A Perfect Match

A Perfect Match

When it comes to kitchen sinks and faucets, both commercial and traditional looks are hot with stainless steel in high demand, and coordination, durability and customization key.

Though the commercial look continues to drive the market for kitchen sinks and faucets with stainless steel and metallic finishes hotter than ever consumers don't feel the pressure to install an all-metal look simply because it's the thing to do. In fact, there are many other looks, designs and materials gaining consumer interest, including an increased interest in solid surface sinks.

According to manufacturers surveyed by K&BDN, consumers want kitchen sinks and faucets that are both aesthetically pleasing and able to stand firm against heavy wear-and-tear. Increasingly, the demand is for easy-to-clean, durable products that emphasize function, while offering customization options, as well. No matter what the look, though, manufacturers and dealers agree that coordination, personalization and convenience are key.

Opposites attract
When it comes to style, manufacturers note that the biggest trend is two-pronged, with both commercial and traditional looks garnering plenty of attention.

"The restaurant-style kitchen is still a hot trend," agrees Ray Kennedy, v.p./ Delta Business Unit, Delta Faucet Co., in Indianapolis, IN. "[However], the demand for traditional designs continues, as well."

Indeed, while the seemingly evergreen commercial look dominates, a move back toward traditional looks seems to be occurring. "A major trend is the use of nostalgic styles and finishes in the kitchen and bathroom. People are choosing products with looks they are familiar with from previous decades, such as faucets with porcelain andles and accents, and polished brass finishes,"notes Kennedy.

"I see a lot of farm-style sinks, and more old-style,  single-lever and widespread kitchen faucets with separate sprayers," adds Ron Svensson, v.p./sales and marketing for the Marietta, GA-based Opella, Inc.

However, style choices don't stop there: Robert Salsbury, president of the Montville,NJ-based INOVA Inc., asubsidiary of Schrock & Co., GmbH., notes that, "It's an interesting time now because choice used to be based on what you had, but the market has grown so much in the past few years, people want something new."

That's why, asserts Salsbury, bolder, European designs are making headway here in the U.S. "European designs have gotten an excellent reception, [and] it is a very distinct possibility to continue to add products with more international features."

"We continue to see the impact of European styles and designs in kitchen faucets, and in increased faucet functionality and performance," chimes in Murray.

"It's an oversimplification to say that design doesn't matter," says Patrick Owens, residential marketing manager of DuPont Corian in Wilmington, DE. "Design overall has improved and is now expected as a 'cost' of consideration by the consumer."

Material concerns
"Stainless steel has been more popular now than it ever has been before," says Rick Brown, marketing and product development manager for the Midland, Ontario, Canada-based Kindred Industries Ltd. He attributes the material's appeal to consumer education. "Manufacturers are educating consumers on the merits of the material. They've done a better job informing people about style and design."

There's also the matter of the seemingly evergreen commercial look. Fueled by the desire to have a professional-look kitchen, many consumers are equipping them with as many "commercial" products as possible. And stainless steel speaks to that desire, manufacturers agree. Plus, says Brown, "We are all busy. The last thing you want to do is clean. Stainless steel takes very little effort to clean."

But, in terms of customization, can it deliver? According to Brown, yes, it can. He explains that due to new technology, such as lasers, manufacturers can create many different textured, embossed, ornamental and ribbed stainless designs.

Despite the popularity of stainless steel, solid surface has gained a strong foothold in the sink market. "Solid surface offers a great chance to do more than specify; you can make the sink an integral part of the kitchen design. Rather than spec a product, there is an opportunity to personalize an area of the kitchen that is the most frequently used area in the kitchen," maintains Wayne Rutledge, manager of commercial development for Avonite, in Albuquerque, NM.

"We're just now beginning tosee an increasing demand for customized sinks at the high end," adds Owens.

Solid surface lends itself to customization, since "the designs are absolutely limitless," adds Rutledge. "A lot of fabricators have CNC computers, which can scan a design, and then route or edge it out."

Other trends include colors and designs that complement granite and solid surface countertop designs. One product trying to address this is a quartz composition sink made by INOVA. Says Salsbury, "It has a strong growth potential because it offers application options and performance characteristics consistent with granite countertops."

"As further education occurs in the marketplace, we believe people will turn from the more traditional materials toward the benefits of alternative materials [like solid surface]," adds Mark Hird, president of Astracast by Jacuzzi, based in Naperville, IL.Function and fancyIndeed, manufacturers are taking advantage of new technology and using it to create bolder, more customized, functional sink designs. For sinks, bigger and deeper are in high demand, with Hird noting that, "People are demanding functional sinks. There's a continual trend toward deeper sinks, and easy maintenance is imperative for today's busy lifestyles." He notes the growing popularity of sinks with a 10"-depth, and adds that, "Today's cooks tend to have larger, commercial-style pots and pans, so this increased depth makes prep and clean-up more convenient."

Tim Mullally, president and general manager of the Norcross, GA-based KWC Faucets, concurs: "The 10" depth seems to be the most desired depth on the kitchen sink. It allows plenty of room for large pots, wok pots, etc." But not everyone agrees that deeper is better. Though Salsbury admits deeper, larger sinks are still hot, he believes the demand "is waning a bit," due to ergonomics and space issues. "Reaching into the bottom of a deep sink can lead to back stress, [and there] needs to be space to fit all of the customary accessories. I think that people are starting to recognize these issues."

But a sink doesn't just have tobe deep to be functional. "Double-bowl sinks continue to be the most popular style, again reflecting the demand for functional designs," notes Hird.

Undermount styles in different configurations and combinations have also gained ground because of their size and function. "Under-mounts have grown substantially, as solid surface and stone countertops have increased their popularity in kitchen design," adds Hird.

Additionally, there are marked distinctions between the trends for primary sinks and secondary sinks, the latter of which are becoming very hot list items. Explains Smith, "The primary sink requires larger, deeper bowls, and is available in one-, two- or three-bowl configurations," while the secondary sink is usually smaller. However, he adds that, "Whether it's an island or a hospitality sink, it is a fashion statement in itself." Mullally concurs, noting that "Primary and secondary sinks seem to blend with each other in style, while each serves separate functions."

"Larger or custom homes will trend toward secondary sinks, as well as those that service multiple cooks," Hird observes. 

"There are more 'accessory' sinks than ever before," adds Owens. "The kitchen sink isn't just for kitchens anymore."

Indeed, secondary sinks that coordinate with the design of the kitchen, as well as with the overall style of the home, are finding homes outside of the kitchen island/food prep areas. Secondary sinks are now seen in the laundry room, garage, outdoor kitchen, master bedroom, home office and wet bar. "Secondary sinks are gaining in popularity in new construction, as floor plans become larger," notes Murray.

Another "interesting trend is the change in the shape of the bowl," remarks Smith. Old rectangular bowls have given way to the newer, high-end, D-shaped bowls that are today's design standard, Smith notes. Because of the increased demand for water accessories and filtration (see related sidebar, this page) and different faucet styles, manufacturers are also responding with more sink holes.

Design extension
Like sinks, faucet designs follow the dual trends toward commercial and traditional looks, though whatever the style, coordination is paramount, as are function, durability and convenience. To that end, metallic finishes like nickel, single-control designs, offer easy maintenance and ease of use, while higher faucets match the larger sinks.

"Kitchen faucets have been dominated by function for many years, but style is now becoming equally important," explains Murray. "Commercial looks mimic the rugged durability of restaurant faucets, which appeal to a large group of consumers. Stainless steel looks and finishes are particularly hot right now, and in high-end faucets, copper, nickel and stainless steel are strong sellers. PVD-based finishes add durability to faucets, which is very important in a kitchen environment," he adds.

Pull-out faucets both integrated and separate continue to dominate the market, as well, according to Smith. "A high percentage of high-end kitchen faucets are single-handle, pull-out spray faucets. This has been the case for several years," says Smith. "There are, however, two growth segments that require two- or three-handled faucets: The consumer/designer who chooses the country look, and [the consumer] who wants the professional look [of] a high spout, two-handle faucet."

"Traditional handle designs are becoming more prominent," notes Kennedy, but he also notes that "Industry wide, pull-outs are a mainstream product; they are no longer niche." Murray attributes their popularity to "ease of use these faucets can control water temperature and flow with one hand."

But what about all-important style? "Our transparent blue, green and clear pull-out sprays have been a fun addition to the kitchen. They really give the kitchen a hip, new look, that is right on the design edge with transparent calculators, pagers, phones and computers," answers Mullally. 

Kitchen Sink and Faucet Trends at a Glance

  • The commercial look continues to be popular, thanks to the strong, steady demand for stainless steel in the kitchen. However, traditional and country looks are gaining ground.
  • Bolder, European sink and faucet designs have also received a warm reception from consumers craving something different. 
  • Whether the look is commercial or traditional, personalization and coordination are key. To that end, manufacturers of stainless and solid surface sinks are taking advantage of new technology to provide consumers with more customized designs.
  • Stainless steel still edges out many other materials for its durability, cleanability and style, but solid surface is gaining ground because of its versatility.
  • Larger, deeper, undermount, double-bowl sink designs lead the pack for the primary sink, regardless of the material. Larger secondary sinks that complement the main sink's design are also popular, and are popping up outside the kitchen, as well.
  • Faucet design follows many of the same trends as sink design, with durable, metallic finishes capturing consumers' attention. Pull-out faucets and single-control faucets also dominate the market, because of the convenience and ease of use they offer

Accessories, Water Filtration Address Multiple Concerns

Consumers are personalizing their kitchen sink areas with convenience-oriented, coordinated accessories that also answer concerns about water quality. That's the consensus of manufacturers interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News, who note that matching soap and lotion dispensers in many colors and finishes as well as drain trays, flanges, disposers and water filters offer ways for consumers to add convenience at the sink area while expressing their own personal style. 

And some manufacturers are going even further. According to Ron Svensson, v.p./sales and marketing of the Marietta, GA-based Opella, Inc., his company will offer new cabinet hardware that will "perfectly match" a new offering of Opella kitchen accessories, like paper towel holders and soap dispensers.

Side sprays and pot fillers are popular, as well, answering consumer demand for convenience and style, while remote basket strainers speak to function and safety concerns, manufacturers note.

Water quality, too, is a growing concern, which has driven the trend toward point-of-use filtration to allay consumer fears about water safety. Andrew Windisch, director/general manager of the Daytona Beach, FL-based Culligan International's consumer products group, sees an increased demand for water-on-demand across the boards.

But whether it's integrated right into the faucet, or appears as a separate system or an accessory, like a filtered hot/cold water dispenser, consumers want the peace of mind and the convenience
of having filtered water at their fingertips, manufacturers agree.

Indeed, "convenience, luxury, safety and taste" are all driving forces behind increased demand for water filtration, says Richard Smith, president of Pro-Flo Products, Inc., in Cedar Grove, NJ.

Major Avignon, owner of the El Segundo, CA-based Water, Inc., concurs, noting that his company has experienced "a growing demand for more specialized systems and new technologies, including reverse osmosis, ultraviolet, in-line installations and whole-home applications. On the convenience side, instant hot and chilled water continue to grow in popularity." He concludes, "The growing concern about pure water has fueled an increased awareness that is stimulating a 7-9% annual growth of drinking water systems sales."

Dealers Note High Demand for Stainless, Commercial Styling

When it comes to kitchen sinks and faucets, stainless steel continues to be the material of choice, according to dealers recently interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News. "There's still a [high] demand for stainless steel," says Charlotte Crawley, co-owner of the Shreveport, LA-based Kitchens & Baths by Crawley. Stainless steel sinks, and nickel and stainless steel faucets are hot among her clients right now, because of the continued desire for the commercial kitchen look, she notes.

Fabien Lannoye's clients are also seeking the sleek look of stainless, he reports. Lannoye, an architectural designer with Nova Designs in San Francisco, CA, attributes this demand to the material's ability to withstand wear and tear. Says Lannoye, "It's not a matter of it being the trend. I'd say it's [so popular] because of its durability."

But durability is not the only driving force behind consumer purchases, says Charlotte Carlson, a designer/salesperson for the Boulder, CO-based Kitchen Planners. Her clients are "driven by [practicality] and easy care. They are concerned about convenience, since both people are usually working." 
Other trends dealers are noting are in line with manufacturers' predictions, such as the demand for pull-out and single-control faucets, undermount sinks, water filtration and accessories, and coordinating secondary sinks.

Finally, because consumers are more often craving something
different, dealers such as Carlson are seeing a call for bolder, more European designs, though she adds that, "bolder designs are more of an upscale thing."