For many years not much thought was put into the placement and design of the kitchen sink area. Typically a double bowl, top mounted, stainless steel sink was specified and it was centered under a window. There was not much more to do and as the Kitchen Designer, your job was done.

Today there are so many more choices for sink configurations, and centering it under the window is no longer a rule. There are also multiple ways to accessorize the sink area to get maximum functionality, so let me show you how.

Here are my Top 10 ways to add Function to the Kitchen Sink Area

1. Under mount the sink

Choosing a solid countertop for you client’s kitchen will allow you to specify mounting the sink under the countertop. This application will eliminate dirt catching crevices and allow crumbs to be easily wiped from counters into to sink.

Ensure you specify how you want the final finish of the under mounted sink to look. The countertop can be flush with the sink, over hang the bowls or it can be cut to reveal the top edge of the sink. Check the sink manufacturer’s specification sheet for direction on the recommended method for the sink chosen.

Under mount sinks come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, with a model available to meet any functional or stylistic need your project may have.

2. Integrate a drainboard

The addition of a built-in drainboard can add function to the kitchen sink area by providing a great place to rinse and drain produce during food prep, or to wash up and drain a few crystal wine glasses.

The integrated drainboard allows water to drain directly in to the sink every time, avoiding water pooling on the counter. It also looks stylish and eliminates having to own and store a separate drainboard.

You can choose a drainboard for the right side, left side or both sides of the sink with stainless steel being a popular choice.

There are also models that include an integrated backsplash often in porcelain that evoke a Farmhouse or Retro look.

For a Contemporary look, have the drainboard routered into the countertop. This works well in solid surface materials such as Corian, but talented fabricators can produce drainboard variations in quartz and stone counters.

3. Specify an apron front sink

The apron front sink or farmhouse sink has been a popular choice in kitchen design recently. As well as looking good, it is a very functional choice.

This type of sink will protect the sink cabinet from water damage and gives the best access to the inside of the sink. The design of theses sinks brings the bowls closer to the front of the cabinet so that the cook does not have to reach or strain to work in the sink.

The most traditional style for an apron front sink is white ceramic or porcelain, but they are available in multiple colors, stainless steel and composite materials. There is a style and finish in apron front sinks to suit any kitchen design.

If you need something more unique you could even design your own apron front sink using an under mount sink and fabricating the sink surround from a solid counter material.

4. Load up on sink accessories

Specifying a sink for your client includes choosing the perfect accessories.

A cutting board that fits snugly over a portion of the sink allows veggie chopping to occur right at the water source and can double as a charcuterie platter.

Additional accessories such as drain boards, colanders and mini bowls can turn the sink into a complete prep center.

You can even coordinate your accessories to blend with the overall kitchen design such as the walnut cutting board in the modern kitchen above.

5. Install tilt-front trays

Often the the cabinet area directly in front of the sink is voided. There is however an accessory available to make this area functional.

To utilize this space specify a tilt-front accessory. They are available in plastic and stainless steel and come in a few different depths to accommodate the space you have available once the sink is installed.

I suggest clients store vegetable peelers, dish scrubbers and even the sink strainers in this spot. Many of the trays also have a ring holder providing for a safe spot to place rings when washing up at the sink.

Also, many tilt-front accessories can be installed for easy removal so that they can be popped in the dishwasher for a deep clean.

6. Include roll-outs for cleaning supplies

Manufacturers have many under the sink accessories available to the kitchen designer. The key to choosing these accessories is ensuring that you are avoid the plumbing lines when they are installed.

Many homeowners like to store cleaning supplies under the sink and a roll out or pullout basket is ideal.

Look for two tiered units that can tuck up against the side of the cabinet and utilize the storage space around the pipes. A good choice is a mid-height cleaning supply pull-out with handles. The client can then grab and go with their supplies.

Another option is to specify U-Shaped pullout baskets that fit perfectly around most plumbing systems. If you are concerned about how much usable space will be left after the plumbing is installed, measure up for these accessories near the end of the project.

7. Include storage for tea towels

Ideally you want to have a place for tea towels to dry in the sink area. Many people will drape them over appliance handles but this can look messy in a kitchen. There are some great accessories available to keep them close, but out of site.

A door mounted rack is an easy solution that can be attached to one of the doors under the sink. In most cases its shallow depth will not interfere with the plumbing hookup.

Another great solution is a pullout tea towel holder that is mounted on the side of the sink cabinet.

One of my favorite ideas is to include a pullout tea towel/storage rack in a shallow cabinet near the sink. These accessories can fit in a cabinet as small as 6″ wide and conveniently house tea towels and cleaning supplies, with no worry about plumbing lines.

8. Specify drawers instead of doors

Most designers will default to a two door with false front sink cabinet, but a bank of drawers can be a great solution.

As with any accessory that goes under the sink, the drawers will need to be constructed to miss the plumbing. This can be accomplished by designing the drawer box as a U-shape and in some cases making the drawer box shallow, with space behind for the plumbing pipes.

Ensure you alert the plumber and contractor prior to ordering cabinetry to ensure that the plumbing is installed as far back in the cabinet as possible. Another trick to keep the plumbing lines tucked up against the back wall is to choose a sink with a back drain instead of the typical center drain.

Your final choice for drawers under the sink could be a tilt-front and two drawers, two equal sized drawers or one large drawer with pullouts inside. Which ever you choose your clients will thank you for the convenience of drawers at the sink.

9. Sneak in a trash can under the sink

Most contemporary kitchens will include a recycle center somewhere in the design, but it is nice to have a small trash can under the sink for non-recyclable trash.

Having one that fits onto the door that appears when the door is opened is very handy for the cook.

There are round and rectangular door mounted trash cans with pop up lids in a variety of finishes available on the market. There will be a model to fit your available space.

Again, with good planning you can maximize the space under the sink and even squeeze in a small recycling center. Look for pull-out units with a cover that acts as a shelf as well.

10. Include a counter top compost bin

To deal with food scraps, consider including a built in countertop compost bin when designing the sink area. This will add a lot of function to the prep area.

A stainless steel unit is commercially available that can be cut into the countertop and installed near the sink. A shallow bin with handle fits inside the unit for easy retrieval from above the counter.

Another option is to have your countertop fabricator cut a hole into the counter surface and place a receptacle in the cabinet below. Food scraps can easily be swept into the trash bin during food prep.

You can even search out sink brands with compost containers included as a sink accessory.

Always strive to make the sink area in your designs as functional as possible.

The sink area is one of the hardest working spaces in the kitchen. By making it as functional as possible your client will breeze through kitchen chores and be reminded daily of why it was such a good decision to hire you to design their Dream Kitchen.

If you are just beginning your journey as a kitchen designer you will want to enroll in VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN’S course “The Beginners Guide to Kitchen Design”. This course will give you the Kitchen Design fundamentals and confidence to start your career as a Kitchen Designer. You can check out the free preview available at the link above. I hope to see you there!

Jan Rutgers, Master Kitchen Designer
Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers is a professional Kitchen Designer with more than 25 years experience. She is the founder of VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN, where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design industry.

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