Products with Staying Power

February 14, 2020

Editor’s Note: We featured an article on this topic in our January 2020 issue, but we had more information we wanted to expand on in an online feature.

Timeless and classic can describe a design style, a type of material or a favorite finish. Products built to last also fall into the category of something that stands the test of time – be it a suite of highly functional appliances, a durable countertop material or a tried-and-true bathroom fixture.

“For a product or material to have staying power, it actually needs to serve an ongoing purpose, it needs to hold up to use over an extended period of time, and the aesthetics associated with it need to not be tied to a specific timeline,” said Bob Borson, FAIA, associate principal and senior project designer of BOKA Powell, an architectural firm with three Texas locations.

We want to share with you what this year’s design professionals consider their top product choices, as well as how some of those have evolved over the years.

Chris Chambliss, AIA, LEED AP, Deep River Partners

Her Picks: Recently, manufacturers have created options within their brands to fit many different styles. I often specify Sub-Zero appliances (shown is the 36-in. Pro Refrigeration above). “Their ability to integrate seamlessly into cabinetry and their endlessly variable-sized column refrigeration allows us to use the brand in kitchens ranging in style from French Chateau to rustic modern.”

Aging-in-place concepts like lever-handled faucets and perimeter lighting have become a standard in our designs.We specify Blum soft-close hardware because it works smoothly and makes closing cabinets and drawers easier. The need for smart thermostats and lighting control has long been understood for energy savings and functionality. App-focused products in these areas have greatly increased ease of use, making them even more relevant for the foreseeable future. Ecobee thermostats and Lutron lighting controls are time-tested brands with excellent functionality and quality.

Selections Evolved: Color trends change quickly. Warmer colors gave way to greys, and now we are moving back to a warmer taupe. We limit the use of bold colors and patterns to particular areas like accent walls or to furnishings that can more easily be changed to stay current.

Jennifer Gilmer, CKD, Jennifer Gilmer Kitchens & Baths, Chevy Chase, Md.

Her Picks: White bath fixtures, stainless-steel appliances, polished-chrome finishes and contemporary kitchens with clean lines have staying power. Natural materials in general are safe, like butcher-block tops and wood cabinets and floors. Marble slabs in kitchens and baths are timeless.

My go-to appliance brands include Miele, Gaggenau, La Cornue, Sub-Zero/Wolf/Cove and Bertazzoni because of their excellent quality. For the bathroom, we specify Rohl, GRAFF, Grohe, MTI Baths and Hansgrohe because their style matches the clean, contemporary look.

Accessible Living: Linear shower drains and toilet/bidet combos are going to stand the test of time because they help with living in place. More effective lighting is also evolving – especially with the introduction of LED lighting, which makes it possible to light cabinet interiors.

Gilmer likes Rohl for its clean, contemporary look. Shown is the Miscelo Collection of Italian faucet components, available in 15 insert combinations.

Bob Borson, FAIA, BOKA Powell, Texas

His Picks: Large, single-basin sinks have retained their value and use over the decades. For hardware, some of my choices are Emtek, Baldwin and Rocky Mountain Hardware, and for tile, they include Porcelanosa, Daltile, Heath Tile and Walker Zanger

Accessible Living: The approach we take toward this is more space driven rather than product driven. Most vendors (specifically appliance and tech manufacturers) have been considering how their products are used by people with limited mobility, coordination, vision, etc., for quite some time and are now intrinsic to the design.

Shown is Daltile’s RevoTile, a porcelain tile floating floor system that installs in just three steps.

Kristen Hennie, NCIDQ, Payne & Payne, Chesterland, Ohio

Her Picks: Some of my favorite buildings in Cleveland are the theaters in Playhouse Square dating back to the 1920s. The hallways/bathrooms are lined in natural Carrara marble slabs, which are timeless. I also like two-tone metal finishes on faucets, lighting and hardware – this makes it easy to mix and match finishes in a home.

You can’t beat the quality of custom, Amish-built cabinetry – this is a great resource we have in northern Ohio. I also use Thermador cooking appliances and dishwashers, as well as Kohler, Delta and Brizo fixtures. For lighting, I like Visual Comfort and Hudson Valley

Products Evolved: Now we see quartz and porcelain slabs being created to mimic the marble look with less maintenance. Materials have remained largely the same, it’s just how we use them that may change. For example, a curbless shower floor can be made of porcelain or marble tiles, but we may use a linear drain for a seamless look.

Hennie said Brizo is hands down her favorite plumbing line for its great quality and innovation.
Shown is the brand’s Odin Kitchen Faucet, which is available with an arc or square spout in seven finishes.

Scott Dresner, Dresner Design, Chicago

His Picks: Corian is a great material and will be around forever. It has the ability to be repaired, which is an amazing attribute, and it looks brand new every time. Some other brands I specify include Bosch, Dornbracht, Franke, Ann Sacks, Grass, Lightology, Josh.ai and Grohe.

Products Evolved: I know bold choices in color are trendy and fun, but I prefer white because it’s timeless. Creating kitchen and baths is an investment, and they should stand the test of time.

As Dresner’s go-to color is white, shown is Corian Quartz in Bianco Pur. Corian is also available in a variety of applications.

Michelle Henderson, Banner Plumbing

Design for Wellness: Most of the touch or hands-free lavatory or kitchen faucets have a time-out feature built in so clients or relatives of clients living with dementia will not be able to flood their kitchen or bath by leaving the water on for an extended time. Using such faucets can also simplify things for clients with painful arthritis, and many offer a visual temperature indicator.  Some of the electronic showering or even standard shower valves will also provide a digital temperature readout, which is great when helping bathe a parent, child or pet.

Products Evolved: Chrome is still king, but the clients who haven’t recently ripped out their polished brass are warming to the various gold finishes. Polished nickel is huge in traditional, transitional and contemporary design, while brushed nickel is on its way out. I see the bright fun oranges, greens, reds etc., that are gaining popularity in Europe, but I don’t believe we are there yet.

According to Henderson, the U by Moen is a great option for clients with disabilities and is a good example of the evolution of the thermostatic shower. “The electronic buttons are easy to turn on, and its presets can be useful for teaching children to turn the shower on at a safe temperature.”