If you’ve noticed the number of Chrysler PT Cruisers on the street, you’ve already recognized one of the biggest trends at April’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Orlando, Fla. “The retro look is very popular,” says Todd Weber, senior communications specialist at Kohler, referring to the vehicle and plumbing ware. Kohler was among several exhibitors displaying products inspired by vintage designs. Others included Delta Faucet, American Standard, Elkay, Eljer, Crane and even Toto.
But other trends were apparent at K/BIS as well. Electronic faucets are being introduced to American homes. Also, designs originally government-mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act are now making style statements in toilets and lays. And new metallic faucet finishes shone throughout the exhibit area. Other trends spotted at K/BIS in recent years continue to acid manufacturers and models. These include filter faucets, pullout spouts and custom shower systems.
What’s old is new
If you consider the home — especially the bathroom or kitchen — to be a sanctuary, then retro designs may not be difficult to explain. “We’re so bombarded with technology, it could be that people want more traditional-looking products,” says Charlie McTargett, marketing manager at Delta.
Delta’s entry in the field is the Victorian Collection of faucets, tub/ shower units, Roman tub faucets and hand showers. The complete suite of brass products also includes coordinating bath accessories such as robe hooks, towel bars and toothbrush/ tumbler holders. The turn-of-the-century (19th to 20th) styling reflects the growing market for traditional products, McTargett says.
“The engineering is new, the look is old,” he says.
Interestingly, Delta unveiled its new logo and tagline at the show. The old logo sported a 1950s-ish single-handle faucet. The new tagline carries no faucet and the tagline “beautifully engineered.”
Kohler says that its Kathryn Ensemble was inspired by an exhibition of the company’s products at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1929. Kathryn’s lavatories feature three sizes of console table designs and a retro rectangular shape while the toilets have an octagonal pedestal and tank lid with beveled comers. The fixtures come in black and white.
American Standard found inspiration for its Enfield Suite from the Shaker furniture tradition of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Enfield’s free-standing rectangular tub has a wooden structural base and Shaker-styled wooden legs, which carry the tub almost to the realm of furniture.
A large-capacity sink that you might find in an old farmhouse was the role model for Elkay’s undermount farm-style sink, says Tom Terch, Western sales manager. The 15-in. wide single-bowl and 33-in. wide double-bowl stainless steel models have 8-in. deep bowls. Eljer’s new Orleans and Savannah lines recall the look of yesteryear, says marketing manager Chris Miller. And Toto’s Carrollton Collection of skirted toilet, bidet and self-rimming sink features a more traditional look from a company known for its modem designs.
Italian manufacturers were showing electronic faucets for the home as early as 1995 at Germany’s ISH show. Now, e-faucets are making their way into American bathrooms. Delta claims to be the first U.S. manufacturer with a hands-flee faucet designed for the home with its e-Flow. The faucet’s high-arc spout conceals a waterproof electronic control board that controls water flow. A temperature-control knob can be used before and during use.
Four standard AA batteries power the e-Flow, which can run for about 150,000 uses or one year. A low-battery light comes on when 3,000 cycles remain. A hard-wire conversion kit also is available. Dornbracht’s e-Mote faucet controls the water flow via an infrared sensor,says Erika Stovall in the company’s marketing services department. A manually set on/off timer to control how long the water runs also is featured. The watch battery that operates e-MOTE is accessible under the basin and can be expected to provide daily household use for at least five years.
Staying with faucet technology, K/BIS also had more models of filter faucets in the booths. Moen has added an under-sink water filtration system to its PureTouch line. Moen is touting the system not only in the kitchen, which had been the domain of filter faucets, but in the bathroom as well. The company points out that the dispenser does not filter out fluoride so that users can rinse with the water after brushing their teeth. In-Sink-Erator’s new 1100 series of instant hot water dispensers is available in two models. The GN model is for hot water only and the HC model dispenses hot water as well as water from another source such as cold tap water or filtered water.
KWC, Price Pfister and Symmons showed single-handle faucets with pullout spouts. KWC introduced its Konos, which features a conical shape, high arc design and pullout aerator with a range of 27 in. Price Pfister unveiled its Solo Premiere in its Bach line. The Solo Premiere has the option of positioning the handle to the fight or left side of the faucet base.
Symmons’ Symmetrix pullout spray spout model features a 5-ft., heavy-braided nylon retractable hose, long enough for even the largest kitchen sinks, the company says. Certainly more obvious than what’s going on inside faucets these days is their appearance. Several exhibitors favored metals in their new finishes. “I’m seeing more metallic finishes such as copper and stainless steel,” says Bill Tracey, marketing manager at Symmons. “The trend seems to be going away from polished brass a little.”
Keeping up with changes in finishes and styles change can be a challenge. Moen’s M-Pact system allows a contractor to install common valving and change the trim later, says Ginny Long, Moen’s public affairs director.
Moen’s M-Pact can be used in shower systems as well. At April’s K/BIS, Moen introduced new shower system components as part of its Villeta bath suite. Villeta incorporates the M-Pact system. “We’re seeing a trend toward customization,” Long says. “In shower systems, for example, we’re showing many more options.” Delta also displayed easy-installation shower products that provide a custom shower experience. The Monitor 1800 Series Jetted Shower system features two jets that can be adjusted independently from the showerhead. The Delta Select Custom Shower is the company’s first 3/4-in. thermostatic body spray system. The system’s advanced thermostatic valve was developed in partnership with manufacturer Hansgrohe.
Grohe promoted easy installation as a feature of its new Freehander all-in-one shower product. Freehander joins two full-size showerheads on a sturdy tubular arm, which pivots 180 to convert the unit from body sprays to showerheads. The product is offered in two installation methods, neither of which require breaking into a shower wall. Kohler exhibited newly designed steam-generator kits intended to be used with its Sonata shower module and steam door or with custom showering applications. The steam head’s integral aromatherapy well allows users to add a relaxing scent to their steam bath.
A number of exhibitors showed fixtures that they described as being “comfort height.” While meeting ADA requirements, these toilets and lavs also are more comfortable to use because they are taller. This makes them easier on the user’s knees and back, regardless of physical condition. That’s appealing to a population that is getting older. “I’m seeing many more ADA-compliant products at the show,” says Greg Hellman, Swan’s manager/commercial sales and specification.
What’s new is that several of these products are making style statements as well. Fixtures in Kohler’s Kathryn collection, for example, are comfort height, Weber says. Gerber touted the comfort height of its toilets too. In addition, Gerber introduced a 36-in. La Rive lavatory, “which not only greets users in high style but can help reduce back pain caused by too much bending,” according to the company. Manufacturers are addressing other special needs as well. “His” vs. “her” designs in the bathroom were apparent in some booths, such as at Kohler’s Kallista. American Standard took the concept a step further by showing a residential urinal. The manufacturer also exhibited a child-size toilet.