Design House Faucets
Review & Rating
5205 West Donges Bay Rd.
Mequon, WI 53092
Footnotes:1. "The owner of the product claiming under this warranty must be the original owner of the product and must occupy the residential premises upon which the product was originally installed....[The]customer shall be responsible for all costs incurred in the removal, reinstallation and shipment of the product for repair."
This Company In Brief
DHI Corporation is a Wisconsin enterprise that imports Chinese-made products that are branded and sold under the Design House name. DHI sells through a variety of discount retailers including Wayfair, Amazon and Walmart.
Its specialty is selling coordinated products in suites to builders and decorators that include faucets, showers, lighting, ceiling fans, door knobs, cabinet hardware, and bath accessories such as towel bars and toilet paper holders, all in what the company guarantees will be the same finish.
The successor to a company known as The Butter Company, founded in 1872, the current corporation has existed only since 2000, and under its present name since 2005. It is owned and managed by Stanley P. Kaymen. The company is a Wisconsin enterprise that imports Chinese-made products that are branded and sold under the Design House name. For that purpose, it maintains a sourcing office in Shanghai. DHI sells through a variety of discount retailers including Wayfair, Amazon and Walmart. It maintains a website but does not appear to sell at retail through the site.
Its specialty is selling coordinated products in suites to builders and decorators that include faucets, showers, lighting, ceiling fans, door knobs, cabinet hardware, and bath accessories such as towel bars and toilet paper holders, all in what the company guarantees will be the same finish. It offers about two dozen pre-assembled collections. The advantage to its customers is the time and effort saved by not having to coordinate a room. The company "coordinates finish and style across all major product categories, removing the mystery from product selection." But, for those who like to select their own products, The web site provides a "Build Your Own" feature that allows customers quickly to select coordinating products to be included in a custom package. For those in a hurry, the company maintains a limited number of "project packs", assembled and ready to ship on short notice.
Collections range from traditional to modern. The standard finishes available on Design House faucets are satin nickel and oil rubbed bronze, neither of which is guaranteed against flaking, peeling or discoloration. Polished chrome is available on just a few faucets.
Most, but not all faucets include a generic Chinese ceramic cartridge. Some faucets, particularly those at the lower end of the product's price range include non-ceramic "washerless" cartridges. The ceramic cartridges in the Design House faucets are Chinese, but not marked with a manufacturer's stamp. China has some excellent ceramic cartridge manufacturers that have gained an international reputation for quality products. Most of these proudly place a maker's mark on their cartridges. The fact that these cartridges have no mark suggests that they are not from one of these well-regarded manufacturers.
The company's web site was undergoing updating when we first researched the company a year ago, and some of its features were not yet available. We had some trouble with navigation. All of these initial problems seems to have been cured. What remains is a heading that is too tall, occupying fully half of the screen at a desk top resolution. The user is reduced to trying to view content through what is basically a narrow slit at the bottom half of the screen.
Information about the some of the company's faucets on the site is fairly complete. Each faucet entry includes a downloadable spec sheet that contains a dimensioned measured drawing, the list of standards to which the faucet complies, whether the faucet is ADA compliant and the finishes in which it is available. A separate Installation Instruction is well illustrated, very easy to follow, and contains an exploded drawing showing all of the parts of the faucet and a spare parts list.
We would like to see more information about a faucet's cartridge, including its manufacturer, but otherwise we think the information available on the spec sheets supports an informed buying decision. The company is refreshingly candid about the makeup of its faucets. It identifies faucets that are a hybrid of brass and other materials (usually zinc, aluminum or a zinc/aluminum alloy).
Most Design House metal lever handles are a zinc/aluminum alloy rather than brass, and are connected to plastic cartridge stems that control the faucet flow. Better faucet cartridges have more durable metal stems. Some of Design Works' single handle mixer faucets us a washerless cartridge rather than the more modern and more robust ceramic disk cartridge. To review the difference between ceramic disk and washerless faucets, you should re-read Faucet Valves & Cartridges. Just keep in mind that a "washerless" valve or cartridge is not necessarily a ceramic disk cartridge, so be mindful of the difference.
Other faucets do not have an associated spec sheet, and for these faucets the information provided is much too sparse. We were able to telephone customer service and have a spec sheet e-mailed, but this is a slow and cumbersome way of getting information when the data could just as easily be posted on the website.
The manufacturers of Design House faucets include:
The faucets are, as far as we can tell, straight out of each manufacturer's and are neither designed nor manufactured expressly for DHI. In fact, many of the faucets sold by DHI are also sold by other vendors in the U.S. Chinese faucet designs tend to conservative designs targeting mass market customers. A faucet design that proves popular in the European or North American markets will ultimately be copied by Chinese factories. The lag time is normally three to five years behind the Western designs. Design House prices are somewhat lower than the average price charged by other importers of Chinese- and Taiwanese-made faucets (See list below).
DHI offers a lifetime warranty against defects in its faucets, which is standard for the industry, but requires customers to pay all costs of shipping a defective faucet back to the company, which is not. That's chintzy to the nth degree
If you like the faucets, but are concerned about the warranty, you might look at Menards Tuscany faucets. Many of Menards store brand faucet are manufactured by the same factories that make Design House faucets and the look and quality is very similar.
We have to be a little concerned about the viability of this company over the long term.
DHI Distribution is an Asia-Marketeer — an importer of Chinese-designed and -manufactured faucets which it sells under the Design House nameplate. Other Asia-Marketeers such as to name just a few among many, all follow roughly the same business model.
The cost of starting a business to import Chinese faucets and other sanitary wares is relatively low. No substantial investment in factories or machinery is needed. All that is required is a warehouse and a good marketing plan. The established Asia-Marketeers and vigorous newcomers such as are in hot pursuit of Design House's market share, adding to the competitive pressure in a relatively small market segment.
One of the original China importers, FSA Imports, seller of the defunct faucet brand, has already folded, and over the next few years we expect more Asia importers to go under as competition increases substantially.
Some of this new competition could very well come from the Chinese factories themselves. a manufacturer located in Jiangsu, China, has opened a customer support center in the U.S. and started selling its well-regarded mid-priced faucets in the U.S. and Canada through the Home Depot and internet venues such as Amazon.
We also expect the rapid spread of China-based retailers on the Internet. So far, the Chinese have been largely content just to provide products to North American-based retailers who understand how to market to consumers in the U.S. and Canada. But, Chinese e-tailers already serve the world's largest and most competitive e-commerce market, and are looking to expand into Europe and North America where the competition is less fierce and the profit margins considerably greater.
LightInTheBox Holdings started out selling discounted wedding gowns in 2008, and is still heavily skewed toward women's wear, but has steadily broadened its offerings to include items such as faucets and bath wares at very favorable prices. FaucetSuperDeal.com already sells a variety of Chinese-manufactured faucets internationally at some very low prices. Both of these China-based e-tailers are just getting started, and have a lot to learn about selling faucets in North America. For example, neither offers a warranty of any kind other than a promise to replace the faucet if defective on delivery, and none of the faucets offered is certified to comply with the legal standards required for the U.S./Canadian market. But, they will get better, and if they can hold their prices, they may make a lot of of trouble for U.S.- and Canadian-based Asia-Marketeers.
This is of concern to you as a faucet buyer for this reason: A faucet seller that is out of business is no longer a source of warranty support or replacement parts. Your faucet is, in effect, orphaned. Just ask owners of
faucets if that can be a problem.
On the plus side, DHI is meticulous about complying with faucet regulations designed to ensure reliability, safety and water conservation. All of its faucets have undergone the required testing and are certified safe, reliable and lead free — all of which signals an intention to remain a permanent fixture in the faucet industry.
Faucets manufactured in China or Taiwan that compare to Design House faucets include:
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Design House faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.