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