So many products deemed a must-have to create a stylish bathroom, it would be easy to overlook the tap. However it plays a vital role. After all, what would a bathroom be without water?
But more than that, it also forms an important part of the design of the bathroom. Managing director of Abode, Darren Holliday explains: “Taps are a hugely important part ofthe bathroom mix, get the style or design wrong and the whole aspect of the room can look wrong. They are not simply an add-on sale.” His views are echoed by Sarah Williams, commercial director of Vado, who adds: “The taps in your bathroom are used almost every time you enter the room, so not only will you see them every time you go in, you’ll touch them too. While the initial design of a bathroom will naturally focus on the larger elements, like the bath or shower; selecting the right tap to complement the overall design is crucial. Like a woman wearing beautiful jewellery to complement or highlight a dress, fitting the right taps can really lift a bathroom to a whole new level of style and sophistication.”
On the deck
And for many bathroom designs, the taps making a splash in sales are single lever monobloc mixers that are deck-mounted. However; there have been recent moves towards sales of wall-mounted models. As Brian Grey, marketing manager of Ideal Standard International, explains: “The single lever has become a mainstream choice with changes in both price and availability, making them more accessible. The vast majority of taps remain basin-mounted, as opposed to wall-mounted.
The UK lingers far behind mainland Europe in the use of wall-mounted mixers. lt is early days but the use of wall- mounted mixers is beginning to appear in the UK.
Certainly, sales and marketing director of Aquaplus Solutions, Pete Mills has noticed the growth in popularity of wall- mounted models: “SimpIe, contemporary deck-mounted designs continue to be the most popular but we are selling an increasing number of wall-mounted spouts too. These tend to be popular with young adults atter an element of ditFerentiation.” Keeping a handle on both trends, industry experts tend to agree it is important for designers and retailers to offer a range of tap options. As Paul Tanner; head of sales and marketing at Waterfront, says: “Despite the popularity of one-hole fixings, it’s important to provide customers with the full spectrum of options, including three-hole and wall-mounted.” To further illustrate his point, he continues: “A style gaining interest with the public is the two-hole tap, whereby the temperature and flow are controlled by a separate basin- mounted lever from the spout. This allows the spout to take centre stage in design terms, and is a great way to make a bold statement.”
Chrome retains stronghold
Whatever style of tap is chosen for a bathroom project, undoubtedly the majority of sales will be in a chrome linish. However there has been a recent emergence of coloured and gold decors challenging its dominance. Wendy Ryley, Bristan’s product manager for taps, comments: “Last year we saw a big movement towards using lots of white and black in tap designs. This year we’re seeing more gold being used but not the ‘brassy’ gold that was popular in the 80s. This time it’s a much softer champagne gold. But Pete Mills of Aquaplus Solutions continues: “Gold, black and satin chrome finishes are now more readily available and while they do sell, it’s on a small scale. It’s likely that chrome will hold its title as ‘king’ for many years to come, regardless of passing trends.” Such is the stronghold of chrome, thatjim Sinclair; director of J’n'J Bathrooms, comments: “Customers that are looking for something different often go for dramatic shapes and style rather than finish.”
Digital steps forward
Perhaps, the next step in the development of dramatic tap styling will be the evolution of the digital tap. An established sector in shower controls, it is moving into basin and bath tap design. Product manager of Pegler Yorkshire, Mike Dickinson comments: “The age of digital technology in brassware is most definitely here! We are seeing it more and more with the introduction of lights and remote controls for showers etc. The market for tap designs is still emerging, but is seen as a key driver for manufacturers to help give differential in the marketplace and develop the bathroom market to a new level.” Brian Grey of Ideal Standard International adds: “The development of digital technology for the bathroom is still in its infancy with limited product availability. As we are now firmly in the digital age, we can expect an increase in the rate of digital bathroom soIutions.As we move into the second decade of the 21st century, digital design is bound to play an increasing role and will have a significant impact on tap design.”
Save water by law
However, it’s not only the external styling which may see a change in tap specification, the internal mechanisms which can aid water-saving will spur sales. For new build properties, it is crucial that designers specify water-saving taps to meet current legislation. Managing director of Croydex, Nick McCrellis continues: “Recent changes to Part G of the Building Regulations mean there is now a cap on how much water can be used per household, per day, in new build properties. We predict that this will be extended to refurbishment properties in the future.”
Sarah Williams states: “Hence, in the brassware market today, it’s essential for taps to be water- saving or at least to have a water – saving alternative or option.” And acting marketing manager for Deva, Vicki Newsome agrees: “It’s important for tapware to be able to save water but not necessarily to be a water-saving product in itselt Deva’s HSR flow regulators can work with any tap, so even a designer tap can save water”.
Interestingly, Brian Grey of Ideal Standard International, suggests that designers should consider where the brassware is being used to use water efficiently. As he says: “Consider having different flow rates in different rooms of the house. A cloakroom mixer does not require the same pressure for simple hand—washing, as a basin mixer that will be used to fill a basin.”
Consider the quality
Above all, the clear message coming through from experts is to showcase the benefits of the tap, while promoting the quality of its design. Head of sales and marketing at Waterfront, Paul Tanner comments: “Demonstrating to consumers how tap design has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years, will help them to see how trading up will have a lasting impact on their daily lives. Water flow and temperature control are superb compared to just a few years ago.” And Franz Lorenschitz, marketing manager of Hansgrohe UK, agrees, concluding: “I would always emphasise quality. Refurbishing a new bathroom is costly and designed to be a long- term investment. Given that up to half of the total budget can be installation costs, it makes sense for consumers to buy the best products they can afford. This is particularly true of taps, as they have to withstand constant wear and tear”