will be seeing more pull-outs hidden into a sleek faucet design," confirms Emens. "The result is a faucet that looks like it could go in any room, not just a kitchen."
Detgen notes that Danze continues to add innovations in pull-out and pull-down functionality, and has added a "pause" feature to many of its faucets. "All push-buttons and faucet heads are being ergonomically designed" for ease of use, he reports.