Think sink to add bathroom pizazz * Home: The once-lowly basin leads its fellow fixtures into the realm of splash dash

October 22, 1995|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

As bathroom style continues to make a splash, fixture designers are looking to architecture, building details and interior design trends for their inspiration.

Of all bathroom fixtures, the sink is the best vehicle for showing off style. Sink design can change the character of a room with classic or modern accents, whether it's freestanding or part of an elegant console.

What's being explored in sink and other fixture designs is creative ways to address form, function, decorative embellishment, materials and integration with cabinets.

Some forms, such as the pedestal sink, are familiar. Its design is simple: a column supporting an attached bowl. In small spaces, the pedestal is an ideal solution. But its current popularity has as much to do with its shapeliness as its practicality. Freeing the bowl from a cabinet pulls the eye to its form.

Many of today's popular designs for the pedestal are based on classics from the turn of the century through the 1930s and refer to a specific period or country style. Absolute's Deco collection, for example, is characterized by hexagonal forms, and Porcher's Cotswold suite advertises "romantic English style."

Classic pedestal sinks tend to have little room for more than a soap dish. So some of the most dramatic new silhouettes are adding function as an integral element of the pedestal design.

Absolute's Siena, a sleek pedestal lavatory, offers a solution for those who like pedestals but hate to sacrifice precious counter space. An elliptical bowl is integrated on both sides into a slim counter ledge, measuring 61 inches across from end to end. The piece is hand-crafted from a ceramic called fireclay, which allows the shapely molding of the basin, with a graceful pedestal that flares out gently toward the floor.

Siena measures 21 1/4 inches front to back, stands 33 5/8 inches tall and retails for $1,295.

Shapes other than pedestals that are commanding attention are sinks with legs. The designs have come a long way from bowls resting on spindly chrome legs that were common some 30 years ago.

American Chinaware's Sonnet console lavatory actually resembles a piece of wood furniture, as the bowl sits on four turned legs. A 37-inch-wide model is available in more than 100 colors for $1,599; a 44-inch version is sold only in white for $1,799. Placed on a wooden floor, the china sink lightens and enlarges a bathroom, giving it a modern yet classic look in a traditional setting.

Hand-painting is another decorative feature that is giving bathroom sinks a sharper image. Hand-painted bowls have been available for some time, but designs now stretch beyond botanical themes and simple line borders to include sophisticated patterns that mimic fabric designs and such techniques as batik, stenciling and marbling.

Porcher, Absolute and American Chinaware even offer an opportunity for consumers to personalize their bathrooms by matching patterns on their sinks (and coordinating fixtures) to wallpapers, tiles or fabrics.

Borders may be a simple hand-painted option for creating a dramatic profile. One example is Kohler's Calabria pattern, inspired by a fresco found on the walls of a centuries-old palazzo in Italy.

Calabria, a stylized wave pattern, takes on different appearances, depending on the background color selection. The red and green border is shown on Kohler's Reveries collection against two solid backgrounds: a sandy Chamois, or Timberline, a deep hunter green. On the former, this pattern is a bold statement, and its colors punctuate the piece. On the latter, the pattern takes on a more subtle look in red with touches of yellow. The pedestal sink sells for $1,067. The pattern is repeated on the base of the pedestal and, of course, on coordinating fixtures.

The Calabria pattern also is available on a 12-by-4-inch ceramic tile and trims for faucets for Kohler's Antique line, for those who want to extend the look to accessories.

Besides embellishing the surface of sinks, manufacturers are considering nontraditional materials for construction. Although vitreous china is the most frequently used sink material, some fixture designers are mixing their media. This works especially well with pedestal sinks, since there's more room for play.

At the high end, Sherle Wagner has combined marble, granite and even lapis lazuli and jade with vitreous china or metal bowls. The price tag is $5,000 and up.

Eljer is expanding on that look with its Fresco collection. The Veneziana pedestal sink teams a faux granite with a ruby vitreous china basin. The base, like a neoclassical flat column that splays slightly outward at the bottom, is decorated with a flame-like design that appears to be carved out, as does the cross-and-leaf border that encircles the base and sink top. It measures 33 1/4 inches by 22 1/2 inches by 34 inches tall and sells for $2,132.

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