What you need to know about tapware colour finishes
14 July 2020
Over the past few years, colour finishes for tapware, showers and bathroom accessories have become a key element in the overall decor of bathrooms and kitchens.
While colour finishes for bathroom fixtures are not new, the availability, affordability and increasing focus on bathrooms and kitchens as key design areas of the home, have made them a serious consideration for renovators and new home builders. Choosing a colour finish is also a creative way to bring colour and texture to an otherwise neutral area of the home.
Making colour part of your bathroom design
The most common finish for bathroom fixtures is chrome, and with good reason. It is durable, versatile and widely available in varying styles and at various price points. Plus, high quality chrome bathroom fittings will keep their shine and look great for many years to come.
However, not everyone wants a ‘polished silver’ look for their bathroom, and it can be limiting when trying to create a particular style in your home. That is why we find half our clients are opting for a colour finish for their bathroom tapware.
But, with the array of options now available, how do you choose?
As with all good design, the choice of colour finish should not only be based on how it looks, but also whether it complements the tapware style and the overall décor of the room and your home. It is also important to find out how the products will wear over time and what maintenance is required.
A good place to start is by deciding whether you want a stable or living finish.
Stable finishes are those colours that will change very little over time and do not develop a patina.
Organic or living finishes are those that evolve and develop their own unique patina as they are exposed to the environment. You will find that the individual components of the item will patinate differently and, when the products first arrive, they can look different from a sample piece or something you have seen on display.
Next, think about whether you want low or high maintenance. Some finishes do require an occasional polishing or waxing throughout the year to retain their beauty.
Now you can be creative and narrow down your colour choice according to the overall design of your bathroom or kitchen, and the style of tapware you love.
What to look for when choosing tapware
While some styles of tapware are better suited to certain colour finishes than others, there are no hard-and-fast rules.
The most versatile colours are chrome, brushed platinum/nickel and matt black. Chrome is the best option if budget is a consideration or you want something timeless. Brushed platinum is warmer in tone and tends to not show up finger marks as obviously, making it great for high-use or children’s bathrooms. Matt black is a great choice when you want to give a contemporary edge to the design or really make a statement with the tapware.
In general, organic finishes suit traditional decors with an old-world feel, federation homes when it is important to retain a sense of the home’s era and character, and rustic homes. Organic finishes can also be applied to contemporary designs, particularly if you are aspiring for an industrial theme.
Whatever finish you choose, how it looks and lasts over time all come down to the brand and quality.
When it comes to colour finishes for bathroom fixtures, Australian manufacturers Astra Walker and Brodware lead the way with design, range and quality. Both are long-standing family businesses based in NSW that have solid reputations for not only their product quality and design, but also after-sales service.
Brodware was also the first tapware manufacturer in Australia to build their own high-tech PVD processing plant.
The technical processes that create colour
There are three main processes used to create colour finishes for tapware and other bathroom fixtures: electroplating, physical vapour deposition (PVD) coating, and powder coating.
Electroplating is the process of plating one metal over another, typically a nickel layer is applied first followed by the desired metal colour. It is mostly done for the stunning decorative appearances that can be created.
As a low-energy form of plating, electroplating is the most commonly available in Australia and has the widest choice of finishes. It is offered by a few leading Australian tapware manufacturers. However, beware of buying cheap bathroom fixtures in a colour finish as they can be prone to inconsistencies with colour, and will wear away more quickly.
PVD is a high-tech vacum deposition process where the solid material (metal) is vaporized in a vacuum and deposited onto the surface of the product. This means that it is not simply forming metal layers over the item, but the coating material is deposited atom by atom, forming a thin, bonded, metal surface layer. The PVD process allows for a more uniform deposit and greater colour durability.
Lastly, powder coating is a dry finishing process which allows for an endless array of colours to be created (rather than metallic finishes).
What tapware finishes are popular?
Based on versatility and popularity, our top five stable colour finishes are:
- Brushed platinum/nickel
- Matt black
- Statue bronze PVD
- Urban brass
Our five most popular living/organic finishes
- Eco brass
- Weathered brass
- Aged brass
- Brushed brass
- Charcoal bronze
Remember that organic finishes are more suited to people and households where variation is more important than perfection. They can also be a great option for people who do not want or expect their tapware to be pristine all the time, because the organic nature of the metal means an inconsistent finish is how it is supposed to look.
Polished nickel is also favoured when going for a traditional tapware styles, such as Olde English, Neu England, Edwardian or Winslow.
Whatever finish you choose, find out about any maintenance or cleaning that may be needed, how/if it will change over time, and the reputation of the brand.