Fixture Fascination

Homeowners are putting greater emphasis on details and are creating different focal points of their rooms. They are placing more consideration into the look a certain finish can offer, leaning toward brushed metals that create a softer feel.

Manufacturers are playing on this trend by offering matching accessories for the bath — taking coordinated suites to the next level and highlighting corresponding fixtures and furnishings. In addition, manufacturers are producing high-end products at price points that make them more accessible to the masses, and designs that reflect the varying tastes of consumers.

An assessment by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) reveals that the top three leading bathroom faucet finishes today are chrome with 59 percent of the market, stainless steel in second with 14 percent and polished brass in third with 13 percent. “These metals are more popular because the soft look they offer the homeowner,” says Diana Schrage, interior designer, Kohler Design Center.

These metals may hold a strong grasp on the market, yet there is still a large collection outside this realm of finishes for homeowners to choose from, such as brushed bronze, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and much more. Many manufacturers see oil-rubbed bronze gaining in popularity among homeowners. “It offers a darker finish,” says Jeff Pratt, vice president of sales, Danze.

The style of design

According to the 2002 Design Trend Survey by NKBA, the top bathroom function/feature is decorative faucets. In addition, the data reveals that homeowners want larger, more luxurious bathrooms, leading the way for three major design trends: traditional, contemporary and transitional. Manufacturers are meeting these demands with a plethora of style options. Each style is unique and is sure to find its match with the homeowner that loves the look it can offer.

Traditional designs offer ornate and decorative or relatively simple styles. Danze, which entered the U.S. market in 2000 as a manufacturer of premium showerhead faucets and bath accessories, offers the Opulence collection to meet the demands for traditional designs, which is called Victorian in style. This line offers rounded, decorative and ornate styles. Pratt adds that traditional designs are a sound performer, and calls the faucet “the diamond of the bathroom. The faucet is the focal point and the drive and feel of the room.”

THG Paris, a family-owned custom-crafted faucet and bathroom fixture company, also meets the demands for traditional designs with its Bellagio line. The Bellagio faucet has contoured handles and angles and is available in more than 100 finishes with matching accessories. THG Paris collaborated with crystal designer Lalique to offer fine crystal in its line of products. The Bellagio faucet handles are inset with Lalique crystal, designed to offer the look of luxury for the bathroom. “The traditional design is very strong,” says Jerry Abel, managing director, THG USA, the U.S. affiliate of THG Paris.

Contemporary designs are starting to gain a foothold in bathroom design trends. These designs feature cylindrical and square-shaped faucets and fixtures. Brizo, a brand of Delta, offers the Quiessence collection to meet the needs of the new trends. This line features simple geometric lines with added radiuses. LaManda Dorval, product marketing manager for Brizo, says the faucet “is like putting jewelry in your home.”

The transitional trend mixes both ornate and decorative traditional designs with the geometric lines of contemporary designs. “It combines the past with the luxury of today,” Dorval says, adding that it is considered eclectic. An example is the Bannockburn by Danze. The styling of this faucet is tall and sleek, and is designed to complement contemporary or traditional environments.

The vessel sink

Wall-mounted faucets are popular today because of the increased popularity of vessel sinks. The Opulence wall-mount by Danze represents this design in true form with rounded angles in polished nickel metal. The Tresa wall-mount by Brizo is another prime example of the vessel and wall-mount combination trend. Most manufacturers offer wall-mounts in traditional, contemporary and transitional styles.

Demand for vessel bowls is creating a surge of new sink designs. According to the 2002 Design Trend Survey by NKBA, one of the top features/functions homeowners are looking for is vessel bowls that sit on top of countertops. “These are unique art pieces for the bathroom,” Pratt says. Vessels usually are made of either stone or marble or hand painted, not stamped out of metal, he adds.

Ann Sacks, a subsidiary of Kohler Co., presented its Minos 16-in. stone vessel at the 2005 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. This vessel is handcrafted with limestone mosaic placed together on a rounded mold and bound together by a resin material.

Homeowners are putting more emphasis on larger showers, resulting in the creation of retreats and sanctuaries in the bathroom. According to NKBA data, 66 percent of homeowners desire more elaborate showers with multiple showerheads.

Kohler Co., based in Kohler, Wis., meets this demand with its Performance Showering collection. This line offers the following models: WaterTile, a flush-with-the-wall body spray that eliminates protrusions in the shower; Vivacia Rain showerhead, a contemporary or traditional showerhead that covers large water areas; and Forte Handshower for functionality in the shower.

“Twenty years ago, body sprays and steam cabins were fringe elements. Today they are mainstays,” says Chris Marshall, president of Hansgrohe Inc. North America. Hansgrohe, a European shower, kitchen and bath manufacturer, meets the demand for luxury showers with its Axor Starck X Waterfall model. A minimalist design, this flat rectangular shower system appears to be built directly into the wall. This product includes six body sprays, a 10-in. showerhead with air-injection technology, a hand shower and holder built into the side for aesthetics and shelves for storage.

Homeowners also are placing more importance on environmentally friendly products. The NKBA data reveals that environmentally friendly products and designs are third on the list of hot bathroom ideas with 32 percent of homeowners claiming interest in them.

To meet the demands for environmentally friendly products, Brizo features H2O kinetic technology. “(The technology) controls the delivery of the water — how much, and how large the water droplets are. It delivers less water with the same high flow,” Dorval says.

Rapidly depleting resources are driving toilet design in a new direction. Manufacturers are offering toilets that require less water consumption. “Toilets already went from 3.5 gal. per flush (GPF) to 1.6 gpf,” Pratt says. “The future of the toilet is 1.0 gpf.”

To satisfy these requirements, Sterling, a brand of Kohler Co., offers Karsten and Rockton toilet models that include dual-force flushing technology. This technology allows homeowners the option of selecting one or two water levels. Depending on what is being removed — homeowners can flush either 1.6 or 0.8 gal. of water.

Smart homeowners

No doubt remains that research-driven consumers are pushing bathroom design trends. They are putting their money in products that will give them the most for their dollar and won’t buy just any product simply because it’s available. They are more involved in the design process than they used to be.

“Today’s consumer is well-informed, especially with so many resources at their disposal,” Marshall says. Homeowners know what they want and what will work best for them. “Functionality, reliability and quality have always been issues, but today they are more prominent in people’s minds,” he adds.

Even though manufacturers are facing a more educated consumer, they are still pushing designs are far as they can. “We are continually pushing designs to see how far we can go. People get bored,” Pratt says.

THG USA’s Abel finds there are no limitations to the design possibilities. “We are not just sending the water from the faucet to the sink. Now there are design elements to focus on,” Abel adds.

Faucets are driven by design appeal rather than technology, and the future of faucets is the unlimited designs that are potentially available. However, the potential for fixtures is the increase of technology included in these products. Homeowners are learning the importance of being more conscientious of resources, creating a need for more products with environmentally friendly technology.

Hansgrohe’s Marshall says, “In short, product design and technology are evolutionary processes that really have no limits as long as innovative minds are at work.”