Five Questions: David Hance of Crosswater LondonText by Robert Kiener Photography by David Levenson
1. Your first career was as a London police officer. How did you go from that to selling bathroom fittings and accessories?
I went to the police when I was sixteen, from school. I liked that it would give me discipline plus something different every day to perform. I finished police training school at the top of my class. Eventually, I became disillusioned with the job, and my father, who was a manufacturer’s rep for a London plumbing fixtures company, gave me an opportunity to work for him as a sales rep. I discovered that being a police officer was a great university for life. It taught me how to relate to people in all walks of life—perfect for a career in sales. After a year or so with my father, I moved on to numerous other plumbing fixtures suppliers. But none of the companies I represented offered a decent (in my opinion) level of customer service. I saw a need for a company that stressed this and offered consumers stylish fixtures. I started our company seventeen years ago, selling a small line of Italian-designed fixtures. Sales have increased every year. We recently expanded into the North American market, as Crosswater London, emphasizing the same excellent customer service and stylish, European-designed plumbing fixtures, supplies, and furniture.
2. Did your research show that there is a hunger or demand for European-style plumbing fixtures?
Definitely. Europeans are masters of design. We named our North American company Crosswater London to link us to the fact that we are a European/British company offering groundbreaking European design; everything from technologically advanced faucets to contemporary-style tubs and showers. In fact, most of the products we source, which are available in some 270 retail outlets in the U.S., come from Europe. Among them are Italian faucets and ceramics, a new line of Spanish bathroom furniture, more faucets from Portugal, and other products from China. We have a broad supply chain across the globe.
3. How has the way people view bathrooms changed?
Bathrooms are no longer taken for granted. They have become a place of both function and style. People see the bathroom as a spa, a place to get away, a place to relax. Travel has also affected expectations. As more and more people experience elite bathrooms in first-class hotels, they want the same features—the luxury—in their own homes. For example, new offerings such as power showers with steam, massage, and multi-outlet showering are popular. There is also a demand for more exciting and appealing architectural elements like stylish basin stands and tubs.
4. How are design trends evolving?
Our industry is really a fashion industry, a designer-led industry. Regarding specific trends, brass is very popular. Living finishes—that is, finishes that are polished but have no protective coating, so they can age naturally—are also on trend. People like special finishes, like unlacquered brass, matte black, satin nickel, brushed stainless steel, rose gold, and copper, as well. And we are seeing a resurgence in dark colors for fixtures such as faucets, shower heads, and shower arms. Many are saying that black is the new chrome. On the other hand, oil-rubbed bronze is out of style and a dying finish.
5. How is technology transforming bathroom design?
There’s a wide range of new technology. For example, with digital showering, you can pre-set your water temperature from a Wi-Fi app or activate the shower from a smart phone right after you wake up, making sure the water will be warm when you enter the shower. In my own bathroom I have a built-in flat-screen television behind a mirror wall in my shower. I can watch the news or a soccer game or listen to music via high-tech waterproof speakers. My sons like to use my shower because they can blast their favorite music via Hotspot!
Crosswater London, Milford, Mass., crosswaterlondon.com
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