8th February 2023 by Hayley Caradoc-Hodgkins
By far the most coveted item in my home is the kitchen sink. I love that sink. I think about the sink a little bit too much. When not thinking about the sink, I look up pictures of other people's sinks. When I visit a historic house, you guessed it; I'll be found inspecting the draining boards. I'm not proud of it, but I have been known to have 'spare' ones. I think it is fair to say if there was a fire, I would take nothing BUT my kitchen sink (my husband will grab the kids). It's where late-night conversations take place, and wash and dry roles are designated. Where kids have pulled up chairs to reach the taps, or maybe they once squashed their chubby bodies in for a bath.
It's where the memories of culinary triumphs and disasters have been washed away. Sturdy, steadfast and indestructible. A well-sourced sink can be the game changer in a small space and the character in a simple one. Why should something so practical be boring or an afterthought? I know this may irk many a designer, but I feel you should source this important item and
build the kitchen around it. I am never going to fall in love with an artfully placed corner cupboard or chopping board storage more than some exceptional sanitaryware. I will focus on 'reclaimed' sinks in this piece, with a few new alternatives. I know many people might flinch at the thought of buying something with years of use under its belt, but hear me out. They are not wrong when they say 'they don't make them how they used to'. Before the dawn of the dishwasher, homes could have multiple sinks with myriad uses. There were Belfasts, butlers, laundry and troughs. Each with a unique purpose. Many of their uses are obsolete, but it doesn't mean they are. Purchasing one of these historical gems can add immediate personality or freshen up an existing design. Here are some pointers to get you on your way to finding your perfect piece. My first port of call is always Ebay. Now I realise this is hardly insider knowledge, but sometimes, just sometimes, you find the holy grail just sitting on someone's driveway or dumped in the back garden. This is how I found my Scottish laundry sink. It was being scrapped from someone's house, and they could not wait to get rid of it.
1st Dibs is where you will find the higher priced items, but the edit makes for far easier browsing, and you can still find some treasures like this incredible utility sink.
Another excellent source is reclamation yards. Ideally, if you can visit them in person, you will get a better idea of what you are buying, and there can be room for bartering. If this is not an option, don't be put off. I am not going to list each wondrous Aladdin's cave in the country, but here are some that I frequent when I am stalking a particular type of sink…
Authentic Reclamation (Sussex) They have a charming selection of butlers and Belfasts at reasonable prices. This boot-cleaning butler sink has bucketloads of charm.
Norfolk Reclamation (Norfolk) They really do have an exceptional eye. They often have the more unusual items, interesting stoneware pieces, as well as some lovely Belfasts. They are more expensive than perhaps your local salvage place, but the interesting pieces are more desirable, such as this Royal Doulton Double Laundry.
Original Baths (Devon) Although they do specialise in antique bathroom fittings, they can also have some interesting kitchen items, so always worth checking. They currently have an incredible Delabole slate sink that I am obsessing over…
Another extensive salvage site, with a charming ‘pie crust’ Belfast sink currently for sale.
English Salvage (Leominster) is An excellent source with some exceptional pieces. From marble laundry sinks, a beautiful zinc sink with a drainer (annoyingly now sold), and brown glazed troughs. This double-stone sink is rather delightful.
Another good way to see a lot of different vendors in one hit is to visit one of the large reclamation fairs around the country. Home and Antiques have a select list covering the UK.
Online auctions are a perfect way to grab a well-priced bit of history. Peruse Saleroom for an extensive list of items coming up at in the UK and parts of Europe.
Don't be afraid of a bit of dirt. Sinks clean up beautifully, and there are many hacks for restoring a bit of chipped enamel. I personally don't mind a bit of crazed glazing. It certainly doesn't change the functionality and beauty of the piece. Lastly, yes my plumber notoriously hates me, but I have found that these sinks can easily be plumbed into modern systems with a bit of ingenuity and elbow grease.
If preloved is not up your street, then plenty of companies are creating elevated designs..
The North West stalwarts of sanitary ware Shaws of Darwen still make beautiful products. I particularly like the Ribchester 800 Double bowl.
For utility rooms, under-stair toilets or small spaces Dyke and Dean do a delightfully diminutive bucket sink.
More of a magpie? DeVol has created some stunning copper and brass sinks. If your budget can stretch, these fluted marble sinks have my heart.
If all this talk of 'antique style' is not for you. Why not make an impact with these great-coloured concrete sinks? I am partial to the green one.
Whatever your preference for the love of god, don't let another massive fridge steal the show!