Tech Support

Lavatory faucets get savvy and simple
By Alice Liao
February 26, 2010

Our bathrooms seem to have some catching up to do. While electronics and digital technology have infiltrated nearly every room of our homes, their adoption in the bath space has been just a tad slower, that is, until recently. Digital showering and bathing systems, as well as multifunctional toilet/bidet seats, have all helped to make our bathrooms "smarter" and more comfortable, and now lav faucets may be following suit.


If you ask most experts, touchless or hands-free faucets are the wave of the imminent future. The reasons are obvious. Less touching means better hygiene, and automatic on/off operation reduces water and energy usage, a primary concern in the bathroom. Sensor faucets can also benefit aging-in-place and Universally Designed environments, offering a convenient alternative for "those with limited dexterity or even the smaller hands of a young child," said Judd Lord, director of industrial design for Brizo. In addition, "colored light can be used to convey water temperature and thus help prevent scalding."

But if you're imagining the fickle faucets of airport restrooms, think again. Manufacturers have developed more reliable sensing technologies that don’t feature a prominent infrared beam and therefore lend themselves more readily to attractive, residential-friendly designs. With capacitive technology, for example, "the entire brass faucet acts as a magnetic field, and as you move your hand around the faucet, it will activate the water," said Avi Abel, president and general manager of Watermark Designs. "It's as reliable as infrared but it offers a lot more design possibilities, such as traditional-looking spouts."

Of course, with "back to basics" a pervasive theme in our lives and our homes, today's traditional-style taps are considerably less fussy than their predecessors. As consumers gravitate toward easier-to-use and easier-to-clean designs with simple, fluid forms, "the aesthetic is sleeker, but still retains traditional cues," said Sarah Maduscha, faucet product manager at Kohler. Similarly, designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon has noticed an expansion in maintenance-friendly single-hole models "to include more classic looks."

Not surprisingly, contemporary styles with clean architectural lines are popular, noted Ji Kim, senior industrial designer for Moen, especially those that integrate well into the overall environment. To this end, "some of the minimalist faucet styles take their cues from interior objects like wall-mounted vanities or mirrors," she said. For modernism with a softer edge, some lav fittings are sporting organic curves or being paired with, say, a traditional-style vanity or sink. Clendenon said, "We really like to mix classic elements with modern details for a fresh approach."


Warmer finishes, particularly those usually reserved for more traditional settings, can also help take the edge off a contemporary tap. Abel has seen a renewed interest in oil-rubbed bronze, but on more streamlined designs. "It's creating this whole new dynamic," he said. "These stark, minimalist faucets that used to be sold only in chrome look completely different in oil-rubbed bronze." However, by all accounts, chrome and brushed nickel remain the finishes of choice, with stainless steel also enjoying its share of demand. Others that have piqued designer and consumer interest include white, brushed bronze and brushed and satin gold.

So what of the future for bath faucets? According to Maduscha, conveniences we enjoy in our kitchens will soon be migrating to our bathrooms as well. "More ergonomics, touchless technology and electronic valves—all will become more expected," she said.
Faucet Trends
[1] Designed by Clodagh for Watermark Designs, the Touch 27 Collection has added a proximity faucet that features capacitive-sensing capabilities for hands-free operation. Available with or without handles, the faucet has a 1.5-gpm flow rate, comes in 35 finishes and is part of a complete bath suite. [2] Offering a sleek contemporary look that integrates well into a variety of bathroom settings, 90º lavatory faucets from Moen marry clean geometric lines with a waterfall-style spout. Available in chrome, the line is WaterSense-certified with a flow rate of 1.5 gpm and includes single-handle, single-hole mount (with an optional vessel extension for vessel sinks) and two-handle widespread models. [3] Curves are in and Brizo’s Virage has them. Inspired by European ironwork, the lavatory faucet is equally at home in a traditional- or contemporary-style bathroom, comes in five finishes and is offered in widespread, vessel widespread and two-handle wall-mount designs. At 1.5 gpm, it is also water-efficient and WaterSense-labeled. [4] Although chrome and brushed nickel continue to dominate the market, some finishes, such as gold and white, are gaining interest and can soften an edgy minimalist design. In Vibrant Moderne Polished Gold, for example, Kohler’s Purist takes on a more transitional look. Part of a complete bath suite, the faucet features a 5 1/2-in. spout, is offered in a variety of finishes, including brushed gold, and can be specified with an optional Smile handle design and low-flow aerator. [5] Combining a gracefully arced spout with subtle detailing, Harpo from Phylrich puts a contemporary spin on the Art Deco aesthetic, making it an elegant addition to almost any bath environment. Inspired by Los Angeles’ North Harper Avenue and the Hollywood Regency style, the faucet is WaterSense-certified and comes with lever or cylindrical handles in deck- and wall-mounted versions. Fifteen finishes are available, as are a variety of coordinating tub and shower faucets and accessories.
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