Vessel Sinks: Is It Time for a Comeback or are They Gone for Good?

In 2018, we at HomeThangs said vessel sinks were a fast-fading trend. I think it’s been long enough to reevaluate that statement as we start to see vessel sinks reappear in blueprints for bathroom renovations. Why were they so beloved and then so suddenly scorned? Were they ill-conceived designs, or just a victim of moving trends? If you’ve been considering a vessel sink but too afraid to try one yet because you don’t want to invest in an outdated remodel, this is the post for you.

The History of Vessel Sinks

Breeze Basin Series Ceramic Vessel Sink In Rose Gold, LS-AZ229 by Anzzi

A rough version of the vessel sink has been around as long as the notion of a sink. Starting as a simple bowl on top of a table that you filled and emptied by hand, they were a place to wash your face and hands away from your food. The vessel sinks we’re most familiar with today are a far cry from those basic wash basins (thank goodness for indoor plumbing!). But they still retain the appearance of a bowl on your vanity counter. In the early 2000s, vessel sinks made a big comeback, becoming both widely available and quite affordable. Better still, the installation of the actual basin was easy (the faucet, not so much). We wanted to express ourselves in every way we could in every room. These weren’t the boring bathroom sinks your grandparents had, even if visually vintage-looking.

New and Improved Vessel Sinks

20 x 16 inch Bathroom Vessel Sink Gold Decorative Art Above Vanity Counter White Ceramic, RVB2016WG by Ruvati

Other sink designs just can’t beat the vessel sink’s unique display, and that’s its biggest draw. Many people choose a vessel sink because they can use a flashier material than other sinks, like tempered glass or a metal-coated exterior. But you can find a vessel sink basin for just about any interior, from rustic farmhouse bucket replicas to sleek and sharply angled modern basins. You can even customize the faucet in the same way, though it requires a more professional installation than the bowl. These lead to charming visuals that can better match the rest of your bathroom’s style without taking up more space to do it.

Moor 14 in. Handmade Vessel Sink in Polished Antique Copper with Nickel Interior and Floral Design Exterior, LS-AZ341 by Anzzi

Speaking of space, unless you have a pedestal-style sink, your vessel sink opens up counter space. The sink’s raised surface means that toiletries and soaps can’t slip and slide into the basin. In the same vein, water is less likely to splash out and onto your counters. You can place everything closer to the actual sink with less risk, giving you an extra inch to spread out your brushes, your pastes, and your cell phone. And because the entire sink is above your vanity, any cabinet you have underneath has more usable height than with other types of sinks. While plumbing is an incredible invention, the pipes can be incredibly obtrusive to any shelving it shares a space with.

Their Original Problems

Brighton Round Vessel, SC-BGT by Sierra Copper

So why did vessels sinks start to fade in newer home renovations? As with most elaborate and creative designs, the biggest issue always comes down to cleaning. Textured vessel sinks (especially stone ones) have many tiny crevices that can collect dirt and residue over time. Hammered copper sinks are a popular option that’s easier to keep clean than you might think. But all vessel sinks sit above the counter, which creates a tight, difficult to wipe spot around the base of the sink that can attract grime. Vessel sinks that are smooth on the inside and textured on the outside, or that have wider, flatter bases can help mitigate these cleaning problems. But even the simplest-to-clean vessel sinks can’t compare to the ease of wiping down your counter and rinsing everything straight down a ceramic undermount sink.

Rectangular Above-counter Resin Lavatory, 2800-LAG by Decolav

Durability is also a factor when the entire sink basin isn’t protected by the vanity. Among vessel sink materials, tempered glass in particular is known to shatter. That said, this isn’t so much of a fault as a safety feature; the glass is meant to break into large chunks on a hard impact rather than chip into tiny pieces. Glass is the most delicate of sink materials; planning how it will break is almost more important than the “when” during the design process. As awful as it is to have an expensive sink shatter, it’s better to have it break all at once rather than slowly into small pieces. Otherwise, these can get into your toiletries or plumbing and cause much bigger problems. As long as you understand why it happens, you can avoid putting your vessel sink in a situation (or location) that shattering can happen.

Their Biggest Competitors

20.75-in. W X 14.35-in. D Csa Certified Rectangle Undermount Sink In White, AI-18116 by American Imaginations

Obviously, trends tended toward sinks that fixed the vessel’s basic drawbacks. Sinks that are more durable and easy-to-clean became in-demand for most consumers. Undermount sinks in particular are the complete opposite while still being a more conscious choice than traditional bathroom sinks. They’re so unobtrusive they make a flush line with the vanity or are part of the countertop material itself. This keeps the basin well-protected and provides a smooth visual line of sight for a less cluttered look. However, they can be so smooth and out of sight they can disappear into an uninteresting countertop. They’re more intended to keep bold vanity styles functional than being the showstopper themselves.

So Are Vessel Sinks Back?

An image of a small, traditional guest bathroom with an oblog stone vessel sink
Decorative vessel sinks can be the star of a smaller bathroom, and are easier to maintain in low-traffic spaces (by Morgan-Keefe Builders, Inc.)

If you play to its strengths, a low-traffic, smaller bathroom is the perfect home for a modern vessel sink. You don’t have a lot of space in a half-bath or guest bathroom to decorate. Making the sink a strong highlight can bring a lot of character to the room it would otherwise miss. You can get a vessel sink in a “safer” style to handle heavier use in bigger bathrooms. However, I find it’s not worth the extra plumbing cost and maintenance to have one installed. Compared to other sinks, vessel style is chosen for its design rather than practicality.

While vessel sinks are truly “out” in spaces you need to rely on day to day like the master bathroom, don’t forget about them yet. For a real showstopper design in a small place, vessel sinks are still the go-to if you want beauty in your hardware.