Kitchens and baths are somewhat like hairstyles—they can be trendy, classic, or casual—or they can be downright dated. And like hairstyles, kitchens and baths have distinct characteristics that provide obvious clues to which decade they originated or when they were most recently updated.

“Kitchens and baths are the main places in an apartment where the vintage of the unit is obvious,” says Forrest White, director of asset engineering for Alliance Residential, a Phoenix-based multifamily owner and manager that is in the middle of renovating roughly 17 percent of its 48,000 units. “It's important to make them contemporary and open, and we're always looking to see what comes up next.”

Walk into a kitchen with avocado-colored appliances, and you may think you're having a 1970s flashback. Or, open the door to a bathroom with polished brass fixtures, and you may find yourself singing Wham! songs for the rest of the day. Even today's popular brushed nickel finish for faucets and other fixtures will likely seem passé just a few years from now—if it's not already on its way, White says. “We're more interested in finding contemporary shapes to create an exciting look,” he explains. “Contemporary shapes tend to be more timeless.”

That's why, when Alliance Residential tackles renovation projects, it focuses on kitchens and baths, White says. In renovating 8,000 units across the nation, the firm is focusing on everything from small cosmetic updates to gut restorations. For the cosmetic jobs, Alliance Residential looks first at updating lighting and plumbing fixtures, along with flooring, sinks, and countertops.

“The lowest hanging fruit for the remodel includes plumbing fixtures,” White says. In the kitchen, for example, a new faucet can give the room some flair. In the bathroom, the impact of new plumbing fixtures is even more striking. Simply, add in a new sink and some new lighting, and the room has a totally different look.

White also points out that investing just a little bit more to create a focal point for the bathroom or kitchen can have a large payback when it comes to attracting residents and pushing rents. Alliance Residential, for example, is looking at higher end finishes like vessel sinks, which are becoming more cost effective. “Vessel sinks aren't something that you'd expect to see in an apartment, and they create a look that is modern.”


Vessel sinks are proof that bathroom sinks don't have to be boring, and Premier Faucet's vessel sinks are evidence that they don't have to break the bank either. The sinks, available in white vitreous china or glass (clear, frosted, or blue), add a spark of appeal to bathrooms. Measuring about 12 inches in circumference and about 8 inches tall, the sinks are available through dealers across the nation. For more information, call Premier Faucet at 1.866.745.4010 or visit


Inject some life back into your kitchen countertops by installing one of the five new LIFE! Series colors by Silestone. Silestone comes in 65 colors and two texture options. Along with color, Silestone countertops offer a combination of Microban protection and GREEN-GUARD and National Sanitation Foundation certifications. For more information, call Silestone at 866-COUNTERTOPS or visit


Conserve water with the FloWise Dual Flush Toilet from American Standard. This new high-efficiency water conservation toilet uses a standard-size 6-liter tank (1.3 gallons) and can be used as a full flush or the more frequently used partial flush, only 3 liters (0.7 gallons). The elongated bowl helps flush waste more efficiently. For more information, call American Standard at 800-387-0369 or visit


Help your bathroom breathe with the new WhisperGreen FV-08VKML1 ventilation fan. Designed with Panasonic's DC motors, built-in controls, and lights, the fan is Energy Star rated and HVI certified. Featuring Panasonic's SmartAction Motion Sensor, the fan operates by motion sensor and elevates to its maximum speed of 80 CFMS. For more information, call Panasonic at 800-405-0652 or visit


With Mercier Wood Flooring's latest line, cooking is a lot more fun. The new line offers two exotic selections, Brazilian Cherry and Santos Mahogany, which are available in 3.25-inch and 5-inch widths. Both are offered in three gloss levels: semi-gloss, satin, and matte. For more information, call Mercier Wood Flooring at 418-248-1785 or visit


Clean anything and everything including the kitchen sink with Kohler's Karbon Articulating Kitchen Faucet. With all the functionality of a pull-down or pullout faucet, Kohler's new faucet allows users to position water flow exactly where its needed and then holds that position. The articulating design makes it easy to position the spray deep into a bowl. For more information, call Kohler at 800-456-4537 or visit