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Apron-Front Sinks: Beyond the Farmhouse:

The apron-front, or farmhouse, sink is one of the most popular symbols of home and hearth. Particularly popular in vintage homes, from Victorians to bungalows to French country cottages, they are typically large and substantial, with a deep basin fronted by a broad “apron.”

These sinks radiate a sense of stability and timelessness, hearkening back to a pre-appliance era when a prominent basin was the center of the kitchen.

It served as the primary workspace for canning, cleaning dishes and large pots, every stage of food preparation--even washing dogs and small children.

While apron-front sinks remain an iconic element in traditional-style kitchens, they’re becoming increasingly popular in contemporary spaces as well, thanks to fresh twists on colors, materials and easier installation options.


Keeping pace

The appeal of apron-front sinks has evolved along with the kitchen, thanks in large part to their good looks.

"Apron-front sinks are like beautiful but oh-so-functional sculpture, and they provide a strong, dramatic focal point in a kitchen,” says interior designer Marianne Kohlmann of Milwaukee’s Blue Hot Design, “From an aesthetic standpoint, I really like the way these sinks can break up a run of base cabinets.”

As Kohlmann points out, the iconic sink’s winning shape is as easy to appreciate for its functionality as for its pleasing looks. “Practically speaking, if you cook with large stock pots or bake on cookie sheets, having a wide and deep single- or double-bowl apron-front sink makes cleaning up a pleasure.”

Besides being large enough to accommodate oversize pots and pans, apron-front sinks are also ergonomically friendly. Often oriented farther forward than drop-in or undermount sinks, they let you get closer and work with less stress and strain.

Another plus: the classic deep basin of the apron-front sink means less splashing while you work, for easier cleanup and fewer puddles on surrounding surfaces, floors and walls.

Everything old is new again

Along with the kitchen, the iconic sink has undergone some notable evolutionary changes of its own, and is now more versatile than ever. New interpretations of the venerated style include fresh shapes, new colors, and decorative designs, from depictions of nature scenes to intricate geometrics.

Enameled cast iron and fireclay remain the most popular material choices, not merely for their beauty, strength and durability, but also due to the expanded range of color, pattern and shape options. Many of these design variations allow the apron-front sink to more easily align with an unprecedented array of styles. Moroccan meets Craftsman? Industrial urban loft meets Mid-century Modern? Yes on both counts--and more.

Fresh takes

New materials have also begun to inhabit the classic form, including stainless steel, for a look that cleverly straddles traditional and contemporary design.

Another important new wrinkle is easier installation. Traditionally, apron-front sinks have required the support of custom -built cabinetry, but Kohler has just unveiled a line of self-trimming apron-front sinks that are easy to install in an existing kitchen without the need to replace cabinetry. This key innovation makes the iconic apron-front more accessible to homeowners than ever before.

Universal appeal

The idea of including a “farmhouse” sink in a modern space may seem incongruous. But it works, because the element that unites the venerable apron-front sink and contemporary design sensibility is a desire for simplicity. Clean lines and classic forms bridge the two styles, making these sinks versatile enough to work beautifully in both traditional and contemporary kitchens.

In a testament to that versatility, Kohlmann has specified apron-front sinks in three completely different kitchen remodels in the past few months, including a classic colonial, an 1880 Queen Anne Victorian, and an ocean-side contemporary home that reinterprets Prairie-style architecture.

In each home’s kitchen, the clean outlines of the apron-front sink are a natural, perfect fit. And in each setting, they contribute greatly to the beauty of the kitchen’s design. In contrast to many kitchen sinks designed to be more discreet by integration into countertops, apron-front sinks have an unabashed presence, which makes them a great centerpiece in the kitchen.

“An apron-front sink deserves to be the star of the show,” Kohlmann agrees, “So you shouldn't have a supporting cast--other appliances, fixtures and design elements--drawing too much focus away from it."

Water is a fundamental element of the kitchen. And apron-front sinks celebrate its presentation in much the same way that a central fountain in a park provides a serene axis for the busy life that revolves around it. Apron-front sinks communicate a sense of permanence and quiet grace--an attractive quality in an increasingly accelerated world.

Kitchen Design

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