Interior Design

The Multitasking Countertop Material That Makes A+ Sinks

March  8, 2016

We don’t pay enough mind to kitchen sinks—as one of life’s least entertaining chores is the main reason to spend time around them. The usual porcelain and stainless steel designs seem just fine in most homes, and those who do want to highlight their sinks usually opt for oversize farmhouse or enameled cast iron beauties.

But one renovated Brooklyn kitchen exhibits a different way to turn this standard fixture into a subtle focal point. Plenty of custom craftsmanship went into the space below, but it's the gorgeous integrated sink that could work in any kitchen renovation.

Photo by Sweeten

Many integrated (or "integral") sinks—which are sinks made from the same material as the countertop—are in fact just typical porcelain sink basins that are extended up and over the detached countertop to catch more moisture. Here, the integrated sink features a seamless continuity from countertop down to sink wall. It's a streamlined looks that's also far easier to clean (no crevices!).

Photo by Sweeten

In this home, the use of soapstone for the counter was already a striking design decision that brought a matte finish and depth of color to the space—but it's also one of a few materials that's just as well fit for a sink as for a counter. Soapstone is less porous than other stone slabs and naturally stain-resistant (even to acidic spills like lemon juice!), stands up amazingly well to heat, and can you can set hot pots and pans on it without any fear of leaving markings. It also doesn't need to be sealed.

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On the other hand, it's soft: Soapstone can scratch and nick more readily than other materials, so a sink protector rack is a smart thing to keep in the base of a soapstone sink. But the dark surface and subtle veining found in most cuts would conceal a sink full of clean-up bumps and bruises—and many designers find that a little natural wear is just like a good patina: sophisticated and full of stories. Mineral oil can be added to accelerate the natural darkening of the surface, and any truly offensive wear can be buffed out gently using coarse sandpaper followed by a finer grain and water.

Photo by Sweeten

It doesn't, of course, come free: The entry-level cost per square foot for a 1 1/4" thick slab from Vermont Soapstone is $70. And having an integrated sink designed to go along with your soapstone counter will also tack on to that fee. But the result—a harmoniously designed, all-natural sink and countertop that will last you forever and look great doing it—is a splurge worth considering if you're considering a kitchen (or a bathroom!) remodel.

Kerry O'Brien is an editor at Sweeten, the N.Y.C. start up that pairs homeowners with excellent general contractors to help see through their vision. Learn more about the project above on their blog.

2 Comments

amysarah March 8, 2016
Soapstone sinks are great - we've done a couple of "farmhouse" types, essentially installed as undermounts that have held up really well. Also - grooves can be carved from the adjacent counter, pitched toward the sink, for integral drying/drainage space. <br /><br />As far as sanding/buffing out nicks, I'd suggest having it done professionally - they know how to make it pretty invisible. As noted, since soapstone is nonporous and nonreactive, it really doesn't stain - also makes it more bacteria resistant.
 
Smaug March 8, 2016
Don't much like the square corners as far as cleaning. I would also be very leery about taking sandpaper to a countertop, however gently- the slightest low spot will attract stains like mad.