Copper in the Arts

June 2016

Watermark Designs: Luxury Brass Fixtures Handcrafted in Brooklyn

By Robyn Jasko

Avi Abel, president of Watermark DesignsAvi Abel, president of Watermark Designs at the company's Brooklyn production factory.
Photograph courtesy of Watermark Designs.

When Avi Abel graduated from college with a degree in finance, he had a realization that set him on an entirely new life path.

“I was destined to work on Wall Street in front of a computer screen,” he recalls. “And then, I realized how cool and exciting it was to make something tangible, especially something that marries form and function.”

This greater calling led him back to Watermark Designs, a Brooklyn-based luxury manufacturing company started by his grandfather in 1976.

“I started working in the classic mailroom scenario, learning the industry from the bottom up,” he says. Today, Abel is the third generation running the company, and has helped lead their global expansion.

Made in Brooklyn before the borough became a worldwide brand, the company is sharply focused on keeping production in-house, enlisting a team of more than 50 artists, and 5 engineers to produce their signature line of luxury brass faucets, showers, and bath accessories.

worker making brass fixture.All Watermark Design fixtures are handcrafted exclusively of brass.
Photograph courtesy of Watermark Designs. 

Today, you can find Watermark Designs in some of the world’s most exclusive addresses, including the Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai; Trump Park Avenue, New York, NY; The Eden Roc Hotel, Miami Beach, FL, and the South Street Seaport Museum.

The company has more than 35 collections of luxury fixtures, all made exclusively in brass. The softness of the metal makes it easy to machine, and allows Abel’s team to plate the material in any of their 40 finishes.

“We still use CNC (computer numerical control) and manual machines to achieve some of our styles and looks,” Abel says of their process. “The same holds true for finishing where we use electroplated, powder coated, and patina processes.”

Abel’s favorite collection is the company’s Elan Vital line, which evokes an industrial feel.

“I think it exemplifies the Brooklyn aesthetic and also allows us to customize on a much higher level than has ever been seen before,” he says. “It’s like a giant erector set for designers to create some truly amazing kitchen and bath fittings.”

A fixture from the Elan Vital series.A brass fixture from the Elan Vital series.
Photograph courtesy of Watermark Designs. 

Watermark collaborates with designers all over the world for their collections. Most recently, they partnered with renowned interior designer Mark Zeff to create their H-Line series inspired by New York City’s storied High Line park.

“The H-Line Collection combines Watermark Designs custom capabilities with Mark Zeff’s aesthetic, walking the fine line between historic and modern,” remarks Abel.

Innovation and agility has always been at the heart of Abel’s vision for the company.

“Many of our competitors launch a new product every 3 to 4 years and we would launch 3 to 4 in one year,” he says. “This started our reputation for being innovators. Then during the recession a few years back we started to capitalize on the fact that we are made in the USA and specifically Brooklyn, which has a great history and tradition for handcrafted bespoke products."

The company has evolved greatly since Abel took the reigns, focusing on craftsmanship over price.

“A professor once taught me that you can compete on price, quality, and service--but then you have to pick 2 out of the 3,” he recalls. “Being that our product is made in Brooklyn with union labor, and there was an influx of product coming in from Asia at the time, I decided to compete on quality and service.”

Abel looks brightly to the future, with plans to bring their luxury brass fixtures to more markets across the globe.

A brass fixture from Watermark Design's H-Line series.A brass fixture from Watermark Design's H-Line series, inspired by New York City's High Line park.
Photograph courtesy of Watermark Designs.

“We are expanding into international markets where our designs are like nothing that have been seen before in an industry dominated by Italian and German looks,” he says. “We are also experimenting with different materials such as solid surface, concrete, and woods.”

In a time when many people are capitalizing on the Brooklyn brand, for Watermark Designs, it’s just business as usual.

“We have been in Brooklyn for 40 years but didn’t realize how special it was until the Brooklyn brand became popular a few years back,” he says. “We were always part of the makeup of the artisan and craftsmen scene but didn’t know that it was something special. Once we realized it we launched the Brooklyn collection to honor our industrial background and aesthetic. The Brooklyn collection says everything about who and what Watermark Designs is.”


Watermark Designs, Ltd., 350 Dewitt Ave., Brooklyn, NY, (718) 257-2800

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