Apron Front Sinks From Across The Pond : The Belfast & The London

The other day we were working on updating the Horton Brasses catalog, getting ready for the rollout of some new kitchen hardware. I don’t want to reveal too much right now, but I will say it is very exciting bling. And oh so very English.

-The Bakes Pulls, coming soon-

Since then, I’ve been completely knackered–what with trying to channel an English vocabulary and all. Get it? “Channel.” “English.”  English Channel! I’ve been working on my puns, as well, because puns are oh so very British. I have a full on case of Anglophilia. All because of that forthcoming kitchen hardware. Tastier than scones with clotted cream!

And then this morning I had a revelatory experience. About sinks. That’s right, sinks. Sinks, sinks and…more sinks.

While taking part in an online discussion on apron front farm sinks–and whether or not they are accurately Victorian–the origin of these sinks was further revealed. I knew they had European roots, but did you know that there is a completely different kind of apron front sink that is authentically British and pretty much unavailable  in the United States? No, you didn’t. And I didn’t either.

If you are like me and find this completely fascinating, keep reading. If you are like my husband, you’ve made your way to the kitchen and are fixing yourself a quesadilla in the microwave. Beep! Beep! Don’t burn the roof of your mouth on that cheese.

Oh, wait. You’re still reading? You mean, you also find this compelling? This sink that we Americans have not set our high-end kitchen eyes on?

 

The scullery of the Comeragh House, Waterford, Ireland

In England, historically, there have been two styles of apron front fireclay sinks–the Belfast and the London. Both were used in butler’s pantries and sculleries. The difference between the two was the design. Due to 17th century building codes (that’s right, you needed a permit even way back then!), the sinks in Belfast needed a Weir overflow while the sinks in London did not. Despite advances in modern plumbing, the Belfast sink survives. Shaw’s, considered the epitome of fireclay sinks, sells them throughout Great Britain and Australia. If you are stateside and want one in time for St. Patrick’s Day, you better get your online order in now!

 

This Belfast sink is straight out of a home in the U.K.

 

My fireclay apron front sink is the London from Porcher. Now I understand where the name comes from, whereas before it just sounded a little pretentious. Like me trying to speak in a British accent.

Moi London.

 

For more info on this niche topic, visit Sara Claridge‘s post, Know your Butler from your Belfast. You’ll discover just when the French came on the apron front sink scene and even some solid tips on how to care for your fireclay sink. My favorite? “Common sense!”

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Sinks, Sinks, and more Sinks

Be it a casual cottage or gingerbread Victorian, the soapstone sink takes center stage in when included in a kitchen designs. Often featured alongside such quintessential details as inset cabinets, bin pull and latch hardware, glass door fronts and wooden flooring, the soapstone sink simultaneously engenders period accuracy and au currant kitchen styling.

Unoiled Belvedere Soapstone counters and sink, courtesy Focylrac.

 

Many people still consider granite the pinnacle of kitchen stones—and it surely seems to be earning its place as a kitchen design classic. But a cadre of remodelers in the know often defer to soapstone as the perfect material for their fabrication. It makes a terrific countertop choice. The same qualities that make it desirable as a countertop also make it desirable as a sink. Soapstone is non-porous so it is completely stain-proof. It is non-reactive, heat-proof and, despite it’s reputation as a soft stone, is available in very hard varieties.

Soapstone sinks are a historically accurate choice for a period remodel. They can be fabricated from one single block, although the size of this style sink is somewhat limited. However, soapstone sinks made up of epoxied slabs are custom made according to the customer’s specifications. With such a custom sink, width and depth are within your control, making the back breaking labor of hand washing pots a customized breeze.

Block sink from Bucks County Soapstone.

 

More often than not, these sinks are done with apron fronts–thus creating an instant focal point in the kitchen. Sometimes an integrated backsplash is incorporated into the design, with wall mounted faucets providing additional charm and integrity to the period mise en scène.

Salvaged soapstone sinks are a great find. With a lot of elbow grease and just as much low grit sandpaper, you can resurrect an antique treasure. No matter how ickly blicky that sink appears, underneath is a just-from-the-quarry beaut waiting to reveal itself. Epoxy any cracks and pick out your faucet. That baby will definitely hold water.

Soapstone sink in kitchen of James Whitcomb Riley Home. (photo: Kim Galeaz of Urban Times Online)

 

  

While the Riley House sink is original to the house, Garden Web Kitchen Forum member Trailrunner restored a salvaged sink for her kitchen remodel.

 

 

Why stop with the kitchen sink? Trailrunner also restored a sink from salvage for the sunroom.

 

 

Bloggers Tony & Kate  also scrubbed up a retired sink for use in their remodel.

Of course, new sinks look pretty good too! And the only work they require on your end is plunking down the credit card.

 

Love this 60″ custom sink! Okay, this being my sink probably pre-disposes me to some sink bias. Belvedere soapstone sink fabricated by M. Teixeira Soapstone. “Where can I purchase those lovely Victorian pulls?”you ask. Well, step right in to the Victorian Pull Store.

 

 

Slope front, dual bowl sink from Vermont Soapstone.

 

These sinks are not just eye candy. Like their early American lineage alludes to, these sinks are workhorses. Oversized canning pots, bushels of vegetables, vases of fresh cut flowers. Whether you fancy yourself an urban homesteader (or an urban homesteading wannabe) or enthusiast of early Americana, the soapstone apron front sink’s apeal will more than compensate for its price tag.