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Plumbing styles at Builders' Show bridge contemporary and traditional designs. BY BOB MIODONSKI of CONTRACTORs staff Plumbing manufacturers say they will unveil a greater number of products with more design flare in May at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Yet the huge International Builders Show which took over Orlando, Fla., in mid-January has re-emerged as an important event in the plumbing

Plumbing styles at Builders' Show bridge contemporary and traditional designs.

BY BOB MIODONSKI of CONTRACTOR’s staff

Plumbing manufacturers say they will unveil a greater number of products with more design flare in May at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Yet the huge International Builders’ Show — which took over Orlando, Fla., in mid-January — has re-emerged as an important event in the plumbing industry.

Most of the products introduced at IBS are tailored for the builder audience. With notable exceptions, manufacturers generally describe their IBS products with words such as “value,” “complementary,” “coordinated” or “transitional” because of builders’ interest in price and creating a look that will not disrupt the rest of the house.

At the 2005 show, faucet and fixture designs appeared to be edging more toward contemporary styles than has been the case since 9/11. In recent years, homeowners seemingly have found comfort in the traditional styles that plumbing products, furniture and furnishings could bring to their domestic shelters.

The open question is whether homeowners now are demanding more contemporary styles, or designers are trying to lead consumers in that direction. Margie Rowe, brand manager for ShowHouse by Moen, says that homeowners are driving the trend.

“We’re finding that contemporary styling is quickly gaining popularity with consumers,” she says. “The showroom consultants we work with are noticing an increase in demand for this style of faucet and believe it will continue to grow in the future.”

Another factor in a trend toward contemporary styles could be geographic or demographic.

“We see more of a demand for contemporary products in urban areas,” says Todd Weber of the Kohler Co. “In less urban areas, traditional is still very popular.”

To be sure, plenty of products with traditional styling were on display at IBS. Worth noting are the number of products described as “transitional,” which bridge the design gap between contemporary and traditional while at the same time serving the builders’ demand for flexibility in a product that fits well in many different environments.

Other notable trends include products that are environmentally friendly and promise improved performance. The latter is particularly true among low-flow toilets and shower systems.

Fashion statements

As it usually does, Kohler made the biggest splash at IBS. Its Pinstripe collection offers a traditional design by evoking the “relaxed elegance of the 1930s and ‘40s,” Kohler says. Yet the style is traditional with an edge as the design is meant to recall the art deco movement of that era. The Pinstripe collection consists of a full bathroom offering — lavatory, bath/shower and bathing fittings — with or without the distinctive pinstripes.

More distinctly contemporary styling from Kohler comes in the Moxie wall-mount, cast-iron lavatory while Kohler’s new hammered nickel faucet finish “can be combined with a variety of traditional and transitional design environments,” according to the manufacturer. Its Sterling brand continues the transitional theme with its “budget-friendly” Westcott under-counter and Elliot self-rimming lavs, which have designs that coordinate with a variety of environments.

Working with the Italian firm Pininfarina that is known for its Ferrari car designs, Jacuzzi unveiled one of the more modern-looking products seen at IBS with its Morphosis line of whirlpools. The line consists of Alpha, a two-person tub; Sigma, for one person; and Gamma, a corner whirlpool. Matching Morphosis china suites will be introduced later this year.

In the same booth, Jacuzzi also exhibited its Allusion freestanding tub that is available as either an air bath or soaking tub. Jacuzzi describes Allusion’s minimalist design as “the perfect complement for traditional or modern décor.”

Delta Faucet announced its own partnership with the PUR Water Filtration Products division of Procter & Gamble to produce the Simply PUR Water Filtration System. The filtration system coordinates with a variety of Delta faucets and fits any kitchen décor, the company says.

Delta Faucet also unveiled its Leland Bath Collection, which offers a two-handle lavatory faucet that is available in a 4-in. center set or widespread configuration; both feature Quick-Snap technology for easier installation. Leland’s tub/shower fittings are equipped with Delta’s Scald Guard technology.

Leland offers an affordable price point yet functions as a step up from Delta’s “core” product offering, the company says. The collection’s “timeless design” is intended to have a broad range of appeal.

Moen introduced both its Felicity and Solace collections under its ShowHouse brand. With the flowing lines of its arching spouts, which meet a faceted base, Felicity kitchen and bath faucets are intended to give both modern and traditional kitchens and baths a touch of sophistication, Moen says. The collection includes single-mount, one-handle kitchen and prep faucets as well as two-handle center-set and widespread bath faucets, Roman Tub faucets, a range of showering options and coordinating accessories.

Moen describes its Solace collection as having geometric lines, high arc design and contemporary European styling. Products within the collection include a two-handle center-set faucet with single-hole mount, a two-handle widespread faucet and a Roman Tub faucet. Solace includes a first for Moen — a two-handle wall-mount faucet.

Danze is offering its Tiburon Collection in both a mini- and widespread lavatory faucet. Despite its contemporary styling, Danze says Tiburon’s helical wire handles complement many popular bath accessories and hardware styles that are already available for the bathroom.

Both faucet styles are available in brushed nickel and a new finish from Danze — Satin Black. Once viewed as a finish predominantly intended for the powder room, the softer black finish is now becoming popular in bathroom decors across the country, Danze says. Roman tub faucets and tub/shower faucets in the Tiburon line will be introduced later in 2005.

Gerber introduced two faucet collections. The company describes Allerton as “an affordable, transitional collection” of kitchen, lavatory, tub and shower valves, Roman tub and laundry faucets that help to “bridge traditional and modern decors.”

Gerber’s Brianne collection is a more traditional line of kitchen, lav, tub and shower valves, Roman tub and bidet fixtures. Both lines are available in single- and two-handle configurations to give homeowners and designers flexibility in creating a family theme throughout the home, Gerber says.

Toilet technology

Gerber also displayed its one-piece Aqua Saver toilet and bidet. The elongated, gravity-fed toilet features a Fluidmaster fill valve, siphon-jet action and a glazed trapway. Gerber says the toilet has “classic good looks that work well with today’s current style and design trends.”

Eljer exhibited its Titan two-piece, 17-in. elongated rim toilet, which features its siphon-jet Pro-One flushing system. Besides promising superior flushing action, the Titan has a side-mounted flush actuator and a large footprint for easier remodeling, the company says.

Jacuzzi displayed its Allusion toilet as part of the suite mentioned above. The one-piece, low-profile toilet features Jacuzzi’s PowerFlo flushing system that utilizes a 2-in. fully glazed trapway to reduce clogging and siphon jets to enhance bowl evacuation.

Briggs touted the better performance, warranty and value of its new Margery toilet. The toilet offers Briggs’ G Force siphonic action, Fluidmaster components, a “Quick Connect System” for easier installation and an ergonomically designed trip lever that is color matched to the toilet so that coordinating the handle with the bathroom’s faucet finish isn’t a problem.

Sterling showed builders its Rockton toilet with its Dual Force flushing technology that allows users the option of selecting one of two water levels with each flush. A two-button actuator integrated into the tank lid will flush either 1.6 gpf, or 0.8 gpf to remove light or liquid waste. With the Rockton, a family of four can save up to 6,000 gal. of water per year per toilet over 1.6-gpf models, the company says.

Shower experience

Water conservation and style also are on the minds of designers of low-flow shower products.

Consumer research is driving the trend toward oversized showerheads that provide broader coverage and a powerful spray, Kohler says. The company has introduced large single- and multi-function showerheads in a number of its collections such as Revival, Memories and Purist.

Moen calls rain-shower showerheads the fastest growing product in the category. Under the ShowHouse brand, the new Isabel Rainshower incorporates Moen’s Immersion Rainshower technology, which is a self-pressurizing channel system to provide a drenching spray, the company says. Immersion Rainshower technology is also available in the Felicity and Solace collections mentioned earlier.

Delta meanwhile displayed its H2Okinetic Technology, which manages the water droplet size and velocity, spray coverage and thermal
dynamics in the shower, the company says. Its water conserving properties deliver a high-flow showering experience from a medium-flow water supply, Delta says. The technology, which is already being used in Delta’s Vesi Custom Shower from Brizo, will be integrated into other Brizo products in 2005 as well as in Delta’s 1800 Jetted Shower series and the 1900 Michael Graves, Victorian and Lockwood Collections.