Designer Bath Fixtures Take Jewelry-Inspired Details to Next Luxurious Level

October 17, 2013

luxury bath faucetFor many years, manufacturing firm Sherle Wagner owned the opulent bath label. The New York- based company brought 24-karat gold plating and semiprecious stones such as jade and lapis lazuli to faucet design and carved onyx and marble to pedestal sinks.

But just as the pendulum swung from 1980s big baths with whirlpools for two to spa baths with air tubs, hydrotherapy and sound and light shows (and don’t forget the “decorated” powder room), the term “jewelry for the bath” has become absorbed into the design lexicon.

And, just as jewels can run the gamut from sleek statement pieces to dazzling Harry Winston diamonds, so too can hardware for the bath.

Moen Inc. recently teamed with the Martin Agency in a marketing campaign that created designer necklaces modeled after three of its faucets. None of the designs drips in gold or is studded with stones — these are simple, sculptural shapes that range from $150 to $350. But that’s what engaged Seattle jewelry designer Gina Pankowski, who was drawn to the Weymouth faucet because of its “elegant curves.”

“The details are very jewelrylike,” Pankowski explains in a video on the website (moen.com). “The chrome finish gives it a modern touch. … For me, a statement necklace is something that has a bold unique design and demonstrates a sense of style and personal energy.”

“It’s amazing how this has become a fashion plumbing business,” says Tim McDonough, vice president of global brand marketing for Moen. “Over the years we’ve focused more on innovation and reliability, but style drives purchase. We’ve been through a long downturn, and there’s a bit of frugal fatigue. But remodeling is up; new home construction is up. It’s about time that people go out and celebrate a bit.”

If you’re in the market for a little bath bling — faucets, shower heads and accessories such as towel bars and toilet paper holders — choices abound. Finish has expanded from gleaming polished nickel, chrome and even warm gold to include bronze as well as matte black. Single lever faucets have an edgier, more minimalistic look, and some are further tricked up with LED lights, such as Graff’s Ametis lav faucet, where blue and red indicate cold and hot.

“Faucets, of course, are a focal point,” says Pedro Uranga, national director for THG-USA. “You’re always going to touch them when you wash your hands. They look and feel elegant.”

luxury shower headRecent collaborations between THG Paris and other luxe French companies bring Baccarat, Christofle and Lalique to the bath.

The Petale de Cristal collection, the company’s first collaboration with Baccarat, is a modern interpretation of a delicate lotus blossom. The solid crystal handle, available in sheer, ruby, sapphire or black, has a floral shape, set off by polished chrome or gold.

Equally simple is the translation of a design from the late Andree Putman. Inspired by Christofle’s Vertigo Collection of tableware by Putman, the new bath jewelry collection is called O. Nearly elliptical handles stand out, gleaming rings that look as if they’ve been pinched and stretched upward. The twisting further offers an optical illusion, seemingly shifting in appearance, depending on your perspective.

The Perle collection adds understated glamour, disclike tops with the iconic frosted look of Lalique distinguishing chic columnar handles that are studded, as is the widespread spout version, with satin crystal pearl droplets.

More traditional with a note of ornate Baroque, the classic Malmaison, a Christofle pattern launched in 1967, brings a stylish grace to faucet, handles and finials. The original design is drawn from French Empire, specifically, inspiration from the Chateau de la Malmaison near Paris.

The splurge for a single THG faucet is the $3,500 to $4,000 range; some of the collections start at $6,000. But consider it an investment — says Uranga — in a piece of art.

“The craftsmanship is impeccable,” says Uranga. “Every piece is made by hand, touched by 50 to 100 hands before it leaves the factory.

“Art, after all, is the ultimate luxury.”

This post was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 16, 2013.

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