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Down the decorative drain

Swap out ordinary sinks for vessels with design punch for a quick, budget-friendly upgrade

By Mary G. Pepitone
Universal Uclick

A sinking feeling can be a good thing when it comes to the kitchen or bathroom basin. Form follows function with today’s bounty of stylish basin choices for the home.

“A sink can become an unexpected focal point in a kitchen or bathroom,” said Suzanne Healy, an artist and co-owner of Artisan Crafted, a decade-old online retailer based in Langley, Wash. “Sinks can be like functional artwork in a house, depending on the homeowner’s design aesthetic.”

Artisan Crafted sells thousands of home products, made by hundreds of artists in the U.S., and Healy says their sink options are best-sellers. Instead of a total kitchen or bath remodel, many are swapping out builder’s-grade bowls or stainless steel sinks for vessels with visual impact.

“The kitchen is the center of a home, and the bathroom or powder room is used many times a day, by both family and visitors,” Healy noted. “The very nature of a sink invites people to gather around it and to use it.”

Vessel varieties can be fashioned from metal, stone, glass, wood, porcelain or concrete:

• Self-rimming sinks have a secure, waterproof outer lip, which can be “dropped in” and sealed into a custom-cut hole in the countertop or vanity. At their most extravagant, the rims of these basins can become a canvas for decoration, including hand-painting or specialized shapes, usually used in bathrooms.

• Under-mount sinks give a clean look of open counter space. Mounted beneath a counter or vanity with special brackets for a seamless look, these sinks are best when paired with stone or wood surfaces.

• Vessel sinks are most often found in bathrooms and sit atop the counter or vanity with the rim hovering above the surface. Sometimes called countertop sinks, these can be made of jewel-like glass, hand-cast bronze or sculpted stone, and can be used to dramatic effect when placed on a singular stand.

• Pedestal sinks are most popular in bathrooms, with designs that fully integrate sink and stand in one piece. Traditional white porcelain pedestal sinks are a timeless, clean choice, but a more modern approach could include a hewn stone pedestal, which brings one-of-a-kind design into the home.

• Wall-mount sinks can make a big splash when placed upon a backsplash design in a kitchen or bathroom. Wall-hung washbasins work particularly well in tight spaces, with some triangular sinks designed to be backed into a corner.

When it comes to washing options, homeowners should feel free to think outside the basin. Sinks can be made in different shapes to fit into different design aesthetics. A sink with a wide rim might have a gilded fleur-de-lis painted around it, or an under-mount glass sink might be backlit for a dramatic contrast to a dark-stone countertop, Healy said.

The latest in vessel vogue starts in the center of the home’s hubbub.

“The farmhouse sink had been a staple in kitchens for hundreds of years and never goes out of style,” Healy said. “Also called an apron-front sink, because material is exposed along the bottom cabinetry, it can be made of copper, natural stone, or concrete.”

The island isn’t uncharted territory for a kitchen’s prep sink. A small but mighty multitasker, the prep sink should complement the main kitchen sink. Add-on features, such as a soap dispenser and cutting board that fits over the bowl, make this a sink that really works.

However, a watershed moment of inspiration comes when a sink is part of an overall design aesthetic. Standard shiny chrome faucets have evolved into more choices, which include today’s popular oil-rubbed bronze finish or an artisan-crafted hand-blown glass spigot.

Most often, when considering updating the sink, homeowners also change the surrounding countertop or vanity. Especially in bathrooms, sinks can become part of a freestanding cabinet, retro console or futuristic metal framework, depending on a homeowner’s style sensibilities.

“People also are becoming more aware and using products that are eco-friendly,” Healy said. “Sinks made from copper, stone and sustainable wood are nontoxic, natural and long-lasting.”

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when cleaning and caring for sinks. Healy has teak wood sinks in her home’s bathrooms that are easily maintained with a swish of the sponge with mild soap and water. Metals, such as copper, will develop a patina over time, while stone sinks must be sealed periodically.

There need not be a “sink or swim” dilemma when it comes to washbasin options.

“Good design in a home is about paying attention to the details and elevating utilitarian functions,” Healy said. “We all have sinks in our homes, and paying attention to something that is most often overlooked as mundane, is a great way to show your personality in an unexpected way.”

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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