•Choose from a variety of durable finishes.
•Adorn your bathroom with stylishly finished faucets.
When it comes to faucets, installation type is a matter of logistics and the number of handles is a question of function, but the finish you choose is all about the look. When considering your bathroom décor, think of your faucets as accessories that reflect your personal style and complete your design vision.
A little faucet history
Solid brass electroplated with chromium – more commonly referred to simply as chrome – became the standard for faucets in the 1930s and remains one of the most popular looks today. Sophisticated, tarnish-resistant and durable, chrome replaced nickel-plated brass as the faucet material of choice.
Nickel fell out of favor in the first half of the 20th century because it wasn’t as durable as chrome. A relatively soft metal, nickel would rub off faucets after a period of use. Once the brass under the plating was exposed, it tarnished easily.
Technological advances have led to the development of all types of finishes that are extremely durable. PVD (physical vapor deposition), the technology in use today, results in finishes that are even more resistant to abrasion than chrome plating. In fact, all KOHLER finishes exceed industry durability standards by more than two times.
Metal by metal
The menu of faucet choices now available includes a smorgasbord of silver-tone finishes, as well as gold, bronze, mixed metals and brushed and hammered options. Read on for a few tips on using the different finish styles:
Polished chrome is a classic finish that coordinates beautifully with a wide variety of fixture styles and types of décor. It works particularly well for evoking a nostalgic look, as in a 1920s- or other vintage-style bath, but also complements contemporary styles.
Shiny like chrome, Vibrant Polished Nickel can be used in most of the same styles of décor, and is a favorite of Portland, OR, designer Sandy Hayes of Hayes Designs. "Polished nickel is a really sophisticated look that goes well with elegant furniture," she says. It works well with both traditional and contemporary styles, and can add an elegant touch to the bathroom.
Brushed nickel has a warm appearance that appeals to homeowners looking for a bit of softness in the bath. It looks classic against white and coordinates well with granite or slate countertops and backsplashes.
"People want the bathroom to feel like the rest of the house–warm and comfortable instead of a functional, sterile room where you just go to brush your teeth," says Seattle-based bath designer Christian Ursino.
Another reason to like it: Matte finishes such as brushed nickel don’t show water spots or fingerprints as easily as some of the polished finishes.
Even chromium plating has taken some updating, available now as brushed chrome, a variation on the traditional polished chrome finish.
Bronze is another finish that goes equally well with traditional and contemporary décor. It can be particularly effective for a cabin style or other rustic look, or as a neutral for traditional-style baths. Bronze itself can come in a variety of shades, from Kohler’s lighter, rich Brushed Bronze, to the more recent introduction of the Oil-Rubbed Bronze and Brazen Bronze finishes.
Certain period styles tend to coordinate well with hammered nickel. This finish, similar in color to brushed nickel, has a rough, hand-hewn feel that works particularly well with Craftsman or Mission styles.
The rich look of Vibrant French Gold can provide a dramatic contrast to brilliant white fixtures. It goes well with period styles and complements decorated sinks with gold accents. Gold fixtures can add a luxurious accent to your bathroom.
Vibrant Polished Brass provides an elegant note to traditional-style baths, and adds a rich feel to modern or transitional faucet models as well.
More than shiny metal
Today’s faucet finishes go beyond metal. For example the KOHLER Vas® and Bol® faucets, both made of ceramic, are available in white and a choice of decorative patterns.
The Toobi™ faucet offers a novel way to customize your bath, with white, green and black interchangeable spout liners that can be easily swapped out to personalize your space—on a moment’s notice.
Black is a dramatic faucet color choice that can be used to match wrought-iron details or as a neutral with brightly colored or patterned sinks. The Falling Water® faucet line, made for use with vessel-style sinks, is available in black. So are faucets in the Finial® faucet line, made to complement coordinating console tables.
Food for thought
Chrome, bronze, nickel, gold or a combination of metals – how’s a homeowner to choose? Keep these things in mind when choosing a faucet finish:
Choose a finish that is appropriate for the style of your fixtures, whether they are traditional, contemporary or transitional.
Think about the big picture. Consider not just how the faucet finish will look against the color of your sink or tub, but also how it will look against the backsplash and the colors or patterns on your walls. This is especially important if you’ve chosen a faucet style that installs on the wall instead of to the sink.
Coordinate your faucet finish with lighting and accessories. If you’ve already chosen bronze lighting fixtures, for example, it’s a good idea to choose bronze faucets and towel racks.
Get what you want. Polished chrome is the most popular finish because of its ageless appeal and flexibility in coordinating with many different design styles—and also because it is least expensive. But if chrome isn’t your favorite finish, remember that the faucet is something you’ll be using every day. It’s better to opt for a look you’ll really love.
Need more help with choosing a faucet? Use our bathroom faucet selection guide or browse a variety of faucet finishes.