It’s a hot summer day in Brooklyn, and everyone in the neighborhood is looking for a little relief. Someone spies a gate valve on the outside of a building—the key to an oasis. Slowly the valve is turned, emitting a creaking sound that soon gives way to a smooth, silent movement. And then it happens: Water pours forth from the accompanying
line and the street is suddenly doused in a stream of clean water, cooling
pavement and people alike. Children laugh and splash in the water, as the adults watch lazily from their perches on building stoops.
These classic New York scenes may have vanished with the advent of AC, but their inspiration has been honored in Watermark Designs’ Brooklyn Collection, a new line of bath fittings and fixtures designed by Incorporated NY Architecture & Design. The collection reflects a family and a company’s commitment to American craftsmanship, not to mention the borough where it all began.
“Our company was founded by my father more than 30 years ago in the hope that he, and one day I, would honor my grandfather and his work,” says Avi Abel, president of Watermark Designs. “My grandfather had a brass-plating business
in Brooklyn for more than 40 years. It’s our home, and our products, particularly the Brooklyn Collection, reflect our respect for brass craftsmanship and this part of the city.”
The birth of what would become the Brooklyn Collection occurred at about the same time that the borough was going through a renaissance of its own. Over the past five to six years, Brooklyn has become home to new galleries, restaurants and manufacturing companies—all of which appear to be flourishing in this part of the city. The change in the community mirrors a change in Watermark Designs as well.
“Several years ago, we looked at our branding and realized that we weren’t taking advantage of our heritage,” says Abel. “We didn’t stand for anything, even though our company had done custom work for architects around the world. We worked with David Schlocker at DRS & Associates to address this concern. During this process I showed him a faucet designed for a specific project. It became apparent that we could use this product as part of our rebranding effort based on its design and associated manufacturing.”
The faucet and other pieces were originally designed by Incorporated NY Architecture & Design for two renovation projects located in different parts of the city, according to Adam Ralston, managing director and designer with the firm. “The projects were different but had similar aesthetics,” he says. “We didn’t see the type of products that we wanted on the market, knew that between the two projects we had enough volume to do custom work, and turned to Watermark Designs to help us manufacture what we wanted.”
Ralston says that the design for the faucet began with looking at numerous round gate valves with five prongs or spokes. The final design replicates the valves but with stripped down and cleaner lines. The design of the other pieces—what would eventually become the rest of the Brooklyn Collection—came together easily after the faucet was designed.
“The collection has a humble luxury in my opinion,” Ralston says. “All the pieces—lavatory sets, showerheads and towel bars, to name a few—make a statement without being ostentatious. The products fit well in varying environments from lofts with exposed lights, ductwork and beams to more modern settings.”
The pieces, which are manufactured from brass, are currently available in 35 finishes, soon to be 38; the full list includes traditional finishes like gold, silver and bronze, as well as a range of impactful colors, including red, white, black and ebony. Watermark Designs’ manufacturing
capabilities also mean that custom finishes are possible. Environmentally conscious designers can request models with an aerator that reduces water consumption to 1.5 gallons per minute.
The company’s environmental responsibility
goes far beyond product features that reduce water consumption, however. Watermark Designs’ state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn features a closed-loop plating system, degreasing station, a closed-water reclamation and recycle-for-use system, chemical and water maintenance, and a recycled brass program. Products are AB-1953 certified, CSA-tested and MA code-approved.
The Brooklyn Collection has been well-received since its debut, and has been the subject of significant
attention in the local community. The faucet was recently selected for the “Made in New York” installation at the Museum of the City of New York’s South Street Seaport Museum as part of its re-opening this past January. In selecting the faucet for inclusion in the exhibit, Donald Albrecht, the curator of architecture and design for the Museum of the City of New York, noted, “The Brooklyn faucet exemplifies the work of New York’s creative community and the dynamic design-manufacture industries that are flourishing here.”
Indeed, Watermark Designs’ story stands in contrast to the near-constant stream of news about family businesses closing and manufacturing jobs lost. The company takes pride in its history, and in the history of its home. Thanks to Incorporated NY Architecture & Design, the Brooklyn Collection aims to carry that particular slice of New York history well into the future.
For more information about the Brooklyn Collection, visit www.watermark-designs.com.
Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, Tenn. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.