One design trend that caught our eye at last spring's Kitchen & Bath Industry Show was the use of stainless steel for water closets, tubs and lavs. Typically, you'd find this look behind bars.
Not surprisingly, one manufacturer capitalizing on this trend is Acorn Engineering, which has been making plumbing products specifically for prisons since the 1950s.
A couple of years ago, the company started fielding so many calls from interior designers for its prison fixtures that it implemented a new line just for the residential market.
"People are looking for something different," says Kristen Kahle, director of marketing and general manager for the Acorn's Neo-Metro Collection. "The trend in kitchen design has been to use stainless because it's sanitary and very easy to clean. If that makes sense for a kitchen, it makes more sense for a bathroom."
To be sure, the Neo-Metro is a far cry from what you'd find at your local hoosegow. The Metropolis Basin shown here, for example, can be paired with either a wall- or deck-mounted faucet, and the deck can be punched to accommodate a single center or 6-inch center faucet configuration. Most of the products in the line are available in a satin finish or a heavily polished look. The line is designed to be plumbed like other residential products and not like its prison products. One of the latest additions to the line is a Comby, which combines a water closet and lav. Kahle says the setup is ideal for half baths.
Although jailhouse chic may not appeal to everyone, pairing commercial products with other run-of-the-mill residential products is a mainstream look now. We remember receiving press material from Chicago Faucet Co. five years ago showing how designers were just beginning to use the company's commercial-grade faucets in residential settings, particularly the kitchen.
"You'll see more manufacturers come out with what I'd call the professional look," says Patrick McQuillan, product manager for Chicago Faucet. "By that I mean what you'd expect to see, for example, in a restaurant kitchen. Stoves and refrigerators are all in stainless steel. It's a heavy-duty look, which I think people equate with better performance."