Fixture Finishes

In designing kitchens and bathrooms, one of the most basic yet crucial choices to make is the finish for sink, shower and toilet fixtures. Designer Michael Payne says it's "inconceivable" that any designer would do a bathroom without considering the fixture finishes a major element of the design. "It would be a little like casting a movie and saying it doesn't matter who plays the lead," says the Los Angeles-based designer. "The fixtures play a starring role in that interior."
Selecting a finish for your sink and shower faucets

Payne, who started his business in 1980, says he's lived through countless trends in fixture finishes — the polished brass that corroded and peeled; the copper verdigris color ("It was very ethnic and cool," he says); fixtures that mixed chrome and brass ("I rejected that from the get-go"); and now cold metals, including stainless steel.

From his perspective, two fixture finishes stand apart as timeless — chrome and oil-rubbed bronze.

"From a stylistic standpoint, the moment we start getting into more contemporary design, I've always stood by the old favorite, chrome," he says. "Some of those fixtures installed in the 1910s and 1920s are still around. They sparkle today like they did in yesteryear and they'll look good in 50 years. There's no maintenance and no worrying about fingerprints."

For more traditional designs, Payne says he has "personally embraced" oil-rubbed bronze. "It has, in my mind, the splendor of yesterday without the brashness of brass," he says. "There's something particularly lovely when it's used on a daily basis. Where the hand touches it, it starts to polish the bronze, get the lovely patina. It, to me, stands alone."

Oil Rubbed Bronze Faucet Finish

Industrial designers predict those three will remain the mainstays of fixture finishes, although oil-rubbed bronze "might trend down a little because it can seem too personalized." They say people who want to make their homes sellable "might be more conservative with their fixture selections."

In kitchen faucets, there is an increasing trend in black finishes, because they coordinate well with stainless-steel appliances.

With customers paying close attention to durability, some finishes do hold up better than others. Moen's durable Life Shine finishes are used across its lines of brushed nickel, classic stainless-steel and brass faucets. Moen's Old World finishes, including oil-rubbed bronze, give fixtures a clear powder-coat finish that is tested to the same standards as Life Shine finishes.

Matte Black Faucet Finish

And what about chrome? "Chrome is chrome. You can't really hurt it," Payne says. "A damp cloth will have chrome fixtures looking as good as they did 20 years ago," he says. "Think about cars. They have chrome bumpers; they're out in the elements, from subzero to 100-degree-plus temperatures, and they still sparkle."

Chrome Faucet Finish Image