Marrying Form and Function

Today’s kitchens have increasingly become multi-functional spaces with separate zones that can stand alone, functionally, or work together as part of a greater whole. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the kitchen sinks of old have morphed into full-service “water stations” that incorporate high style and a host of amenities.

In fact, the expectation that the kitchen can exude charm and style yet be conducive to quick and easy clean-up drives one of the major trends in kitchen sinks and faucets – products that reflect plenty of personal style, but also perform flawlessly, whether for family dinners or large-scale entertaining.

“Diversity and personalization have definitely emerged in recent years as the overall trend in the kitchen,” says Ed Detgen, director of marketing for Danze, Inc. in Bolingbrook, IL. These trends are reflected in the kitchen’s water station, from the sink and faucet choices to the water accessories.

Manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News agree the desire for personalization is growing, and satisfying that desire is easier due to the myriad choices available.

Style and Utility
Personal and functional seem to be the two big keywords in kitchen sinks and faucets, and, fortunately, these don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Chuck Burhans, president of Blanco America in Lumberton, NJ, comments: “Consumers will choose the products that reflect their own personality, but they must also be durable and functional. They have to look good, but also serve a good and useful purpose.”

Detgen concurs: “Everyone is looking to personalize their kitchens, so several factors go into selecting a faucet. For instance, added features, such as a pull-down or pull-out faucet, help homeowners ‘take the water to the work,’ and have become extremely popular in recent years.”

“Form and function definitely wrestle when it comes to faucet design in the kitchen. The faucet must work and perform necessary functions of food prep, but also be architecturally seamless in the overall design of the kitchen,” says Louis Rohl, COO of Rohl, LLC in Irvine, CA. But there’s more to it, even, than form or function.

Today’s sinks and faucets must look good, work well and be able to coordinate with secondary or tertiary sinks, the overall design of the kitchen and sometimes – especially with the growing number of open-plan kitchens and Great Room layouts – the rest of the home.

“Another requirement [consumers and designers have] is a coordinating family of sinks, as well as faucets that will bring the look together throughout the kitchen or home,” says Burhans.

Mark Webster, marketing director of Karran USA in Vincennes, IN, says consumers want low-maintenance sinks that will maintain their appearance for a long period of time. “If it takes much effort to keep it looking like new, today’s consumer does not want it,” he states.

Vivianne Morse, product development manager for Delta Faucet Co. and BRIZO in Indianapolis, IN agrees, saying that people are looking for ways to simplify their lives. “They want something that’s functional, yet doesn’t require too much upkeep,” she says.

So what’s functional and beautiful? According to Dino Rachiele, president of Rachiele Kitchen and Bath Products in Apopka, FL, “Copper sinks are great for ease of maintenance and cleanliness.”

He notes that “copper actively kills bacteria in hours, where the same bacteria can live for more than a month on stainless steel. Copper is also much easier to care for than stainess steel. If the user likes a rustic look, there is virtually no maintenance at all.”

Myriad Choices
Supporting the trend toward personalization, the industry is bringing to market a growing number of choices for both traditional and contemporary sink and faucet styles – as well as everything in between.

Webster believes that the vast array of stunning contemporary options lend themselves well to personalizing the kitchen, and he believes that “people are looking for more dramatic, contemporary styling versus the more standard designs. They want curves, angles and eye-catching designs.”

“Stylistically, contemporary designs are growing in popularity. Since a faucet serves as an expression of style without dominating a room, it’s a very good place for homeowners to try out modern designs,” concurs Burhans. On the other hand, Rohl says “traditional continues to be the overall design demand,” though he admits that “contemporary has a following with younger, more urban consumers.”

According to Consorzio Italy Export in Novara, Italy, “We still have great demand for traditional-style kitchen sinks. Contemporary styles and stainless steel are [also requested], but mostly for high-value kitchens.” While there is a small segment of the market that wants a fully customized sink, many manufacturers believe that these are impractical – and, with so many options available today, mostly unnecessary. As Webster sees it, “With the huge number of suppliers and the enormous amount of design choices available, the need for a fully customized sink doesn’t really exist.”

Ann Rottinghaus, program manager/residential markets, for Elkay Sinks & Faucets in Oak Brook, IL, agrees: “We feel as if we bring to market the shapes, styles and textures that Americans prefer, without having to specify a custom piece.”

But Rachiele, who only deals in custom sinks, has a different perspective. “It seems odd to have a custom kitchen without a custom sink!” Rachiele asserts.

Materials & Finishes
When it comes to material choices, stainless steel sinks are still hot, and manufacturers don’t expect this trend to peak in the near future. “It is a seminal, intuitive and familiar material; the ‘little black dress’ for your kitchen that never goes out of style,” says Ken Fey, executive director of Houzer Sinks in Somerset, NJ.

Rottinghaus has also seen a continuation of the influence of commercial-grade and -style steel in residential kitchens. “This trend reinforces stainless steel as a critical element to the overall landscape of the entire kitchen setting; the strength and integrity of steel quite beautifully complements the warmth and enduring qualities of the traditional American wood kitchen,” she says.

Burhans points out that while stainless steel clearly dominates, consumers are growing more discriminating in their tastes. “More innovative designs and features are being added to standard stainless steel products to make them more exciting,” he says.

But while stainless steel remains hot, manufacturers have also seen a rise in the demand for softer, neutral colors. Webster has seen a growing trend toward bisque sinks installed under natural-colored granite and engineered stones. Rohl points to a growing demand for the company’s Pergame (Biscuit) colored fireclay sinks, as consumers look to create a softer, warmer look in their kitchens.

As for faucet finishes, Morse believes consumers are also looking for finish options that reflect an Old World style, such as Delta’s Venetian Bronze and Aged Pewter. “These finishes offer more of a rustic yet modern feel to the room. It kind of softens it up a bit rather than having stainless, so you’re able to mix and match here,” she notes.

“Designs that complement the overall architecture of the kitchen are key,” says Rohl. “Solid brass in matching finishes to the other appliances or fixtures in the kitchen continue to be in high demand.”

Rottinghaus is noticing more demand for brushed nickel, as well as increased interest in a deep, rich-feeling faucet with darker color values. Consorzio Italy Export is seeing high demand for chrome and brass nickel finishes, with a surviving interest in old bronze and gold, as well.

And others note that stainless steel is also in high demand for faucets due to the desire to blend them with the look of the stainless appliances.

Popular Undermounts
While sizes and shapes may vary, when it comes to style, undermount sinks are the most popular choice, according to manufacturers surveryed. That’s in part because of the clean lines they give, and in part because of the easy maintenance – a growing consumer concern as society becomes increasingly time-pressed.

This option is also increasingly available at all price points, notes Webster, who states, “No longer does a customer have to upgrade to stone or solid surface for their countertop to be able to have an undermount sink.”

He cites Karran’s line of solid surface sinks, which can be undermounted to laminate as an example, adding, “This is a very affordable option that is reinventing the laminate countertop.”

Single-bowl sinks that are 9"-10" in depth and 30"-35" wide are increasingly popular in today’s markets, as well. “A large single bowl in either undermount or topmount is a strong factor today due to so many options in separate prep sinks; people want to maximize the primary bowl in those cases and you cannot beat the enormity of a large single bowl for that purpose,” explains Fey.

“The invention of the dishwasher has all but made double-bowl sinks obsolete,” believes Rachiele. “Most of the large items that do not fit in the dishwasher will only fit in a large, single-bowl sink,” he adds.

Secondary Sinks
There’s also the continuing trend toward multiple sinks, which manufacturers and designers deem a “must-have” element.

“We feel the demand for a secondary sink is no longer a trend, but a must-have, if the kitchen’s overall size warrants it,” says Rottinghaus. “The secondary sink provides ‘satellite’ functionality for second and third cooks, as well as a ‘hub’ for entertaining.” She’s also seeing an interest in creatively shaped secondary sinks to personalize the kitchen, pointing to Elkay’s river-shaped Mystic sink as an example. Such unusual shapes can act as a wonderful focal point for the room, adding visual interest as well as function.

“The uses [for secondary sinks] are varied, but [there’s] always the same underlying reason – another work space in addition to the main sink,” Fey says. He’s also seen a rise in demand for round bowls for secondary sinks, which can complement both contemporary and traditional designs.

But lest anyone think that these secondary sinks are somehow second rate in terms of amenities, Burhans is quick to state otherwise: “[Secondary sinks] now require all the bells and whistles that a primary sink has, such as colanders, cutting boards, drainer grids, etc. And just like a primary sink, they must be as durable and functional as they are good-looking.”

Designer Faucets
The past few years have also seen the growth of a new trend: designer-name sinks.

Rohl, LLC, for instance, will introduce the Michael Berman Collection for the kitchen in the spring. Delta Faucet Co. also has a designer line – the Michael Graves collection.

But the jury is still out as to whether linking a well-known designer’s name with a brand really adds appeal in the eyes of the consumer.

“We think a designer’s name [does] add value to a product. [Those] producing high-value faucets have to think about working with designers or fashion designers, as it happened in tiles and ceramics,” asserts Consorzio Italy Export.

Morse agrees, noting: “As they are more savvy and do research, consumers know more about designers today. [So designer-name faucets are] kind of like a marriage of design and functionality for their faucets.”

Other manufacturers are less sure. For example, Fey believes that “the premise of increased cache on a product because of a designer’s association has limits. I will tell you the majority demographic of stainless steel sink buyers would not consider their purchase more upscale if it were designed by NASA.”

Detgen concurs: “In many cases, homeowners are seeking a specific style that fits their décor, rather than a specific brand. If that style is backed by quality features – such as solid-brass construction, ceramic disc valves, etc. – a fair price and great customer service, we feel that’s all the ‘cache’ that’s needed for that homeowner to be happy with his or her purchase.”

Upscale Accessories
When it comes to water accessories, more and more consumers want the whole package. As Rohl points out, “Consumers want it all when it comes to the function of the kitchen sink. The only limitations have been space.” But while more is usually viewed as better at the sink station, style concerns can also impact accessory choices, as consumers are increasingly seeking a fully coordinated look. That means they may pass on certain extras if they can’t find something they feel truly complements the overall design.

For that reason accessories must be as up-to-speed aesthetically speaking as the high-end sinks and faucets they adorn. As Detgen says, “Consistent styling and finishes across the entire water station are critical in order to stay true to the décor that is being created.”

Burhans agrees: “We try to develop accessories that complement each other, giving people a chance to match styles and colors across the board.”

So what are the most popular accessories at the sink station? Pull-out/pull-down sprays are high on the list of desired water accessories, while pot filler faucets over the cooktop are gaining in popularity. Soap dispensers are a frequent choice, as well.

Manufacturers also consistently cited water filtration systems as an absolute “must-have” addition to the faucet area. The reason for this is simple: Today’s consumers are increasingly health and safety conscious, and they’re willing to pay extra to ensure their family’s overall well being.

“We want to know that what we are drinking is pure, and water purification systems give us this assurance,” says Webster.

Morse agrees, adding that consumers also like the savings benefit.

“It’s giving consumers access to bottle-quality water at an affordable price,” she concludes.

Dealers See Growing Interest in Sinks and Faucets That Offer Easy Maintenance, Contemporary Style

When it comes to hot trends in kitchen sinks and faucets, “the need to have maintenance simplified is more important than ever, and, as a result, products are being developed – whether it’s the finish or the design – that answers that need,” says Julie DeJardin, owner of DeJardin Design in Portland, OR.

Peter Collins, kitchen and bath designer for Alure Home Improvements in Plainview, NY concurs. “One can see our changing lifestyle by our choice in practical, easy-maintenance plumbing wares.”

Designers surveyed by KBDN all say they are seeing a great demand for undermounted sinks, in either D-shaped or rectangular bowls. This style works well with today’s popular larger sinks because the undermount style helps to minimize the sense of bulk, according to DeJardin. She notes, “Regardless of the size of your sink, its size is dwarfed by the fact that it’s mounted underneath solid stone so it doesn’t appear to dominate the overall look.”

DeJardin and Collins still see quite a demand for stainless steel sinks, but Sally Ann Sullivan, owner of Showcase Kitchens and Baths, in Tulsa, OK says she rarely sees them now. The greater interest in her region is in granite, which she says she prefers because “size is no issue, and there is no interruption of materials, shapes and color on the horizontal plane when the sink matches the counter surface.”

Contemporary styling, too, seems to be gaining in popularity, designers say. “In the Midwest, we have been quite conservative and more traditional in taste. That’s beginning to change,” says Sullivan.

Collins is also seeing a rise in contemporary styling, especially evident in faucet selection, he reports. “Because of the sculptural characteristics of faucetry, one can choose a style of smooth, clean lines in a brushed nickel finish for an industrial look, or a style reminiscent of an old water pump in an oil-rubbed bronze finish.”

Sullivan adds: “The more ‘artistic’ the faucet design, the more interest it seems to generate in the new move toward cleaner lines.” She is seeing polished chrome as the finish favorite, but brushed nickel is the “tried and true.”

DeJardin notes that the faucet, much like cabinet hardware, can act as an artistic accent, and designers are increasingly using this to create a subtle design statement within the overall design. Satin nickel and chrome are the most popular finishes in her region, she adds.

Water accessories are also becoming more aesthetically pleasing, designers report, as consumers demand a “designer package” with every element of the kitchen contributing to that overall designer look. For that reason, pull-out sprays that are included in the spout of the faucet and water filtration systems that are either under the sink or designed to match the faucets are getting a designer overhaul, with fully coordinated designs and finishes, so there’s nothing jarring to break up the line of the sink station.

“The fact that faucet companies are now designing water filtration systems to match the design of the faucet versus some of the more utilitarian looks makes it much more complementary,” says DeJardin.

As for the trend toward designer-name faucets, the design community seems split about what consumer response will be. While all agree that a beautiful, well-designed faucet will sell based on its merits, not everyone is convinced that a designer name will add value. As Collins says, “Designer names may sell jeans and handbags, but most plumbing-ware purchasers seek reliable manufacturers [as their top priority].” He adds: “I’m sure one could live a little easier with a scuff on their Gucci shoe rather than the constant drip of a leaky faucet.”

Kitchen Sink and Faucet Trends at a Glance

  • Diversity and personalization are key consumer concerns in the kitchen, and, as such, today’s kitchen sinks and faucets must allow consumers to express their unique style – without sacrificing high performance standards.
  • Durability and convenience are important trends, as consumers increasingly try to simplify their lives with products that are attractive, yet also long-lasting and easy to maintain.
  • Suppliers are seeing an overwhelming demand for undermounted sinks, as they make clean up easy, with no rims to collect bacteria and dirt. Additionally, these allow for the clean line of the countertop to remain unbroken, ensuring a more stream-lined appearance.
  • Stainless steel is still in high demand, and designers and manufacturers expect this to continue indefinitely. Interest is also growing in solid surface sinks, which can create a natural flow from the countertop to sink.
  • Large, deep, single-bowl sinks are gaining in popularity as the primary sink because these will easily handle oversized roasting pans or cookie sheets that won’t fit in the dishwasher.
  • Secondary sinks are still on the rise – and sometimes designers are even putting three sinks in a kitchen to create multiple “satellite” work spaces or zones for the multi-cook family.
  • Water filtration, pull-out/pull-down sprays and pot filler faucets are among the most popular kitchen accessories, and these accessories are becoming more sophisticated in design to ensure a seamless look.
  • Faucet designs and finishes are more diverse than ever, with a “style for any choice,” providing designers with another great way to personalize their clients’ kitchens.

NPD Study Cites Stainless, Chrome as Top Finishes

Stainless steel remains the hottest pick for kitchen sinks, while chrome remains the most popular kitchen faucet finish. That’s according to data from NPD Houseworld, a division of The NPD Group, Inc., a Port Washington, NY-based research group. NPD Houseworld is focused on tracking the appliance, housewares, home improvement and home textiles market.

It found that between January and December of 2005, 9.3 million kitchen faucets and 2.9 million kitchen sinks, totalling $740.2 million and $595.5 million respectively, were sold in the U.S.

In faucets, top finish choices among households earning more than $75,000 per year were chrome, stainless steel/nickel and brushed steel/nickel/aluminum. In sinks, stainless was the clear favorite, followed by “other” (which might encompass solid surface, quartzite, natural stone, etc.), porcelain and acrylic.

1. Kohler Co.’s D-bowl family of Undertone stainless steel kitchen sinks includes 10 sink configurations, including a large single basin, a medium single basin, two offset double basins, two high-low basins, a triple basin and two small basins.

2. This wall-mounted sink from Concrete Encounter, LLC is made of solid concrete that’s sealed with the firm’s Super Seal. It features a slot drain in charcoal.

3. Stainless steel sink-bottom grids from Wells Sinkware are available in four colors: white, chrome, blue and red.

4. The Woodmere pull-down kitchen faucet from ShowHouse by Moen offers a ‘pause’ button that halts water flow from the wand without turning off the water source.

5. This Koral single-hole bar faucet from Phylrich International, an Elkay Co. comes in two versions: K8200, measuring 5" center to center and K8200-H, measuring 9" center to center.

6. Brizo’s latest faucet, the Pascal Culinary Faucet with Smart Technology, combines hands-free and touch-control technology. Users can activate water flow with a tap of the faucet or use the hands-free option. It also features a pull-down spout.

7. A pull-down kitchen faucet has been added to Delta Faucet Co.’s Leland Collection.

8. The Tuscany by Karran is a large/small bowl combination undermount sink designed for installation under stone, solid surface and laminate.

9. The Elkay Arezzo LK7420 dish spray rises 18" above the countertop in order to reach multiple basins. It also has a joystick handle that controls water temperature and volume, and a flexible, pull-down sprayhead that can be held by hand or temporarily secured for hands-free operation.

10. Price Pfister’s Amherst single-control kitchen faucet features a high-arc spout, and can be installed with or without a deck plate. It comes with a decorative sidespray and an optional soap dispenser.

11. Part of Herbeau Creations’ Kitchen Couture Collection, the Flamande single-lever mixer has a ceramic-disc cartridge, swivel spout and pull-out handspray. It is paired here with a fireclay bar sink, which comes in white or French ivory.

12. The twin-basin, 19-gauge, top-mount sink from Charleson Home Products (CHP) comes in all satin, or with a polished top flange and stain basins. Strainers and grids are also available.

13. A three-hole kitchen faucet set has been added to Dornbracht USA’s Dreamscapes faucet line designed by Michael Graves. It has a retractable spray feature, and comes in a choice of finishes.

14. Shown here in polished chrome, the Profi Tallo kitchen faucet from Villeroy & Boch sports commercial styling.

15. Oceana’s sink line includes this striking glass kitchen sink, for a unique design statement.

16. Measuring 33"x20"x10", this kitchen sink from AmeriSink is hand-made from 18-gauge, type 304 stainless steel.

17. Houzer by Enex has added the Medallion Gourmet Sinks Series to its Medallion Series. There are three models: Gourmet Single Bowl, Gourmet 50/50 Double Bowl and Medallion Gourmet Triple Bowl.

18. The apron-front sink design from Rachiele Kitchen and Bath Products has a shorter apron and 1" channel that allows it to fit into an existing cabinet by removing the false drawer heads and placing the sink channel over the face frame of the cabinet.

19. The Valhalla faucet is the latest addition to Paul Decorative Products, Inc.’s Classics line of traditionally designed faucets, bath accessories and hardware. It is available in all metal or with lever handles featuring porcelain or Swarovski crystal inserts.

20. Rohl LLC offers this Shaws Original 1-1/2-bowl, fireclay apron kitchen sink (RC4019), which comes in white, biscuit and black.

21. The Z Series solid basins from Bates and Bates are crafted from non-ferrous metals – bronze, stainless steel, brass and copper – that are combined with polymer binders.

22. Water, Inc. has unveiled 28 new faucet and color styles, including this new Victorian faucet.

23. Teka’s Single-Bowl Undermount sink features a hand-polished stainless steel finish. Show here is model 125-072, which is made from 18-gauge stainless steel and comes standard with a hand-polished Euro finish.

24. The Pinnacle Gooseneck faucet line from Watermark Designs includes a wide variety of bath faucets, as well as a bar fitting and matching kitchen sink faucet.

25. Elite Bath, Inc.’s Chameleon farm sink collection offers a choice of four interchangeable sink aprons that are hand-crafted by artisans from solid bronze.

26. The Swanstone kitchen sink line now includes a double- and single-bowl model made from quartz stone.

27. Native Trails’ line of hand-crafted and hand-hammered copper basins includes this kitchen sink.

28. Franke Consumer Products, Inc., Kitchen Systems Div. has added a triple undermount kitchen sink to its extensive line of stainless steel sinks. Shown is the PAX 170 with OE 380 faucet.

29. The Vintage faucet from Graff has a lever handle on top, a long spout and a vegetable sprayer. Finishes include brushed nickel, pewter, antique copper and antique brushed brass.

30. GemstonE has added five more configurations to its line of solid surface sinks. Three are double-bowl kitchen sinks, while two are vanity bowls.

31. Diamond Spas offers this circular copper bar sink. It’s shown here undermounted in granite.

32. The Grohe solid stainless steel Ladylux Plus and Ladylux Café (shown) pull-out spray kitchen faucets feature ceramic cartridges, dual-spray patterns, high-reach spouts and stainless steel, braided, flexible supplies.

33. The Klamath from Oregon Copper Bowl Co. is a farmhouse-style, single-bowl prep/wet bar sink that’s made of double-walled copper that features curved corners. It is available in hand-hammered or smooth heavy-gauge copper in several finishes, including polished, satin or antique copper or brass, and bright nickel.

34. In-Sink-Erator, a Div. of Emerson offers Instant Hot Water Dispensers, including this model (1100), which features a nickel finish.

35. The Lancelot Big Single Sink from Moen Inc. is made from 18-gauge stainless steel in a satin finish, and features a 10”-deep bowl and SoundSHIELD undercoating technology.

36. Profili kitchen and bath faucets from Mico Designs Ltd. are available with chrome plating, or in satin and polished nickel, and oil-rubbed bronze finishes.

37. Astracast offers double- and single-bowl options – Sheffield and Radcliffe, respectively – as part of its Astracast ROK stone composite sink line.

38. The Jeannette single-handle kitchen faucet from Barclay Products comes in chrome, matte chrome, brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze finishes. It’s also available with a sidespray.

39. The Julien UrbanEdge Worktop 0740 includes a 10"-deep sink basin and integral drainboard.

40. The Vela L solid stainless steel kitchen faucet from MGS has a single lever and hand-held spray.

41. The NuCrete ChefSink by Sonoma Cast Stone is made from the company’s new stainless formula, and includes an imbedded, perforated stainless steel bottom and a stainless steel rinse board that slides across the sink.

42. The Versailles Farmhouse Sink by Stone Forest is hand-carved from solid beige granite. It features a polished texture on its floral bas relief apron front.

43. Danze’s Opulence Collection includes a pull-down faucet and pot filler. Both are highlighted by Victorian styling.

44. Blanco offers a variety of sinks and faucets for the kitchen, including this BLANCOPRECISION Super Single Bowl.

45. The Victorian Kitchen Bridge Faucet from Harrington Brass Works Ltd. Inc. has two cross handles with ceramic tabs featuring the words ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ in English, or French (if specified), and a matching, retractable sidespray. It’s shown here in the firm’s Light Bronze living finish.

46. The Solo Kitchen Faucet collection from Bach includes three models: Solo, Solo Premiere and Solo Minuet (shown).

47. The Touch-Free EZ Faucet Adapter from ITouchless Housewares & Products, Inc. installs by unscrewing the aerator and screwing on the adapter, turning the faucet into an infrared-sensor-activated faucet.

48. Pur now offers a three-stage water filter that mounts to existing kitchen faucets.

49. American Plumber offers several water filtration systems, including the WIC-600 deluxe refrigerator/icemaker water system; DW-600 deluxe drinking water system; WLCS-1000 chemical/lead filtration system; and the WRO-3500 monitored reverse-osmosis filtration system.

50. The H-300 by Everpure, Inc. has dual-stage filtration and a ‘bacteriostat.’

51. Oliveri Sinks now has a one-piece, 12.7-gallon-capacity, single-bowl sink (882U) with a European-style, satin-finish drainboard.

52. At the push of a concealed button, the LED light band on KWC’s EVE faucet is activated on the Neoperl pull-out spray contained inside the swivel spout.

53. Whitehaus Collection now offers the Bowl and a Half Series as part of its Famhaus Fireclay Quatro Alcove Series of kitchen sinks.

54. Technical Concepts LLC has added its touch-free Radius technology to Waterdecor’s Bridge faucet (shown).