Bath fixture designs continue to evolve

High-quality bathroom and kitchen equipment is one of the main drivers of new-home sales in the United States. But most Americans probably don't realize that's not a factor at all in many other countries.

The U.S. is one of the few places where homebuilders equip those rooms with fixtures, appliances and cabinetry. Buyers elsewhere are generally expected to shop for such items just as they would for furniture and accessories.

Americans may regard these preinstallations as a convenience. But they're also a limitation, requiring buyers to take what they're given or incur the added expense of replacing kitchen and bathroom necessities.

Q: In looking for a new home to buy, I've noticed that the bathroom equipment looks pretty much the same as in the house my parents built in the 1970s. Is it really the case that designs have changed so little in the past 35 years?

A: The look of many bathrooms has actually changed dramatically during that time. A visit to the showrooms of either Kohler or American Standard, long among the leaders in this field, will prove you don't have to settle for your parents' bathroom.

The choices are many and pricey. But you can save money on installation if a homebuilder will agree to include the pieces you prefer rather than prefab elements.

Villeroy and Boch, a maker of ceramics for over 260 years, has also introduced some contemporary bathroom collections that you may wish to consider. Among them are the pieces from the company's Pure Stone collection, shown in the photo.

This serene set of fixtures, available in grey as well as white, was inspired by the naturally rounded forms of water-washed stones. The smooth surfaces would be nicely accented by textured tiles or, as in this case, by a roughly surfaced wall.

As you browse the design possibilities, you may notice that today's plumbing fixtures and cabinetry differ in more than just appearance from what was installed in your parents' house. Bathroom and kitchen equipment is now available in a variety of heights -- a welcome change from the one-size-fits-all approach of the 1970s.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at