The simple faucet head doesn't compete for attention with the eye-catching mural and funky glass sink bowl.

Faucets, Fixtures, and Hardware

If you're remodeling a bath, real luxury translates room for two: twin vanities, a separate enclosure for the shower and the tub, and a toilet isolated in its own compartment. Simply replacing a worn-out fixture or an out-of-date faucet, though, is enough to give a bath or kitchen a shot in the arm.

Not anticipating taking on the entire room or relocating plumbing means more money to buy products that speak to you. Top-of-the-line hardware, a handheld shower, or a steam bath? The market is flooded with creature comforts.

Fixtures and Faucets

Who doesn't need a stress reliever by the day's end? Enhance a whirlpool tub (re­modeled units fit right into a standard tub recess) with accessories like a handheld sprayer or a cascading faucet. Design a custom walk-in shower finished with easy-to-clean ceramic tile or glass block.

A massaging showerhead will chase away workout and stress-related aches and pains. Pamper yourself. Pile on the fluffy towels and the perfumed soaps! Decorate for all the senses as well as the eye.

Pedestal and wall-hung sinks are traditional fare. But a modern pedestal sink can also be lean and sculptural -- a worthy partner for slick surfaces. A sink with Queen Anne-style legs would infuse a spacious bath with European elegance. So would a wall-mounted towel warmer and a heat lamp.

Counter sinks, generally of vitreous china, can be dropped in or mounted onto virtually any kind of counter. Self-rimming sinks rest on top. Simple, graceful bowls of, say, art glass or metal appear to float.

A glass bowl atop a stone counter creates a harmonious play of light and texture. Integral sinks, manufactured from solid surfacing, fuse seamlessly with the countertop and are very popular in high-traffic situations.

What to consider in choosing style and color? Dramatic dark colors may be less likely to show dirt. But, they're easily marked with soap scum and hard-water mineral deposits.

Neutral shades adapt to all color towels and accessories and, if this isn't your dream house, will most likely please new buyers.

In general, simple is better in everything from fixtures to faucets. Fancy scrollwork and doodads can make the latter appear quickly dated. Instead, use shapes and forms to help get your look across. Brass is the standard faucet base material, but manufacturers offer an array of finishes including nickel, copper, and chrome for all kinds of styles including those high-arched faucets with built-in sprayers designed to take on any kind of challenge.

Kitchen sinks have revved up their personalities, too. A heavy-gauge copper farmhouse sink recalls the days when every butler's pantry had a copper sink for washing delicate glassware. A roomy apron-front soapstone sink is understated and timeless. Don't skimp on accessories here either. Cutting boards, wire rinse baskets, and colanders can ease chores as well as provide stylish details.

Hardware

Hardware -- cabinet knobs and handles, drawer pulls, and window cranks -- doesn't have to match. But for uniformity, limit the number of different finishes and colors to a minimum of two or three, particularly if hardware is visible in the front entrance or an adjoining family or great room.

Classic types of hardware like wood and brass knobs never lose their appeal. But new hand-forged metal knobs and porcelain shapes -- leaves, arrows, fish -- are intriguing and eclectic. Maybe you could find something from a local artisan who specializes in handcrafted hardware.

If you're rejuvenating rather than remodeling a kitchen or a bath (or a piece of furniture), replacing the hardware -- or adding hardware where none has previously existed -- is one of the quickest and easiest fix-ups you can do.

Vintage faucets are wonderful design accents in this retro-style kitchen.

As a general rule, antiqued brass, nickel-finish steel, and wrought iron are considered traditional; shiny steel and chrome are modern. But shape also counts in how the hardware comes across.

And clever substitutions are appreciated: for instance, rope pulls in a log cabin, Mexican concha buckles in a Southwestern dining room, seashells for the vanity in an island hideaway. In the same way a certain piece of jewelry can turn an outfit around, hardware matters.

Ideas for small details like hardware or for whole decorating schemes surround you all the time. Everywhere you look, everything you read, the trips you take -- it's all inspiration. Keep adding to your files. To help, we've assembled some ideas of our own in the chapter ahead.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating Styles: Are you traditional or eclectic? Learn about decorating styles for your home.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.