All About Farmhouse Sinks

You spend more time at the kitchen sink than the stove, so why not invest in one of these capacious attention-getters? But first, take a moment to master their surprising nuances.

Farmhouse Sinks

Sexy, supersized appliances used to dominate the kitchenscape, but that was before a sink came along that refused to hunker down in a cabinet. Suddenly all eyes were on the cleanup zone, where a bossy, glossy-white heavyweight pushed aside the humble, hardworking stainless-steel basin.

America’s appetite for farmhouse, or apron-front, sinks can be traced to the late 1990s, when companies like Rohl realized they could romance a boxy U.K. import made from lustrous, rock-hard fireclay by evoking farmhouse style—or a glorified idea of it.

As kitchens continue their move toward large, open gathering spaces, here’s a roomy focal point that also hides dirty dishes and practically says “jump right in.” Read on for what you need to know before taking the plunge.

The Precursor

Large workstation sinks moved into American kitchens during the so-called sanitation movement of the 1920s. These wall-hung behemoths, made of enameled cast iron, typically had integrated backsplashes and drainboards, short aprons, and legs in front for added support—no cabinet needed.


What do they cost?

Stainless-steel and ceramic versions start at less than $200; those made from pricier materials like fireclay and cast iron sell for $700 to $2,000—and on up.

Do I need a special cabinet?

Not necessarily, but most cabinets will need added support (see “Beefing Up the Box,” slide 10). At 20 to 42 inches side to side and 7 to 10 inches deep, these sinks can easily weigh 100 to 200 pounds.

DIY or hire a pro?

Cutting out the cabinet front, reinforcing the box, wrestling the basin into place, and coordinating the sink, cabinet, countertop, and faucet installation are usually best handled by an experienced pro.

Hard to keep clean?

Generally, a mild cleanser like Bon Ami takes care of marks and stains on fireclay and enameled cast iron. But materials vary widely; follow the product manufacturer’s guidelines so as not to void a warranty.

Classic White, Three Ways: Drop-In

Tailor your sink style and installation to your countertop—and personal preference. Pull it forward to shorten your reach and add extra toe space; pick a depth that feels comfortable too.

These sinks have a finished lip that bridges the countertop cutout—handy with wood or laminate. This model specifies countertops at least 1 inch thick, and comes with a metal bar for more support.

Classic White, Three Ways: Undermount

Designed to sit on supports inside the cabinet, undermounts allow the countertop to extend over the sink on three sides, so crumbs and spills can be swept right in.

Classic White, Three Ways: Pulled Forward

Beefy, glossy, thick-walled sinks gain even more presence when their rounded apron fronts come forward a few inches—the better to lean against during dishwashing duty.

Know Your Options

leafloat farmhouse kitchen sink

All whites are not alike Fireclay is made from a special clay mix that is molded, glazed, and fired at very high temperatures, yielding a hard, long-lasting material that resists chips and scratches. Baking layers of enamel onto cast iron also produces a highly durable surface. These materials command higher prices than ceramics that are fired at lower temperatures and solid-surface acrylics. Note: If your sink is going next to a white cabinet or counter, request samples to make sure you like the color mix.

One bowl or two With a single big basin, it’s easy to scrub a roasting pan. With two, you can devote one to dirty dishes or a drying rack, the other to prepping salad greens. A low divider helps accommodate pot handles.

Workstation accessories A step-down rim adds function and flexibility with add-ons like a cutting board or a dish drainer.

Leafloat farmhouse kitchen sink Accessory

Faucet function Pull-downs are a top choice because they can reach all four sink corners. With a faucet that doesn’t pull out, make sure it clears your tallest stockpot, and add a side spray for easy cleanup. If space behind the sink is tight, consider a wall-mount faucet or a sink that has a deck with predrilled holes.

Exit strategy When the drain is positioned to one side, dishes can pile in without blocking the water flow.

Extra protection If new-sink syndrome makes you anxious, add a bottom rack (about $50). Some have a cutout to ease drain access.

Downsized Sinks for Smaller Spaces: Pantries, Bars, and Islands

Chunky sinks with shorter spans offer the same period charm as their bigger brethren. And that extra depth is just as handy outside the kitchen.

For pantries, bars, and islands: This faux-slate sink, just 15 inches square and 7 inches deep, can help ready a long-stemmed bouquet or prep all the ingredients for a big salad. During a party, fill it with drinks and ice.

Downsized Sinks for Smaller Spaces: Baths and Laundries

Finally, a stylish 20-inch lav sink that doubles as a soaker for hand-washing. Its companion vanity has bun feet and beadboard to reinforce its vintage appeal.

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