Going with the Flow
Designers talk about trends in faucet finishes, showerheads and sinks for kitchens and baths.
sink by Ferguson can add a striking accent to a bathroom.
Brass is back. Yes, brass finishes— long banished from the design scene—have returned. Take heart, though. The look is updated and upscaled.
“Soft gold, warm antique or brush brass are warming up the design scene,” says Whitney Nelson, kitchen and bath designer at Capital Kitchen & Bath in Concord. “Not only are brass tones back in faucets, but in cabinet hardware and other home décor as well.”
Rose gold is also making a comeback. Suzanne Brady, sales manager for Frank Webb’s Bath Center showrooms of the F.W. Webb Company, which is headquartered in Bedford, Massachusetts, describes the new-again finishes as “toned-down versions of 1970s style.” She notes that faucet finishes tend to mimic
the latest fashion and industrial design trends, and that the burnished gold finish started grabbing attention after it was offered as an option for the Apple iPhone. The same with matte black, another iPhone-inspired finish that’s trending.
Other finishes the designers say their clients are asking for include brushed and oil-rubbed bronze, English bronze, brushed nickel, polished nickel, champagne, stainless steel and the always-popular polished chrome.
“What we need to remember when incorporating some of these newer finishes into our design is that it might not be easy to match faucet finishes to hardware and lighting finishes,” says Julie Brady, owner of Portsmouth Bath Company, a division of Standard of New England. “Of course, not all metal finishes need to match. Just be sure that the mismatch is intentional and not by mistake.”
Photography courtesy of Brizo Faucet Company
Wall-mount handshowers, like this one from the Rook Collection at Brizo, can be paired with a fixed showerhead to provide flexibility.
Whatever the finish, faucets and showerheads are going high tech. No-touch faucets—where just passing your hand over or under the top of the faucet activates the flow—are a popular addition to kitchen sinks. These are perfect for hands that just kneaded dough or breaded chicken for dinner.
In the bathroom, new technology has turned ho-hum showers into what Frank Morris Jr., vice president of Granite State Cabinetry in Bedford, calls “a mind-blowing showering experience.”
He points to the Kohler electronic shower control system, which combines water, steam, sound and light to take showering to the next level. In addition to the interplay of steam and water, wireless Bluetooth speakers blast out the tunes (great for singing along) and changing LED colors in the showerhead create a soothing chromatherapy light show. All the elements are customizable and controlled with a touchscreen.
That’s top of the line, but elements such as Bluetooth-equipped showerheads and chromatherapy lighting can be purchased separately. And there’s now a range of showerheads that go well beyond the common single spray: dual and multiple spray, rain shower, body spray and hand-held. Designers say many clients are opting for a combination of fixed and hand-held showerheads.
Delta and Brizo have “a great combined showerhead and hand-held showerhead that allows anyone to replace their current showerhead without changing the valve or trim,” says Cheryl Tufts, owner of 3W design, Inc. in Concord. “The combined units are installed right on the existing shower arm. They come in multiple finishes and shapes to match their faucets and valve trim.”
Tufts adds that manufacturers are working to accommodate concerns about the water pressure with low-flow showerheads. Air-injection technology mixes air with water to create the sensation of a strong, constant pressure even though less water is being used. Another option is a non-aerating showerhead that keeps the pressure strong with pulses of water.
“Most major manufacturers are making water-efficient showerheads and faucets that optimize water flow without sacrificing performance,” Tufts says.
Manufacturers are motivated by the WaterSense conservation certification program through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sanctions a product that meets water usage standards. The EPA label is a good way to reach environmentally conscious customers.
“Consumers are gravitating to kitchen sinks made from durable, non-porous granite composite that resists heat, stains, scratches and chipping,” says Suzanne Brady. “Choices such as Blanco Silgranit and Elkay E-Granite come in many variations, such as single or double sinks with high or low divides.” Low divides, she adds, offer the look of a single bowl with the functionality of a double bowl, and make food preparation and cleanup easier.
Today’s sinks also offer accessories such as high and low drainage grids, cutting boards and cutlery caddies.
Julie Brady says stainless steel—a favorite for kitchen sinks since the 1930s—is still the most popular choice. What’s different now is that consumers are more intent on quality, and she has some advice: “Pay attention not only to the gauge, or thickness, but also to the manufacturing process. Some processes can stretch a sink so that it ends up being thinner than its original gauge. This can make it difficult to compare ‘apples to apples,’ where one eighteen-gauge sink may actually be thicker, or thinner, than another.”
Morris has a different take: “My clients are looking for large, single-bowl sinks in material other than stainless steel. The popular materials are quartz and granite.
What Morris sees as ground-breaking, though, is The Galley kitchen sink, which he calls “a new concept in design and functionality.” It’s much more than a sink—it’s a stylish workstation where you can prepare, cook, serve, entertain and clean up in one convenient spot. “I believe this is for the modern family who is constantly in the kitchen because they love to be,” says Morris, now a Galley dealer. “[It] makes being there easier and more comfortable for everyone.”
Although the farm sink has been around for a while, Allison Karanasios, an interior designer at Goedecke Flooring and Design in Bedford, says it “is still very popular for kitchens. It’s a more traditional look but can work in many different styles of kitchens.”
For the bathroom, Karanasios sees demand for the vessel sink. “They have many different feels,” she says, “from handmade pottery to glass to metal, porcelain and even stone—traditional to very modern.”
Nelson says many clients are asking for rectangular porcelain undermount bowls, but she also likes self-rimming sinks: “They’re a combination of a vessel and a drop-in-style sink that promotes luxury without consuming space.
Self-rimming sinks have some advantages: They’re easy to install and change out without having an impact on the countertop, and they’re easy to clean.
Trough-style sinks with two faucets— a contemporary take on the early communal sinks—are starting to replace the long-popular double sinks. Some can accommodate three faucets, great for families with a lot of children getting ready for school in the morning.
And, for a bit of luxury, how about mother of pearl? “We are bringing on a new sink line that offers natural mother- of-pearl inlays and custom mosaics,” Julie Brady says. “These will probably be used mostly in powder rooms to give guests a beautiful, unexpected surprise.”
Ask these designers what style— contemporary, transitional or traditional—is trending for kitchens and baths, and the answers are mixed. Transitional gets the nod from most: “a great look, clean and simple,” “works well in both traditional and contemporary settings,” “easier maintenance,” “an expansive breadth and depth of offerings.”
But traditional is a close second, with a rise in contemporary design on the horizon for the upcoming Gen Y.
Photography courtesy of Maax
This freestanding tub from Maax has a classic rectangular look, with a center drain and two deck widths for different styles of faucets. To create a spa-like feeling, an air massage system can be added.