June 26, 2011

Sinks now kitchens' focal point

With the right accessories, you can hide dirty dishes, add counter space and more

By STACY DOWNS McClatchy Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If you haven't looked at kitchen sinks in a few years, you might be surprised. Kim Kubicki of Overland Park, Kan., certainly was when she recently remodeled her kitchen.

sinks
click image to enlarge

This kitchen sink is made of 80 percent granite and 20 percent acrylic resin and also features an integrated cutting board.

McClatchy Newspapers

sinks
click image to enlarge

This sink with integrated food prep bowls and cutting board was unveiled at the 2011 Designer Showcase in Kansas City.

McClatchy Newspapers

SINK PROS & CONS

• CONCRETE

Pros: Can be integrated into countertops; many options for color, shape, inlay

Cons: Is porous, so coffee and citrus juices stain surface

• COPPER

Pros: Accentuates rustic look

Cons: Finish difficult to maintain

• ENAMELED CAST IRON

Pros: Crisp whites, lots of colors; resists scratches and retains heat

Cons: Heavy, chips, shows stains, hard on dishes

• ENAMELED STEEL

Pros: Many colors, affordable, lighter than cast iron

Cons: Thin, prone to flexing and chipping, not recommended with garbage disposal because it noisily vibrates

• ENGINEERED STONE

Pros: Acrylic resin makes it stain- and chip-resistant; lots of colors and easy to clean

Cons: Can appear faded

• FIRE CLAY

Pros: Has the look of cast iron, is durable, glossy and low-maintenance

Cons: Limited sizes and colors, can chip, hard on dishes, expensive, imported (could slow down remodeling)

• SOAPSTONE

Pros: Retains heat, can handle hot pots, moderately easy to maintain

Cons: Scratches, expensive

• SOLID SURFACE (SUCH AS CORIAN)

Pros: Can be integrated with countertop or drain board; durable, stain-resistant, lots of colors; scratches and burns can be sanded out

Cons: Must be installed by professional; hot pans burn it

• STAINLESS STEEL

Pros: Durable, easy to clean, sanitary, timeless look; thinner gauges are affordable; thick gauges resist water spots and dents

Cons: Scratches, dents, stains, water spots; thicker gauges with high nickel content can be expensive

• STONE (SUCH AS GRANITE AND SLATE)

Pros: Custom look, durable

Cons: Softer granite can stain or etch; slate is difficult to maintain, hard on dishes

ACCESSORIES

• COLANDERS: No need to hunt in the cabinets; some sinks have colanders and measuring bowls that fit inside.

• PREP BOWLS: Six sink-accessory prep bowls available through Kohler allow the user to gather ingredients prior to cooking and add them as needed to a recipe. The bowl can be used on a plastic flip tray that can function as a prep or serving tray; flip it over for a cutting surface.

• GRIDS: The metal sink inserts offer protection from surface scratches. They stand on rubberized legs and act as drying racks for pots, pans, dishes and glasses. Stand-alone baskets hold utensils.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE ...

• FAUCET: Many have integrated pull-out sprayers. Some turn on with a back-of-the-hand tap when hands are dirty or sticky. Jessica Schroeder, product manager for kitchen faucets at Kohler, says some faucets have a pause feature. Simultaneously consider your faucet and sink so that you end up with the correct number of holes.

• SOAP DISPENSER: Some are integrated to keep the sink and counter uncluttered. Some sinks and cabinets also have sponge-and-scrubby storage to keep things tidy.

• STRAINER: You want a good-quality one that holds in the water but easily drains without your having to fish out food gunk with your fingers.

"We had a double-basin cast-iron sink before," says Kubicki, a financial product analyst who is a baking enthusiast. Her husband, Steve Kubicki, does most of the cooking. "That sink had problems."

The drop-in sink's rim picked up grime around the edges. Le Creuset pots chipped the sink surface and led to rust. Cookie sheets had to be turned sideways to be cleaned.

Designer Sue Shinneman, co-owner of Kitchen Studio showroom in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District, picked out a new sink for the Kubickis that feels like a luxury car in comparison. It's undermounted, so Kim can wipe the counters with one swoop into the sink. The Blanco sink is Silgranit, an engineered stone of 80 percent granite and 20 percent acrylic resin that shouldn't chip or show dirt. And the single basin can accommodate baking sheets laid flat for cleaning.

One of the main perks of a new sink is the selection of accessories, Kubicki says. She has a grid at the bottom that helps protect the sink surface, as well as a wire basket for utensils that require hand-washing. But what she really loves is the walnut cutting board that fits over her sink, extending the work surface.

"We use it all the time," Kubicki says. Another bonus: The cutting board acts as a sink cover. So if the couple are entertaining, guests don't spy a sink full of dirty dishes. The once-humble -- and often out of sight -- kitchen sink has evolved into a focal point as kitchens have become more open to the gathering areas of the home.

Shinneman initially laughed at the recent surge of sink accessories, but after using them, she concluded they come in handy. HGTV designer Candice Olson also is a fan.

"More people are downsizing, so counter space is at a premium," Olson says. "Kitchen sink cutting boards add additional work surface. Flip boards with integrated bowls can turn the sink into a buffet. Chef-style sinks have integrated steamers for vegetables and boiling water. It seems like the only thing kitchen sinks can't do is clean themselves."

But Olson doesn't like the popular single-basin sink, which many kitchen designers prefer for its clean look and capacity to hold large pots and pans.

"There's no place to rest (drying) dishes with a single basin," says Olson, whose family is renting a house with a single-basin kitchen sink. "They go on the counter. And you don't want the kids' water bottles to go in this big single basin with dirty pots and pans. I prefer a double- or even triple-basin sink."

Manufacturers such as Kohler have come up with a compromise: single-basin sinks with a six-inch tall divide that maintains the streamlined look yet keeps functionality intact.

As for appearance, colors beyond stainless steel or white -- think browns, beiges and grays -- are becoming more popular. But consumers are also going for reds and yellows in the kitchen, especially in farmhouse-style sinks, says Adam Horowitz, director of marketing for Kohler kitchen products. The company offers 20 kitchen sink colors.

"That apron front on a farmhouse sink really brings color into the kitchen," Horowitz says. "People are refreshing versus remodeling their homes. Color is a pick-me-up."

New countertops and cabinets are usually necessary when a new farmhouse sink is installed because of its wide girth. Stainless steel farmhouse sinks weigh 150 pounds; cast iron, another 50 to 75 pounds. Kohler recently introduced a farmhouse style that doesn't require new cabinetry.

Undermount sinks in general call for new countertops. But today's drop-in sinks are looking more streamlined.

Blanco's Micro-Edge sink has a 1.25 millimeter edge that's flush to the countertop, says Blanco marketing manager Christy Emens.

Whatever material you choose for your multitasking basin, be sure to wipe up daily. Choose a specialized cleaner (avoid abrasives) that's intended for the material, such as Bar Keepers Friend for stainless steel.

 

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