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With today’s bath faucets, water savings and transitional looks are still key
May 17, 2012

Consider this a time of self-expression. In the home, consumers are having it their way, unwilling to settle for products that don’t have the right look, functionality and price. This is especially true in the bath, where lavatory faucets, likened to jewelry and favored in light remodels, have taken on a plethora of forms and finishes to add the final touch to any design. “Consumers are becoming accustomed to having an infinite amount of choices when it comes to their bath faucet,” Russell Wheeler, president of Hansgrohe, noted. “They are looking for solutions that fit their individual preferences.” Yet even with the proliferation of options, some trends do emerge.


WATER SAVERS

Cheeringly, the first has to do with eco-friendliness, “an important value for a growing number of American consumers who are taking a greater interest in the total environmental footprint of their purchases for the home,” said Darryl Jones, director of U.S. sales for KWC America. With TV ads familiarizing the general public with the WaterSense program and some companies having already greened their entire product line, water efficiency no doubt will soon become the norm, rather than the exception. The current WaterSense standard is 2.0 gpm, yet already 1.5-gpm faucets are plentiful, thanks to aerators that reduce water usage without compromising performance. In addition, according to Gray Uhl, design director for American Standard Brands, ceramic disc valves, now widely used in the industry, not only ensure durability and reliable operation, but also prevent against leakage. Innovations, such as KWC’s Coolfix, also aim to save energy by streaming only cold water, rather than a mix of hot and cold, when the faucet is turned on with its handle in the neutral position.

Interestingly, in a K+BB January 2010 article, there was much talk of sensor faucets and their utility in saving water. This time around, however, experts diverged in their views. Scott Edmunds, director of wholesale channel marketing for Kohler, for example, notes that consumers have been slow to embrace them, perhaps not seeing a need in the bath, while Jones anticipates a “greater push toward touch-free technologies” for hygienic and earth-friendly reasons. He said, “With them, a user can meter or program the faucet to limit its flow rate to, say, 1.0 gpm.”


SIMPLICITY & FINISH

Not surprisingly, the other oft-cited trend is the continued interest in transitional designs. Just as kitchens have assumed a simpler, more casual aesthetic, so too have lavatory faucets, suiting them to a variety of bathroom decors. Heavily traditional options will always have their followers, but given the shaky state of the economy and politics, “consumers are looking for soothing silhouettes and styles that are clean and not too fussy,” Wheeler said.

In particular, monoblock models are gaining popularity, Uhl noted, as more consumers elect to top their vanities with natural stone—“it’s easier to drill just one hole”—and as bathrooms become smaller. Although “the new luxury is to have a bathroom for every bedroom,” Uhl said, homes are retaining roughly the same footprint, which means tighter quarters all around. Where space is limited, a single-control faucet can go a long way in making a bathroom appear larger and less cluttered.

And what of finish? Most agree that chrome and brushed nickel still dominate and will do so for years to come. This may be a good thing for those with a green conscience. According to designer Michael Lammel, CEO and executive director of NOA, who has worked closely with KWC, “finish dictates the life cycle of a product,” and both chrome and brushed nickel have “great staying power,” Jones said. Oil-rubbed bronze has also found favor in many a bathroom, especially in certain regions of the country, such as the Southwest. Beyond the familiar standbys, matte black, white, antique and other specialty finishes provide something for everyone. That may be, in the end, what matters the most. With bathrooms assuming the role of health and wellness center and/or personal sanctuary, for today’s consumers, as Wheeler noted, the overarching trend is toward “creating one’s own unique space.”


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