Finishes, suites of fixtures and exciting new products highlighted this year's event.

Some recurring themes were seen and heard at the 2003 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, held April 10-13 in Orlando, Fla.: new finishes; ease of installation; traditional styling; customization; selling suites of products; and new applications for existing products. In addition, some vendors, including American Standard, Elkay and TOTO, displayed product concepts and invited feedback.

Focus On Finish

"People are starting to view the kitchen as the jewel of the home," said Ken Brock, senior marketing communications manager for Price Pfister. "The faucet is becoming the fourth appliance in the kitchen."

With greater focus on the faucet, style and finish gain importance. Brock noted that polished brass, brushed nickel, copper and oil-rubbed bronze are gaining popularity as faucet finishes.

At the Delta Faucet booth, a spokesman pointed out how a black faucet can soften the look of a stainless steel sink.

A copper faucet can be an attractive accent to a stainless steel sink, according to Elkay's Alan Danenberg, director/marketing services.

Moen showed a new wrought iron finish on its new Kingsley line of traditional styled faucets for the bath.

BLANCO also displayed faucets with more traditional styling, including special finishes: antique copper, antique pewter and antique bronze.

In-Sink-Erator added six designer finishes to its Euro-style Series 1100 hot water dispenser line: polished nickel, biscuit, black, almond, mocha bronze and French gold.

New finishes were also featured for showerheads. Alsons Corp. added three finishes for its showering products: stainless steel, polished nickel and oil-rubbed bronze. Its new contemporary Enterprise showerhead is offered in six finishes: chrome, 18 Karat gold, stainless steel, polished nickel, pearl nickel and satin nickel. Danze's expanded line of showerheads and shower arms is now available in finishes such as chrome, brushed nickel, polished nickel, polished brass, oil-rubbed bronze and antique copper.

"Chrome is still 80% to 90% of sales," said William Tracey, marketing manager for Symmons Industries. "Polished brass has been in second place for about 20 years, but now satin nickel is superseding it."

Satin nickel was also a popular finish at the Grohe booth, where it was shown on the company's new Seabury line of bath faucets, shower valves, and tub spouts.

"Our main thrust is finishes," said Ray Adams, vice president/sales and marketing at Coastal Industries, which introduced a platinum finish for its Paragon[TM] series shower door products.

Suite Talk

"Customers come into showrooms mostly interested in buying total bathrooms," said Marc R. Olivie, president, American Standard's Bath and Kitchen Group. "Our wholesale channel is very important in helping them through that process, showing things that work together."

In Europe, 40% of American Standard's bath and kitchen sales involve complete suites of five pieces or more, Olivie said.

With the introduction of 28 faucet designs to complement its 80+ stainless steel sink configurations, BLANCO is now able to suggest a suite of products, said Reed Fry, a spokesman for the company. Also, the company has committed to bringing out a bar faucet to match every kitchen faucet, he said.

Kohler Co. unveiled several new suites of products, including the Leigh- ton[TM] Ensemble, which consists of a lavatory, toilet and mirrored cabinet; and the Serif Suite, with a bathtub/whirlpool bath, lavatory and toilet.

TOTO also introduced several suites for the bath: the Baldwin suite (lavatory, toilet and bidet); the Nexus suite (air tub and toilet); and the Pacifica suite, now completed with a new air tub.

New And Interesting

Capizzi, a vitreous china sanitaryware manufacturer based in Mexico, displayed its Calia line of bath products, designed to resemble the tall, graceful cala lily plant.

Kohler Co. showed its new Undertone Trough[TM] fabricated stainless steel sinks. The rectangular sinks, all 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep, range in length from 22 to 60 inches and become a seamless part of the countertop.

Sterling unveiled its Ensemble[TM] shower systems that include wall surrounds and receptors, sold in four modular pieces that can be transported by one person around corners and through doorways.

Aqua Glass Corp. has introduced 10 whirlpools Italian-style with the European-influenced designs now offered as part of its Indulgence line. Among the products offered are the hourglass-shaped Hanna [TM] and the Ariel [TM], which is an undermount.

MTI Whirlpool offered customized "experience" packages with five of its whirlpool tubs. Customers have 20 choices including spa, massage, relaxation and aromatherapy options.

Coastal Industries showed its limited edition, etched-glass shower enclosures designed by a Florida artist. Designs included palm trees, a lighthouse, shells, and beach and mountain scenes.

Ondine introduced its RIVA family of products including showerheads, hand-held showers, wall mounts, slide bars, valve trims, body sprays and other shower accessories. The face of the RIVA showerhead is 3 inches in diameter but less than 1 inch thick.

Danze displayed its 7-inch spinning showerhead that features five pods mounted in the center that massage with water power as they spin.

Geberit Manufacturing introduced a revised range of kitchen faucets from Chicago Faucet and a new integrated cascading tub filler and drain system.

Myson offered its new Economical Lifestyle series of towel warmers, making the luxury of warm towels a more affordable option.

KWC Faucets introduced the KWC 1922, recreated from the original, award-winning design used in the 1920s and '30s, but upgraded to accommodate modern plumbing. The faucet has a classic bridge design and high arc swivel spout.

GROHE showed its Aquatower shower system with a showerhead, hand shower, four body sprays and shampoo/accessory tray.

Bemis Manufacturing added four 3-D designs to its Mayfair[R] line of sculptured, molded wood seats: Tulips[TM], Trillium[TM], Lighthouse[TM], and Celestial[TM]. Bemis also introduced its Fusio[TM] seat made of Coralink[TM] solid surface material. "It has a very thin profile, but it's heavier than you would expect and scratch-resistant," said Brian Pomplun, senior product manager/plumbing products.

Lasco Bathware featured its Champagne Bubbler series of jetted tubs, available in seven models with 52 to 82 air jets lining the bottom. The tubs have three different settings and variable speed controls.

Rohl introduced its Modern Bath Collection shower series. The thermostatic package includes a solid brass thermostatic control valve, a volume control valve and a diverter.

Transolid, known for its solid surface bath vanities, introduced shower and tub wall systems to match the colors of its vanity tops. The walls are offered in three solid colors - white, biscuit and cameo -- and four matrix colors: khaki, white, summit and dusk.

Hansgrohe expanded its Axor luxury bath collection with the distinctive, ward-winning designs of Antonio Citterio.

Moen introduced the Aberdeen[TM] pulldown kitchen faucet with a pause button that allows the user to interrupt the flow of water. It has an ergonomically designed wand and high arc spout.

Delta showed its new Botanicals line of faucets. Each is named after a different flower and comes with six different color inserts that can be changed in 60 seconds to coordinate with towels, candles or a shower curtain.

Elkay Manufacturing expanded its Victoria[TM] faucet line to include a lavatory faucet and a new mirror copper finish for the kitchen faucet.

American Standard staged a "sneak preview" behind closed doors monitored by "guards," to demonstrate "America's best flushing system," a completely re-engineered toilet (patents pending).

The 2004 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show will be held at McCormick Place in Chicago April 2-4.