Consumers want it all -- effortless form and function. How are manufacturers meeting their needs?

A man’s home may be his castle, but his kitchen has become his showplace.

It’s where everyone meets at the beginning and end of a day. It’s where meal preparation commences and concludes -- most of the time with several people standing around. And when you have spying eyes watching your every slice and dice, you want to look like a professional.

Design-forward and function-based products for the kitchen are hot items these days. Homeowners want that “commercial” look not only to impress guests, but to relish the ease of manageability a professional environment offers. Sink and faucet manufacturers in the past five to 10 years have had to adapt to a more kitchen-focused and, frankly, a more informed consumer.

“In today’s kitchen, foregoing function for form has become nonexistent,” says Laura Roenitz, Kohler Co.’s senior market analyst, kitchen products. “Gone are the days when one was sacrificed for the other. The consumer expects both, and manufacturers must be able to rise to that level of product offering.”

Several manufacturers this year unveiled kitchen products with the spirit of professional chefs in mind: pull-down, high-arc faucets; multitask centers; undermount sink options; and hard-working disposers. All offering the functionality of a five-star restaurant, but aimed at the average Joe.

Look & Cook Like A Pro

New this year from Kohler is a sink designed to take aspiring gourmets from preparation to cleanup. The PRO CookCenters™ and PRO CookSink™ strengthen workflow with an integrated cooking vessel. The sink includes stackable cookware, wood cutting board, and stainless steel basin rack or mesh colander. Two simple controls: one heats water for steaming, boiling or poaching, the other drains the cooking vessel right into the sink -- eliminating the transfer of hot water from the stove. Users can perform all healthy, water-based cooking simultaneously in the 4-quart double boiler and steamer, and 8-quart colander.

The PRO CookCenters are available in 36-inch rough-ins, so it fits standard cabinets. Installers will need to hardwire a 240-volt electric line and plumb them out for the faucet. Traditional cast-iron or stainless steel options help the sink blend in with any kitchen design.

Installer Insight

Manufacturers also are making it easy for contractors as they install these restaurant-quality appliances. Brand new from Elkay Mfg. is its “Quick-Clip™” system for above-the-countertop installation of drop-in sinks.

A ratchet design clip system grips the sink securely in place and locks it -- cutting installation time in half. Installers simply fasten brackets to the inside of the sink cutout, position the sink over the cutout and press down to snap sink into place. If need be, sinks can be removed without damage to either sink or countertop.

It offers a snug, gap-free fit by compensating for any warpage in countertops. Elkay hopes Quick-Clip will aid in multiple sink installations, translating saved time into saved money.

The company also has released an eight-page catalog highlighting its selection of more than 70 stainless steel undermount sinks. The single-, double-, triple-bowl and apron-style models include sinks up to 10 inches deep in unique shapes for design flexibility. Consumers can customize their sink to match their wants and needs.

Waste Not, Want Not

“Today’s installer and contractor will see a dramatic increase in undermount sinks due to the popularity of solid surface countertops (i.e., Corian®, butcherblock, Granite, etc.),” says Roenitz.

And with an undermount, users can simply wipe counters off straight into the sink, where -- in more than half of American homes -- awaits a food waste disposer. According to In Sink Erator, disposers help homeowners enjoy the kitchen even more.

“It saves time, makes a messy job easier, and helps keep the kitchen looking and smelling clean,” says Dave MacNair, In Sink Erator’s vice president, marketing. The company’s Model 777ss® offers a quiet and powerful operation, with the Auto-Reverse Grind System™, designed to alternate between clockwise and counter-clockwise grinding every time the disposer is turned on. This prolongs the life of the grinding teeth, and reduces motor stoppage or jamming.

Also, In Sink Erator disposers now can meet the needs of septic tank homeowners with its Bio-Charge® cartridge. The system adds microorganisms that continuously break down food waste. Each 16-ounce cartridge lasts up to four months and is citrus-scented.

Faucet Feats

Keeping with that restaurant functionality, new “pull-down” spout faucets combine heavy-duty job tasking with an array of finishes and styles to complement kitchen decor.

Danze introduced two new pull-down spout faucets as part of its Melrose Collection. Standing 16-inches high, they’re ergonomically designed for rinsing everyday dinner dishes to larger pots and pans. The spouts adjust from an aerated spray to a more powerful stream, and come with stainless steel hoses for long-lasting usage.

Another company building faucets to last is Symmons Industries, with its Symmetrix® line of kitchen faucets. The S-26 Series features a chrome pull-out spray spout with touch control and a 5-ft. nylon, retractable hose -- long enough for even the largest kitchen sinks.

All Symmetrix single-lever faucets incorporate the same 35-mm control cartridge with extra-thick, corrosion-resistant ceramic discs to prevent cracking. These cartridges -- which are interchangeable between kitchen and lavatory models -- make installation and maintenance more convenient.

“Commercial, by definition, is something that is manufactured with professional capability in mind and without any residential sensibility -- in size or visual aesthetic,” says Roenitz, who thinks the allure of this trend for residential kitchens began as wanting something that no one else had. Now consumers want something that is restaurant quality in both function and design, but with residential needs taken into account.

Either way, manufacturers continue to step up to the challenge of ever-changing consumer trends.