The kitchen often serves a dual purpose as both an entertainment center and the place where the hard work gets done. That means the space needs to be warm and open, while also offering a stylish water station that can handle prep work and clean up with ease.
For that reason, kitchen faucets, sinks and accessories must add increased functionality to these areas while also offering opportunities for personalization of the space. Additionally, they must be easy to use, stylish and able to create a flow in the overall kitchen design. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
“When selecting kitchen fixtures, including the faucets and sinks, consumers want to be sure that these items will provide the functionality that they need and the design that they want,” says Tom Tylicki, wholesale kitchen product manager for the North Olmsted, OH-based Moen. “These elements should also flow nicely and balance the overall design of the space.”
There’s a “renaissance” in the kitchen that seems to be heavily influenced by the explosion of “foodie” shows on television, says Naomi Neilson Howard, founder/CEO of Native Trails in San Luis Obispo, CA. “People are inspired by the high-end fixtures and appliances they see on the shows and they want to really enjoy being in their kitchens,” she says.
“Faucets, being the most commonly used item in the kitchen, are now coming fully outfitted with a variety of innovations that make them more environmentally friendly, easier to use and suited to individual needs,” says Luky “Jade” Ng, Axor NYC Design Studio Manager for Alpharetta, GA-based Hansgrohe USA.
When it comes to overall design style preferences, there is no one size fits all – or even most. Individualizing the kitchen space to suit the person who is using it is key.
“By far, the biggest design trend that connects with both consumers and designers is the idea of individualization,” says Tim Maicher, U.S. director of marketing for BLANCO, based in Lumberton, NJ. “We have so many options in front of us each day – consumers truly believe that there is one product, made just for us and for our life. Designers are also in search of products that can be customized to deliver a personal touch the same way their individual brand intends to do.” This desire for something different inspired the company’s ONE sink series, where features can be customized to create a personal workstation, he says.
Ben Fix, director of product marketing and training at Grohe, located in Roselle, IL, says he doesn’t see a clear trend toward any particular style. Rather, the design style of the individual consumer is what matters most, he says.
But some manufacturers have seen a substantial shift away from the traditional styles. “One of the biggest kitchen design trends we’re seeing is that, for the first time, transitional has overtaken traditional as the most sought after design style,” says Tylicki.
Ng says that because traditional style is giving way to more modern and retro styles, kitchen faucets are less decorative. “Cleaner lines on the new ‘transitional’ styles are also preferred as they make fixtures easier to maintain,” she says.
Maicher notes that traditional design is still in the lead in the U.S., but a move toward the modern brings a new sensibility to transitional forms. One key reason for this is the extension of the kitchen into other living spaces, he says, which requires that the faucet style balance with the whole space. “This is a long-term trend and will continue to be [in play] for as long as the open-space concept continues,” Maicher says.
Howard sees a surge in what she calls Rustic Modern styling. “The contrast of rustic, earthy materials against more contemporary lines or cool finishes is really interesting to see, as designers often get very creative with this seemingly contradictory design style,” she says. This style can result in unique combinations, like a weathered, reclaimed wood kitchen island combined with a concrete sink, or a hand-hammered copper sink paired with sleek glass, she notes.
Jonathan Wood, v.p., sales and marketing for Brasstech, Inc. in Santa Ana, CA, says the company is seeing more consumers mix-and-match design elements that they like, whereas in the past, a mono-style approach was more common. “It’s now commonplace to see reclaimed or salvaged materials blended in with traditional or elegant accents. The trend allows consumers to really ‘put their mark’ on their space, and we just love all of the emerging opportunities for individuality to be celebrated in the consumer’s design,” he says.
Tylicki, on the other hand, says it’s important for homeowners to find matching finishes and styles across all of the fixtures, from faucets and sinks, to cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, to lighting and accessories.
Ease of Operation
Advances in technology have created many options for simple touch and hands-free operation of faucets. These elements not only make faucets easier to use, but also help consumers avoid contamination when working with food.
“Consumers are embracing technology in their faucets and water accessories,” says Judd Lord, director of industrial design at Brizo, in Indianapolis, IN. “Since Delta Faucet Co. introduced the first residential electronic kitchen faucet more than 10 years ago, touch-activated and hands-free technologies have become increasingly prevalent throughout the home,” he says. Brizo continues to add styles and finishes that feature the touch-activated SmartTouch Technology in order to accommodate consumers’ desire to incorporate this type of technology into their kitchen design, says Lord. This technology, which starts and stops the flow of water with a tap anywhere on the faucet, is also ideal for those with mobility issues or who have trouble reaching a handle, he notes.
Fix agrees that electronics have become important in faucets, allowing users to prepare food and access water without touching the faucet with dirty hands. He cites Grohe’s MintaTouch as an example of this technology.
Maicher adds that other elements of faucet design, like the use of magnets, make accessing and putting away the hand spray easier. “I think technology in all forms will continue to make faucets even simpler to enjoy,” he adds.
Incorporating Universal Design themes into products in a way that is aesthetically pleasing is more important each year, he adds, especially as the baby boomers age. “The heart of Universal Design is really about making life in the kitchen easier on a person,” he explains. “Our designers looked at how to blend great functionality in an easy-to-care-for, and easy-to-use, design that delivers great style.” The CULINA and CULINA mini faucets from BLANCO meet this growing demand, with an easy coil design and a magnetic spray holder for easy use, he says.
Tylicki says that the integration of technology has grown immensely over the past two years, particularly in faucets. “Products like MotionSense help homeowners see the value that automation and innovation provide in the kitchen, as it delivers convenience and simplifies tasks in the most-used room of the house.” The intuitive nature of this technology creates an easier experience for users of all ability levels, he adds.
Ng says, “Whether it’s sensor, touch or proximity activation, the benefits of hands-free faucetry are being catered to.” In addition, she says, single-handle lever faucets have become the new standard as companies strive to make easier-to-use products.
In addition to the technologies that make turning the water on or off easier, faucet design that incorporates motion – in the form of pull-down or pull-out elements – is in high demand. “We are most impressed with the speed at which the market moved from non pull-down or pull-out models of kitchen faucets, and adopted the pull-down style of faucets,” says Wood. “Pull-downs are far more intuitive and flexible for the consumer, and in many cases add a nice feature to the countertop that catches the eye,” he says.
Tylicki agrees: “Pull-down faucets are the most popular platform style, with pull-outs being the second most popular. According to Moen’s Consumer & Market Insights Group, 85 percent of current pull-down or pull-out faucet owners would purchase another one in the future.”
Lord says that, last year, the desire for faucets to take up less physical and visual space made single-handle kitchen faucets popular. While single-handle faucets are still in demand, he says this trend is also coming to fruition in other ways, through pull-out and pull-down configurations.
While functionality leads to some of the most popular faucet trends, the aesthetic appeal can’t be overlooked, either. The faucet design should flow with the overall size and design of the room, according to manufacturers.
“The open-room concept is one of the hottest trends today and requires that all things work together so that a good flow of space and interaction can be maintained. A large, tall or conventional, professional-looking faucet can unintentionally disrupt or unbalance the space and/or view,” says Maicher.
It’s also important for manufacturers to offer a faucet in a variety of sizes, says Fix, so consumers can benefit from the same functionality in kitchens where space could be a constraint.
In finishes, manufacturers agree that Chrome and Stainless Steel still top the list for kitchen faucets, but several other options are showing up as well. Wood says they are beginning to see White and Black make a comeback in the kitchen. “The market has moved to a more transitional style of faucet that can easily accentuate either a traditional or contemporary cabinet motif,” he says.
Lord adds, “Warm-hued faucets work very well in neutral spaces and add a sense of elegance to the kitchen. Other faucet color choices – such as Matte White, Matte Black or even a split finish like Cocoa Bronze and Stainless – can help transform the kitchen faucet into a statement piece.”
Maicher says that the use of color as an accent within kitchen design is growing, tying into the trend of adding the personal touch. “A splash of color can totally change the room and make it unique,” he says. His company has seen growth in products like the ALTA Compact, which uses accent colors mixed with metal to complement the kitchen design.
While a double-bowl sink style has benefits such as two distinct spaces for multi-tasking, the shift is toward a large, single-bowl sink, manufacturers say.
“Design-wise, people do love the large, single-bowl sinks,” says Mark Webster, marketing manager for Karran USA, based in Vincennes, IN. “They provide great versatility and people who choose them never regret it.”
Maicher agrees. “We continue to see a strong shift from double-bowl kitchen sinks to single bowls as the demands and needs have changed within the kitchen over the past decade. The challenge is to deliver increased functionality beyond just having a big bowl in order to meet these new demands,” he says.
Cassy Osborne, wholesale sink product manager at Moen, sees the trend toward a large single-bowl sink, but adds that she also sees people using double-bowl sinks with a 60/40 split in size. The extra space in the larger bowl allows for soaking large cookware, while still providing the ability to perform other tasks in the second bowl, she says.
Osborne adds, “Homeowners are also beginning to be more thoughtful about the type and size of sink they’re purchasing for their kitchens. Not only do they want a sink shape that complements their design style, but one that also provides extra functionality for their space.” The company has seen an emerging trend in demand for an apron-front sink, she notes. Stainless reigns as the top material in kitchen sinks, she adds, as homeowners are drawn to high-quality materials that provide long-lasting value.
Webster says customers prefer undermount, and a seamless undermount sink is even better. As for materials, he agrees that stainless is still strong, but says there is also increased demand for quartz sinks due to their durability and color options.
Howard has seen a significant increase in demand for Brushed Nickel finish sinks. “Our Nickel-Plated hammered copper kitchen basins are growing in sales disproportionately to other products, even with their higher price point. It is encouraging to see people willing to splurge again in their kitchens with higher-end materials that really make their spaces something special,” she says.
Beyond the Basics
The primary sink and faucets are essential, but it can be the added touches that make a kitchen feel complete. From pot fillers to prep sinks and bar faucets, these are the items that create a higher level of functionality and make the most out of the space.
Lord says that both pot fillers and beverage faucets remain popular in custom kitchens, and Brizo has seen significant interest in the bar/prep faucets that offer many of the same features as the full-sized versions the company offers. “We’ve seen designers use kitchen and bar prep faucets from the same collection in one space or mix and match various styles to add interest,” he says.
Ng adds, “It used to be classic pot fillers that completed the kitchen, but now that we have our focus on sustainability and clean water, the bar faucet has become the must-have kitchen addition. When paired with a water filter, customers have bottle-free drinking water right at their fingertips.”
Osborne says that another popular accessory for stainless steel sinks is a bottom grid, which provides protection to extend the life and beauty of the sink. Moen has introduced a line of custom-sized bottom grids to its line.
Maicher says that accessories that help keep things clean or organized are long-term growth trends that stem from an increased use of the kitchen. “Whether you’re a family, a foodie or an entertainer, you need your kitchen to work hard and look great, hence the real need for accessories that can keep your kitchen working and looking good all the time,” he says. “Things like multi-use sink grids, slim cutting boards and accessories that keep things off the counter all can really enhance the daily use experience in a kitchen.”