Customers go for the 'wow' factor when making lavatory purchases.

Asana by Elkay Manufacturing Co.


Up until a few years ago, most people were just satisfied with a bathroom that was clean with a fresh supply of TP. Now, they're more likely to be interested in clean lines, design, color and texture. Homeowners want their personal style reflected in their bathrooms' décor; they want to add a little “wow” so visitors' jaws drop when they open the door. And if faucets have become the jewelry of the bathroom, lavatories are quickly becoming object d' art.

In 2006, bathroom remodeling will jump 7.3 percent to 8.95 million jobs, according to K+BB magazine's 2006 Market Forecaster report. Here we'll discuss some hot new trends in the lavatory market, and some surprises you'll find on the other side of the bathroom door.



The Rise Of The Vessel

Taking lavatories above deck has been a growing trend. The distinct nature of the “bowl”-type sink for hand and face washing recalls days of medieval washbasins or ancient cisterns, but coupled with all the modern amenities of proper drainage (instead of tossing waste water out an open window).

Several sink manufacturers have recently expanded their vessel offerings, and the materials used range from classic porcelain to marble, hammered copper to stainless steel, onyx to tempered glass.

Vessel sink manufacturer Linkasink (www.linkasink.com) offers handmade artesian lavs from around the globe: onyx mosaic sinks from northern Africa; hammered heavy-gauge copper and metal bowls crafted in Mexico; and mother of pearl details imported from the Orient. The art of the company's cloisonné design was perfected by the Chinese, but was used by the ancient Egyptians as well. Cloisonné is achieved when wire and powdered glass are fused to a copper bowl. (In Egypt, copper basins were reserved only for the pharaoh's use.)

Elkay Mfg. Co. (www.elkayusa.com) has been creating stainless-steel sinks for more than 86 years, but the ever-growing trend of stainless and metal-craft in the home has kept the company on its toes to meet the changing needs of its customers.

The company's expanded Asana™ vessel sink collection includes three new models made from cast brass with an aged-bronze finish. This trend for homeowners to reconnect with nature in their everyday lives has extended most notably in lavatory bowl shapes. The Asana collection's shapes mirror nature, and include such bowl designs as a sphere, oyster and basket weave.

TOTO USA (www.totousa.com) has also paid close attention to its high-art sink bowl shapes for 2006. Its Po and En designs strongly reflect Asian culture, evoking zen and tranquility, as well as meeting the need customers have for character and drama. The elliptical shape of Po measures 27 1/2 inches by 19 5/8 inches with a basin depth of 6 3/8 inches. En is a self-rimming lav inspired by traditional rustic Japanese dipping bowls. It slopes gracefully to a depth of 6 3/8 inches to a dramatic square drain waste.



Wells Sinkware Glass Art Vessels

A Touch Of Glass

“Customers want the 'wow',” says Cheryl Erickson-Wong, marketing director for Wells Sinkware (www.wellssinkware.com), which offers a line of glass art vessel sinks. “It's consistent across the board; the vessel sink evokes a strong response when you see it.” The Wells Sinkware collection features tempered glass for added durability, and is offered in myriad colors, shapes and textures.

“They look delicate the way they're mounted 'precariously' on the counter,” she says. “But they're not weak. They're sometimes stronger than porcelain.” Something to keep in mind during installation, however, is the plumbing mechanics of a vessel sink. Most don't contain an overflow (to keep a consistent “bowl” feeling), but do include special pop-ups. Erickson-Wong suggests checking with local plumbing codes to address any overflow issues.

Another consideration is the faucet. Though vessels can be recessed into a counter at varying heights, a taller faucet is usually needed, or the plumbing could be re-worked for wall-mount installations.

Wells Sinkware is seeing increased sales for vessels in the hotel and restaurant building segment, as well as in high-end master baths and powder rooms.

“Hotels especially are becoming trendsetters. People are remodeling their baths with the thought 'I want my bathroom to look like a nice hotel' for the spa or resort feel,” she adds.



Sonia's Europa Air

Organized Style

According to Better Homes & Gardens magazine, the No. 1 must-have in new home construction is not a plasma TV or four-car garage: it's a walk-in pantry. This kitchen organization concept has made its way into the bathroom - orderliness is key. As homeowners choose to spend more time at home, their desire for a retreat is complemented well by an uncluttered lifestyle. What this means is that the traditional pedestal sink has been knocked of its, well, pedestal.

“Storage solutions for our customers are very important,” Sonia S.A.'s Pablo Balanzá told us at this year's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show. Sonia (www.sonia-sa.com) is a bath accessories and related components manufacturer that offers a diverse line of vanities and lavatories with creative uses of storage space. Its Europa Air model “floats” for a clear floor surface, but includes sliding doors and drawers to hide towels and other toiletries. The Texas Collection features modular storage boxes that can be pulled out for easy access.

Almost all of the company's designs feature slim, contemporary design, but representatives pointed out that the neutral tones of the wood, glass and chrome construction blend well with various homes' décor from modern to traditional.

Lav consoles and vanities are skirting the edge of the trend toward furniture in the bathroom with a nod to minimalist design. But today's lavs must provide it all: style and expression compounded with functionality and ample storage.

Manufacturers such as DECOLAV (www.decolav.com) are on the forefront of the lavatory-as-storage trend. It offers several models this year, including Model 5510, which is a fusion of contemporary and Asian influence combining espresso woods and frosted glass sliding doors. Its oversized drawer provides additional storage.

Porcher's (www.porcher-us.com) new Tetsu™ Collection features exotic natural woods from Africa and the Orient. The word “Tetsu” is a Japanese word meaning “peace.” The modular design comes as a wall-mount unit with cabinet doors hiding grooming mirrors of various sizes. Towel bars extend and retract with a light touch while the storage drawers have a self-closing hinge. Its built-in plumbing accommodates traditional lavs or vessel sinks, and can be accented with wall-mount faucetry.

However your clients choose to decorate their bathrooms, it's clear they're open to new ideas and influences.

“Organic elements will continue to be strong market drivers, and so will color,” concludes Erickson-Wong. “But most of all, consumers are looking to customize their interior space. They want that level of high-luxury, even in their bathrooms.”