Personality Plus

Clean, warm and comfortable describe today’s hottest kitchen trends, and this is particularly evident at the kitchen water station. The days of creating a full-blown, commercial-style workspace have taken a back seat to creating a more relaxed gathering place, and that means some of the pro-style elements have been toned down. However, that doesn’t mean consumers are willing to sacrifice personality in their sink and faucet choices.

“People still want the feeling of a professional kitchen, but they now desire it in a softer statement in order to keep the space comfortable and warm, rather than [doing] an entire [pro-style] kitchen,” says Tim Maicher, director of marketing for Blanco America, in Lumberton, NJ. “Maintaining warmth and personality in the kitchen is high on the design checklist for today’s consumers.”

Maicher expects elements of the professional look to remain strong through 2011, and he believes that faucets and sinks that can deliver the combination of professional style, while working in transitional formats, will see growth.

Al DeGenova agrees that the trend toward truly commercial style/professional kitchens is waning. “Though there is still demand for the commercial-style products in stainless steel, the move is toward softening kitchens with more wood elements and other ‘organic’ features,” says DeGenova, director of marketing communications for Grohe America, in Bloomingdale, IL.

Softening the kitchen naturally leads to cleaner and simpler designs, which keys into consumers’ changing design preferences, he notes.

“From our perspective, and the perspective of our customers, the trend seems to be simple and clean,” concurs Dan Sullivan, president of Affluence Seamless Sink, in Cincinnati, OH. “People seem to be saying ‘the less to look at, the better.’”

Quantity VS Quality

While adding square footage to the kitchen may be trending downward, adding quality is on the rise. Kitchen sink and faucet manufacturers note that consumers are buying long-lasting, quality products that offer additional functionality or innovation beyond what’s expected, to help them enjoy their homes.

For faucets, this may mean choosing a high-arc, pull-down faucet with a multi-function spray to make kitchen chores a little easier, according to Beth Wallick, manager of marketing communications for Moen, in North Olmsted, OH.

“Since people are spending more time dining and entertaining at home, they may choose some professional-style amenities, such as larger sinks, pot fillers or appliances that do more to enhance their lives,” says Wallick. “Practical – not conspicuous – purchases are the trend.”

High-quality, durable products that will stand the test of time are the key, according to Ann Rottinghaus, marketing communications manager for Elkay Manufacturing Co., in Oak Brook, IL.

While traditional stainless steel sinks continue to be popular, many designers are upscaling the island using sinks of the heavier 16-gauge quality as opposed to the thinner 18-gauge variety.

“Thicker is better,” confirms Chuck Volga, v.p./business development for Artisan Manufacturing Corp., in Newark, NJ. “The 16-gauge [material] is stronger and more dimensionally stable and, if insulated, it will also be quieter and retain the temperature. The price point plays a part in this selection, but not as strongly as the marriage of quality and design.”

Quality and design are the most important elements today as clients look to personalize their kitchens, manufacturers agree.

“People will always demand products that combine quality, functionality and clean design,” says Darryl Jones, director of U.S. sales for KWC America, in Norcross, GA. “However, in today’s market, this does not limit designers’ opportunities to personalize kitchens. There are plenty of products with all of these core attributes, so there is plenty of scope to accommodate a client’s personal preference in terms of style.”

One of those products is the pull-out faucet. Pull-out faucets offer the most flexibility at any sink (main sink, prep sink, etc) in terms of functionality and ease of use, manufacturers note.

“We’re seeing more pull-out faucets coming in a wide range of design styles from contemporary to traditional,” says DeGenova.

Indeed, in terms of kitchen faucets, the broader trend of pull-down faucets is becoming more popular as well. “We haven’t seen the true professional, high-arch, spring-type that you would see in a restaurant, but pull-down faucets reflect functionality,” says Kurt Backlund, product manager for Delta Faucet Co., in Indianapolis, IN. “They are sized more appropriately for residential settings.”

Wise Design

With kitchens increasingly being remodeled in the existing footprint, rather than going with a costlier expansion, designers are focusing on maximizing the functionality of the space – and that can mean having two, three or even four sinks/faucets in the kitchen, according to Ed Detgen, v.p./marketing for Danze, in Woodridge, IL.

As Detgen explains, everyone has a main sink (usually used for both food preparation and clean up), and that typically features a pull-down, pull-out or larger pre-rinse faucet. A second sink/faucet often appears in the island.

“Homeowners love this feature for prepping veggies, etc. because they can stay engaged with their guests sitting around that area,” says Detgen.

A third faucet is often placed nearby or on the room’s perimeter in the form of a convenience/bar sink. “This is great for those who entertain a need to disrupt the chef in the core kitchen area,” he says. “And finally, we continue to see more pot fillers installed at the stovetop (or on the island) as another way to maximize the functionality of the space.”

Judd Lord, director of Industrial Design at Delta Faucet Co., agrees that there is a trend toward turning various areas within a single kitchen into more specific, task-oriented workspaces.

“The island is increasing in importance as a true food prep zone,” says Lord. “As such, we hear more and more that larger sinks with standard kitchen faucets, cutting boards, special cutlery, etc., are being installed here.”

In turn, Lord says these islands are being paired with larger, deep-basin, farmhouse-style sinks in the more traditional location along the wall, turning this area into more of a cleanup station.

Houzer has seen increased applications where designers are using a small, single-kitchen sink (in the 21"x16" range) as the bar-prep or secondary sink. “In the past, this was usually reserved for high-end residences, but we are seeing more of it in mid-priced remodels, perhaps a by-product of the ‘eat at home’ mentality that is part of the new normal,” says Ken Fey, v.p./sales & marketing for Houzer, in New Brunswick, NJ.

Another offshoot of the eat-at-home mentality is an increase in luxury home accessories for the kitchen – particularly those that are design savvy while also contributing to the health and well being of the homeowners. For example,

Joseph Hutko, brand manager for Everpure, in Hanover Park, IL, notes that the Everpure PBS-400 drinking water systems are growing in popularity. He explains, “This system offers filtered water from a designer kitchen faucet at the pot filler, prep sink and other cooking stations.”

Getting Personal

Personalization is definitely a strong trend as well. Homeowners want their homes to be a reflection of their individuality and showcase their personal style in everything from the kitchen’s wall color and appliances to their sink and faucet selection, according to Rottinghaus.

“The designs, colors, textures and surfaces of a home are controllable aspects in an increasingly uncontrolled world,” adds Fey. “Individuals who may have once been indifferent to the design and layout of their kitchen are now taking extra care to make sure they get it right.”

Fey continues to see an escalation in custom arrangements of Houzer’s multi-sized bar-prep sinks used in a variety of designs, grouped together with other sized bar-prep sinks or in addition to the main sink. “We’ve increased our bar-prep offering within a four-year period from five designs to 24, simply to keep ahead of the curve,” says Fey.

Elkay’s Statement sink program provides homeowners with a made-to-order stainless steel sink with an etched pattern on the back wall or around the perimeter of the sink. Choosing from one of 12 applied patterns, homeowners can create more than 100 custom sink combinations, according to Rottinghaus.

“We want to make it easy for homeowners to convey their personal sense of style in their kitchen. Whether it is a certain size, style or accessory or even a completely customized design, we try to provide a product solution for their home,” says Rottinghaus.

Likewise, Rohl is seeing increased interest in personalization, and to meet this demand, Rohl’s Integrated Faucet Filtration Collection featuring Triflow Technology offers 15 variations of kitchen faucets in five finishes. “The collection is available in both traditional and modern stylings and incorporates Swiss Katadyn filtration technology as well as the faucet’s own dedicated channel for filtered water to prevent cross contamination, eliminating the need for bottled water,” explains Lou Rohl, COO/managing partner for Rohl, in Irvine, CA.

Green & Easy

Another hot trend revolves around simplifying the forms within the space, yet finishing them in warmer, more inviting colors and textures. This has the benefit of reducing visual clutter and providing easy-to-clean objects with clean lines.

Lord notes that using these warmer finishes and textures on faucets softens the often geometric forms. Conversely, contemporary, curvaceous objects are often placed in a kitchen where the overall room is very geometric in nature.

“These objects tend to act almost as jewelry for the space, bringing the entire room together,” says Lord. “The objects are still clean lined, minimal and smooth, but are more organically inspired.”

Warmer tones such as bronze finishes are gaining in popularity, manufacturers agree. “We are even seeing them on more contemporary and transitional designs, instead of just traditional faucets,” says Backlund.

While stainless is still in high demand, the growth of color in the kitchen continues. “Stainless steel/satin nickel for faucets is still the number one finish, but color faucets will grow in popularity as consumers look to bring warmth into the kitchen,” says Maicher.

Wallick agrees: “Looking to the future, we’ll see golds – in a more brushed, subdued tone – emerge, and brushed bronze and Old World finishes will continue to gain in popularity.”

In some cases, the trend in faucets directly corresponds to the trend in appliances. “With the current trend of primary colored appliances, black and white faucet finishes have also started to resurface,” says Jones.

However, even with those trends, stainless steel is still dominant.

“Stainless steel remains the undisputed champ as far as kitchen sink material is concerned,” says Fey. “It’s used for its high performance in hygiene, resilience to stains and inherent strength.”

Stainless steel can also be fabricated in an almost an endless number of ways. “It is the material of choice for undermount sinks,” says Jay Beaumont, product and operations manager for Lenova, in Chicago, IL.

Beaumont adds that Lenova is seeing growth in natural stone sinks as well. “It gives the kitchen more texture and makes an interesting focal point,” he says.

Maicher agrees that stone sinks that coordinate with a wide variety of color options in countertops will certainly remain high in design consideration. “Blanco is expanding its selection of Silgranit II colors,” he says. “The color hues are warm and neutral, matching today’s popular countertop finishes/elements.”

Fireclay is another very popular sink material due to its authentic, sustainable nature. “Fireclay is lead free and completely recyclable, yet incredibly durable,” says Rohl. “Our fireclay sinks feature robust fireclay material, which is acid-, alkali- and scratch-resistant, and created to stand up to tough daily usage.”

Green Scene

As consumers become increasingly aware of environmentally responsible product options for the kitchen, these greener products have seen increased demand. Sinks made of recycled (or recyclable) material, water-saving faucets and water-filtration systems are all the rage right now, and most manufacturers expect the trend will only grow stronger in the future.

“Kitchen faucets that save water and energy, with temperature limitation cartridges to limit the flow of hot water, for example, are in high demand,” confirms Jones.

Products such as Moen’s Eco-Performance kitchen faucets allow users to easily switch between three water-flow settings, Wallick notes. For everyday tasks that require a constant, yet low-water flow, such as washing dishes or preparing foods, homeowners can choose the eco-performance standard or aerated spray modes.

“These settings provide a reduced flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm), which translates to up to a 32 percent water savings,” reports Wallick.

For tasks that require a set amount of water, such as filling a pot or pitcher, Wallick says users can bring the flow back to the standard 2.2 gpm rate with the touch of a button.

New technology also plays a role in conserving water. Delta Faucet’s Touch2O Technology allows the user to turn the water on and off by simply touching anywhere on the spout or handle.

“We know through research that people tend to leave the water running during tasks such as washing the dishes,” says Backlund. “The Touch2O Technology makes it easier to turn the water off between dishes, maintaining a consistent temperature.” The idea is that the technology’s unique functionality may actually encourage the practice of conserving water.

As for sinks, manufacturers are doing their part to answer the call for sustainable products. Elkay’s metal sinks are made from recycled materials whenever possible and, like all stainless steel sinks, are also 100 percent recyclable.

“Our residential and commercial stainless steel sinks are constructed of approximately 80 percent recycled content and the residential’s antique copper hammered sinks and cast brass Asana vessels are handcrafted from 100 percent recycled content,” reports Rottinghaus.

Houzer’s stainless steel sinks have an average of 60 percent recycled content, according to Fey, even though they use a proprietary, premium mix of T304 stainless steel.

Beaumont says Lenova went as far as to take a renewable material like bamboo and design kitchen sinks that are “functional, attractive and environmentally friendly.”

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