Once considered a strictly utilitarian product with just a handful of mainstream models from which to choose, kitchen faucets have morphed into works of art and functionality at all price points. “The kitchen has turned into the living room of the 21st century” says John Schiegg, corporate purchasing director for national home builder Choice Homes. About half of new-home buyers upgrade their kitchen faucets, says Schiegg. “It’s an easy, yet emotional purchase,” he notes. “They can move up to a higher product for about $100.”
Not only are there a surfeit of styles and finishes to accommodate every taste and budget, installation is simpler and faster for the professional. Often a faucet can be hooked up in less than a half hour.
Homeowners and builders want to match the faucet to the rest of the open room. “We see an awful lot of need to make sure we’ve got faucet finishes that go with the different designs of the home,” says Kaye Powell, residential division manager at Chown Hardware in Portland, Ore.
In the Pacific Northwest, which Chown serves, that means satin nickel finishes that blend nicely with the warm woods predominant n many homes there, as well as contemporary, sleek looks for renovated downtown lofts. The return to bridge faucets, she says, fits nicely with many country decors. “They get the convenience of today with the look of yesterday.”
That’s why Delta’s Victorian collection is one of the company’s most popular, says Danette Goen, product development manager. “It’s well suited for a diverse range of kitchen designs,” Goen says. “For example, the turn-of-the-century styling on the Victorian faucet allows for a more traditional look. But if you select the stainless finish, it creates a more transitional or even contemporary style for the room.” As for finishes, “satin rules,” says Powell. “People don’t want their faucet to scream, ‘I’ve got a fingerprint on me.'”
But satin is just one popular choice in an exploding medley of finishes. “It used to be everything was chrome, then stainless was really popular, even selling better than chrome in some areas,” says Kathy Yates, product manager for Moen. “Now people are saying, ‘What else is there?'” Well, how about wrought iron and oil-rubbed bronze for the Old World Mediterranean look? There’s also satin and brushed metals, copper, and black. Several manufacturers even offer a matte chrome finish, anticipating kitchen appliance trends toward the muted look.
“White is out,” says Danze vice president of sales Jeffrey C. Pratt. “I cannot give away a white faucet anymore, especially in the kitchen. Same with polished brass.” But try natural brass–finished so it doesn’t change color as it ages–and demand is hot, says Yates. Many manufacturers offer a physical vapor deposition (PVD) process or similar process so that their brass faucets won’t corrode or change color.
With the growing popularity of granite countertops comes an increasing demand for black faucets. “A lot of granites have black in them, and a lot of people like that in the granite because the lighter colors could stain,” says Yates. “So we’re seeing our black sink sales increasing as well as black, or dark, faucets.” In addition to the plethora of finishes, faucet designs are more ambitious. “In the past, most were transitional, maybe leaning toward contemporary, but neutral in style,” says Yates. “Now we’re seeing the elaborate styles of the bathroom, like the Victorian or Tuscan look, coming into the best brass kitchen faucet.”
The demand for a high-end look is driven, in part, by the explosion in home decorating TV shows, says Pratt. “They bring you through the kitchen on tours of these magnificent homes.” However, the sheer volume of choices–most manufacturers offer dozens of designs in five or more finishes and various configurations-can be overwhelming to the homeowner, says Schiegg. “There used to be three or four choices. Now there are 10 different finishes on 20 different faucets. It actually creates a bit of confusion”
For all the focus on how the faucet looks, however, homeowners are becoming more interested in its functionality and durability, say manufacturers and contractors. “People are more task-oriented in the kitchen,” says Carol Houlik, American Standard’s product director for kitchen faucets.
That’s translated into single-lever faucets with pull-down or pull-out sprayers built into the faucet head, high arcing faucets that accommodate oversized pots, and even wall-mounted products that mimic those seen in commercial restaurants.
The movement toward single-lever faucets and built-in sprayers also fits nicely with the increased use of granite counters. “We like when we do an undermount sink to have just one or two holes on the granite. That provides a nice clean sweep on presentation,” says Tracy Eisnaugle, design consultant at Sarasota, Fla.-based Lee Wetherington Homes. “And that’s why we like the hand-held sprayer in the faucet. It’s less maintenance, easier to clean, and more functional.”
Manufacturers are racing to improve functionality even more. Kohler, for instance, added a ball joint feature in its Vinnata and Clarette lines that enables the spray to be tilted in any direction, says Richard Reles, vice president of marketing for global faucets. “So ergonomically, it works very well.”
In addition to new finishes and enhanced functionality, the latest kitchen faucets are easier to install and maintain. “The manufacturers have made their installation much simpler,” says Choice Homes’ Schiegg, whose firm uses Moen and Delta faucets exclusively. He particularly appreciates that faucets come boxed with all the necessary installation pieces, including snap-on connections. “In the old days, the plumber lay on his back and had to solder and screw things together and make sure everything behind the cabinet/sink was connected,” Schiegg says. Now it’s more a “drop-in-and-tighten” process.
Faucets are so easy to install, he says, that what used to take a plumber an hour or more is now down to about 20 minutes. “That helps hold down costs, so I’m real happy with that” Faucet manufacturers have deliberately simplified installation to appeal to the do-it-yourselfer, but this has translated into easier applications for pros too. At American Standard, for instance, newer models come with flexible supply hoses so the customer doesn’t have to buy additional hoses for connections.
Many faucets, including entry-level models, are washerless. Equipped with ceramic-disc valves and carrying lifetime warranties, they’re guaranteed not to leak, says American Standard’s Houlik. Other faucet companies use different technologies. Moen faucets, for instance, have a one-piece, washerless cartridge that the firm says can be easily replaced, while Delta incorporates a stainless steel ball valve.
Manufacturers are working on the faucet of the future. Reles expects remote water filtration devices embedded within the faucet to catch on, as well as remote faucets that can be pulled out of various kitchen locations as needed. Moen’s Yates sees manufacturers providing more control over the water spray pattern. “You want a different strength when you’re rinsing vegetables than when you’re taking peanut butter off a plate,” she says. And she sees interest in faucets specifically designed for prep sinks–bigger than a bar sink faucet but smaller than a kitchen sink faucet–continuing to swell.
Styling will become ever more artistic as models make their way across the ocean, says Powell. “I’m seeing new designs out of Europe with different shapes, like a spout that’s almost a wide ribbon, not a tube.” And finishes, predicts Yates, will become more textured as metalworking techniques evolve. “We have the technology now to make things look more interesting, more Old World, but with increasing durability,” she says.
Grohe. The Ladylux Plus, available in stainless with soft black accents, is a pull-out spray kitchen faucet with ceramic cartridges for effortless one-finger flow control, the firm says. It also features dual-spray patterns and a high-reach spout for plenty of workspace under the water flow. Installation is a snap, the firm says, with stainless steel braided flexible supplies and an integral atmospheric vacuum breaker that meets all code and safety requirements.
Price Pfister. The Contempra pull-out high arc kitchen faucet incorporates an exclusively designed pull-out spray for more natural, ergonomic positioning. Plus, there is no more twisting and turning of the hand or wrist or getting caught in the hose. The Contempra faucet comes with a matching soap dispenser and is available in black, stainless steel, chrome, and biscuit finishes, Brasstech. The model 9451 kitchen faucet features character and craftsmanship that combine to create a distinctive connection with homes of the past. This faucet is shown in solid brass, but is available in a variety of finishes including weathered brass, polished nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and antique
KWC. The Systema allows home gourmets to design their specific faucet by mixing and matching a variety of components to create a unique product that is both beautiful and functional. The line is available in chrome or stainless steel; a matte black spray head option is available. Barclay Products. This single-handle kitchen faucet is part of the company’s minimalist series in both faucets and vessels in the Temple collection. The design combines simplicity with a proportion of form and function that has tremendous appeal, the company says. The faucets are available in polished, brushed, and matte chrome; and nickel.
Moen. The Aberdeen line offers a variety of finishes and options, including pull-out and pull-down models. The Aberdeen also features a unique pause button to interrupt the flow of water, and high, hooked spouts, ideal for the larger pots and pans and deeper sinks common in today’s kitchens. Faucets in this line come in a variety of finishes, including copper, stainless
Bach. The Solo kitchen faucet features an ergonomic design with such features as a smooth-pulling spray head and one-touch operation that lets the user switch effortlessly from stream to spray water flow. Thick deck installation allowances enable the Solo to mount to decks up to 2 1/2 inches thick-perfect for solid surfaces like granite. The Solo is available in stainless steel, chrome, and white finishes
Blanco. Artfully designed and finely detailed, the new Greenbrier kitchen faucet features a distinctive handle and integrated pull-out spray The product also is available in a complementary bar faucet design. Shown in polished chrome, the Greenbrier also comes in a satin nickel finish Franke Faucets. The newest addition to the company’s kitchen faucet family, Natural Grace is part of the Sandpiper series, a study in linear simplicity sculpted in solid stainless steel. The single-control column pictured offers an elongated reach with an optional side hand spray. The line also includes a single-control column with a pull-out aerator seamlessly jointed to the spout
Danze. This Victorian-inspired faucet features a classic, handmade look. Most Opulence kitchen faucets are available in chrome, antique copper, polished brass, polished nickel, stainless steel, and oil rubbed bronze, in a two-handle widespread, a single-handle, and a bridge style Elkay. The Arezzo faucet features a residential-scale dish spray with a single-control joystick-like handle to control water temperature and volume. It is deck-mounted, provides an 8-inch reach, and has a stainless steel braided hose. It’s available in chrome, brushed nickel, and brushed chrome,
Delta. One of the firm’s broadest, most high-profile product lines, the Michael Graves collection includes three single-handle kitchen faucet options, all including an integrated, pivoting aerator with dual spray functions: stream and spray. The aerator also features Touch-Clean, the company’s proprietary spray face comprised of soft, rubber nubs that are easily cleaned with a fingertip touch, preventing lime and calcium buildup, the maker claims. Shown is the deck mount in stainless steel. Dornbracht. The Meta.02 Profi carries the same functional appearance that might be seen in a commercial kitchen, in a more refined and elegant look. The exaggerated gooseneck and pendulum swing of the spray head faucet provides considerable range of motion and versatility. It’s available as a single-lever three-hole mixer in chrome or matte platinum.
Kohler. One of the company’s biggest sellers, the Vinnata features traditional design along with the functionality and convenience of a pull-down faucet and a 10-inch spout height. A ball joint feature enables the spray to be tilted 360 degrees, the firm says. Finishes include polished and brushed chrome and nickel, polished brass, and brushed and brazen bronze (shown). Vinnata also is offered in a smaller design, perfect for vegetable prep sinks. American Standard. Culinaire faucets offer a wide variety of spout options from high-flow designs to pull-out and pull-down spray spouts–that complement the design of any sink. Faucet finish choices include polished chrome, satin, stainless steel, blackened bronze, white, and polished brass