Fashionably yours – The future of sinks & faucets

By Simon Bowden

Whether you view sinks and faucets as merely functional items that serve a purpose, or as ”jewelry for the kitchen and bathroom,” modern life would not be the same without these ubiquitous plumbing fixtures.

The companies that design and manufacture these items must provide enough variety to cater to every taste and every location; whether a busy restaurant kitchen, upscale home or gas station washroom.

To this end, vast sums are spent on research and development and on tracking market trends. Manufacturers take their cues from trade shows, interior designers and even the fashion industry – such catwalk influences as floral prints and colour du jour, rose gold, have made their way into plumbing fixture designs.

Getting a handle on what’s coming next in sinks and faucets will help contractors better serve the residential and commercial customers who often rely on professionals for advice when choosing fixtures.

Customization is key


Manufacturers invest heavily in identifying what their customers want and figuring out how to deliver it to them. Delta Faucet’s senior industrial designer, Jordan Bahler, says, ”Customization is the newest form of luxury as it allows consumers to directly fulfill their needs and desires. Whether that’s more tech or a more personalized style, the faucet must adapt.

”The Internet of Things is catching on quickly. New features are rolling out that allow you to control manual products with the touch of a button, wave of a hand, or even our voice.”

Moen is among those companies that takes a multi-faceted approach to forecasting colour, material and finish trends.

”Our design team observes trends in action at a wide range of industry trade shows. We also listen to designers in the industry whom activate these trends to get their perspective on how they’re performing,” says Garry Scott, vice-president of marketing and eCommerce with Moen Canada. ”We do primary research with designers in all of our key markets to understand how trends move through various regions, and dig deep to understand the cultural drivers behind how trends emerge and evolve.

”This approach gives us a broad and deep perspective on how various colours and materials will perform year-over-year.”

The jewelry of a kitchen or bathroom


With so many shapes, sizes and styles to choose from, deciding on the fixtures and fittings for a bathroom or kitchen project can seem overwhelming. That is why many renovation firms and
homeowners turn to a professional interior designer to make the hard choices for them.

Michelle Hurley, who operates Michelle Hurley Design in Toronto, believes sinks and faucets have
the ability to make or break a space.

She says, ”I see faucets as the jewelry of a kitchen or bathroom; the accessories. They are important because of their presence and functionality. I want them to look good, but they also need to be functional and reliable.”

Hurley has also noted some recent trends that she believes will remain popular with clients.

”Wall-mounted faucets are great for making a statement. Brass and gold are still very popular, as is
matte black,” she says.

”The modern, industrial kitchen has been popular for years, but there has been a movement away
from that towards more traditional elements – apron-front sinks, with hammered metal detail, and
faucets with more of a traditional look are re-emerging.”

In the bathroom, she’s seeing more and more integrated single-piece countertop sinks. ”Whether
it’s in natural stone or composite material, it’s a slick, modern look, but it’s also practical from a
cleaning perspective – fewer nooks and crannies.”

And many clients are allowing designers to have a little fun with their bathroom and kitchen plans.
”It used to be the case that everyone would want all the metals in one room to match, now people
are more comfortable about mixing it up. I like that,” says Hurley.

Everything now comes in green


With consumers increasingly calling for the products they buy to be good for the planet, being a business that is recognized as a good steward of the environment has never been more important.

Delta’s Bahler says the technology available to manufacturers helps them react to changing
customer priorities.

”Over time we have become more aware of our environment and natural resources – mainly, potable water,” she says. ”As restrictions on water use increase, we at Delta Faucet have had to adapt our faucet designs to deliver the same experiences while using less water. This is where innovation has been
guiding the industry in design.”

Innovations such as hands-free operation also resonate with consumers, says Moen’s Scott.

” Offering a hands-free experience provides water when you need it most with just a wave of the hand,” he says. ”This technology helps minimize the spread of dirt and germs, as there’s no need to touch the handle to start the flow of water.”

Manufacturers are taking more than just looks into account when creating new products. ”EPDs, or Environmental Product Declarations, are becoming important to show how environmentally friendly a product is, from raw material to finished good,” says Maria Bosco, director of product marketing at LIXIL Canada.

Getting tough in commercial spaces


In commercial kitchens and bathrooms, durability is key for both faucets and sinks. Moen’s Scott says commercial faucet design must take account of factors that don’t come into play in a residential setting.

”We have to think of every imaginable scenario a commercial facility could face; such as leaks, vandalism or normal wear and tear, and plan for it in advance,” he says. ”We want to provide products that every facility manager can count on, so above style, we design our commercial products with durability in mind.”

Commercial facilities also cater to many more people than a family home, which impacts faucet
design, says Delta’s Bahler.

”Commercial design must be more intuitive and appeal to a much broader audience. In commercial
spaces, the faucets need to be easy to understand and more muted and timeless in design.”

Sinks also undergo subtle changes when a manufacturer switches focus from residential to commercial applications.

LIXIL Canada’s Bosco says that while ensuring their sinks meet regulations is the biggest factor
in the commercial sector, staying on trend is also increasingly important.

”Factors to consider when designing a commercial sink include the frequency of use, dimensions, material, cleanability and colour,” she says. ”What has come through loud and clear are requests for
more contemporary designs, regardless of the application.”