A dramatically sculptural transparent glass vessel sink -- the GV-100 by Kraus.
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.
Master bathrooms offer opportunities for beauty and drama, but once again, it’s important to consider purpose. Do you wash your face, shave, and brush your teeth there? Or do you also blow-dry your hair and apply makeup? If so, how much counter space do you need? Do you wash your hair at your sink? If so, depth may be a concern.
Budget comes into play here as well. While twin sinks have been in vogue for some time now, ask yourself if you really need them. two sinks mean two faucets and twice the plumbing, which can be costly. Twin sinks also cut down on counter space.
What does all this variety mean for homeowners? Today’s sink options are so exciting that it’s hard not to have some fun when choosing them. “It’s important to do what you like. Remember, you’re the one who has to use the sink,” says Travis Rotelli, an interior designer for Kohler. “I understand that people think about resale, but I believe that done properly, a bath sink can be beautiful and functional—and be something that the next guy will like.”
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