Once upon a time, choosing a sink simply meant deciding between cast iron and stainless. Homeowners with some extra cash usually opted for long-lasting cast iron while stainless proved an attractive, inexpensive and non-white alternative.
With emphasis on custom homes — and kitchens a major focal point for entertaining areas — the kitchen sink has become more than a place to stash dirty dishes. Modern kitchen sinks serve as convenient prep area, impromptu ice bins for cooling wine during a party and an extended cooking area with easily accessible water above or behind.
Far from an either-or type of decision, sink shopping should be done with consideration to kitchen décor and the needs of the primary sink user.
"A lot of it today on a sink is to determine what kind of countertop you're going to do first," says Jim Leannah, builder sales manager for Ferguson Enterprises, a plumbing and electrical supplier in Medford.
"That kind of pushes you into one direction or another when you decide if you're doing tile versus granite versus laminate."
Material wise, sinks still come in stainless and cast iron, albeit higher quality, with composites and special metals rounding out the menu.
Heavy gauge stainless is still a reliable workhorse with improved sound-deadening technology to cut down on clanking sounds and to maintain water temperatures. It is now available in creative shapes and sizes for homeowners willing to deal with water spots.
For cast iron, simple white is still popular for new kitchens, says Leannah. But color is a big draw with various manufacturers offering color palettes ranging from earthy biscotti and slate black to Kohler's line of 93 percent recycled cast iron sinks, in colors like Roussillon Red and Vapour Blue.
A step farther, composite materials — polyester/acrylic, quartz composite and granite based are heat resistant and non-porous with durability and easy cleanup. Popular lines, also available in a slew of colors, include Blanco's Silgranit and Moen's MoenStone.
For a more classic look, vitreous china and fireclay sinks are fired at intense heat, producing hard surface custom sinks. They are usually in pale clay colors and hand painted and stained to complement cottage-style country and French country kitchens, says Medford's Slakey Brothers showroom manager Megan Toch. More often than not, the sink will become a focal point, instead of countertops, and apron-style sinks add emphasis to a custom sink.
"If they're going to do a farmhouse style, a lot of people like a fire clay apron," Toch says.
Stainless aside, custom copper sinks add unique appeal for earth-toned countertops, Leannah says, though, considered a "living finish," Leannah says "six out of 10 people end up disappointed" with color change — so be sure before you buy!
In terms of functionality, as many "layout" options exist as color and material types for sinks. Choose between one large "bowl" or a narrow, winding trough-style sink (for households that host big parties with lots of prep work) or two-sided for washing dishes (like fine china) by hand.
Multitasking folk might like three-way sinks, available in side-by-side, corner-style or a two-way sink with a third narrow trough at back — ideal for rinsing veggies or filling with ice to chill wine for a party.
Sick of banging pan handles and trays against a too-tall divider in a two-sided sink? A new trend, lower "smart dividers" offer more space to work.
Finally, consider accessibility. Under mount sinks are ideal for custom countertops where a sink is non-focal while more attractive apron-style sinks, custom copper or laminate, where the "innards" show through the side, are best served by drop-in style sinks.
While sinks a generation ago were about function and dishwashing, today's sinks add style, convenience and appeal to modern kitchens.
"It's really all about personal taste and the look they're going for in their kitchen," Toch says." And there definitely are a lot of options."