Sinks rise above it all Home: Forget the counter and its clutter and install a beautiful basin that can stand on its own.

March 08, 1998|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

There's a new look in sink design that's making a splash in the bath. More precisely, it's the bowl that's rising above convention.

Out from under the constriction of being recessed into a counter top, the exposed bowl is designed to be viewed in its entirety, appreciated for its sculptural form, sheer geometry, color and tactile surface. Made of cast glass, cast iron, metal, or real or synthetic stone, these bowls have the appearance of handcrafting as well as plenty of style options.

Many of the styles are free-standing, without even a counter top to rise above. Naturally, counter-less installations require thought about where to stash the necessities of the bath. For those accustomed to filling counters with toothbrush, toothpaste, vitamins, hair brushes, mousses, makeup and the like, the idea of eliminating that surface might be daunting. Others love the notion of hiding these essentials so they don't create clutter or interfere with the decor.

In the powder room, of course, it isn't as serious an issue. All you really need is a place for hand towels and soap.

A word about faucets is in order. Often, with above-counter sinks, you'll see wall-mounted hardware, which is part of the design package. The faucet often is made in a simple silhouette of gleaming polished chrome, and there's just a single control, adding to the arty appearance.

If there is no counter, obviously the wall is the only spot for mounting. Conventional faucets also may be used, provided there's at least a 4-inch height to clear the basin rim. The faucet must have a reach of 5 inches or more for proper positioning above the basin. Don't worry about splashing - there's no more than that of a standard sink.

Consider, for example, the sleek look of a frosted glass basin mounted on a conical pedestal finished in brushed copper, separated by a tempered glass counter. In a compact powder room stripped bare of clutter, all essentials tucked in niches or in cabinets out of sight, it makes a bold contemporary statement. When the bowl is transparent glass mounted on a counter that wraps around the edge and extends to the floor, it takes on an almost ethereal quality. The bowl seems to float, and the asymmetrical console itself is an unorthodox element.

The copper cone tapers gracefully to a point punctuated by a chrome banding. This fully all-in-one sink and base, also available with a polished chrome base and cobalt blue glass bowl, was designed in 1993. The Italian import stands 33 inches tall, including basin.

A minimal design by Philippe Starck for Duravit strongly suggests an earlier era. A pristine white bowl on a white ceramic top measuring 21 5/8 inches wide and 22 1/2 inches deep, supported by a maple vanity table with slender legs and white counter top, recalls a Victorian-era washbasin set with a large bowl and pitcher. Its Shaker-like lines and simplicity are appealing in minimal contemporary as well as traditional Arts & Crafts rooms, and the wood adds natural warmth.

Inspiration from the past

Designers for the Kohler Co. were, in fact, partially inspired by the turn-of-the-century washbasin for their Vessels collection. The group includes good-looking cast iron and vitreous china bowls that are especially interesting because of their glazing, which gives the pieces the look of pottery. With a glossy or matte finish, some bowls feature patterning within, subtle because of their tone-on-tone quality yet arresting because of their textural nature.

One overall spiral design was adapted from a metal heating vent pattern dating to the 1870s; it adorns the interior basin of the Etchings lavatory. A low-relief pattern adds textural interest to the underside.

Another handsome design is a hexagon-shaped lavatory made of vitreous china with a black matte finish. With fanciful swirled handles and faucet called Finials also in a matte black Teflon-coated finish (to create the appearance of wrought iron), against a creamy backdrop of limestone, the effect is dramatic and sophisticated.

Part of the beauty of the Vessels collection has to do with textural features that enhance and deepen the colors. The Spun Glass vessel, available in clear, cobalt or aquamarine glass, measures 17 inches in diameter with a depth of 5 inches. Surface irregularities such as air bubbles formed during the casting process and the unevenness of the naturally occurring pigments that give the glass its color underscore a hand-crafted feel. The basin walls range from 3/8 to 1 inch thick.

The glass bowls may look fragile, but they're actually quite sturdy. In fact, they must measure up to vigorous testing such as a metal ball drop test, measured in pounds it takes to get the glass to shatter. As far as maintenance is concerned, a nonabrasive cleanser and soft cloth are all that is necessary.

Besides mounting above the counter, Kohler offers a decorative wrought-iron wall bracket as a handsome alternative. The scrollwork lends another rich, decorative, handcrafted look.

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