•Learn the basics of choosing a vessel-style sink.
•Find a style that fits your bathroom design.
In the simplest terms, a vessel sink is a free-standing sink that sits directly on the countertop or furniture on which it is mounted. Within that definition there’s a veritable fleet of vessels available in various shapes, sizes, depths and materials. Today, you can find vessel sinks made of cast iron, glass, natural stone such as marble, decorated vitreous china and even in select materials such as stainless steel and bronze.
Contemporary, traditional, fun, elegant, even cutting-edge: These days you can find a vessel-style sink to fit virtually any bathroom décor. One of the newest trends in fixtures, vessel sinks are actually based on a centuries-old design: Chinese washbasins that were used in the days before running water.
No more matching
The traditional rules for choosing bathroom fixtures say that your sink, toilet and tub should be in the same color family and fashioned from the same or similar materials. With vessel sinks, those rules no longer apply. You want your vessel sink to coordinate with the other fixtures in the room, certainly, but you don’t need to match them.
If you’ve got a standard toilet and a standard tub, you can do anything with a vessel sink,” says Seattle-based interior designer Barbara Kalis. “The trend is for it not to match.” For example, if you have a white toilet and a white tub, says Kalis, you could choose a white vessel sink, “or you could do metal, you could do glass, patterns—almost anything you want.”
It’s a good idea to decide whether you want a vessel sink before you start planning the plumbing in your new or remodeled bathroom. The type of sink you install will impact the placement of your pipes.
Vessel sinks also require a different counter height than most traditional bathroom sinks. Conventional recessed-bowl sinks sit at counter height, usually 32 to 36 inches above the floor, which is a comfortable height for most adults for brushing teeth and washing hands.
If the sink is designed to sit on top of the counter, however, it stands to reason that the counter height needs to be lower. Consider whether you want to lower all of the countertops in your bathroom or have counters of varying heights. The height of the bowl will help dictate how much lower you’ll need to go.
Another installation option is to mount your vessel sink on the wall with a bracket or install it on a piece of furniture designed expressly for a vessel sink.
The good news is that you can use almost any type of countertop material you like, according to Kalis. “I’ve seen vessel sinks on wood planks, on concrete, on tile, including mosaic; I’ve seen them on granite or marble slabs.”
Keep in mind that the vessel is likely to draw more attention than the countertop it sits on. “They tend to be the focal point of the bathroom because they’re so beautiful, so it’s best to make the countertop secondary,” Kalis says.
It’s important to choose the right faucet for any sink, but vessels require a few special considerations. You want the water from the faucet to flow down into the bottom of the sink; if the flow hits the side of the sink, it can cause splashing. You’ll also want to make sure there is enough room between the faucet and the sink for users to wash their hands or brush their teeth.
Most bathroom faucets are designed to be attached to the sink base, or to the countertop behind the sink. Because vessel sinks sit above the countertop, they require a counter-based faucet with a long neck that can reach up over the side of the basin and also allow adequate clearance in the basin. Another option for a vessel sink is a wall-mount faucet, which designer Kalis says makes the most practical sense.
In either case, you need to make sure your faucet has a long enough neck so it will reach to the center of the sink. “Most wall-mounted faucets have a bigger throw–or reach–from the back of the wall to the middle of the sink,” Kalis says.
The shape of things to come
Another reason to love vessel sinks is the variety and uniqueness of their shapes.
With vitreous china vessel sinks, Kalis says, the shape is the more distinctive element than the color. “Vitreous china sinks are like black-and-white photos, where you focus on the shape of the sink,” she says. Other vessel styles, like the Conical Bell® Vessels, have deep bowls, while others, like Fit™, are shallower. Some, like the cast iron Hex Strata®, are hexagonal, other models such as the Vessels Bateau® are square.
For homeowners who are concerned that installing a vessel sink in a bathroom will brand it as "turn of the the 21st century," Kalis says not to worry.
"A fad turns into a trend and the trend becomes standard," she says. "The [vessel] style has been around too long now to date the space. It is no longer a trend; it is part of the design ethic."
Explore all vessel-style sinks.