Show of choice
Products on display in the 3,610 booths at the show offer wholesalers, designers and con-tractors many opportunities to expand the choices available for homeowners. Options range from finishes, shapes, colors, designs and patterns to products and accessories.
"We see a move toward more luxury and choice in function," says Ila Lewis, advertising/marketing manager at Gerber Plumbing Fixtures Corp.
>"There's a trend toward personal fashion," says Steve Breymaier, vice president/marketing at Aqua-Glass. "You can design and build your own tub or whirlpool. People want to add more options."
This year's exhibits reflect several trends:
- The polished look. Stainless steel, chrome, brass and nickel in different combinations and finishes are being used to decorate and customize sinks and faucets;
- Retro styling. Manufacturers are designing fixtures with a classic, traditional look but boasting modern conveniences and performance;
- Pseudo-professional. Fake is fine. Examples include fiberglass shower surrounds with the look of grouted tile and two-piece toilets that look like one piece. Another is the trend toward commercial-style kitchen sinks and faucets that make any homeowner look like a professional chef; and
- Special needs. More products are being designed for people with physical limitations, such as small children, the elderly and the disabled.
These trends add up to an array of product choices from which homeowners can select when building, remodeling or decorating. Manufacturers are responding to consumer demand for more options to upgrade the kitchen and bath, says Cynthia Hubbard, marketing manager for Interbath/Ondine.
"People are feathering their nests," she notes.
The polished lookManufacturers are applying various metallic finishes - stainless steel, nickel, brass and chrome - with and without accents to sinks and faucets.
Stainless-steel sinks are getting a facelift. Elkay's single-bowl undermount sinks now are available with an exposed rim accented by a highlighted inside top radius polished to a high shine. Sterling Plumbing, a division of Kohler, offers its decorative stainless-steel kitchen sinks with four patterns, ranging from geometric to floral designs, laser-engraved on either the rim or the polished deck.
Also, stainless-steel sinks are moving into the bath. Kohler's Vessels Timpani, above-counter lavatories with the look of stainless steel, are about 20 in. in diameter and available in both mirrored and satin finishes.
Faucets continue to be fashion statements for the homeowner. New finishes, and new combinations of finishes, provide opportunities to create a custom look. American Standard is offering luxury finishes such as brushed satin, black nickel with brass accents, satin with polished chrome accents and satin with brass accents on more of its bathroom faucet lines.
Gerber's new Bristol line of faucets for the lavatory, tub and kitchen is available in chrome, polished brass, chrome with polished brass, almond and white.
KWC has polished and brushed-nickel finishes for several of its kitchen faucet lines and a polished chrome finish for its new series of deck and wall-mounted bath faucets. Its Suprimo line of kitchen faucets features stainless-steel bodies, single-lever handles and translucent pullout spray heads.
Delta Faucet's Delta Select collection includes a new line of decorative kitchen faucets in finishes such as polished chrome, polished brass and satin nickel. Its Brilliance polished-brass finish is now available on both traditional and contemporary lines of faucets.
Dornbracht USA has a matte-aluminum faucet finish for its Meta Tec series. The company's Madison and Madison Flair collections of bathroom fittings are now available in chrome, matte platinum, platinum, Durabrass and polished 24-karat gold finishes.
Price Pfister offers its Georgetown and Carmel faucet lines in solid brushed nickel and brushed nickel with chrome.
"Brushed nickel is hot because it blends well with granite, stone or tile for a natural or retro look," says Gary Rosenfield, vice president/marketing and product management at Price Pfis-ter. "Chrome accents to brushed nickel create a retro look."
Back to the pastOld is new again. Whether the look is called classic, traditional or vintage, the trend is toward old-fashioned styling on bathtubs, lavatories, toilets and whirlpools.
Claw-foot bathtubs are back. A good example is St. Thomas Creations, which has three styles of claw-foot bathtubs: Bostonian, Barrymore and Celebration. Each is available with three foot designs - a lion's paw, a pillar leg, or a claw and ball - in brass, chrome or white finish.
SWC Industries' Swirl-way Europa oval-shaped whirlpool features antique, trestled sculpting for a look reminiscent of Grandma's bathtub.
"It's new for us to enter the realm of the traditional look," says Larry Rohs, vice president/general manager of SWC.
American Standard's Reminiscence line of bath fixtures includes a new drop-in whirlpool with a free-standing bath, a two-piece toilet, pedestal and countertop lavatories and a console vanity top. TOTO's Provincial Collection suite of bathroom fixtures has an old-fashioned look but with a stately style.
Just faking itPseudo designs are a genuine trend in the bath and kitchen. Fiberglass shower/tub surrounds mimic ceramic tile. Professional-quality kitchen faucets, sinks and appliances can make anyone look like a gourmet chef.
Breymaier of Aqua-Glass says that smooth is still the biggest part of the business, but he sees a national trend toward the tile look in fiberglass shower and tub surrounds.
"The simulated tile wall was introduced in 1994," Breymaier says. "For the first three years there was growth, but not an explosion. Starting this year and going into next year we're seeing an explosion. They are nice-looking units."
Lasco offers a simulated textured ceramic-tile design for tubs and showers as well as decorative smooth-tile products that emulate ceramic tile without the grout lines. Sterling's shower surrounds have a seamless tile pattern, some with built-in shelves.
It's not just materials that are getting the faux treatment. Mansfield's Aleur is a pseudo-one-piece toilet: Its low-profile tank and either round-front or elongated bowl look like one unit.
Fake works in the kitchen as well as the bath. Even noncooks can pass for gourmet chefs with sinks and faucets for the home that borrow features from their commercial counterparts.
Kohler's new Professional Sinks collection is designed to enable multiple tasks to be performed by one or more people in a small area.
The Pro CookCenter has an 8-qt. cylindrical stainless-steel cooking vessel built into the counter, opening flush to counter level and adjacent to the sink in a standard base. Food can be cleaned, cut, steamed, boiled, poached or braised in one location. The 8-in. deep working basin comes in stainless steel or cast iron, with a cutting board work surface next to the cooking vessel. Water in the cooking vessel is drained with the push of a button.
Elkay's triple-bowl, undermount stainless-steel sink also addresses this trend with its two extra-deep bowls flanking a smaller center bowl.
Faucets also are moving toward the commercial in appearance and function.
KWC's new Domo and Disko Semi-Professional faucet series are inspired by the company's commercial food-service faucet line used in Europe.
Delta addresses the multi-sink trend in professional-style kitchens with its new single- and two-handle bar faucets. The high-arc spout design on the new Waterfall bar faucets facilitates prep work and filling tall vessels.
As the trend toward opening up the kitchen for both entertaining and cooking continues to grow, Broan-NuTone addresses the need for less kitchen noise with its newest product. The noise level of the company's Allure series of range hoods is 50% lower than similar units.
Special needsNew products address the needs of very young and old people as well as others with physical limitations. TOTO, Lasco and Elkay offer ADA-compliant bathroom fixtures or faucets that have a decorator appearance.
Bemis' Paramont oversized toilet seat is 20% larger than conventional seats for larger adults. Gerber's low-profile Eli toilet is for children.
Church and Bemis also have bidet seats that can be installed on existing toilets to facilitate personal hygiene for the aged or ill. Both the Bemis Ruisseau and the Church Purite bidet seats have two independently operated bidet nozzles. The user presses a button to select one of three warm water temperatures and one of five wash pressures.
"We're entering a whole new era in personal hygiene," says Boyd Miller, group product manager at Bemis and Church. "It's all about cleanliness but it also has therapeutic value. About 10% of Americans have some kind of medical condition that makes efforts at personal care uncomfortable."
Concern about hygiene and sanitation also extends to bath fixtures. Aqua-Glass responds to that with its Microban antibacterial protection in its gelcoat showers and tub/showers.
As the aging segment of the population continues to expand, interest in the massage effects available from whirlpools is undergoing parallel growth. Eljer's Palmetto whirlpool bath, for example, offers hydrotherapy in a corner installation.
"Custom jets in whirlpools to enhance the hydromassage effect are becoming more popular," says Rohs of Swirl-way.