Mix it Up! | Kitchen & Bath Design News

Product Trends

Mixed materials and finishes for bathroom sinks and faucets give designers flexibility to create the custom spaces clients desire.

Elizabeth Richards | May 1, 2020

The Terra Firma texture is now available on over 45 products in a full line of hand-crafted, heavy gauged kitchen/bar-prep/bathroom sinks, rangehoods and bathtubs from Premier Copper Products. Several models are offered in three finishes: Traditional Copper, Nickel and Polished Brass. Shown is the 23″x12″ nickel-plated copper vessel sink.

Bathroom spaces present designers with two distinct opportunities: to create a soothing, personal retreat for clients, and to create a space that make guests say “wow!” For each of these tasks, having a wide range of options in finishes, materials and design styles for sinks and faucets is important to allow for creative design with a personal feel.

Reflecting the clients’ taste and personality in the space is a high priority, and the myriad options available cater to this trend. “Personalization is a major trend in the bathroom – everything from multiple handle options to extensive finish offerings. You can take a faucet from within the same collection and with just a few changes – switching from a lever to a round or cross handle and changing the finish from a brushed gold to a powder coated white – the look changes completely,” says Ziggy Kulig, president and CEO at GRAFF in Milwaukee, WI.

“People spend an average of six to seven years of their life in the bathroom, so in today’s world, the bathroom is not just a bathroom, it’s another room in the home to decorate and coordinate to match the aesthetic throughout the house. Trends like customizable finishes and fixtures make finding the right fit easier than ever,” says Katty Pien, chief marketing officer at Piscataway, NJ-based LIXIL Americas.

Finishes, materials and even styles are being mixed and matched to help create these unique spaces. “Being able to mix and match your faucet handle style with your choice of a spout is really becoming quite popular,” says Ericka Sprangers, interior designer for the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WI.

There’s also a focus on whites and blacks; sleek styles that lean toward transitional and contemporary styles, and fixtures that “pop,” particularly in the powder room. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Custom Creations

Customizing spaces to accommodate the functional needs, aesthetic tastes and personality of individual homeowners is a trend that continues to play out in all aspects of design.

“We know people are interested in ways to customize their bathrooms to be a reflection of their own personality, while still maintaining a clean aesthetic and ensuring everyday functionality,” Pien says.

Jason McNeely, senior brand manager for Hangrohe North America in Alpharetta, GA says, “People are trying to exude personalization in their bathroom and trying to have something that the person next door doesn’t have.”

Along with the demand for customization comes the desire to add a touch of color to the bathroom, Pien says. All three LIXIL brands (American Standard, GROHE and DXV) have expanded their finish portfolios, she adds, noting, “The idea is to provide our customers with options to find faucets and fixtures that fit their aesthetic by designing products meant to mix and match.”

Katie Hayes, director of Product Management – Fittings at Gerber Plumbing Fixtures in Woodridge, IL says, “Consumers are looking to make their bathrooms more personal by mixing textures, finishes and styles in unique and interesting ways. With so many pattern and texture options for other bathroom surfaces, we’ve seen transitional and contemporary bathroom sink faucets trending as they have clean lines and fluid forms that can complement a variety of designs.”

Tim Schroeder, president at Duravit USA, based in Duluth, GA, sees a heightened focus on storage for the washing area. “It’s equally important in today’s market to offer a wide range of sizes and the options of having stand-alone basins in addition to those that pair with a console or vanity,” he adds, noting, “adaptability is also key.”

Sleek Styles

A clean, minimalist look is a continuing trend in all aspects of kitchen and bath design, and sinks and faucets are following suit.

“One of the biggest trends for the bathroom right now is a minimalist aesthetic and designing faucets and fixtures with sleek, flowing edges and surfaces,” says Pien.

Kevin McJoynt, director of Product Management – VC at Gerber Plumbing Fixtures, says, “The move toward more contemporary styles for bathroom faucets includes soft contemporary – less stark, geometric shapes and more arcs and organic, and even asymmetrical, shapes.”

Hayes sees growth in shallow sinks and flat-bottomed sinks.

Carmine Lacava, CEO at LACAVA, based in Chicago, IL, is seeing a drift toward vessel sinks again, which may be due to a strong trend toward green and renewable materials. “On-counter placement allows a lot of freedom in shape and material,” he notes, adding that soft curves for both sinks and faucets seem to be in favor in current designs.

Sprangers, on the other hand, says that rectangular sink shapes are still going strong. “Having a clean shape is pleasing to the eye while allowing for a little additional space to help keep any water from splashing out.” There is also a trend toward larger undermount or trough-style sinks, Sprangers says. Industrial-style sinks are in the limelight and large trough-style sinks are pleasing to the eye while adding a visual dynamic to the space, she adds.

Duravit has seen an uptick in interest in soft, organic shapes, and precision-engineered linear styles remain a go-to classic, Schroeder maintains.

A Wealth of Options

With the myriad options available, creating a personal aesthetic is easier than ever. That makes finish incredibly important to the overall design, manufacturers say, and though there are still some standard choices that sell well, homeowners are branching out in their choices.

“We’re seeing more exploration of mixing finishes and colors throughout spaces,” Sprangers says. “For quite some time, people felt very narrowed into one product collection. Now we’re finding that clients like to have more freedom to create their own flavor.”

“From a finish perspective, we’re seeing several emerging trends in bathroom faucets – the use of mixed metals and integration of new materials, as well as an increased use of matte or textured finishes. No longer are faucets restricted to just one finish. You might have a faucet that has a matte black spout paired with brushed gold handles or a gold finish with nickel accents. There are no rules,” Kulig says.

Another popular new option is gunmetal, Kulig says. “Gunmetal is warmer than black, with gray and brown undertones. This adds depth to the finish and brings a level of sophistication. When it’s shown in a polished finish, it feels very sleek and luxurious or when utilized in a textured or brushed finish, it emulates a hammered, stone finish that can lean more industrial,” he says.

White sinks and chrome fixtures are still common, manufacturers note. But there is rising demand for darker colors and specialty finishes, as well.

“White is the most common color for sinks and fixtures, especially as designs evolve toward more transitional and contemporary aesthetics,” says McJoynt.

“While pure white for sinks and polished chrome for faucet fixtures are always safe choices for a bathroom, what we see in high demand are rounded shapes and dark colors. The strong difference between dark and white creates more drama and makes a bathroom more of a statement,” says Lacava. “Toning down bright whites with darker fixtures, especially when they are in an ambiance of darker hues on walls and floors, facilitates a more relaxed and calmer atmosphere.”

Schroeder says black finishes are popular, as are dual finishes and textures. Materials ranging from matte metals to create statement contrasts, natural woods for a warmer look and soft finishes for a unique Nordic-inspired look are also trending, he adds.

Black, especially matte black, is a rising star, manufacturers agree. McNeely says matte black has almost become a standard finish, rather than a trend, in part because black is working its way into other products, such as cabinet hardware. “Black, being a neutral color, seems to fit in pretty much any style,” McNeely says.

“The demand for matte black continues to grow and we’re working to add it to more and more collections as its elegant simplicity makes it a fit for any modern bathroom design,” says Pien.

Sprangers agrees that matte black is being used more. “It’s beautiful and bold all at once,” she says.

Matte finishes in general are trending, McNeely believes. “People are utilizing the faucets to be more focal in the bathroom, and these matte finishes make them stand out,” he says.

Variety in materials used can also create the unique look customers demand. Fireclay is being used to better execute the flat bottoms, straight lines and thin walls of many newer sink designs, McJoynt notes. “It is a slightly different material and process than vitreous china and the cost is a bit higher, but it allows some of these desirable design features.”

Lacava notes, “The materials that allow a lot of freedom of expression are concrete, natural stones and marbles plus man-made materials, like solid surface and resins.”

Bold Statements

Each bathroom in the home has a unique and specific purpose, and the requirements of each space differ according to how they will be used. Current design demands, however, mean that each must still feel connected to the overall design of the home.

“The new construction trends are to give the whole house a seamless design flow. This means all bathrooms follow the same design elements or feature complementary fixtures that fit the desired functionality of the space,” Lacava says.

Bathrooms that visitors see are often where homeowners choose to express the individuality and flair they wish to project. “Guest baths and powder rooms tend to be the ones where people look to make more of a ‘wow’ statement…and think outside the box in terms of style, finishes [and] textures,” Schroeder says.

“Typically, we see powder bathrooms being created around current trends,” Sprangers agrees. “These are unique, one-off-type spaces where clients feel they can add more personality or do something bolder than they would usually do. These spaces may incorporate a different style of faucet or finish with a vessel sink using a unique material or pattern.”

“As the bathroom most seen by guests, the powder room is a space where you can show off your personality,” Kulig concurs. “People aren’t as afraid to experiment and go big and bold in a smaller space as they might in a larger bathroom. Just like you would with artwork or wallpaper, you can make a design statement with your faucet or fixtures.”

McNeely notes, “The powder room and the master bathroom always receive, and always will [receive], the most attention for uniqueness.” Secondary bathrooms incorporate more streamlined products, typically chrome finishes, that are easy to keep clean, he adds.

Luxurious practicality

Master bathrooms are often luxurious personal retreats, but they must also offer the space and storage necessary for the more practical functions of the room.

“The master bath is a very personal space. It’s the bathroom in the home where you are most likely to see more features that emphasize self-care, wellness and relaxation,” Kulig says.

“Master baths are generally larger in space, and therefore a larger investment,” adds Hayes. For that reason, “consumers are more likely to make more bold statements in powder rooms but spend more on upgraded materials and features in a master bath that will be used frequently by the homeowners.” It’s also important to have two sinks in the master, Hayes adds.

Storage is important in the master bath and sinks that pair with a storage host are trending, Schroeder says. “Master baths favor storage and spacious vanities, tall/semi-tall cabinets and double washbasins or drop in/above counter washbasins atop a lengthy countertop,” he says.

Lacava adds, “While craving the feel of spaciousness, master bathrooms will always need more storage space than secondary bathrooms or half-bathrooms.” Merging the two can be easily accomplished with recessed cabinets, wall-mount vanities and more compact fixtures, like single-lever faucets.

Hands off

Electronic components that eliminate the need to touch fixtures are worth a mention, manufacturers point out, particularly now as the world grapples with the impact of COVID-19.

“Electronic faucets and fixtures are something to consider for residential and commercial projects. They promote water savings and environmental consciousness,” Lacava says. “Electronic faucets and soap dispensers offer the most convenience and touch-free safety from spreading undesirable pathogens,” he adds.

McNeely believes that the current crisis will likely increase demand for technologies like the firm’s Select technology, a push-button technology that allows users to turn the faucet on or off with an elbow or wrist. The market will likely see more touchless products on the other side of this crisis as well, he concludes. ▪

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