Inspiring Interiors

Brightly-colored kitchen sinks.

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Photo by Fiona Galbraith

When I spotted the photo above on sfgirlbybay last week, my jaw dropped. That yellow sink. I’m so used to seeing colored sinks in ’60s and ’70s kitchens, and this context—the rustic wood, the classic subway tiles—is so vastly different that it’s sort of jarring. In a really, really good way. And that got me thinking about brightly colored sinks in general, and how they really kind of went by the wayside when the ’80s ushered in the era of stainless steel sinks and…beige. So much beige.

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Typo theirs, not mine.

Last fall, Daniel and I went on a trip to Wisconsin to visit the nice people at Kohler. One of the highlights of our stay there was the museum on the lower level of the Design Center—which, by the way, is a must-visit if you’re ever in the Kohler-Sheboygan area. The museum documents Kohler’s history going back to its founding in 1873, and it was truly fascinating to see physical examples of bathroom and kitchen trends over such a large span of time all in one space. They had a really cool chart (here’s an online version) showing the evolution of their color palette over the years.

I honed right in on the 1967 additions: Avocado and Tiger Lily. SO GOOD. I grew up during a time when everyone was making fun of matching Avocado and Harvest Gold kitchen suites (side note: OH MY GOD), and I fully admit I didn’t start to see the appeal until about ten years ago. I can’t say that I love everything about the kitchen trends of the time (mushroom curtains, I’m looking at you), but those bold sinks and colorful countertops? Hell yeah!

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Photo via El Cosmico

My next memorable sink experience was when Daniel and I (apparently all of my big sink moments happen with Daniel, which is as it should be) took a vacation to Marfa, Texas, and stayed at El Cosmico in a refurbished 1950s trailer, the Imperial Mansion. The whole thing was incredible, but my favorite part? The kitchen, which was outfitted with orange Formica countertops and a pale pink sink. I know that kind of pastel is a bit older than the bright sinks I’m talking about in this post, but I need to mention it because it really got me thinking more about the appeal of “dated” colors in the kitchen and unexpected combinations.

Speaking of orange…

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Photo by Wary Meyers on Instagram

YES! YES! This is a 1974 American Standard Fiesta sink, and it belongs to designers, authors, scavengers, soap sculptors, candlemakers, artists and all-around cool people Linda Wary Meyers and John Meyers, otherwise known as Wary Meyers. After picking it up years ago at a salvage yard, they recently installed it in their Maine home.

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Photo by Wary Meyers on Instagram

Well, how about that? Screaming red-orange sinks look pretty awesome with solid white Corian countertops. (And those mismatched knobs! I bow down.)

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Clockwise: Photos via 4 Fraziers, Retro Renovation, Retro Renovation, Antique Addictions

When I was digging around for examples of vintage, brightly-colored sinks used in contemporary renovations (there are very few, by the way), I came across some really nice ones that were for sale on Etsy and via Retro Renovation, as well as a SUPER cool bright yellow one which, tragically, was documented before being hauled off to a trash heap. RIP, rad yellow sink.

eBay turns up surprisingly few ’60s/’70s colored kitchen sinks, but there are two red cast iron American Standard bathroom sinks listed right now. Can you imagine how wild they would look side-by-side in an new bathroom with floor-to-ceiling white hex tiles?!

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Scans by Click Americana

I love these American Standard and Kohler ads from 1968 and 1966, respectively. They really make it sound like washing the dishes in that avocado sink is akin to driving a sports car. And that Kohler color range…wow. The cobalt blue! Heart-eyes. Again, I don’t love the rest of the decor, but the sinks are winners.

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Photos of The Unique Space via Remodelista

A few years ago Jonathan Adler did a limited-edition collection of sinks for Kohler in bright colors, but they’re just not the same. I don’t doubt that they can look great in use (see above) and they’re much more fun than this snooze-fest (don’t get me wrong, I like to snooze, but I also like options), but the colors are a little too “clean” for me. I prefer the bold dirtiness of the ’60s shades.

So is anyone making enameled cast iron sinks in bright colors anymore? Not that I could find. If you’re listening, Kohler…now might be the right time to bring back Tiger Lily and Blueberry!

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20 Comments

  • Reply Jen June 23, 2015 at 12:43 am

    What a shame about that yellow sink! It makes me kind of mad that people dump stuff like that in the landfill. The tagline for his site did make me laugh, though.

    • Reply Susan June 21, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      I swooped in on my mother-in-laws bright yellow sink when she remodeled her kitchen 15 years ago. It has two large basins on each side and a small center basin as well. I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!! It gets quite a lot of attention from guests.

      • Reply Stef Franklin July 23, 2019 at 10:04 pm

        Want to sell it?!

  • Reply lsaspacey June 23, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Ooooh, I knew about these colors for bathroom sinks and such but not for kitchens…so cool!

  • Reply Lacey June 23, 2015 at 3:29 am

    So awesome. My kitchen is all white so our fiestaware would provide all the color… wish I could have gotten a matching sink now! Construction reuse shops around here have tons of pink, blue, and yellow bathroom fixtures but I’ve never seen kitchen sinks like those before.

  • Reply Ita Darling June 23, 2015 at 4:13 am

    That red bathroom sink on ebay is very tempting! I could see it in several types of scenarios- or maybe as a little prep sink in an outdoor summer kitchen? maybe?

    I love enameled cast iron- and you are right- Kohler should bring some back! I was just reading yesterday about the inner workings of the Le Creuset factory… maybe Kohler and Le Creuset should do a collaboration for their color range? Can you imagine a volcano orange ombre sink?! Gah!

    Enjoyed your article and cruising through the Kohler color palletes. now im scouring Houzz for more colored sinks- no work so far today!

    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/06/a-visit-to-the-le-creuset-factory/

  • Reply Kate June 23, 2015 at 8:09 am

    So cool! I am such a sucker for that shade of yellow—kitchen sinks, front doors, banana Runts, Volkswagen Beetles, you name it. Just maybe not on oak paneling (be still, my heart—it was especially designed for women! Just what we were all waiting for!).

  • Reply Anna June 23, 2015 at 9:06 am

    this might literally be one of my all-time favorite blog posts! i love love love these modern usages and it’s something i probably wouldn’t have thought too much about otherwise, but how much joy would it bring to a kitchen to have these bright colors infused in a modern design?!? LOVE. someday, when my husband and i build a shipping container house (pipe dream for now), it would be so fun to include a colorful kitchen sink!

  • Reply mommy June 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

    For a bit of personal history … In my California kitchen, many years before you were born, I painted the cabinets bright blue and changed the Formica counter tops to bright yellow. That’s a very difficult color combination (I must have been nostalgic for the Swedish flag), but those color choices were actually a rebellion against gold and avocado (I used to call them Sears colors – that’s how mass produced they had become). It’s taken me longer than it has for you to come around to really liking some of the things we did in the 60s, but find myself drooling over these sinks and wanting to see more color again. I hope Bernie won’t mind ripping out the sink …

  • Reply Summer June 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Yes, Kohler, bring back Tiger Lily! Red-orange in the kitchen is my favorite (with black, white, gray, wood)

  • Reply Sarah G. June 23, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I’m so ready for this–would love an orange sink in my kitchen!

  • Reply Noel June 24, 2015 at 2:24 am

    The bright enameled sinks are striking! They would look great with concrete counter tops.

  • Reply Cathy June 24, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Wow! I’ll have to send this to my mom; many of the sinks in our house when I was growing up were these colors. The Downstairs bath had a pepto bismol pink, and the bath I shared with my sister boasted two sinks in that turquoise shade. And, of course, the tub and commode matched their respective sinks! Ha!

    They say everything comes back around if you wait long enough. Must be true!

  • Reply Christa June 24, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Nice post! I love these sinks. They would look very fresh with concrete counters and natural wood cabinets. I’m also starting to wonder if laminate counters will make a comeback.

  • Reply leslie June 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I DIE! http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTIQUE-CAST-IRON-BUTLERS-PANTRY-KITCHEN-SING-w-DOUBLE-DRAIN-BOARD-MINT-GREEN-/271907907562 you’ve sent me down the rabbit hole once again 🙂

  • Reply Pam Kueber June 25, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Hi Anna, thanks for all the beautiful colored sink love! Colored kitchen sinks weren’t just a 60s-70s thing (although I ADORE those colors) — I recently featured this 1938 catalog that included farmhouse sinks in the very romantically named colors of Ivoire de Medici (soft yellow, I presume), Ming Green, and T’ang Red — see ’em here in all their rare and amazing glory — http://retrorenovation.com/2015/05/11/1940s-kitchen-colors-ming-green-ivoire-tang/

    LOVE!

  • Reply Lori June 27, 2015 at 12:20 am

    I LOVE visiting Kohler. It’s overwhelmingly awesome. I have loved brightly colored sinks for a while now but always wondered if resale would be too hard. But, man. Those images. I think they’ll haunt my dreams. With a scratched cast iron sink, it may soon be time to go shopping … (I like the new colors, too, so it won’t be as hard?)

  • Reply Kate June 29, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Those orange countertops are such a hit of nostalgia! I grew up always at my grandparent’s house, hanging in the kitchen with my grandmother over those exact same tiger lily counters. Thanks, this totally made my day!

  • Reply Steph November 11, 2017 at 7:37 am

    I have the same bright yellow kitchen sink as the man that threw his away! You’ve inspired me to either keep it for myself (this may not be our forever home) or incorporate it into our kitchen remodel. One is on eBay right now for $250.

    https://m.ebay.com/itm/vintage-cast-iron-kitchen-sink/272916750093?hash=item3f8b1b1f0d:g:rI0AAOSwvTpZ84IF

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