Sonoma Forge Faucets
Review & Rating
133 A Copeland St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Footnotes:1. No disclaimer of implied warranties or consequential or incidental damages is made.2. All finishes except PVD coatings, are that are expected to show changes and evidence of wear from handling and use over time. Sonoma Forge includes PVD finishes in its two-year guarantee against manufacturing defects, but living finishes are specifically excluded.
This Company In Brief
Founded in 1999 by Steve Rosenblatt, and now owned by CEO Erik Ambjor, Sonoma Forge sells one of the most interesting lines of faucets we have ever seen.
They are a little hard to describe. The faucets somehow manage to be rustic while, at the same time, elegant; primitive but chic; familiar but fresh. They are definitely not your average faucet, and certainly not for the average buyer. They are aimed at the homeowner with an eye for cutting-edge design, a strong sense of adventure and a touch of the unconventional. Equally at home in a Park Avenue studio or a log home in the Idaho Rockies, they are different, striking and, in a word, unique.
And, they have a story.
It was told around the campfire at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas (OK, actually around the poker table) that one day Steve Rosenblatt, already well known in the kitchen and bath industry as one of the pioneers of decorative concrete countertops and sinks, was looking to photograph his new line of vessel sinks for a catalog, and figured the photographs would be enhanced if the sinks were shown with faucets. But, this was in the early days of vessel sinks, and the selection of high-clearance faucets that would work with vessel sinks was very limited. So he went to the local plumbing supply house and bought a bunch of copper pipe and fittings, and cobbled together a vessel faucet.
The sinks generated a lot of interest. So did the faucet. Sink customers wanted to know where they could buy a faucet like that, and so was born, after a lot of work and design refinement, a new faucet business.
It may be true, it may not be true. But, it's a good story.
The faucets, designed in house by Erik Ambjor, and Chris Rosano, are grouped into six basic collections: Waterbridge, Wherever, Brut, CIXX, Wingnut and Brownstone.
The Brownstone collection is the only one that looks the least bit conventional. It contains primarily kitchen and bar faucets. The Waterbridge and Wherever collections show a subtle Asian influence which reminds us of the TOMI line of faucets designed by Tom Robbins. Waterbridge faucets are, as the name implies, bridge faucets while the Wherever collection contains mostly widespread lavatory faucets.
The Brut collection has the same look, but consists only of single handle mixer faucets intended for the kitchen and as faucets for vessel sinks. Wingnut faucets all have a distinctive angular spout and are intended as both bath and kitchen faucets. CIXX (pronounced "six") faucets may be the most interesting. They have a hand forged look, complete with genuine hammer marks, that is at the same time brutish and sophisticated.
All of these collections are accompanied by a full slate of accessories including towel bars and hooks, soap trays, toilet paper holders, paper towel holders, mirrors, and side sprays. All are, like the faucets, made only in the U.S.A.
Any Sonoma faucet can be adapted to use Sonoma's hands-free technology. The "Sans Hands" technology works on a different principle than most. Rather than the hit-or-miss nature of electric eye and motion-detecting devices, which often require a lot of frantic hand-waving before they will activate, Sonoma's technology operates by generating a small electro-magnetic field that surrounds the faucet. Hands held anywhere near the faucet interrupt the field and the faucet turns on. When the hands pull away, the continuity of the field is restored and the faucet turns itself off. The technology works like magic, and does not require an electric eye or external sensing device that detracts from the look of the faucet.
Some faucets are designed especially for Sans Hands and can be installed without handles. However, the hands-free technology is limited. It does nothing more complex than turn the faucet flow on and off. Water temperature and flow rate must be preset, and cannot be adjusted by the user if there are no handles. Consequently these faucets are less for residential and more for commercial use in public restrooms.
All of the company's faucets are assembled and finished in the U.S. by American Faucets and Coatings Corp. (AFCC) in Vista, California. AFCC sells its own line of high-quality faucets under the Sigma brand. Most components that go into the faucets are made in California. Faucet valve cartridges, however, are imported. The company's two handle faucets use stem cartridges made by Fluhs Drehtechnik, GmbH. These cartridges are generally considered the best two-handle faucet cartridges made. In its sole single handle faucet, in the Brut collection, the company uses a mixing cartridge from Kerox Kft, a Hungarian firm that is frequently credited with making the best European mixing cartridge. (For more information, see Faucet Valves and Cartridges.)
AFCC finishes the faucets in its state of the art, zero emission, metal coating facility. The facility can handle any coating technology including plating, powder coating and the new PVD thin film technology, and appears to use every one of these processes on Sonoma faucets.
Many of Sonoma's finishes are unique to the company and not available elsewhere. The four standard finishes are Rustic Nickel, Rustic Copper, Satin Nickel and Oil Rubbed Bronze. Optional finishes include Black Oil Rubbed Bronze, White Matte, Polished Copper, Satin Nickel, Polished Chrome, and Gunmetal. Our favorite finish is Rustic Nickel, shown in the illustration above, that looks a little like galvanized zinc, and fits the style of the faucets perfectly.
The standard for faucet warranties in the U.S. is the "limited lifetime warranty" pioneered by Pfister and Moen. Sonoma's two year warranty on manufacturing defects is substantially below par and the sub-par warranty cost the company in our ratings. A faucet line this good deserves more confidence from its owners and more serious warranty support. The company is looking at the warranty from a bean counter's perspective — "How much will it cost us?". What it should be asking is "How much can it earn us?".
A warranty can be a potentially powerful marketing tool that can be used to foster customer loyalty and improve sales. Moen. for example, uses its lifetime warranty and superb customer service as a major selling feature of its faucets (and other products), and it works. Moen customer loyality is legendary. But, that is not the way Sonoma views its warranty program, and it's myopia is almost certainly costing the company a big chunk of money.
Customer support is excellent. The people who answer the phones are also the people who designed and engineered the faucets, and there is very little about the faucets they don't know. The company keeps a full line of parts, and those not immediately available can be acquired very quickly from AFCC, which has a full-scale parts support organization of its own.
American made or assembled faucets comparable to Sonoma Forge include some faucets made by has some of the same rustic style.
We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Sonoma Forge faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.