Winning Finishes

Designers can get quite passionate about the fixture finish choices they make for their clients — even when the differences may appear subtle to the casual observer. Take, for example, polished chrome and polished nickel. While both finishes enrich a room with their silver tones and are equally durable, each boasts unique strengths.

Chrome: Ever popular

Polished chrome — which most people simply call chrome — has a highly reflective, shiny finish that's durable, affordable and easy to maintain. Designers frequently choose it for contemporary kitchens, but it works well with just about any design. As one designer recently put it, "Polished chrome is the new chrome." In other words, it will always be in style and coordinates with nearly any accent color.

Such winning traits have helped make polished chrome extremely popular in nearly every market. "Chrome is right behind stainless steel in popularity," according to designer Rachelle Ihrig.

Chrome has a shiny finish that's durable, affordable and easy to maintain

Marie Levy, owner of The Kitchen and Bath Specialists in San Antonio, Texas, says clients are going back to polished chrome because it complements nearly any other finish used in the kitchen, plus it gives clients the option of upgrading their fixture choices for less than they might pay for other finishes. "People still want to remodel, but they're very careful about where they put their money," says Levy. "You can get a drop-dead gorgeous, quality chrome finish and it keeps the dollars down. Then you can allot the savings to a 'wow' statement somewhere else, like the backsplash."

Chrome is also the top-selling finish at Moen. "It's very popular," says wholesale product manager Ann Pringle. "It's timeless and blends with any other finish." Additional top-selling fixture finishes for Moen include brushed nickel, stainless steel and oil-rubbed bronze.

Matte black and chrome are popular faucet finishes

Nickel: Up and coming

Polished nickel is similar to chrome, yet different. For instance, polished nickel costs more and is usually available on fewer products. And its warmer look appeals to a lot of clients. "People constantly ask for polished nickel," says Pringle at Moen. "We're hearing from higher-end show rooms that people like to see it. It's gorgeous on traditional designs."

However, Pringle agrees that there are often fewer accessories produced in polished nickel. Therefore, designers tend to specify it more for baths, which require fewer elements to coordinate. On the plus side, polished nickel hides water spots somewhat better than polished chrome.

Some designers are convinced that polished nickel will only grow more popular. For instance, Ihrig believes that while polished nickel is usually considered a traditional finish, it would work well with almost any design, especially those that use deeper colors. "Polished nickel is well received among people looking for a softer, earth-tone look," she says. "On any style faucet, it's a great complement to a copper sink."

Polished nickel has a warm, earth tone appeal and is popular among homeowners