|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
Bathroom Brands, US, LLC
393 Fortune Blvd.
Milford, MA 01757
Lake View House
Dartford, Kent DA15FU
(Meets North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Ammara Design faucets are Chinese in origin, manufactured by Guangzhou Seagull Kitchen and Bath Products Co., Ltd. and sold only by showrooms and design centers that are members of the Forté Buying Group. They are of generally good quality, feature some distinctive designs and include an excellent ceramic cartridge. The faucets are supported by a lifetime warranty and have been certified safe, reliable, and lead free to North American standards. They are, on average, priced slightly below the prices of other luxury brands of similar quality, and we judge the brand to be a reasonable value, worth consideration by those in the market for a showroom faucet.
Ammara Designs is an private brand formerly owned by Forté Buying Group, Inc..
On July 1, 2016 Forté sold Ammara to the English company, Crosswater, Ltd., which has organized Bathroom Brands US, LLC in Milford, Massachusetts to manage its North American affairs. The company has registered Crosswater and Crosswater London as trademarks in the U.S., but actually trades as Crosswater Bathrooms, an unregistered trade name.
Ammara faucets were sold through Forté Buying Group member showrooms and design centers, and according to information released by Crosswater, this arrangement will continue.
A buying group is an association of retailers who join together to aggregate purchasing power in order to leverage better prices and terms from manufacturers and distributors. They are very common in the hardware industry. Buying groups with which you are probably already familiar include Ace Hardware Corporation, True Value Company and Do It Best cooperatives that supply independently owned hardware stores in the U.S., and RONA, Inc. which does the same for independent stores in Canada. Without the group purchasing power these cooperatives provide small, independently operated hardware stores would have a difficult time competing against big box discount lumber and hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes.
Forté is a specialized hardware buying group composed of upscale decorative plumbing and hardware showrooms and design centers located throughout North America. The owners of its member stores make up the directors and officers that manage and govern the association. Day to day operations, however, are handled by Cohn Communications, Inc., an arrangement that saves Forté the cost of a permanent staff and the facility in which to house them.
Forté is relatively small as hardware buying groups go. It has about 100 members operating 250 stores nationwide. Compare this to True Value, servicing over 5,000 stores, or Ace with about 4,000 member stores. Forté's mission, according to its web site, is to
"[level] the playing field for independent dealers by negotiating cash discounts, preferred pricing and rebate levels that are equal if not superior to those offered to publicly traded big boxes and multi-branch retailers."Member showrooms are required to meet rigorous membership criteria which include being a "respected company within its business community", having a showroom of at least 2,000 square feet, and agreeing to purchase at least $250,000 in products from at least 25% of Forté's preferred vendors each year.
Almost all hardware buying groups sell private brands. True Value, for example, sells Private labels offer advantages to the retailer, including better control over such factors as pricing, mark-up, package design, and production. They sell for an average of 30% less than their national brand counterparts, and according to a study by the business advisory firm AlixPartners, are growing at a faster rate than national brands.
Some private brands have been phenomenally successful. Kenmore, for example, Sears' private label appliance line, has been a consumer favorite since the 1920's, as has its Craftsman tool brand. Craftsman was named "Americas most trusted brand" in a Harris Interactive poll in 2007, and in 2009, readers of Popular Mechanics named Craftsman their favorite brand of hand tools.
Ammara Designs was Forté Group's initial sortie into the world of private branding. Its rollout in 2014 was, overall, rather well done. Unlike American Standard's new line of upscale faucets which was launched with most of its collections woefully incomplete, Forté waited until it had a respectable number of products in each Ammara design series before bringing the brand to market.
But, managing a line of private brand plumbing products turned out to be a little more involved than Forté anticipated, so with the addition of Crosswater to its list of preferred vendors in 2016, the buying group solved the problem by selling the Ammara Design brand to its new supplier. Crosswater has considerable experience in developing, promoting and managing upscale lines of decorative plumbing fittings and fixtures. According to 2016 Forté Group president, Howard Frankel, the Group hopes to make the former private label "more mainstream" with the sale to Crosswater.
According to (U.K.) Companies House records, Crosswater, Ltd. was, organized in 1998, and is just one of a group of British companies associated with David Richard Hance that include Adora Bathrooms, Ltd., Bathroom Brands, Ltd., Bathroom Brands (UK), Ltd., Bathroom Brands Group, Ltd., Bathroom Brands Holdings, Ltd., Bauhaus Industries Ltd., and Crosswater Holdings, Ltd., all of which have the same Lake View House address, and all, in some manner, involved in the decorative plumbing industry. Crosswater identifies itself in its literature and press releases as a "manufacturer" and a "leader in bathroom design". We have not been able to determine whether Crosswater actually designs or manufactures its own products. The preliminary indications, however, are that is does not.
Crosswater sells six collections (which the company calls "ranges") of its own luxury bathroom fittings and fixtures in traditional British and contemporary designs in the U.K. As of October, 2016, its products have been certified to U.S./Canadian standards by IAPMO Group: Research and Testing and are lawful for installation in the U.S. and Canada. Some are very interesting. The Belgravia range, for example is a very clean interpretation of Edwardian design which should give a little more competition in this design class in the North American market.
In North America, Crosswater sells its products only through Forté Buying Group member showrooms and design centers. We have not researched or reviewed Crosswater faucets, and offer no opinion about their origin or quality. Once the brand becomes more established, in a year or so, we will take a longer look at the company.
Ammara's sink faucets are part of broader collections (or "series", as the company calls them) of well-coordinated bath products that include shower systems, tub fillers and bath hardware accessories as well as faucets. Series 11 is Ammara's traditional collection well suited for just about any bathroom. It would fit well into any decor choice from late Victorian to modern. Series 17 is stark and industrial, aimed at the contemporary urban chic bath. Series 14 is a transitional collection that would be completely at home in an Arts & Crafts or Art Deco bathroom and not inappropriate for a post-war mid-century modern bath.
Ammara products are for the bath only. The line does not include kitchen faucets.
The faucets are made in China by Guangzhou Seagull Kitchen and Bath Products Co., Ltd., a respected ISO-9001 manufacturer, known for quality products, that makes faucets and faucet components for a number of faucet brands sold in North America including
The designs are original and exclusive to Ammara. According to the company, its designs were created by Forté members with design experience and prototyped in the U.S. before being turned over to Seagull for production.
There is nothing innovative about how Ammara faucets are made. They are the traditional, weighty, cast-and-machined, brass products made pretty much the same way that better faucets have been made for most of two hundred years by a manufacturer with a sterling international reputation.
The brand cuts no corners. All two-handle faucets include a well-regarded ceramic cartridge manufactured by the noted German cartridge maker, Flühs Drehtechnik, GmbH, considered by most to make one of the best, if not the best, European faucet cartridge. This is a cartridge that unlike most others, does not require a lubricant that can deteriorate or wash away over time making the faucet harder to operate, and is the preferred ceramic cartridge of manufacturers of higher-end faucets such as
Ammara single-handle faucets include a mixing cartridge made by Kerox Kft, a Hungarian manufacturer that specializes in ceramic mixing cartridges for single handle faucets. Kerox has become the preferred cartridge used in European-made single-handle faucets over the past decade due to its reputation for reliable performance. Faucets known to use Kerox cartridges include
The aerators used in Ammara faucets are from Neoperl®, considered some of the world's best. Faucet aerators used to be simple devices that merely added a little air to soften the water stream so it would not splash out of the sink. Today, however, they are also used to limit water volume to the lower flows required by federal and state water conservation laws, and in some cases, to prevent back-flow that can result in the contamination of household drinking water. It is important, therefore, that this little device, often smaller than a nickel, be the best available. And that, almost by definition, is the Neoperl® aerator.
The Ammara web site is well organized and easy to navigate, but missing some basic information.
Faucets are clearly depicted in each of the four finishes available, and each faucet page includes a link to specifications and installation guidelines that are clear, well illustrated, and include troubleshooting tips and cleaning instructions.
For designers and architects, the site provides 2d computer-aided design (CAD) images and 3d models for each faucet. The 3d models, however, are in the old Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES) format which has not been updated since 1995, rather than the more widely accepted Drawing Exchange Format (DXF).
Some basic information is missing from the site. There is, amazingly enough, no showroom locator. You have to e-mail Ammara to find a Forté member showroom in your area authorized to sell Ammara faucets. Ammara's response is rapid. Still, not having an on-line locator is a minor nuisance. The cartridge used in each faucet is not identified. As Ammara uses some of the best ceramic cartridges made, it should advertise that fact far better than it does. There is no site search function. The "search" function does a Google web search rather than a site search, most unusual, and most disconcerting.
Most Ammara faucets are available in four finishes: polished chrome, polished nickel, satin nickel and bronze. If you need a different finish to fit your distinctive personal style, you will need to look elsewhere. The company has no plans, according to a company spokesman, to introduce additional finishes in the near future.
Ammara's chrome is a a highly polished electro-plated finish over a heavy nickel undercoat. Both nickel finishes are the very durable finishes, and the bronze is a powder coating over a nickel undercoat, somewhat more fragile that the other Ammara finishes.
PVD nickel is not actually nickel, but a more durable metal, commonly zirconium nitride (ZrN), used to simulate nickel. The simulation is very convincing and reported to be up to 20 times more scratch- and mar-resistant than actual nickel.
For durability the nearly indestructible PVD finish is preferred, but for hand-polished sparkle, consider Ammara's chrome.
Ammara faucets are sold only by Forté member showrooms and design centers. Member showrooms are “protected” by geographic areas which reduces competition with other members in the same market area. Sales out of a member's local area are also discouraged by the requirement that Ammara faucets may not be priced or sold by member showrooms over the internet. However, we had no problem getting pricing or ordering Ammara faucets by telephone after clearly identifying ourselves as an out-of-area builder.
The faucets are also price-protected by Forté which has established minimum advertised prices for each faucet. Substantial discounts on these faucets, therefore, are unlikely. But, our quick and dirty, admittedly unscientific, telephone survey of Ammara retailers found that even with price controls, the street price of most Ammara faucets is below that of many other faucets brands of comparable quality.
Forté originally offered no technical support and no warranty. Any support for or guarantee of an Ammara faucet was through the member showroom that sold it. Most of the showrooms we contacted had not given post-sale warranty or technical support issues much thought, but usually indicated that they would "take care of" any problems with an Ammara faucet.
Crosswater guarantees Ammara faucets with a lifetime, non-transferable, warranty to the original purchaser. the warranty meets the standard for faucet warranties in the U.S. and Canada. Crosswater will, at its election, "repair, replace or make appropriate adjustment for any product that proves defective in materials and/or workmanship under normal residential installation, use and service." The offer to repair or replace, however, does not include labor charges. The term "lifetime" is never defined and will, therefore, typically be accorded its ordinary English meaning: the actual lifetime of the original purchaser.
Imported faucets comparable to Ammara include,
American-made or -assembled faucets comparable to Ammara in quality if not necessarily in style include,
We are continuing to research Ammara. If you have experience with Ammara faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.