Bath Sinks with Style and Sense
Don’t let choices overwhelm your quest for a great lav.
Synopsis: Designers or homeowners trying to furnish a bathroom probably have no greater challenge than choosing a sink. Despite the fact that its purpose is pretty straightforward, the bathroom sink–or lavatory, as it’s known in the trade—is available in a stunning array of materials and styles. In this article, home-design writer Maria LaPiana discusses the choices that have to be made in order to end up with the perfect sink. While white is the dominant color for all bathroom fixtures, some manufacturers offer sinks in other colors. A more complicated choice involves materials: vitreous china, glass, fireclay, synthetic, stone, stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or another metal. For each, LaPiana gives a brief description with pros and cons. She does the same with the options for shape: bowl, round sink, wading pool, rectangular sink, oval sink, or square sink. She also discusses size and scale, then presents information on trough sinks and compact sinks. She concludes with a snapshot of the huge price differences within a single sink style: the vessel sink.
Running the gamut from spalike minimalism to sybaritic decadence, today’s bathrooms bear little resemblance to the no-nonsense washrooms of old. If this is apparent anywhere, it’s in the stunning array of bathroom sinks—or lavatories, as they are known in the trade—available today.
These artful fixtures include vessels of natural stone, copper, bronze, and blown glass as well as ceramic basins that distinguish themselves through designs that are alternately sleek, curvaceous, carved, outsize, or edgy. It may seem that function has given way to form, with designs so stunning we’re likely to forget that bathroom sinks even have a purpose. Consider this a reminder that there are practical considerations to weigh when choosing a new sink.
If you’re designing a bath, your first task is deciding the type of sink suitable for the space. After you’ve settled on one of those seven essential types—pedestal, wall mount, integral, drop-in, undermount, top-mount, and console—there are plenty more decisions to be made.
This is partly because the bathroom sink has evolved from a hardworking fixture the whole family uses to a luxury item designed to call attention to itself. Still, the sink needs to fit in with the overall bath design, says Bill McKeone, design manager for Kallista, a division of Kohler. McKeone designed sinks for more than 25 years before shifting gears to work for Kohler tile brand Ann Sacks. The change gave him some perspective about sinks and the bathrooms they live in. “I was used to putting all of my thoughts into that one product, focusing on every detail,” he says, adding that later, “I came to appreciate that the sink is only one piece of the big picture—that there has to be unity in the room.”
When choosing a lav, it’s important to consider where and how the sink will be used, and by whom. Designers of both sinks and bathrooms agree that the powder room is the best place to be creative. Wow and bling belong in the room to which guests are directed, says Ann Morris, a kitchen and bath designer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The sink you choose depends on the theme of your bathroom,” says Morris. “With so many materials out there, you can make your sink the focal point of your powder room.”
To be clear, we’re talking about a little-used powder room, not the one the family runs in and out of on a daily basis. “You can be really playful in the powder room, as long as it’s used for just a little bit of hand-washing,” says North Carolina architect Sophie Piesse. “In my house, the first-floor powder room is used by my kids all the time.” Clearly, that’s not the best place for a pricey vessel sink.
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