|Source • Brands||
Price • Origin
Kingston Bass, Inc.
12775 Reservoir St.
Chino, California 91710
Elements of Design
(Below North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Founded in 1998, Kingston Brass is an importer of Asian-made bathroom and kitchen products that are sold under several brands including Kingston Brass, Gourmetier and Fauceture. It is one of the oldest of the Asia-Marketeers, importing Taiwanese faucets, showers, and accessories long before China became a manufacturing powerhouse. The faucets are sold primarily through internet venues. We judge the faucets to be a good value for the price.
Founded by current CEO Erik Chen in 1998, the company is an importer of Asian-made bathroom and kitchen products that are sold under several brands including Kingston Brass, Gourmetier and Fauceture.
It is one of the oldest of the Asia-Marketeers. Others include
It has spread widely across the internet and into home stores and discount centers in a relatively short time primarily due to relatively low prices and good styling. The line does not have the quality of some other Asian-import faucets, notably but it also does not have the higher prices of Globe Union's signature brand.
The faucets are sold primarily through internet venues such as Amazon and well represented at discount sites such as Wayfair, but they are also widely available at plumbing e-tailers like Faucets.com, Faucet Direct and e-Faucets as well as at Home Depot, Lowes and Menards stores, both on line and in store.
We judge the faucets to be a good value. You will not get the quality of a $1,000 faucet, but you will also not pay anywhere near $1,000. What holds the faucet line down is its warranty. We do not believe a 10-year warranty on a product most customers feel should last a lifetime is sufficient. The warranty does not compare favorably with the lifetime warranties offered by other Asian-faucet importers on faucets of substantially equivalent quality. It also specifically excludes faucet installed in Canada from warranty coverage. Were the company to offer a lifetime warranty on its faucets, and include Canada in its coverage, its rating would probably jump a full point.
Export/import businesses like Kingston Brass are often family affairs. One part of the family, located in Asia, handles the purchasing and export end of the business, while another group located in the U.S., takes care of the importing and selling in North America.
Kingston Brass, Inc. imports its products almost exclusively from Taiwan Designer Plumbing & Hardware Corp. ("TDP&H"), a Taiwan-registered import/export business that shares its address at 77, Lane 59, Ha Mi St., Taipei, Taiwan, and URL — www.kingstonbrass.com.tw — with Kingston Brass (Taiwan), Corp. Chien-chuan Lin is the manager of TDP&H, and Frieda Lin the CEO of Kingston Brass (Taiwan). According to H1B visa applications filed in 2012, Chien-chuan Lin is also the Chief Financial Officer of Kingston Brass, Inc.
TDP&H is not a manufacturer in its own right, which means it buys its products from other companies. Company spokesman Tony Martin estimates that 80% of its faucets are imported from Taiwan where they are manufactured by a number of factories located in or near Lukang (or Lugang) City. Known manufacturers for Kingston brass include
Formerly the company purchased faucets from Hsien Chang Metals Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese manufacturer that also manufactures for and from Xiamen Weco Kitchen and Bath Industry Co., Ltd., a Chinese manufacturer, but these relationships appear to have ended.
Mr. Martin estimated that 40% of the faucets imported from Taiwan are in component form — unassembled but fully finished. These components are then assembled into faucets by U.S. workers at Kingston Brass's facilities in Chino, California. This limited form of assembly is not usually considered sufficiently "transformational" to quality for Assembled in U.S.A. status. Mr. Martin told us that final assembly in the U.S. helps the company reduce its inventory by keeping the parts necessary to assemble slow-selling faucets, rather than the faucets themselves. A few dozen components can then be assembled into several hundred faucets on an "as needed" basis.
The faucets are available in a variety of finishes, depending on their actual manufacturer. Polished chrome is the standard, but nickel, two shades of oil rubbed bronze and tarnish-free PVD brass are available in most faucets. Falali Bath Boutique Co., Ltd. offers a mirror chrome finish that is as good as any we have seen from the European craft shops.
The company has inaugurated two new brand names since 2007: Gourmetier, which sells faucets, sinks and accessories for the kitchen, and Fauceture which does the same for the bathroom. These appear to be an effort reach a more upscale clientele with the company's better products. We have not yet had hands-on experience with either brand. The warranty on these new brands is no different from the standard 10-year limited warranty offered on other Kingston Brass faucets, so we see no reason to assume that the quality of the product is any better. Elements of Design is an older trade name, first registered in 2005. It was meant to be the line of products sold through showrooms, but the line has spilled over so that the company now also sells Element of Design products at retail through its own web site, at Lowes and Sears stores and on internet venues.
Kingston Brass has had serious customer service problems in the past, resulting in an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau as recently as 2011. Company spokesman Tony Martin indicated that this was the result of very rapid growth in which customer service fell behind. The company has, according to Mr. Martin, tripled its customer service personnel, and he believes that the problem is on its way to a full resolution. We can confirm that we have seen a major drop off in complaints about the company's after-sale and warranty service. The company has also worked its Better Business Bureau rating back up to an "B+", which indicates that the BBB is receiving fewer complaints about the company, and it is responding well to those few consumer issues reported to the Bureau. The company is a business that is Accredited by the BBB.
We like the company's no-frills web site. It is well designed, well organized, easy to navigate and devoid of slow-loading "Flash"-y media. It lists all of its faucet parts inventory, making it easier to identify and order replacement parts. But, the sub-par 10-year warranty suggests that Kingston does not intend to stock a large number of parts for discontinued models, so getting a part after 10 years may be a problem.
Kingston Brass faucets are well styled, but not cutting edge. This may be changing. According to Mr. Martin the company started designing its own faucets in 2008 and all new faucets will be designed in California, then prototyped and tested in Taiwan before manufacturing. Frankly, we have not yet seen much effect from this initiative nor any major design names associated with Kingston Brass. There is quite a difference between designing a faucet from the bottom up, a la and merely engineering a faucet or tweaking an existing faucet into a slightly different look. At this point we have seen no truly creative or innovative designs emerging from Kingston Brass. Most of its faucets still seem to be more or less generic Chinese styles — pleasing designs, but conservative.
There are few styling adventures in Asia. Asian manufacturers generally sell mass-market faucets, and to reach the widest possible market, tend to stay well within safe styling boundaries. A design that does well in European and North American markets will eventually show up in Asian faucets in slightly modified form, but it takes three to five years. So, although there are exceptions, don't expect any cutting edge design from most Asian-sourced faucet lines.
The company gained in scoring for our ratings for the second year in a row due to a continuing multi-year trend of quality and style improvements in its overall line of faucets. It has taken important steps to correct its customer service issues, and we have observed that the overall quality of the machining and finishing of its faucets has improved over the past few years. The good news is that the pesky minor quality issues that seem to have plagued the brand in past years seem to have diminished. We are still seeing them, but not as many as a few years ago. We also have issues with some of its installation instructions. The company needs to follow the practice of a number of other China importers and begin having all of its installation instructions written and illustrated using American vernacular. They should also show American inch measurements, not metric. Metric drives plumbers nuts.
It also needs to greatly improve its warranty. It continues to lose serious points in our scoring for its weak warranty. We think that ten year's of support for what is supposed to be a lifetime product is not nearly enough, and is a decision that management ought to reconsider. Kingston's chief competitor, We interpret the Kingston Brass warranty as evidence that the company still lacks complete faith in the durability and longevity of its faucets — and if the company lacks complete faith, then so do we. In consequence, while we believe the faucets to be a good value for the price, we would restrict their installation to areas that do not get constant use such as a guest bath or powder room, but not in a busy kitchen or main bath.
The company's history, business model, sources of supply and products are very similar to those of also importers of faucets from Taiwan that started business in the late 20th century. Other Taiwanese- and Chinese-made faucets comparable to Kingston Brass include:
If you have recent experience with Kingston Brass, Fauceture or Gourmetier faucets, good or bad, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.