Water Expression

The bath is one place in the home that is intended as a private space, so it¡¯s no surprise that personalization of this space remains a
powerful trend. This is particularly evident in today¡¯s growing array of bath sink, lav and faucet choices, which span the gamut of styles to ensure there¡¯s something for everyone ¨C including plenty of options that allow consumers to create a truly unique bath.

But what¡¯s truly exciting about today¡¯s bath sinks and faucets is that they no longer just focus on function and fashion, but also on the play of water itself as a living and ever-changing design element that truly creates a sense of ¡°art¡± in the bath.

That translates into the entire bath environment, where designers are striving to create a luxurious feeling that provides a sense of fulfillment beyond just the basic aesthetics. ¡°[Bath design] is about the experience and bringing the senses into play. [As a result], the lav environment is being designed to set a mood, one of escape or indulgence, providing a good feeling and a sense of wanting to be within this atmosphere,¡± says Judd Lord, director of Industrial Design for Delta Faucet Co. in Indianapolis, IN.

Noah Taft, v.p./marketing and sales for California Faucets in Huntington Beach, CA, agrees: ¡°Designers and bath dealers are increasingly looking for ways to create their own unique visions,¡± he says, noting that the bath faucet is a wonderful place to realize this personalized vision (see related story, Page 87). But while the high end often demands a highly personalized look, some manufacturers are seeing a counter trend due to the ongoing social pressures to ¡°keep up with the Joneses.¡±

In fact, Jeffrey Valles, the Oak Brook, IL marketing manager, faucets, for Burbank, CA-based Phylrich International, an Elkay Co., feels that in some quarters, bath design today is actually lacking in individual style due to ¡°everyone trying to be everyone else. And,¡± he adds, ¡°if something gets hot, everyone copies it.¡± He further points out that, ¡°What¡¯s happened over the past few years is that style has gone out of the bath completely. People are spending more money and making less of a statement.¡±

While this has been a concern for some, most of the manufacturers and designers surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News believe good design will prevail, as increasing options for personalization encourage consumers to try to find their own unique look.

Lord believes that ¡°many [consumers] continue to define their perfect ¡®escapes¡¯ using various components from several trends. Eclecticism is really about the ability to personalize your space, and, to this end, you¡¯ll often times find modern spaces with more traditional types of finishes and objects, and vice versa.¡±

Sinks with Style

An interesting sink design is a great place to begin creating the ¡°bath as haven¡± environment, manufacturers note. ¡°Consumers want something one-of-a-kind, a distinct individual work of art with shapes and textures that appear nearly organic,¡± says Joe Thompson, owner of Bear Creek Glass, Inc. in Birmingham, AL At the same time, simplicity seems to be the current trend. ¡°Most consumers want simplicity ¨C clean geometric lines work well in both traditional and modern decors,¡± says Thompson.

Julie Wawirka, owner of Wawirka in Portland, OR agrees. ¡°What I love now are simple shapes with authentic surfaces.¡±

She adds: ¡°I really like the stillness that is created in the viewer by fundamental simple shapes ¨C circles, squares ¨C using minimalist means to convey a sense of serenity and peace.¡±

While simple shapes may be in, designers can add individuality in other ways ¨C through color and style of the sinks and faucets. ¡°Color is definitely making a comeback ¨C natural colors are the most versatile, but incorporating some bolder colors such as emerald green and ice blue, as well as ruby and cobalt, is a very hot design trend,¡± says Thompson.

¡°Our Art Glass Vessels have the ¡®wow¡¯ factor that we are seeing echoed in all regions. Shapes, shiny colors, organic textures and a non-traditional mounting hold the key for someone looking for something special,¡± says Cheryl Erickson-Wong, marketing director of Wells Sinkware in Chicago, IL.

At the same time, she adds, there will always be a place for the classic choice. ¡°The comfy cream knit cardigan sweater of sinks for Wells Sinkware is our white undermount china lavatory,¡± she says.

Bath ¡®Jewelry¡¯

Faucets also play a large part in creating the overall look and feel of the bath. Faucets can be the ultimate accessory, the element that gives the bath a punch of style, or, as some say, ¡°the jewelry of the bath.¡± Indeed, there are even faucets that incorporate fine crystal and precious metals to evoke a jewelry-like vibe.

But some believe that faucetry needs to become even more upscale to gain the true ¡°precious metal¡± luxury feeling. As Valles points out, satin nickel and oil-rubbed bronze are among the best selling finishes in the market, yet he quips, ¡°No woman ¨C or man for that matter ¨C would wear jewelry that¡¯s satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze!¡±

Indeed, while the variety of finish options is enormous, including some ultra-high-end choices, most manufacturers surveyed agreed that satin and brushed nickels are still hot finishes, along with brass/chrome, and some metal finishes. ¡°Satin or brushed nickel are still hot as ever, and are by far the most commonly ordered decorative finish,¡± says Taft.

¡°Living finishes remain popular, especially for those who like to watch them patina over time and don¡¯t mind the extra maintenance they require,¡± he adds. ¡°In other special finishes, Venetian bronze, oil-rubbed bronze and buffed bronze continue to perform strongly. Something to keep an eye on might be the very warm-toned and weathered-appearing golds and brasses,¡± says Lord.

On the other hand, Dominic Solis, v.p./sales and marketing for Symmons Industries in Braintree, MA, believes that ¡°there is much less emphasis on oil-rubbed bronze or brass today.¡±

¡°Metal finishes are still in. I think the next hot look [in the bath will be] stainless steel,¡± Solis says.

But Joan Bostic, president of KWC America in Norcross, GA counters: ¡°KWC does not see metallic finishes moving forward.¡± Instead, she sees the trend toward ¡°smooth, reflective finishes that sparkle like jewelry and look like art.¡±

Bostic adds: ¡°Polished nickel and silver are classic finishes that will stand the test of time.¡±

As for the match/not-to-match question, most manufacturers believe that coordinating all of the hardware, accessories and faucetry in the bath is very much a trend du jour. As Lord points out: ¡°In terms of overall finish coordination, faucets, accessories and hardware throughout the space tend to match more times than not, while being complementary to the sink.¡±

Bostic agrees: ¡°The sink is varied in creative designs, colors and materials, while the faucet, hardware and shower equipment generally match.¡±

The style of the faucet seems to play off the desire for choice and individual style, varying widely depending on the look a designer is creating.

¡°I see faucets designed to work with vessel bowls, both in wall- and deck-mounted looks, ribbon looks, and the proverbial minimalist looks,¡± says Solis.

Lord sees several trends emerging, and each calls for a different type of faucet ¨C from geometric, high-gloss styles in the Urban/Loft movement to the ecologically inspired Eco-Chic, which he says ¡°translates into rounded, soft and organically inspired objects acting to pull the space together.¡±

Another trend he sees is what he calls ¡°Glam,¡± a throwback to the luxurious living of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In this style ¡°warm, glamorous finishes and textures such as polished nickel, polished chrome, pewter, glass and cut crystal come into play.¡±

Taft has also seen a growing interest in crystal. ¡°Perhaps this is mirroring what we¡¯re seeing in jewelry,¡± he says, adding that ¡°since faucets are essentially the ¡®jewelry¡¯ of the bath, crystal is starting to interest a slightly wider audience.¡±

As far as style goes, many manufacturers agree that two-handle, deck-mounted faucets seems to be most prevalent in the bath, though Bostic sees more demand for one-handle faucets, still deck-mounted. While wall-mounted faucets have creative appeal to some, others cite maintenance issues that can make this a less than ideal choice ¨C for instance, a leak may not be exposed until there¡¯s significant water damage behind the wall, which can scare off some consumers.

The ¡®Wow¡¯ Factor

Depending on the use of the bath, sink and faucet styles vary widely, particularly from master bath to powder room.

¡°Because each bath has a different use and usually its own theme, each sink must have its own distinct style,¡± says Thompson.

Manufacturers are seeing the most popular faucet style for master baths to be an 8" widespread, especially in the high-end market. Bostic sees a split in style. ¡°The master bath is 50/50: three-hole and single-hole, single-lever. Style and elegance are the most important factors. Homeowners want a ¡®wow¡¯ factor for the master bath,¡± she says.

¡°Typically, people reserve the master bath for the most luxurious and dramatic style. This often translates to high spouts and fine decorative finishes, not chrome,¡± Taft concurs.

But many manufacturers see the demand for the ¡°wow¡± more in the powder room, where the design is a showcase for guests, and extreme or trendy styles can be played out with minimal risk ¨C and maximum results. ¡°The powder room is where your guests get their first impression,¡± says Solis, who points out that making it a stylish one reflects positively on the homeowner.

¡°The cost is not usually a factor,¡± Bostic adds, noting that more important to the homeowner is ¡°how can the faucet create conversation during the party?¡±

¡°Consumers love to ¡®wow¡¯ guests, and what better place than the powder room to bring a touch of artistry to an unexpected place? A ¡®work of art¡¯ ¨C for instance, a shimmering glass bowl masterpiece by skilled craftsmen ¨C is sure to turn many heads,¡± says Thompson.

Lord agrees. ¡°In many instances, functionality will take a back seat to unique styles and operation [in the powder room]. How the water is delivered ¨C i.e., how it looks, sounds, feels ¨C plays a tremendous role here.¡±

¡°The idea of functional works of art is kind of the foundation of my line ¨C carrying the idea of art objects into areas that are normally addressed by the strictly functional,¡± adds Wawirka, who feels this is particularly important in the powder room.

But while most manufacturers agreed on the trend toward the urge to impress with the powder room, some have a different view.

¡°The powder room should be the ¡®altar.¡¯ A lot of people have living rooms that they¡¯ll never use. The powder room, to a certain extent, should resemble that. It¡¯s the only place that your guests are actually closed away from you,¡± asserts Valles.

He states he would like to see a difference between styles in the master bath and in the powder room, but he doesn¡¯t believe there always is. ¡°Ten years ago, I would have said yes. Now, I¡¯d say no, it¡¯s gone backwards again. We¡¯re selling more of what¡¯s considered decorative product, but not necessarily more of product that is really decorative.¡±

Bath Size Matters

The overall size of the bath also plays a major role in the types of products chosen. ¡°Most baths are likely to be tight, requiring creative ideas to free up more space,¡± says Thompson (see related story, Page 76).

This space crunch has contributed to the rise in demand for pedestal sinks, he continues, stating: ¡°By using a pedestal instead of a console, you can add a smidgen of extra floor space, and in [a limited space] every little inch can count.¡±

Valles agrees that the size of a bath can have a major impact on the design direction, citing European trends as a good example of design that¡¯s driven in large part by space concerns.

¡°That¡¯s where the European minimalist look is very important,¡± he says. ¡°[Today, people are] putting more fixtures and more functionality in the bath ¨C if your fixtures are large and elaborate, that doesn¡¯t necessarily translate to that small space.¡±

Advances in Technology

Some manufacturers are seeing a demand for things like touchless technology and pull-out sprays in the bath. These are not, however, major trends seen by most. ¡°We have not been feeling much demand for touchless technology. People need to adjust temperatures on the fly, whether they need cold water for teeth brushing, or warm water for face washing. As it is, touchless remains a gimmick,¡± offers Taft.

Solis agrees: ¡°We continue to get a few requests for sensor [faucets] in the house, but with all the emphasis on style and design, the growth in this area will be slow as [these products] don¡¯t lend themselves to a rapidly changing marketplace. Pull-out sprays haven¡¯t caught on yet for the lav, and there are many roadblocks to overcome before they will.¡±

Others aren¡¯t as quick to agree. Delta Faucet Co.¡¯s BRIZO line featured an electronic concept lavatory faucet in the recent Next Gen Home. And Lord notes: ¡°In the bath we are starting to see demand rise for new technologies that function well and provide real benefit.¡± Indeed, the Delta booth at the recent K/BIS sported some interesting high-tech prototype faucets that worked on voice commands, as well as those with light sensors to indicate water temperature.

Bostic also sees a major trend in the faucet market being ¡°innovative styles with electronic functions.¡± She sees a demand for touchless technology, but it¡¯s not widespread. As for pull-out sprays, she concludes: ¡°KWC has always offered a pull-out spray for the bath, and for children¡¯s baths, they are very popular.¡±