Kitchen Water Essentials

by Kacey Larsen

Style, functionality and durability drive innovation, and while this is true within many product categories, it is especially true in the kitchen faucet market. As kitchen style preferences shift—the 2017 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study reports contemporary has surpassed transitional as the top kitchen style—kitchen and bar faucets and pot fillers see new shape and finish introductions. Introductions continue to include pull-down and pull-out features, and technology expands with hands-free and touch offerings as well. Durability as a selection criterion factors in a faucet standing up to daily wear and tear as well as meeting the growing concern and regulations for low-flow faucets and their material makeup.   

Manufacturers repeatedly listed two kitchen trends impacting their research, development and product introductions: the kitchen becoming the hub of the home for socializing and entertaining in addition to a place to cook and clean, and the continuation of interest in professional- or commercial-grade kitchen products appearing in residential spaces.

Peggy Gallagher, product manager for Delta Faucet Company, points to research proving the evolving role of the kitchen. “What we understand is consumers, first, are looking for the right kitchen faucet to really coordinate and complement a particular style of their kitchen or a specific look they are trying to achieve. Also, what we’ve been seeing over recent years is that one of the main other contributors really is that evolving role of the kitchen,” she says. “We did a lot of research and found that two-thirds of consumers are spending three or more hours in the kitchen per day, so it’s really important for them to get the right faucet but also the right functionality to handle different tasks going on in the kitchen.”

This progression of time spent in the kitchen, beyond food prep and doing dishes, also extends to the way consumers use water within the space, notes Rohl’s vice president of marketing, Greg Rohl. “People are looking at how they use their kitchen space to determine not just the type of faucet but the number of faucets they should include—that includes bar faucets, pot fillers and filtration faucets. You especially see this with people who are very conscious of the products they use and how they impact their life,” he says. “For example, in the last three years, we’ve seen a definite increase in people adding hot water faucets to their kitchen in addition to their primary faucet. If they are a tea drinker or make oatmeal or quinoa frequently, the convenience of having boiling water available with just the turn of a lever is a benefit to their lifestyle.”

Inclusion of a hot water faucet, as in Rohl’s example, a bar faucet, island sink/faucet or pot filler led several manufacturers to observe that planning for such items have shifted faucet(s) from a “finishing touch” item to something that, along with a sink, can impact other design decisions. “I think this is where a homeowner greatly benefits from having a design professional, because I think a homeowner on their own would be left to think about the faucets as a finishing touch and really focus on things like flooring, cabinets and countertops,” says Sarah Schlifke, kitchen product manager for Brizo. “[A design professional] is more attuned to looking at the holistic picture, like setting a tone with whatever finish or configuration is selected and how many holes you need to drill in the beautiful countertop. If you want it to look very streamlined and minimal with a single hole, you have to know that ahead of time, and at the end of the day it is plumbing, which means it’s behind the wall so delaying such a decision could be extraordinarily costly.”

Blanco Marketing Communications Manager Christy Emens sees a growing trend toward “focal sink designs” in kitchens, which places more emphasis on faucet selection earlier in the process. “The sink and faucet decision both further the design style of the kitchen. We are seeing an increase in focal sink designs, such as the apron front sink which has to be ‘designed’ into the cabinetry. So these decisions are made upfront and not a throwaway,” she says. “More designers and consumers are aware of the options and so they drive design.”

On the same note, Katie Hayes, senior product manager for Danze and Gerber Plumbing Fixtures, points out that the inclusion of a pot filler needs to be specified during the design phase. “When you consider adding a pot filler, you need to make sure it’s considered early on as there are big impacts to space planning to get the plumbing roughed in correctly early on in the building or renovation process,” she says. “Coordinated kitchen faucets and pot fillers can really bring personal style and finishing details to a kitchen design. The addition of a pot filler in a kitchen design can add functionality while creating a powerful design element—bringing interest in form and finish to the backsplash of a stove.”

Tom Tylicki, senior product manager for Moen, sees pot fillers as an example of a crossover item from the commercial kitchen. “Pot filler faucets allow the home chef to have access to an important gourmet tool that was once only available to trained culinary experts. They simplify and enhance meal preparation in the home and are especially well suited for homeowners that utilize their home for entertaining,” he says. “Pot fillers are being selected to complement the overall design of the kitchen and fixtures inside of it. Consumers’ preferences lean heavily toward seamless integration of styles and finishes to ensure uniformity.”

Bring in the Professional

While a different type of coordination, Delta Faucet Company’s Gallagher sees the growing professional-grade faucet trend as a natural extension of homeowners integrating other commercial appliances into their kitchen spaces. “More and more, consumers want to have that look and feel of that professional, industrial style kitchen in their home. They’re selling high-end, professional-type appliances now for the home, so [homeowners] are trying to bring that gourmet chef-type look into their home,” she says. The company’s Trinsic Pro Collection, launched in August 2016, aims to meet and address the trend.

Part of the translation of this commercial faucet trend into the residential market, notes Moen’s Tylicki, is considering which features are actually useful to homeowners beyond providing a desired aesthetic. “Consumers like having the option of an industrial-inspired kitchen faucet that also delivers a more convenient kitchen experience. With this knowledge, Moen thoughtfully designed the Align Spring kitchen faucet,” he says. “Its pull-down hose provides extended reach as well as a multifunction spray wand that’s easy to maneuver. These features are critical in the kitchen, where usability and functionality are important long-term benefits for homeowners.” Moen recently added a matte black finish for the Align collection to meet consumers’ demand for statement finishes.

Emens from Blanco sees the commercial faucet trend growing, partially due to the kitchen’s multifunction as a food prep and entertaining space. “We are all fascinated with our ‘inner foodie.’ Whether or not we are at-home chefs, we want to have the chef-inspired kitchen to demonstrate our love of good food and entertaining, which go hand-in-hand. And this is why we reference ‘chef-inspired’ because today’s home kitchen is very different from a back room restaurant or commercial setting,” she says. “We want the ‘look’ of a chef’s kitchen, such as professional faucets with coils and moving spray arms, but we live in our kitchens—they aren’t hidden from our guests. We have to take this into account in the design of the home kitchen by stealing the look, but softening and amending it to a more organic, livable style that works in the home environment.” 

Professional cooking television shows could be another inspiration source for consumers, notes Christine Ramos, product manager for Kohler Kitchen Faucets, but demand goes beyond achieving a certain look or style. “Consumers aspire to be a professional chef at home, and the products in your kitchen can also help achieve the professional chef aspiration. We have just launched the Tournant Faucet, a pro-style faucet in a traditional look, and we have plans to continue to launch product in this category,” she says. “Consumers are also saying, ‘Help me use my space more efficiently; help my space work harder for me.’ ”

Not for Technology’s Sake

Kohler’s Ramos believes that consumer requests for efficiency aids can translate to spray technology, as one such example. “Kohler approaches technology with the mindset of how can we make consumers’ lives easier and better—definitely not technology for technology’s sake. The prepping and cleanup tasks are areas where we spend a great deal of time innovating to improve the consumer’s experience,” she adds. “The spray technologies help consumers with efficiency. The Sweep Spray allows one to quickly and effectively rinse plates or rinse down your sink basin. Berry soft spray is a full-volume yet gentle spray; this full-volume can efficiently wash fruits and vegetables without frapping your berries.”

Based on observational research the company conducts, spray technology has also been a consideration for Delta Faucet Company, who  will introduce its ShieldSpray toward the end of the year. Designed to clean dishes with a concentrated jet of water but simultaneously control the splash or splatter, the technology will be available on select pull-down kitchen faucets, including its Esque, Leland, Mateo, Addison and Cassidy collections. Gallagher says the company’s approach is, “We look at innovation, not for innovation’s sake, but it has to be relevant and purposeful.”

Blanco has been focusing on what Emens refers to as “livable designs” with some of the company’s product introductions. “We offer a wide range of pull-down or pull-out faucets, and our technologies are wrapped into the materials themselves. Highly durable, scratch-resistant surfaces, like Silgranit, are easy to maintain, ultra hygienic and stand up to daily use,” she says. “Technology and engineering are incorporated into our design process. [For example], a hidden pulldown in our powerful Artona faucet doesn’t look high-tech, but it took a lot of technology to make these livable designs a reality.”

Hayes from Danze notes the company’s attention to saving homeowners time and effort, even when it comes to interactions with their kitchen faucet. “Pull-down faucets are key today—everyone is looking for products and tools that make their life easier and reduce their work time on chores like dishes,” she says. “We are introducing a proprietary magnetic docking technology to our new kitchen pull-down faucets that, paired with our SnapBack system, provides a tight fit of the spray head to the spout everyday, every time.”

Consumer demand has been a driving force behind Rohl’s decorative interpretations of pull-down kitchen faucets. Rohl points to several offerings that span design styles: the streamlined Quartile Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet, the American Moderne influence on the Michael Berman Faucet, the Perrin & Rowe Georgian Era Pull-Down’s take on classic English traditional style, and the Italian country design of the Patrizia Pull-Down. While still focused on delivering a “luxurious experience,” he adds the California-based company continues its development of low-flow products—what he calls “responsible luxury”—to ensure its products go beyond federal regulation standards.

To further ensure the company is on the right track with its products, Moen employs a Global Design Team that researches consumer wants and needs, especially when it comes to technology that improves user experience. MotionSense, Tylicki notes, is a result of such research. “Moen conducted extensive consumer research and found people were trying to turn on faucets using their wrists or elbows. They were preparing food, getting their hands dirty, and then touching the faucet to clean their hands causing the faucet itself to get dirty. The cycle just repeated itself,” he says. “Moen found that consumers want faucets in the kitchen they can turn on and off without touching.”

Brizo, through its own consumer research, credits pull-down faucets as the No. 1 selling configuration in the kitchen space, Schlifke notes. While the company’s Articulating platform features three joints that allow it to be positioned low in the sink or really high for tall vessels plus a semi-flexible hose and sprayer with magnetic docking station, the next step for the company is integrating its touch technology. “We’re constantly watching our touch technology. We do think it’s kind of the thing of the future—people being able to accurately control their water in an efficient manner,” she says. An LED in the base ring of the Articulating Faucet signals not only when the faucet is on or off but also shares the water temperature, which adds an extra safety level.

Safe to Drink

According to Brizo’s Schlifke, the company’s research indicates the No. 1 concern in the kitchen is water quality and purification to ensure it is safe to drink. “That concern doesn’t go away, and it’s something people are willing, from just a basic needs standpoint, to really invest in,” she says. Brizo has seen growth in the inclusion of a second faucet, with coordinating selections and finishes, specifically for filtered water needs.

Hayes from Danze adds, “Americans have more information at their fingertips than has ever been available in the past. There are so many environmental concerns, with human-health consequences, that it’s hard to understand where to begin and what is most important. Healthy, clean water is a fundamental right that should be available to all humans.” She notes the company does not currently specialize in filtration systems, but says the manufacturer complies with regulations on the material makeup of its faucets and meets low-flow rates.

While the company does have a “responsible luxury” focus, Rohl presents its Perrin & Rowe Filtration Faucet, which Rohl says is produced in the United Kingdom, to deliver filtered water with three-way technology. “We have definitely seen an increase in the need for integrated filtration faucets in the kitchen,” he adds. “The Katadyn filter used in these faucets is considered a world leader in water purification, and because of its unique composite design, it reduces a variety of water contaminants including pathogenic bacteria, organics, chlorine, lead and mercury. Each filter produces 1,000 gallons of fresh, clean drinking water.”

Kohler also has seen the water quality issue rising in priority and concern for consumers. “Water filtration has become more top-of-mind with the aging infrastructure and media coverage. We are seeing greater activity on our website and more consumer inquiries in this category,” Ramos explains. “At the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, we announced the new Aquifer water filtration system, with the ability to filter out lead, pharmaceuticals, dirt, rust, chlorine and more. Also, we have thoughtfully created the water filters with crushed coconut shells; this allows for the water filters to be recycled via Kohler’s recycle program at the end of the filter’s life.”

With continuing concerns about water as a resource that is readily available and safe, manufacturers indicated that this is not where the story ends—by any means—on low-flow rates or filtration systems, so stayed tuned for continuing innovation. | QR

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