SEAM­LESS THINGK­ING

Dur­ing the early 20th-cen­tury bun­ga­low era, sinks and coun­ter­tops came to­gether in a way that’s still prac­ti­cal.

Arts and Crafts Homes - - DETAILS - By Mary Ellen Pol­son

har­riet beecher stowe was 40 years ahead of her time when she in­stalled a fully plumbed, un­der­mount sink with ad­ja­cent counter space in her 1870s kitchen. She even had the fore­sight to tuck three am­ple draw­ers into the cab­i­net base.

Stowe (who, with her sis­ter Catharine Beecher, ad­vo­cated bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions for women at home) clearly un­der­stood the im­por­tance of a seam­less kitchen workspace. She cared about beauty, too: The built-in pine cab­i­net that held the sink was paint-grained to re­sem­ble ch­est­nut.

The cru­cial re­la­tion­ship be­tween the sink and its coun­ter­top was sub­ject to many in­no­va­tions in the first decades of the 20th cen­tury. Basins had been used for mil­len­nia, but who­ever came up with the idea of the un­der­mount sink—a basin at­tached more or less flush with the coun­ter­top—con­jured up one of the most use­ful kitchen fix­tures ever.

Pe­riod ex­am­ples in cop­per, zinc, stain­less steel (with us since 1913), and nickel-coated met­als an­tic­i­pate styles still found in con­tem­po­rary kitchens. Rounded or oval basin sinks be­gan ap­pear­ing in pantries in the late 19th cen­tury. Th­ese are still an at­trac- tive and his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate style for sec­ondary, prep, and pantry ar­eas— es­pe­cially in cop­per, a ma­te­rial common in the era and now pro­moted for its an­ti­sep­tic prop­er­ties.

Since many early sinks were fab­ri­cated to or­der, it was an easy jump to fash­ion an all-in-one unit. While some early in­te­gral sink coun­ters could be crude (a gal­va­nized tin sink mounted un­der a wood drain­board wasn’t likely to sur­vive in­tense use for long), oth­ers of­fered el­e­gance and dura­bil­ity.

The most fa­mous of th­ese, and among the most seam­less, is prob­a­bly the Ger­man sil­ver sink (ac­tu­ally made of nickel with other met­als). Avail­able with both sin­gle and dou­ble basins, th­ese sinks made a smooth curve down from the metal coun­ter­top with­out any cracks or crevices to col­lect dirt. The most grace­ful fea­ture molded drain­boards and an S-shaped curve di­vid­ing the basins. Free­stand­ing ex­am­ples rested on finely de­tailed metal legs.

Such nickel-coated sinks were ex­pen­sive and con­se­quently rare. A more af­ford­able op­tion that quickly caught on was the cast-iron sink coated with enamel. Most of the re­fin­ished orig­i­nal and re­pro­duc­tion ca­st­iron sinks now avail­able are coated

EVEN SOME EARLY IN­TE­GRATED SINK AND COUN­TER­TOP COM­BI­NA­TIONS WERE BOTH DURABLE AND EL­E­GANT.

with high-fired porce­lain.

Like its cab­i­net coun­ter­part, the Hoosier, the free­stand­ing cast-iron sink is an all-in-one food prep space. The de­sign is in­ge­nious, of­fer­ing rounded cor­ners, rolled rims, and seam­less sur­faces from edge to high back­splash. In sync with the goals of the late 19th-cen­tury “san­i­tary move­ment,” it of­fers fewer places for dirt and germs to hide.

In a mam­moth-size ex­am­ple, one or two in­te­gral sinks are flanked on ei­ther side by ex­panses of porce­lain fab- ri­cated with drainage ribs or grooves to di­rect wa­ter into the sink. The sink stands on shaped, ta­per­ing porce­lain legs; a wall-mounted faucet fits into the high back­splash. Vari­a­tions pro­duced for decades range from sin­gle-basin wall-hung sinks with one or no side coun­ters to leg­less ver­sions in­tended for mount­ing on top of cab­i­nets.

Rare in the pe­riod, apron-front or farm­house-style sinks have their ori­gins in earth­en­ware and fire­clay sinks, and prob­a­bly owe a debt to the flat­bot­tomed dry sink as well. Hard-fired

ce­ramic fire­clay sinks orig­i­nated in Eng­land; Shaws (still in business) be­gan pro­duc­ing them in 1897. Mod­ern­day it­er­a­tions of the farm­house sink come in almost ev­ery pos­si­ble ma­te­rial: ham­mered and pati­nated cop­per, soap­stone, slate, stain­less steel, fire­clay, and porce­lain. Most, how­ever, are un­der­mount or over­mount sinks, mean­ing there are still small gaps be­tween sink and counter.

Free­stand­ing porce­lain sinks may be seam­less, but even the largest of­fer fi­nite counter space. What bet­ter so­lu­tion than to turn to one of the old­est ma­te­ri­als used in kitchens (stone) and one of the new­est (con­crete) to pro­duce almost seam­less coun­ter­tops with in­te­gral sinks? Laser-guided ma­chin­ery makes it easy to cut stone so that a sink

all but dis­ap­pears into a counter of any size. It’s pos­si­ble to shape a sink out of a sin­gle piece of soap­stone, and even flat-bot­tomed sinks can be pre­ci­sion­cut to drain per­fectly.

Like clay but far stronger, con­crete is ma­nip­u­lated by ar­ti­sans into per­fectly smooth coun­ters that segue ef­fort­lessly into sink basin—with, if de­sired, di­viders that pick up the vaunted S-shape of a circa 1915 nickel-al­loy sink. In another wel­come trend, fab­ri­ca­tors are adding drainage grooves to coun­ters made not just of stone and wood, but also metal, con­crete, and such man­made ma­te­ri­als as quartz blends. They say what goes around comes around, and that’s never been truer than for kitchens of the Arts & Crafts re­vival.

Au­thor Har­riet Beecher Stowe built in a sink cab­i­net with hot and cold taps in her Hartford kitchen; she also added a side counter and three am­ple draw­ers.

Slant-front styles like Na­tive Trails’ ‘Zuma’ in an­tique cop­per re­call early wash­stand sinks.

With its sep­a­rate hot and cold taps and wood counter, an oval un­der­mount cop­per sink is orig­i­nal to this 1915 pantry.

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