McTargett notes that Delta's polished brass fixtures, which can be treated similar to chrome, have also met with significant success. Though the line is more expensive than chrome, according to McTargett, "consumers are willing to spend the money, because they believe it will last."
Still, a decrease in the popularity of polished finishes in favor of brushed finishes, "especially in the cooler tones such as brushed chrome," has been noted, according to Spector. "The bath is a personal space, and we see this growing 'emotion' in bath design creating a desire for warmth, both visual and tactile."
Keith Kometer, product manager for faucets at Kohler Co. agrees, noting, "Consumers are looking for warmer, metallic finishes such as nickel and bronze."
"Special finishes that are 'Old World' in feel are popular for faucets," observes LeTourneau. For example, she notes the use of oil-rubbed bronze and pewter to achieve a nostalgic appearance.
"People today are interested in making new money look old. This explains why the new finishes, other than polished brass, are growing in popularity," comments McTargett.
"Polished brass is a little bit bright and gaudy. Pearl nickel has a more dull and matted look, so you're buying something new that looks old."
A brilliant finish with a light matte texture, such as pearl nickel, can be mixed and matched successfully with other finish types, such as chrome and polished brass, McTargett notes.
"It offers people additional options when remodeling," he
Adds Gary Pember, group product manager, Bath, for the North Olmsted, OH-based Moen Inc., "More choices such as platinum, satin, black opal and various other material selections and etching details give consumers the opportunity for individual expression and uniqueness."
Other remodeling options are gained through the use of color. While decorating in traditional style used to mean white, "there is a whole range of variations of white that are popular," notes Uhl.
Almond, a staple in most new homes just 10 years ago, is dying a rapid death, being replaced by the more designer-friendly biscuit shade, according to McTargett. "Designers like the color it's fresher, it offers more options and it's much closer to white than it is to almond," he explains.
John Scott, v.p. of Swanstone Products for the St. Louis, MO-based Swan Corp., sees more emphasis on coloration, as opposed to the solid colors of white. "I see a trend going to more of the granite looking colors to coordinate with the walls. There's a trend to make a uniform look in the bathroom. Instead of making tile walls, there are solid surface walls, which can be coordinated with the vanities."
With regard to sinks, china is still a popular choice, as are porcelain and Corian. Newer choices are also gaining in interest, however. Uhl notes that American Standard is showing stone as an above-counter lavatory.
Elkay Manufacturing Co. of Oak Brook, IL, is favoring stainless steel sinks for the bathroom. "In the past, stainless steel sinks were used only in commercial bathroom applications or in the kitchen," notes Elkay director of marketing services Alan Danenberg.
"Now, we're seeing the use of stainless steel go way beyond the kitchen. It's easy to care for, and it's sanitary, which is a major issue in the home today."
"In terms of style, the use of solid surface countertops lends itself to the use of stainless steel in undermount sink designs," continues Danenberg. He notes that stainless steel gives consumers more flexibility in the countertop to do anything colorwise. "If the consumer wants to change the color scheme of the room, then the sink doesn't have to be replaced. It's very neutral, and it picks up the surrounding colors."
Mastering the bath
Whether building a new home or just remodeling an existing one, contractors agree that consumers spend a great deal of their time focused on the bathrooms. Often, the bathroom is a true reflection of the homeowner's personal style, and it can become both a luxurious escape from the outside world and a central showpiece.
"For the master bath, there is more space being devoted to the counter, with double sinks becoming common," comments Spector. "We see growing interest in the wall-mount lav set, which opens up many design possibilities."