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Back To Basics: Re-imagining Ceramic For A Modern Bathroom

Bathroom design is constantly evolving, in the styles and colors designers choose, the layout, materials, and designs. But while it can be super convenient to have an outlet in your medicine cabinet or a nite-lite in your toilet, I can’t help but feel sometimes that the old ways are really better ways, especially when it comes to material choice. I’m not alone – in recent years, many European designers have turned towards one of the most traditional bathroom materials – ceramic – and breathed new life into it for use in a contemporary bathroom.

Oldie But A Goodie

Memoirs Pedestal Sink From Kohler
Memoirs Pedestal Sink From Kohler

Once upon a time, almost everything in the bathroom was made of ceramic or porcelain – tubs, toilets, tiles, and yes, standalone sinks, too. And not without good reason – ceramic holds up well in a wet environment, is easy to clean, and has a bright, fresh, clean looking finish you won’t find in other material.  These days toilets are often the lone holdout, with tubs turning to lighter weight acrylic, sinks evolving into wood vanities, and ceramic tiles being gradually replaced with stone or glass. It’s worth noting, though, that even in modern design, pedestal sinks like this Memoirs Pedestal from Kohler have managed to hold their own, with the material advantages (and, of course, the classic style) edging out the pressure of changing design.

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Making It Modern

Losagna Modern Pedestal Sink From GSI
Losagna Modern Pedestal Sink From GSI

Picture perfect pedestal sinks are among the longest surviving bathroom fixtures, right up there with clawfoot tubs and the classic toilet. But while I personally think they add a special something to any bathroom design, I have to admit that they aren’t exactly the obvious choice for a modern bathroom. But that’s where contemporary European designers – and gorgeous pedestal-inspired sinks like this Losagna Sink from GSI – come into play. With the same easy to clean exterior but a simplified shape, these “pedestal” sinks offer the same convenience with a clean, modern finish.

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Deconstructing Expectations

Mars Wall Mounted Sink From Ceramica Tecla
Mars Wall Mounted Sink From Ceramica Tecla

But European designers aren’t merely re-imagining the pedestal sink. In many cases, they’re re-envisioning the role of ceramic in the bathroom entirely. Take this Mars Sink from Ceramica Tecla, for example – simple, sleek, and squared, it’s perfectly suited for a modern space, especially paired with modular block stands and shelves. Part sink and vanity top, this simple wall mounted sink is like a modern deconstruction of the traditional bathroom vanity, offering you a smooth, simple surface that makes a perfect building block for a minimalist space.

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Thinking Outside The (Vanity) Box

Wish Wall Mounted Sink From Scarabeo
Wish Wall Mounted Sink From Scarabeo

In fact, designing innovative, wall mounted ceramic sinks is hugely in-vogue for European designers. I particularly like this Wish Sink from Italy-based Scarabeo, for its wink-and-nod to the traditional round ceramic sink contrasted sharply to its stark minimalism. With enough room for the basics (soap, toothpaste, toothbrush) but an impressively small footprint, this sink is unobtrusive in size but eye catching. Its unique and unusual style makes it a perfect statement piece for a smaller space.

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Simple Can Be Eye Catching

Kong Ceramic Vessel Sink From Scarabeo
Kong Ceramic Vessel Sink From Scarabeo

In recent years, much attention has been given to the bathroom sink, with signature vessel sinks becoming especially popular. But now, many European designers are countering the trend of flashy, eye-catching stone, glass, or metal above-counter sinks with ornately designed sinks made of simple, traditional, plain-white ceramic. Personally, I find this kind of sink even more lovely, as the white gives them a somewhat statuesque quality. The material doesn’t detract from the design, and even a complicated or asymmetrical sink like this Kong Vessel Sink ends up looking clean and polished because of the simple glossy white finish.

Best Of Both Worlds

Zenia Wood Vanity Cabinet With Ceramic Sink And Counter From Ronbow
Zenia Wood Vanity Cabinet With Ceramic Sink And Counter From Ronbow

Even if these options are a little too wild for your tastes (or if you simply need a little more storage), that doesn’t mean ceramic should be out of the question for your modern bathroom. In fact, one of my favorite applications of ceramic (in terms of bathroom vanities and sinks, at least!) is actually pretty simple: replacing the sink and counter with a single ceramic piece, as with this Zenia Vanity from Ronbow. This has a whole host of benefits, not the least that you can simply and easily wipe any spills right into the sink. Many bathroom vanities these days come paired with pre-cut stone vanity tops, but many more don’t. If stone is cost-prohibitive, choosing a ceramic counter/sink combo is not only much more affordable than stone, but also is more attractive and more durable than less-expensive laminate.

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and ceramic is definitely one material that’s time-tested rather than worn out. Given new life by innovative modern designers, ceramic has definitely found a new home in modern bathroom design. Do you like ceramic? Would you use a freestanding or wall mounted ceramic sink in place of a vanity? What about as a vanity top?