Expert, unbiased advice on how to buy the best bathroom sink, including shape, style, color, and material considerations

If your powder room needs a face-lift or it’s time to master the master bath, you’re about to discover that plumbing fixture designers have created an array of high-style bathroom sinks that turn what was once a mundane fixture into a show stopper.

Photo courtesy Kohler Co.
Pedestal Sink Kohler Co.

First, let’s clarify the terminology. The correct term for a bathroom sink is “lavatory,” a word rooted in the Latin word lavare, meaning “to wash.” In the industry, “lavatory” is often shortened to “lav” or, in contractor lingo, “lavvy.” The term “sink” fits if the lavatory tops a pedestal, as in “pedestal sink.” Then again, the commonly known term is “sink,” so that’s what we’ll use.

Costs of bathroom sinks are all over the map. Low-end, value-priced fixtures can be purchased at home improvement centers for under $100. At the high end, the sky is the limit. Most large manufacturers offer fixtures in a wide range of price points.


Bathroom Sink Materials & Shapes

From white porcelain classics to glass contemporaries, bathroom sinks are made from several materials in hundreds of styles and finishes. Most are made from vitreous clay, but you’ll also find glass, metal, and almost anything that holds water.

Bath sinks are made in a wide variety of shapes and styles, including ovals, rounds, modern angular forms, flowing curves, shell-like patterns, and Victorian reproductions.

One of the popular looks in lavs is glass. “An exciting direction at Porcher is the line of  Glacier Glass Bowls and Pedestals,” says a spokesperson. “These are a special kind of glass. They have an etched bottom so water spots don’t show up.”

Kohler also offers lavs made of glass, which is hand-spun, highlighted by the air bubbles and imperfections characteristic of hand-blown glassware. Notes a spokesperson, “These imperfections give the glass an extra level of translucence. They capture light in the interior, creating more reflectance and refraction as light passes through.”  These sinks are produced as part of Kohler’s series called the Vessels Collection. According to the spokesperson, “There are a lot of different influences feeding into this line, including Persian, vase design, Japanese, and even a traditional American look reminiscent of the pan and pitcher.”

A collection of above-counter ceramic lavatory bowls, Vessels cuts loose the imagination. You can combine these elegantly styled bowls with practically any type of countertop material, from natural stone to structural glass. The starting price is about $300.

Hand-painted bathroom sinks are increasingly popular for adding character to bathrooms. American Chinaware offers a variety of hand-painted Old World designs and thematic designs for various sports and interests. Porcher will hand-paint family crests or other emblems on fixtures, based on sketches or photos customers provide. This costs from about $250 to $1,200, depending upon the intricacy of the design and the number of colors used.

In its Absolute Collection, American Standard features hand-painted countertop sink bowls with nursery rhyme themes, colorful fishbowl paintings, and classic ornamentation. Barclay’s hand-decorated sink bowls are great for perking up a children’s bathroom with colorful handprint designs, bi-planes, or yellow rubber ducks.

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort