Stainless Style

Whether boasting curves and sleek design, color or flowing shapes, today’s kitchen sinks and faucets make a bold design statement. Indeed, the sink has always played a key role in the kitchen; whether it was great grandma’s wash basin, a simple porcelain bowl or a sleek stainless number.

Today, not only has the number of sinks grown, but the role of the sink has also expanded. It is key to the kitchen water station, which may include a stylish faucet with multiple spray options and a host of accessories from soap and lotion dispensers to water purification systems.

According to manufacturers recently surveyed by KBDN, stainless steel remains the hottest style trend in sinks, with oversized, single-basin models also hot. Custom designs are popular when adding water accessories, and manufacturers say that faucets are all about curves.

Of course, personalization remains a key trend, with designers choosing from an ever-growing array of innovative designs, shapes, sizes and materials.

Un-Sink-Able Trend

If you’re waiting for the stainless trend to be over, you may have a long wait, designers agree. “Most design trends indicate that stainless steel is timeless and it is still a designer favorite as it matches perfectly with most high-end kitchen appliances,” says Ann Rottinghaus, marketing communications manager for Elkay Manufacturing Co., in Oak Brook, IL.

Ken Fey, v.p./sales & marketing for Houzer, Inc. in New Brunswick, NJ, agrees. He says: “Stainless is by far the most popular material in use for kitchen sinks today. Its hygienic qualities make it a natural application in a room where hygiene and cleanliness are paramount.”

But, while stainless remains the popular favorite, some manufacturers are seeing increased interest in other sink finishes. “Fireclay sinks have resurfaced as a material for some because of their nostalgic appeal, and this material also has a surface that’s easy to clean,” says Heidi Finch, sales manager, North America, for the residential division of Julien Inc. She adds: “Though not as durable and hygienic as stainless, fireclay sinks have a warm, fresh look that offers a focal point for the traditional kitchen.” Finch adds that other materials, such as copper, cast iron and vitreous china, will continue to be popular as well.

Marc Nover, president of Blanco America in Lumberton, NJ, states, “While stainless steel remains our most popular sink material, we continue to see more and more interest in color.”

Shapes and Sizes

New shapes are definitely jazzing up the kitchen sink market. Nover says: “Cookie cutter, me-too designs are no longer acceptable to discerning, savvy consumers.” He sees sinks with “sculptural shapes, elegant corners and generous dimensions” to be in demand.

Finch also sees this new trend shaping up. “Within the last five years, there has been a shift from kitchen sinks with more rounded corners to sinks that have 90-degree edges,” she says. “These zero-radius corners with more ‘urban edge’ appeal are becoming more popular with the influx of contemporary designs in the kitchen.”

“Sinks for the purpose of entertaining are becoming a sought-after item,” says Naomi Neilson Howard, president and CEO of Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA. “Unusually shaped sinks that become the center of conversation are now highly desirable in today’s open kitchen.”

The size of the sink also depends in large part on the size of the kitchen. Someone renovating a small city apartment won’t be opting for an oversized sink. But there is, nevertheless, a noticeable trend toward oversized, single-bowl sinks. Fey explains that double bowls continue to lead in sales but the rate at which single bowls are selling is significant.

Finch notes that the way people use their sinks has evolved, with many opting for large single bowls. “There will always be those who want the double bowl, but the large single-bowl trend will grow because it’s very practical,” she says.

More is Better

While the size of most kitchens has grown over the years, the latest trend is an increase in the number of sinks within the kitchen. Neilson Howard says: “It’s common to see three or more sinks in today’s large kitchen.”

Fey concurs: “Smaller prep sinks are a handy complement to the main sink in the kitchen.” An increase in the variety of bar/prep sinks has allowed designers and their clients to choose the ones that are best suited to each client’s lifestyle. Fey also notes that auxiliary kitchen sinks are being offered in varying sizes to accommodate different functions, explaining, “The prep bowl closest to the main sink tends to be larger than, say, a sink solely dedicated as a ‘bar/beverage’ sink off in a corner or island-top.”

Another example of a secondary sink is a long, trough-shaped basin that could be filled with ice and drinks or cold appetizers, explains Neilson Howard.

The kitchen sink is also being impacted by the growing interest in outdoor kitchens. Outdoor kitchens are becoming increasingly sought after as consumers look for ways to extend the space in which they entertain. Although once considered a luxury, outdoor kitchens, maintains Rottinghaus, are “becoming more popular and just as important to the home as the main kitchen.” While most popular in the milder regions of the U.S., the trend has been building all over the country. “Whether the homeowner is in cooler or warmer regions, we are seeing a lot more sinks and faucets moving outdoors,” says Rottinghaus. The durable products available on the market today are in large part responsible for this trend.

Nover points out that the kitchen has evolved from “simply a place to cook” to a sophisticated work and play station, and that also impacts the water station. “What you do in the kitchen constantly changes, so the form constantly changes, shifting toward multiple sinks and dedicated work stations. And the second sink isn’t just a small bar sink on the island, but has become a highly usable work center,” adds Nover.

Integrated Sinks

Integrated sinks are also a hot-ticket item.

Nover offers: “The sink has evolved into a full-fledged food staging area.” He adds that doing “prep over a sink designed for that task makes clean up easy, saves counter space, promotes hygienic practices and gives you more work options.”

Integrated work surfaces are also considered part of the Universal Design trend, says Rottinghaus. “Sinks with integrated work surfaces [can] serve as landing pads for heavy pots and pans. The landing pad makes it easier for the homeowner to not have to bend near the sink to clean or pick up heavy pots and pans.”

Ed Detgen, v.p./marketing for Danze, Inc. of Woodridge, IL, says that integrated sinks are also gaining popularity in response to consumers’ desire to “clean up the deck,” along with matching accessories and streamlined faucets.

Consumers and the designers they hire are no longer choosing the kitchen sink as an afterthought. “The consumer who is interested in having ‘the best’ high-end appliances for their home has become more particular about the kitchen sink,” says Finch. “Most homeowners spend at least five hours a week using their sink (or sinks) for preparation and cleanup. If you compare this to the time spent in front of the range or refrigerator, it makes considerable sense that some consumers are taking the time to educate themselves about the options.”

Faucets & Accessories

Given the growing concept of the sink as an object of beauty, and the use of multiple sinks, it only makes sense that consumers are paying more attention to faucets. Designers and their clients are choosing various finishes, styles and shapes to complement the kitchen water station.

Sculptural faucets – in finishes that run the gamut from sleek and shiny to warm and muted – are increasingly being used as well. And because of the trend toward multiple sinks, faucets are gaining play throughout the kitchen.

“You will see a kitchen with three or four faucets – main faucet for prep/cleaning, faucet on the island, pot filler by the range and a bar/convenience faucet off to the side of the room,” says Detgen.

While polished chrome is popular with the stainless steel sink, brushed and satin nickel, and oil-rubbed bronze are also hot.
“Chrome remains the dominant finish with satin nickel the second most popular finish,” says Eiji Sasaki, manager of San-Ei Faucet Manufacturing Co. in Japan.

Nover points out that the matte finish on a satin nickel faucet resists fingerprints and is easy to clean, and popular with families.

He also sings the praises of the oil-rubbed bronze finishes, which have “the appeal of a natural, warm shade.

“You see this finish emerging in retro and transitional looks. You might take a traditional finish like oil-rubbed bronze and mix it with a modern, streamlined shape,” Nover adds.

Amy-Mae Miller, director of marketing for Graff in Milwaukee, WI, agrees. “Warmer tones will continue to dominate kitchen faucets with regard to finishes,” she says. “Earth-tone finishes like oil-rubbed bronze and darker rusty, or distressed finishes will complement both traditional and contemporary kitchen interiors. Satin nickel will probably become as popular as brushed nickel over the next couple of years. A few manufacturers have built a slightly warmer undertone into their satin nickel finishes, and this will mesh well with warmer contemporary interiors.”

High-arc faucets and pull-down spray features are gaining momentum in the industry, as well.

Miller explains: “High-arc spouts will dominate kitchen faucet designs due to the need for a taller faucet body to accommodate the pull-down sprays. A few manufacturers will probably explore adding kitchen wall-mount faucets and pot fillers to their lines.”

Miller anticipates an increase in demand for “spray/steam toggle mechanisms built into the pull-down handles.” She adds, “I’d also look for additional commercial faucet features like traveling or swing spouts to be incorporated into high-end decorative kitchen faucets.”

When it comes to water accessories, “it’s all about custom designs that allow homeowners to make their kitchen both design-inspired and functional,” says Rottinghaus. She says that popular items include “custom rinsing baskets and bottom grids that are created to custom fit the exact dimensions of each sink.” Locking cutting boards that match the sink’s style are also in demand.

Oliver Bleich, brand communication & marketing manager for Dornbracht Americas in Duluth, GA says, “We are seeing a demand for ‘accessorizing the kitchen’ with fittings, such as soap dispensers, pot fillers and bar faucets.” Bleich is also seeing an increase in demand for side sprays, liquid soap dispensers and instant hot water dispensers.

Eleni Yianas, director of marketing, residential products for Everpure of Hanover Park, IL, has noticed an increase in the popularity of water appliances. “As water appliance technology becomes more sophisticated and accessible, we’re noticing a dramatic rise in popularity with all-in-one water appliances that deliver both instant hot and cold drinking water in large volumes.” She adds, “The most recent advance in water accessories is a dispenser that provides sparkling water at the tap.”
A shift toward environmentally friendly products has also been seen in the water appliances market.

Yianas offers: “One of the latest hot-button ‘green’ issues is the bottled water controversy. Because consumers are seeking greener alternatives to bottled water, there has been a steady increase in demand for drinking water filtration systems.”

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