Here's what's hot in bathroom sinks.

Kohler's Purist Lav

Ask any bathroom lavatory manufacturer what's new in the industry today and you'll get several answers - "wet surface" lavs, stainless-steel and brass bathroom sinks, furniture pieces, pedestal lavs.

But one trend they all agree on is that homeowners are looking for colors and materials to beautify the bathroom, whether the master bath or the powder room.

"There is an increased emphasis on residential bathrooms - in a post-9/11 world, people are investing more money in their homes and the bath is the celebrity," says Lenora Campos, public relations manager at Toto USA. "These purchases are focused on high-end products."

Residential lavs account for 67 percent of the entire market, according to research compiled by Catalina Research Inc. from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Drop-in lavs are the most popular with 35 percent sold, while wall-mounts account for 30 percent. One out of every four lavs sold is a pedestal. And 10 percent fall into the "Other" category - counter top, undercounter, above-counter, console/vanity top and tile-in.

Design Innovation: Consumers continue to gravitate toward either sleek contemporary or traditional design, Campos notes. Toto is launching several new pedestal lavatories to satisfy these design trends - the Baldwin (traditional), the Nexus (contemporary), and the Mercer (neoclassic).

Kohler's Purist "wet surface" lavatories are planted fully in the contemporary camp with their distinctive laminar-flow faucets that seem to come right out of the wall (or mirrored cabinet). "They elegantly combine the surface needed to perform common lav tasks, such as brushing teeth and washing face or hands, with a design that also offers a flat, usable work surface space," notes Nicole Langel, senior market analyst for Kohler lavatories.

Introducing furniture into the bathroom is a continuing trend that can tap into the more traditional design. "Consumers are looking for useful, decorative pieces that are engineered to accept the sink, water supplies and drain," explains Gary Uhl, American Standard's design director. "These new furniture pieces and pedestal lavatories are becoming more popular because they have coordinated free-standing cabinets."

So a piece such as American Standard's Brook Console Table incorporates the lavatory into the furniture, giving the bathroom a warmer feel.

Material Improvement

One up-and-coming trend is the use of metal lavs in the bathroom. "Elkay has seen a rise in stainless-steel usage in residential bathroom applications," says Alan Danenberg, director of marketing services. "Solid brass, copper and stainless-steel construction characterize the new specialty sink collection, which provides a dramatic focal point for the upscale powder room."

As an alternative to colored lavs, stainless steel will complement a home's decor no matter what color scheme or style is selected, he adds. "No matter how fixture trends change, a stainless-steel sink will always be in style."

It's not just the contemporary look that makes these metal sinks popular with interior designers and homeowners, Danenberg explains. The sanitary properties of metals like stainless steel are valued as they don't absorb materials as a more porous substance like porcelain would. And with no exposed seams, places where bacteria can collect are essentially eliminated.

Uhl adds: "While lavatories are most popular in white, bone linen and black, there is now a whole new range of materials found in the details. There is an array of tones, in the wood, glass and metal used to create the furniture and decorative trim. Consumers are choosing the warmer wood and metal tones such as cherry and nickel."

Complementing Colors: Materials can also add a touch of color to bathroom sinks, but with a more organic quality, such as marble versions of Kohler's Purist lavs.

"Adding color is one of the easiest ways to infuse one's personality and style to a space," Langel says. "Colors that are popular today are those with a natural feel, ones that work well within a variety of styles and materials." For Kohler, those would be Tea Green, Sandbar, Cashmere and Thunder Grey.

Neutrals such as white and biscuit remain popular color choices, Campos notes, allowing for matching of toilet and lavatory.

"Current interior design trends are softer colors and materials, enabling an intermingling of fixtures and flowing design lines," she explains. "There's also a strong trend toward blending, enabling the homeowner to create a restrained, harmonious or eclectic expression that is both timeless and personal."

Other trends include the continuing appeal of undercounter sinks as the interest in natural material countertops and vanities increases, and a strong interest in pedestal lavs for powder rooms and small spaces.

Lavatory Materials

Vitreous China: 60%

Cast-Iron: 20%

Stainless-Steel: 14%

Other (fire clay, natural stone,
solid surface, glass): 6%

Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce - compiled, calculated and estimated by Catalina Research Inc.