How to Pick Pro-Quality Sinks and Faucets

If you want to cook like a chef, you may need to dispense water like one, too, with commercial-style fixtures.

Call it counter intuitive: To design a kitchen where you can cook like a pro, you select ovens, accessories and work surfaces that are as close to what the real chefs use as you can afford. You'd think the same would apply to clean up and pouring water, but restaurant kitchen-style sinks and faucets can actually undermine the professional look of your kitchen.

"The huge faucets and sprayers are 'in' with some kitchen designers, but they're really for chefs with several helpers standing in the background who must wash giant pots and pans with tremendous crusted on stuff every night," says interior designer Sue Adams of Andover, Mass. "They're too big and are only a positive if you're after a more industrial look."

If you won't be rinsing produce and filling pots to cook for 120-plus patrons every night — or be cleaning up afterwards — focus on selecting sinks and faucets with quality materials and ergonomic design to enhance your pro-style kitchen, says Adams. She and other top kitchen designers share these tips for picking long-lasting fixtures that won't overwhelm the kitchen design.

Sink Savvy

Stainless steel is a great professional look for sinks but it's important to go with a quality brand such as Franke or Rohl, says Lily Crossman, a kitchen designer in sales and design for Costa Quality Kitchens in South Dartmouth, Mass.

"Usually people who care enough to install a pro quality sink will also have a high-end granite counter in the kitchen, and you don't want someone to have to get below the granite later to keep fixing a poor quality sink," she says.

If you've got the budget, go for the most stainless steel content you can purchase. "The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel," says Crossman. "The average home sink is 21-gauge stainless and a good quality Franke sink can be 18-gauge. If you're really going high end, 16-gauge is wonderfully thick, but it makes the price almost double."

The proportion of nickel to stainless is also an indicator, says Crossman. "Look for an 18:10 or 18:8 nickel/stainless steel ratio if you want pro quality," she says.

Linda Applewhite, an interior designer in Sausalito, Calif., favors a single sink to provide both the pro look and practicality for the serious chef. "The trend on the West Coast is towards the big, big, sink — 30 inches by 20 inches and eight inches deep," she says. "If you really cook a lot, one big sink is much more flexible than the traditional double sink with a disposal on one side. You can use the single sink to wash a turkey roaster or just the 10-inch skillet you use every day."

Lately Applewhite has used single concrete sinks from Sonoma Cast Stone with an exposed front apron for her California clients. "They're very durable, even with heavy use," she says. "I've put them into a lot of homes, even one where the clients entertain a lot and have caterers in the kitchen constantly, and I've never seen one chip."

A Pox on Pot Fillers?

Placing a big pot on the stove and swinging a pot filler over to fill it with water is cool, fun and can make you feel like a big-time chef, says Applewhite. "But I'm pretty practical. I wouldn't put a pot filler in the kitchen just because it's cool. Most people who have them don't ever use them. And if you don't have a need for a pot filler — say, you're not a gourmet Italian chef who cooks pasta every day — they're not worthwhile and they're certainly not inexpensive."

And if your kitchen's small, a pot filler can throw the scale of the design out of whack, says Crossman of Costa Quality Kitchens. "If you have a smaller space, it's pretty easy just to carry the pot of water from the sink to the stove," she says.

Focus on Quality Faucets

With her New England practicality, Sue Adams cringes at the sight of giant sprayers and huge faucets in a home kitchen. "They're a little excessive and the giant sprayers may be what the pros use but they're not as easy to get in and out of the holder as a smaller, more user-friendly model."

Some smaller versions can still offer a pro feel, says Adams. "Grohe has several models that are great looking in that commercial, techy pro way and KWC has loads of special looking, ordinary proportion faucets that are still ergonomic for home kitchens," she says.

Pay particular attention to the finish on faucets if you want a clean, professional look that will last a long, long time, says Applewhite. "In the Bay Area we're getting away from chrome and brass and seeing more oil-rubbed bronze and satin nickel," she says. "The nickel has a brown cast that's clean looking but warm and the oil-rubbed bronze is superior to the brass because you don't have the issue of tarnishing — it looks great indefinitely."

And while you might want to scale down the size of a faucet for a pro-style kitchen, don't scale back that particular part of your budget, urges Adams. "People are amazed that 'just a faucet' might cost in the hundreds of dollars, but the faucet is the item you use and touch most often in the kitchen and you really need one you like that's durable," she says. "Don't be afraid to spend big dollars on a quality faucet. It will pay off."

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