It is perhaps too obvious to say that, after two years and counting of pandemic life, we have never been so conscious of our hygiene as we are today. With a remodeling market that is still showing strong growth and only some easing in the months to come, kitchen remodels remain one of the top projects homeowners are investing in.
The faucet in particular plays a pivotal role in providing functionality as well as beauty to the space it inhabits. As one of the most used appliances in the home, the faucet is more than just a hand-washing station. It also functions as a centerpiece of the cooking sphere, part of the cooktop-refrigerator-sink triangle.
Farmhouse chic has been in style long enough to be a familiar refrain in aesthetic trends reports, and it shows no sign of going away any time soon. Bill Strang, president of TOTO Americas and Sustainable Minds advocate, says, “It’s really very straightforward and simple, and very energy conscious, very sustainable in its design and theme. What we see on the faucet side are designs that are making the opportunity for that kind of experience to be more successful.”
With cleanliness top of mind for homeowners, Justin Storm, group project manager for U.S. House of Rohl says, “Visual cleanliness is translating into the products that are being produced. People want something that is not only easy to clean, but also lends itself to clean lines and aesthetics.
“The pandemic caused us to be a lot more conscientious of our health,” Storm adds. “But we also became more conscious of our spaces. Now that people are spending more time at home and have time to evaluate what type of environment they want to spend time in, people are realizing they want a clean, easy, simplified lifestyle.”
Under the House of Rohl brand are five distinct brands that cover a range of price points and aesthetics. The Eclissi collection of kitchen faucets from Rohl projects a clean and modern aesthetic, accompanied by a unique handle with inner and outer circles imitating the meeting of sun and moon.
From TOTO, Strang emphasizes, “Kitchen design themes are becoming a little more, what I would call ‘brick to linear.’ We’re seeing some very sharp angles, and there’s an opportunity for using new colors and shapes. Again, that sort of farmhouse look and style: very clean lines, very clean aesthetics.”
Jean-Jacques L’Henaff, leader of LIXIL Global Design, Americas, based in Piscataway, N.J., agrees. “Products with simple, sleek lines are popular among customers to achieve a timeless design throughout their homes that will withstand the ever-changing trends and never be out of style.”
In addition to simplifying the kitchen space, homeowners have learned a love for cooking during the pandemic and want a sink space to reflect this newfound hobby. According to Nicholas Rindt, director of product for Kohler, “Semi-professional kitchen faucets are more popular than ever. Over the last few years many of us have learned to cook, and the inner chef in us has inspired us to bring the look of a professional kitchen into our homes.”
Go for the Brass
Among the chrome and nickel finishes, which Strang calls “mainstays” in the market, and especially for TOTO, newer trends are seeing the rise of matte black as well as satin gold and brass.
“People want things that aren’t as commonplace,” Storm explains. “Especially designers want to be leaders in the design space, and fewer homes are going to have [gold or brass] finishes.”
“Satin brass is a gorgeous finish,” L’Henaff agrees. “It’s very popular right now and stands out amongst the rest of the space.”
“Now, this isn’t your grandparents’ brass,” Strang says. “This has got a kind of really interesting color and texture to it so that when you look at it, it has some good depth. Certainly you want to make sure that in your kitchen, you’ve got an accent piece that is kind of bespoke. You want a faucet that’s going to highlight the countertops and the flat single basin sink and all the bits and pieces that went into the kitchen design.”
In addition to the more classical colors of chrome, gold and brass being offered, some companies such as Isenberg are offering more creative and colorful options. Isenberg’s Velox K.1800 model is available in 20 colors, ranging from sky blue, army green and deep red to more neutral options like distressed black, steel gray and dark tan, with custom shades available.
From Brizo, the new Odin Semi-Professional Kitchen Faucet is available in seven finishes, including two lever options—metal and wood. The ability to personalize and customize the kitchen space and make it unique to the homeowners’ design preferences is paramount.
Though touchless and automatic faucets have been a mainstay in the commercial market for about 30 years, installation and use in the consumer home has taken off only in recent years.
“We’ve seen substantial growth in our touchless and connected kitchen faucets,” Rindt says. “This technology optimizes the space for a hygienic experience, allowing the user to complete virtually any function without physically touching
Kohler’s Crue faucet collection is the model of clean, sophisticated design. It has a contemporary look that pairs well with modern functionality, which includes voice-activated KOHLERKonnect and touchless options. The smart kitchen faucet offers hands-free activation to turn the faucet on or off, and it pours specific amounts of water with an innovative sensor that monitors water usage and reports that information to the KOHLERKonnect app.
The rise in touchless faucets in the home may be an obvious one, “due to a heightened awareness of sanitation and creating ease within our daily lives with smart home technology,” L’Henaff explains. But it’s also a trend that has been rising since before the pandemic.
Storm explains they and others were showcasing touchless or smart faucets at KBIS in 2020, weeks before the pandemic shut down, and that they’d already seen a piqued interest in the technology. “Integrating tech and ease of operation with high-quality products is something that’s important to our consumers,” he says.
The Delta Trinsic Single-Handle Pull-Down Faucet boasts an impressive amount of functionality with its Touch20 technology and a color-changing LED that provides a visual indicator of the current water temperature.
American Standard’s Avery touchless kitchen faucet features exclusive “Selectronic” hands-free technology, allowing users to operate the faucet with a wave of their hand.
Strang says for TOTO, even though the supply chain has been “crushed” because of new challenges with COVID-19, the company has been very fortunate. “We manufacture the vast majority of the things we sell. We may not manufacture some of the o-rings or some of the smaller component parts, but all the majority pieces are manufactured in TOTO factories. What’s really important about that is that we can control the manufacturing and control the process… unfortunately, we cannot control the container ships.”
Like any company with factories overseas, foreign and domestic ports alike have been swamped, with not enough workers to unload the containers. This ongoing market disruption has caused some companies to scale back their collections, focusing on classic or mainstream products they know sell well, in more limited colors or finishes.
“We’re not seeing trends being driven by lack of availability,” Storm says.
“What we’re seeing in terms of style and materials was trending before the pandemic and have taken off since.” He adds that, despite disruptions in supply chain, House of Rohl is not limiting its SKUs to simplify or streamline the manufacturing process.
As demands for climate action grow in volume and regulations require new standards for water usage or recycled content, there is also a new generation of homeowners whose priorities lay outside of just design and aesthetics.
“Millennials are now the single largest cohort that are applying for and winning loan applications,” Strang says.
“What’s interesting about millennials moving into these spaces is we’re seeing a very important opportunity for [a] product to carry with it a level of sustainability and validation. For some of our products, we have environmental product declarations (EPDs) that describe the carbon footprint of a toilet or a faucet, allowing you to know exactly the amount of carbon that was consumed in the production and subsequent use phase of that product in your home, so you can make choices about what you want to put into your life and into your home.”
In addition to environmental product declarations, TOTO is also committed to using virgin ingots of brass in the parts of the faucet that touch water. “This allows us to have a good control of the overall lead content. Within brass, there’s lead content that has historically been used to make it easier to machine and cast. What we’ve been able to do is put other alloys in that are not as problematic as lead and reduce [the lead content] to zero. We only use recycled content in materials—like recycled brass alloy that was from a thrown-out bed—in areas such as the handle that doesn’t touch any water.”
Similarly, Moen has committed to an eco-friendly, sustainable initiative, recycling nearly 82 percent of waste from the manufacturing process and more than 13 million pounds of metal, 6.5 million pounds of cardboard and 3.8 million pounds of solid waste. Moen has also created Mission Moen, a sustainability effort to save 1 trillion gallons of water and repurpose 2,000 tons of ocean plastic by 2030.
The new Moen Smart Faucet with Motion Control uses touchless sensor technology and voice control functionality and distributes water with more precision than ever to make sure users have advanced control over their water. Moen’s kitchen faucets use about 1.5 gallons of water per minute, while TOTO residential faucets flow at about 1.2 gallons per minute.
“I think the really important part is making sure that the product that you put in the marketplace has a beautiful aesthetic look and be highly desirable and affordable for those within the demographic behind that product,” Strang says. “But without a doubt, the product must carry the very ethos and ethic of the company about how to be sustainable, how to be appropriate when taking care of and supporting our world. Our world is finite, so let’s hold precious that finite resource that we have and not squander it.” QR