Although stainless may still be king, there is a rise in other materials and finishes as well, some manufacturers say. Emens, for instance, says, “Natural stone looks with long-term durability are really popular,” adding that the company’s cafe brown, anthracite and truffle (a warm grey neutral) are the most popular looks in Blanco’s Silgranit II line. Blanco’s newest color, Cinder, follows the trend that offers a warm grey that has browns and blacks in it – helping it both stand out and integrate with other elements in the kitchen, she adds.
Ken Fey, v.p./COO of Houzer, Inc. in Hamilton, NJ says, “Stainless steel continues to command over 70% of the material category in kitchen sinks; however, granite composite sinks are unrelenting in their increasing popularity and continue to gain more share each year.” The finish for this type of sink varies, he says, with the optimal mix one that is non-porous with a smooth feel to ensure ease in cleaning and less chance of harboring bacteria.
Faucets must coordinate with the chosen look and style of the sink, and are most often finished in chrome or stainless steel, say manufacturers. There is, however, some uptick in using finishes that help personalize the look of the kitchen.
David Emmons, product manager for Brasstech, Inc. in Santa Ana, CA says, “Although chrome and stainless steel remain the most popular finishes, we are seeing an increase in demand for specialty antique brass, nickel and copper finishes which allow the homeowner to customize their décor to meet their unique design vision.
Schrage sees a growing interest in oil-rubbed bronze, which is available on over 400 of Kohler’s products. “Those who appreciate its warmth and Old World appeal want to create a cohesive look throughout the space, and making the finish available on a wide array of products and accessories makes it easy,” she says.
Judd Lord, director of industrial design for Indianapolis-based Delta Faucet Co.’s Brizo brand, says that warm finishes – particularly Brushed Bronze, Polished Nickel and Venetian Bronze – are being used more often, particularly on what many would consider more contemporary styles. “It’s an intriguing use of these finishes to make the easy-to-clean, updated contemporary look warmer, more friendly and inviting. For a long time, walk into a kitchen, and all you would see was a wash of stainless steel. Now, homeowners are more willing to mix and match dark with light and cool with warm by incorporating multiple finishes in the same space.”
In recent years, there has been more talk about touch technology in faucets – whether hands-free or operated by a simple touch. Emmons says that, to date, touch faucet technology seems to have only had moderate success in the market. However, he says, he expects this technology to continue to increase in popularity, at a slow growth rate.
Bob Rodenbeck, director of research and development at Delta Faucet Co., says touch technologies are increasing in popularity because they bring ease of use, convenience and functionality to the kitchen. They also help save water.
“Faucets featuring these technologies are very easy to turn on and off, with consumers more likely to turn the water off between tasks. This technology also employs an automatic shutoff feature so the water turns off when it’s not needed,” he adds.
Kohler’s newly launched Sensate touchless kitchen faucet was also designed to free up hands to allow for easily moving between tasks without having to stop and turn the water on and off. “Response, the technology we developed for Sensate, is incredibly precise; the sensor responds in 20 milliseconds,” she adds.
By contrast, Webert tends to be more traditional in its technology, Nowakowski says. He adds that electronics tend to automate the process, and something is lost with that route, both personally and in sustainability – if the faucet turns on when you didn’t want it to, for instance. “I don’t know if electronics will ever be prevalent in the kitchen,” he says.
While the standard full-size kitchen sink still remains on top, there are many smaller options for those wishing to get creative with their space. There are also plenty of choices for faucet styles and shapes, as well as work space configurations to best suit users’ needs.
With a move toward smaller kitchens, work areas must be adjusted accordingly. “Gone are the days of the ‘McMansion,’” says Lord. “People are ‘right sizing’ their homes with spaces that fit their lifestyles without a lot of excess. As a result, interior elements that take up less physical and visual space are increasing in demand.”