Beauty & Brawn – Kitchen & Bath Design News

In addition to their primary hygienic function, bathrooms can serve as a personal refuge for relaxation or a space to showcase personal style for guests. Since performance and beauty can easily be blended in today’s luxury bath sinks and faucets, trends are moving toward customized styles and colors that truly highlight the homeowner’s style. 

“Bathrooms are increasingly being seen as a space to reflect the style and personality of their owner, with inventive use of color serving as a key tool,” says Alexandra Yacavone, Kohler Design Studio Manager for Kohler, based in Kohler, WI. “Colored bathroom suites are growing in popularity.”

“The biggest trends we are seeing are towards color and whimsy,” concurs Dawn Robinson, director of marketing and communications for BOCCHI USA, based in Alpharetta, GA. “During the pandemic, and following it, so many homeowners began to look at their homes in a new way and with a new focus on comfort, customization and fun as well as function. This is presented in a lot of ways, but with the bathroom in particular there is a move towards fun spaces that reflect more personality than we’ve seen in the past.”

Though visuals vary widely, function cannot be compromised for style, Robinson adds. “Whatever the ‘fun’ is, it still needs to be highly functional – easy to clean, more hygienic, etc. This is not the age of either/or, it is an age where we want it all and frankly deserve to have products that are as functional as they are stylish, that are as hygienic as they are eco-friendly, that are easy to use and made with sustainable practices,” she stresses.

Bath sinks and faucets can set the tone for a space, serving as a centerpiece or focal point, with coordinated accessories and complementary colors throughout. Technological advances help create higher functionality, convenience and durability in products. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

A Look of Their Own

Custom looks have long been important in the luxury sink and faucet market, a trend that continues to rise. “With consumers continuing to spend much of their time at home, customizable products that allow homeowners to showcase their style are a popular trend in the bathroom space,” reports Justin Storm, group product manager at Irvine, CA-based House of Rohl.

“In fact, a House of Rohl survey from last summer found that 63% of respondents are more likely to select bathroom fixtures if they can personalize them, whether that’s through faucet handles, materials or product colors,” he adds.

Diego Zanatta, business development manager for Fantini, based in Pella, Italy and New York, NY, says the tendency to use custom-made sinks has always been true for their market segment. “In the past year we have seen an increase in requests for solutions to install the product on thicker surfaces, as required when marble is used. More and more companies are now offering freestanding solutions that have an impact on the choice for the faucets that will need to be wall, floor or even ceiling mounted,” he states. “As for faucets, I noticed a return of the industrial aesthetic but with more elegant lines than in the past, when purely industrial designs were in style. More balanced designs that combine industrial elements/finishes with modern lines allow for more flexibility and work well in both contemporary and traditional bathrooms.”

“I’d say that, because we are a small bespoke brand, people work with us because they want to differentiate their projects; our ability to customize finishes and mix-and-match handles provides almost limitless possibilities. We are able to double-machine and double-plate different designs or patterns onto the faucets, which is something larger manufacturers cannot do,” emphasizes Avi Abel, president, Watermark Designs, based in Brooklyn, NY. 

“Sizes run the gamut as that can change from en suites to powder rooms, etc., but our most in-demand products are the ones that allow homeowners and designers to install them in several ways, so that they can really customize the sink to their space,” stresses Robinson.

Eric Phelps, president – North America for Acquabella, based in Jasper, GA, says that there’s demand for broader design options, sizes and custom capabilities. Large, single-bowl sinks that can be used by two people at the same time are popular, he adds.

Kiran Singh, senior brand manager for Indianapolis, IN-based Peerless says single-handle lavatory faucets are gaining in popularity, as is an overall move towards minimalism. “Minimalist design aesthetics are on the rise and will continue to stay on trend due to their ability to [make] any room look spacious while giving a timeless look to your space,” she reports. 

Creative Finish

The role of the bathroom spans a wide range, from showpiece, to personal refuge, to functional space for hygiene. Each may call for a different design style, but a common thread among them is creativity in design. 

“Design-forward spaces are employing natural organic finishes that provide dramatic accents to a space,” notes San Luis Obispo, CA-based Native Trails’ CEO and Founder Naomi Neilson. “Natural materials in sinks are in high demand. We are seeing this with our hand-worked metals like copper, nickel, silver, and even gold and platinum – and materials such as smooth concrete, whose organic modern appeal offers a great deal of versatility.”

Yacavone agrees that nature as a theme is a rising trend. “With nature being shown to offer a feeling of calm and improve both mental and physical health, particularly as an antidote to tech-driven lifestyles, consumers are increasingly using it as a tool to boost wellbeing. Organic elements can bring this emotional connection with nature into bathrooms,” she observes. “Designs tap into the soothing experience of being in nature, with organic forms that evoke a connection to the material’s source.”

Trough-shaped sinks are in high demand, Neilson says, for both the super functional basin and the intriguing look. “Unique and interesting vessels are also enjoying increased popularity. The artistic vessel sink will never go out of style, as it’s a great way to really personalize a space with a memorable piece in a highly visible bathroom.”

A sterile, neutral environment is no longer the desired impact, manufacturers say. “Impersonal, all-white bathrooms [are] quickly falling out of favor. Decorative walls offer a fast track to a statement space,” says Yacavone. “While bathrooms have conventionally been uplifting spaces filled with smooth, shiny white surfaces, designers are now daring to dip into a dark, tactile palette to create emotive and therapeutic spaces.”

Details that wouldn’t look out of place in the rest of the home are making their way to the bath, she adds, such as rounded shapes, decorative detail and warm colors in bathroom furniture. Finishes are also shifting, she adds. “Whereas decorative finishes were previously the conserve of select made-to-order offerings, brands are now embracing an expressive palette of rich metals and tactile finishes that elevate the ceremony of bathing,” she explains.     

Consumers and designers are veering from the traditional finishes more and more often. “In general, people experiment more and leave the chrome/satin finishes with much more ease than before – so much so that now special finishes account for probably half of our sales,” Zanatta says.

With the range of finishes available, there’s a choice appropriate for any space. Abel says they are seeing the return of both brass and gold finishes, which offer a beautiful shine. “For spaces that need something more natural, our Aged Brass – which is a living finish – or Satin finishes are quite popular again. For a more dramatic statement, dual finishes, such as Matte Black/Gold or Matte White/Gold, are popular with designers,” he reports. 

Robinson says matte finishes are the most popular currently. “In both light and dark tones, and bright fun colors, the matte finishes are king. They add a softness and luxuriousness to a product that is very much in demand.”

Singh thinks that the matte black finish has been rising quickly due to the timeless color that makes a space look modern. Chrome is also a popular, classic choice, she adds, which adds a perfect touch of light while bringing a clean feel to any room. “Simple, clean, yet modern are what consumers are looking for in their homes,” she stresses. 

Space Shapers

Sinks and faucets in the bathroom – whether a powder room, guest bath or master bath – can help define the space in both function and design, manufacturers say. 

“It’s common for homeowners to select their sinks and faucets early on in their bathroom design process, and oftentimes the rest of the space is shaped by the finish and style of these products,” remarks Storm. “For example, if a polished chrome faucet is selected, it’s likely that the bathroom hardware, such as towel bars, drawer pulls and other accessories, will also be polished chrome. If a bold-colored sink is selected, the rest of the bathroom may be designed with complementary colors in mind.”

Zanatta states faucets are generally selected based on the size and type of vanity that they desire in their bathroom, which then guides the overall design for the shower and tub fixtures. “The selected collection often ends up influencing some important elements in the bathroom, like the type of tub, the selection for the accessories and even the hardware finishes – such as hinges and doors,” he says. 

“Bathroom faucets are not only an essential part of any home remodel but also a statement element for the overall bath design,” Singh notes. “A new faucet has the ability to immediately revamp the look and feel of your bath and transform it into the ideal space. Whether you’re going for a modern or traditional vibe, a bathroom faucet can achieve that goal based on the faucet design or finish.” 

The relationship between sinks/faucets and the overall appearance of the bathroom varies depending on which bath they’re in and consumer preference. For some, function and understatement is more important, while others are looking to make a statement.  

Phelps says, “In today’s design, the sink contributes most by offering significant function in well-balanced and blended design, a daily workspace that doesn’t require the spotlight.”

Other manufacturers say that sinks and faucets have shifted from being all about how they work to becoming aesthetic highlights. “In the past, sinks were more utilitarian; they filled a space, provided a function and quite often blended into the design of a bathroom,” Neilson observes. “Fortunately, today there are myriad available sink options allowing that piece to become the focal point of the bathroom. They add that personal element and a beautiful differentiator to that space.”

Smooth Operation

It isn’t enough to simply look good; consumers are demanding products that cater to a long list of functional considerations, as well. In addition to ensuring that each bathroom has an aesthetic that appeals to the specific customer, designers must also give attention to cleanliness, durability, aging in place, environmental sustainability and other functional elements. All of these factors can impact the materials or finishes chosen.

“For sinks, volcanic limestone and porcelain materials are often the go-to choice for consumers because they’re easy to clean, come in many shapes and sizes, and stand up to wear and tear,” explains Storm. For faucets, he adds, brass is popular in the bath due to its durability. 

Phelps reports that engineered stone and solid surface materials are increasing in popularity as well. “The silky feel, cleanability and range of design capabilities offers a unique set of benefits,” he remarks. 

Another durable faucet option on the rise is PVD, Zanatta says. “Customers have become more used to it and, despite the higher price point, they understand the value of having a more durable finish,” he notes. 

“After a few years, we are noticing an increased demand for unlacquered brass, even in traditionally more modern markets,” he adds. “We now offer a PVD version, which clients appreciate because of the durability and hygiene properties.” 

Hygiene is another important consideration, manufacturers say. “Throughout the home in general, products that cater to the hygiene-
conscious homeowner are important, as they look to reduce germs and cross contamination,” says Storm. “Motion-activated or hands-free faucets are becoming more prominent, in addition to sinks and faucets made with easy-to-clean and bacteria-resistant materials.” 

“Certainly, the demand for touch-free faucets and complementary items has increased,” reports Zanatta. He’s also noticed increased interest in multi-functional showerheads, both for renovations and new developments.

Universal design and sustainability are additional functional requirements that more consumers are becoming attentive to, manufacturers say. 

“Brands are catering to varying life stages and physical abilities for improved functionality,” stresses Yacavone. “They are leaning into technology to be more inclusive, as well as a tool for aging in place.”

 Abel agrees. “Like most faucet manufacturers, we have to keep abreast of any changes in ADA-compliance, or water-flow rates, and we adjust accordingly. We do know that the aging-in-place demographic continues to grow and, with that, some faucets with lever handles can meet the regulations.”

“We are seeing dramatic growth in demand for products with a positive story behind them that people can relate to, and for products made sustainably that people can feel good about,” adds Neilson. “Beauty combined with sustainability are definite drivers.”

Changing Technologies

For sinks and faucets, technology advances mean not only the smart technologies that permeate the home, but advances in manufacturing processes and operation as well. 

“Sealer technology is advancing dramatically, allowing for specialty sink finishes that previously would have been unthinkable for a sink surface,” Neilson remarks. 

Both faucet technology and the likelihood that consumers will incorporate that technology has advanced greatly, Singh reports. “Overall, bath and kitchen faucet technologies have and will continue to change the industry as they proceed to deliver convenience and efficiency throughout [the] homeowner’s everyday life,” she says.

“For us at BOCCHI, [technological advances come] in our manufacturing processes that allow us to take a centuries-old material like fireclay and create products using newer methods that are more sustainable, have unique shapes and sizes, and are modernized for today’s consumer,” reports Robinson. “It also plays a part in our glazing process that has allowed us to achieve a non-porous product that is stain resistant, heat resistant up to 2000° F, and even gives the option of a metallic finish to create a product that has both the strength of metal and the warmth of fireclay,” she notes. 

“Technology ordinarily found in other parts of the home is seeping into the bathroom,” Yacavone says. “The expansion of the smart home into these spaces – particularly through the integration of voice control – makes it easier for consumers to multitask and creates a seamless transition between different areas.”