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There’s beauty in the details. One of the most important details in the bathroom and kitchen, whether we realize it or not, is the humble faucet, which can make or break a well-designed room. That’s why companies like bespoke faucet manufacturer Watermark Designs are constantly striving to create perfect handcrafted products for projects around the world, each completely different than the next. Not a single faucet they produce can be exactly replicated, which is a great reason for architects and designers to collaborate with them via Watermark ID on one-of-a-kind collections.
Watermark employs around 80 people that specialize in all aspects of faucet manufacturing, from design and engineering to electroplating, powder-coating, lacquering, polishing, grinding and buffing.
Architizer visited Watermark’s factory in Brooklyn to get a taste of what it takes to design luxury faucets. The art of manufacturing is actually incredibly meticulous and fascinating. From powder-coating black matte spouts to magically turning brass parts into shiny chrome, Watermark relies on a team of diverse experts to perfect every detail of their fabrication process. Each faucet passes through the hands of at least a dozen or more people before shipment.
“We don’t mass-produce thousands of faucets at a time with robotics,” said Watermark’s President Avi Abel. “We’re capitalizing on the skill set of our workforce. New York is such a great city for that because it’s a melting pot that we’re trying to tap into. Everyone here has unique training and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, faucet manufacturing is still very much a human process.”
Watermark is synonymous with small production runs. Any size commission, ranging from a single spout to 51 or even 200, is welcomed. They make all their components in-house except for the valves and ceramic cartridges, which are produced in collaboration with a German manufacturer. Some of their craftsmen and artisans have been with the company for decades, but right now is a pivotal time when the team is integrating a few new pieces of technology to make their processes even smoother. Watermark recently installed a physical vapor deposition machine, which will ensure a more forceful and sealed coating on each product.
Watermark houses a massive warehouse and distribution center where they pull parts for their individual projects.
“Our craft is more old-world, which is beautiful in and of itself, and you can’t automate everything in faucet manufacturing,” said Abel. “But at the same time, the world is moving at a pace where we need stronger and longer-lasting finishes. With this, we’re trying to marry both.”
Though Watermark has built a four-decade-old reputation as one of the world’s leaders in faucet design, there are still parts of the manufacturing process that challenge the company and force them to keep innovating. One of those issues is finishing with certain tonalities such as brass, copper and colors like rose gold, according to Abel.
“Remember, this is all plumbing, so it’s constantly in a humid environment,” he said. “These treatments are prone to tarnish so things like the PVD machine will enable us to offer our customers the look of brass, for example, but it’s super-strong and won’t change over time.”
Watermark’s award-winning Elan Vital has been described as the “Ferrari of the faucet world.”
Faucets are kind of a big deal, if you think about it. They’re lifelong products that we come into contact with every day. The faucet’s finish, which is the visible sealant that gives it its standout color, is what makes the biggest impression. Its size and shape also factor in, but a millennial pink faucet — which Watermark is actually making — is sure to make a bolder statement than a toned-down rusty spout.
Watermark is celebrating 10 years of the Brooklyn faucet by donating to Watering Minds, a charity providing clean water to schools in Haiti.
In 2008, Watermark came out with their Brooklyn collection designed by Incorporated Architecture & Design, which was an early iteration of the now-popular industrial-style faucet. Abel said the moment the Brooklyn started getting copied by other manufacturers was the moment he knew Watermark had the potential to forever be at the forefront of faucet trends.
“It changed my way of thinking about what we do and what makes us unique in our industry,” he said. “We would show it to a few customers, and they said they wouldn’t put it on display or that it would never sell. They didn’t fully get it, and neither did I. But when we launched it two years later with success, it taught me a point that good design is good design and sometimes good design can come out before the market is ready for it.”
Watermark’s customizable Elements collection features 14 cover materials and 24 metal finishes including this Satin 24K gold faucet.
Today, Watermark is breaking past the industrial-style trend and moving on to experimenting with materiality. They’re playing with marbles, stones, concrete and liquid metals. They’ve even designed a concrete faucet with a coating made to mimic wood. Abel and his team believe that the bathroom should be a luxurious place in the home and that materiality plays a key role in defining a beautiful calming environment.
“If it’s good design, you want to stay and be around it,” Abel said. “Faucets are obviously functional, but at the same time, they can make you feel better.”
Watermark designed an exclusive collection for the Sutton, a new condominium in New York.
The importance of a great faucet extends far beyond aesthetics. It’s also about saving water and reducing exposure to lead. Because Watermark works on global projects, they must constantly adapt to various codes and compliances in regard to water flow. As you can see, in faucet design, there’s a lot of brawn behind the beauty.
“Whether it’s with a new design, a new catalog, new policy or new machine,” said Abel, “we’re always challenging ourselves and stepping up our game. We never get complacent; otherwise, we would be bored.”
Images courtesy Watermark
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