The kitchen is a hotbed of activity in the household, with a need for work spaces that can accommodate a variety of functions, often in increasingly smaller spaces. So it’s no surprise that today’s sinks and faucets are evolving along with the kitchen, moving beyond their typical limits with a plethora of accessories and design elements.
Designers are charged with creating sink and faucet layouts that not only facilitate use, but also incorporate both work style needs and aesthetic preferences of the homeowners. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
“People are looking at long-lasting, quality products that will endure in terms of style as well as function,” says Naomi Neilson Howard, founder/CEO of Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA. “Those are the kitchen products that make us all feel good to be around and at the same time are a smart investment.”
Diana Schrage, senior interior designer at the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WI, agrees: “When consumers commit to a kitchen update, they’re seeking out products designed to be both beautiful and durable – they want something that will last.”
There is also a big trend toward expanding the concept of the sink or faucet beyond its current boundaries, according to Christy Emens, marketing manager for Blanco in Lumberton, NJ. As an example of this, she cites her firm’s Modex sink, with usable workspace for draining, prepping and cleaning, as well as an integrated cutting board and a dual directional drainer, which helps to provide a complete work station.
Aesthetics, too, continue to play a critical role in sinks and faucets, and there has been an explosion of design, says Jim Nowakowski, managing partner of Marketing Representatives LLC, in Palatine IL, which represents Webert Italian Design faucets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Manufacturers are not only using internal designers, but also seeking outside designers, which helps create products that are different, he says.
Manufacturers intereviewed agree that while the way kitchen sinks and faucets work is critical, the need for styles and finishes that appeal to the visual tastes of designers and consumers can’t be ignored. “The kitchen is a place most people spend a good amount of time – and it’s also usually quite visible, especially with open floor plans being so popular. Great kitchens today are often placing the main sink as the focal point of the room – and the look of the sink is as important as its functionality,” says Howard.
She finds texture and “textural tones” that warm up the kitchen to be quite popular. “There is often a lot of technology in today’s kitchens, as well as simple, clean lines, and earthy materials like hammered copper or nickel can do a lot to soften the whole look of the space and turn it into a kitchen where everyone wants to spend time,” Howard says. “Our apron front sinks in hand hammered brushed nickel are being used a lot to add texture and ‘wow factor’ to a kitchen that might be heavy on stainless steel appliances.”
Stainless continues to have a hold on the market, manufacturers say. “Stainless steel has been a primary sink material of choice for 50-plus years,” says Ann Rottinghaus, marketing communication director for Elkay, based in Oak Brook, IL. “It’s durable, attractive and neutral in color value. And, quite simply, it works. For appliances, stainless steel is the standard for color/material value and, as a result, stainless steel sinks and faucets have only increased in popularity.”
Schrage adds, “Stainless steel holds its own fan base with hush coats diminishing sound and new shapes and profiles that satisfy the need for a design statement as well as superb function.”