Q: In the course of planning a kitchen renovation, I've gotten a lot of conflicting advice concerning the relative merits of porcelain and stainless steel sinks. Can you help me decide which kind would be best? Also, should I get a single-basin sink, or one that is divided?
A: There are no uniform answers to the questions you pose. In addition to price, you'll need to consider aesthetic as well as functional factors before deciding which sort of sink is most appropriate in your situation.
A high-quality porcelain sink, usually a combination of enamel on top of cast iron, can definitely be a decorative asset. That's especially so now that porcelain sinks are available in lots of colors other than old-fashioned white. As an example, Kohler makes the sink shown in the photo in 10 colors.
I tend to agree with those who say that porcelain is suited to more types of kitchens. In a country-style setting, for instance, a stainless sink will probably seem out of place, given its sleek, high-tech appearance.
But it's also true that porcelain sinks are not as durable and easy to maintain, though stainless steel will also not remain in flawless condition forever. You need to decide just how sparkly perfect you want your kitchen to look -- and for how long.
As for the size and shape of a sink, I personally prefer a large and undivided basin, if only because it's easier for scrubbing roasting pans. Some people insist, however, that a divided sink saves washing time and facilitates food preparation. And I suppose this option does make more sense for households in which two people work at the sink simultaneously.
My skepticism about the advantages of a divided sink has been partly erased, I must confess, by this new Kohler model called "Galleon." It's designed for gourmet cooks who require a large amount of cleaning space.
The Galleon's extra-large basin measures 23 by 15 inches and is 10 inches deep. That's certainly big enough to accommodate pots and pans.
The smaller disposal basin, intended mainly for preparing vegetables and other foods, is less than half as wide and 3 inches shallower than the other part of the sink. Although the entire unit (38 by 22 inches) is oversized in comparison to a standard kitchen sink, its virtues will be readily apparent to serious cooks.
My final bit of advice is that you take care in choosing a color for the sink. If you go with stainless steel, then select something metallic that will blend with the kitchen's other metal finishes. For porcelain sinks, the color should complement the counter top.
While a contrasting color may appear attractive at first, it can distract from other decorative elements in the kitchen that probably should be given greater importance than the sink. An exception to that rule may arise in a chic kitchen where some hot color has been used on the counter top. In that case, choosing one of the exotic new sink colors might well be the fashionable thing to do.
I'm a bit reluctant to resolve your quandaries for you. Any of the possibilities you're mulling may turn out to be the right one. All I can suggest is that you clarify your needs and preferences, and then make the choices that will best fulfill them.