Economics, my dear Watson. Think the economy only has an effect on your wallet? Think again – and look to your kitchens and baths as proof.
After weathering tough economic times, it seems Americans have a new appreciation for more practical kitchens and baths.
“Simplicity and classic minimalism is in for faucets and fixtures,” says New York City interior designer Robin Wilson. “This may be indicative of the economic times, as fewer consumers want to utilize their budget for something that will go out of style in a few years.”
Sean Murphy, a home improvement expert with Build.com, agrees. Consumers are demanding products that are smaller, practical and efficient products that makes their life easier. “Convenience is a growing trend, especially in the kitchen,” he says. Enter the hands-free faucet to fit that niche. Hands-free faucets are gaining popularity, Murphy says, because kitchen tasks are made easier by allowing users to simply touch the faucet to activate water flow, or in the case of Kohler’s Sensate and Moen’s MotionSense faucets, there’s no need to touch the faucet at all. Sensors in the faucets detect motion to activate and shut off water flow.
Save Water, Save Money
While hands-free faucets may make filling large pots of water easier, consumers are attracted to them for more than convenience. “Our customers are gravitating toward (touch-free faucets) because they are cleaner and help save water,” says John A. Petrie, president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and owner of MH Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
As water prices increase nationwide, so has demand for water-saving – and, thus, money-saving – products. That’s something today’s kitchen and bath manufacturers are savvy to, says Bob Rodenbeck, director of research and development for Delta Faucet Company in Indianapolis, Ind. He says manufacturers are creating water-efficient products that meet consumers’ needs, without requiring consumers to change their habits.
As a result, the days of water-saving dribbling faucets and showerheads are over – many manufacturers now use aeration or air induction technologies that increases air flow while reducing water flow, which means no loss in water pressure. One such example of aerator tech is Pfister’s Glenfield faucet, which features a Triflow Aerator with an Eco Setting that uses 50 percent less water.
We Want Pretty, Yet Easy to Maintain
While stainless steel continues to be a popular finish for faucets and fixtures, Petrie says brushed chrome and nickel and bronze-like finishes are quickly becoming favorites. Such finishes are “especially desirable because they don’t show many marks – fingerprint, water spots – so they’re easy to live with and are family friendly. People are attracted to those types of finishes because they are just easier to care for.” He also adds that contemporary, sleek, European-style faucets and fixtures are replacing straight lines and bold angles.
Houston interior designer Pamela O’Brien says less is definitely in. “Once upon a time, there were separate hot and cold handles and sometimes even a soap dispenser,” says O’Brien, of Pamela Hope Designs. Now customers are requesting single-handle faucets and pull-down sprayheads to help reduce clutter and the amount of time it takes to clean them. “People want something easy – if something is beautiful but hard to maintain, they get frustrated and are not happy with it in the long run.”
In addition to making faucets and fixtures easier to maintain, customers are adding flair to the kitchen and bath without going over the top or spending too much money. They’re doing that by getting bold with color, says Travis Rotelli, senior interior designer at the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wis. “This year, there’s been a reintroduction of color in the kitchen and bathroom space. Using color in these rooms can introduce a wow factor that is budget friendly.” Delta Faucet’s Fuse Kitchen Collection, for example, includes a split-finish pull-down faucet that combines a stainless steel finish with a choice of red, black or white.
Kitchens and Bathrooms Go Digital
As more people use smartphones and similar technology, staying connected – even while in the kitchen or bathroom – will become more common. “As technology continues to infiltrate virtually every aspect of our lives, and every nook and cranny of our home, manufacturers will be challenged to develop solutions that make the tech invasion as seamless – and stylish – as possible,” says Ji Kim, director of global design for Moen.
Expect to see more tech in your kitchens and bathrooms, like the Kohler’s Moxie, a Bluetooth-enabled showerhead that allows users to stream music or news while showering.
Want to learn more about what has changed in home design? We have answers on our New Home Guide..