KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
"We had a double-basin cast-iron sink before," says Kubicki, a financial product analyst who is a baking enthusiast. (Her husband, Steve, does most of the cooking.) "That sink had problems."
The drop-in sink 's rim picked up grime around the edges. Le Creuset pots chipped the sink surface and led to rust. Cookie sheets had to be turned sideways to clean.
Designer Sue Shinneman, co-owner of Kitchen Studio showroom in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District, picked out a new sink for the Kubickis that feels like a luxury car in comparison. It's undermounted, so Kim can wipe the counters with one swoop into the sink . The Blanco sink is Silgranit, an engineered stone of 80 percent granite and 20 percent acrylic resin that shouldn't chip or show dirt. And the single basin can accommodate baking sheets laid flat for cleaning.
One of the main perks of a new sink is the selection of accessories, Kubicki says. She has a grid at the bottom that helps protect the sink surface, as well as a wire basket for utensils that require hand-washing. But what she really loves is the walnut cutting board that fits over her sink , extending the work surface.
"We use it all the time," Kubicki says. Another bonus: The cutting board acts as a sink cover. So if the couple are entertaining, guests don't spy a sink full of dirty dishes. The once-humble -- and often out of sight -- kitchen sink has evolved into a focal point as kitchens have become more open to the gathering areas of the home.
Shinneman initially laughed at the recent surge of sink accessories, but after using them, she concluded they come in handy. HGTV designer Candice Olson also is a fan.
"More people are downsizing, so counter space is at a premium," Olson says. " Kitchen sink cutting boards add additional work surface. Flip boards with integrated bowls can turn the sink into a buffet. Chef-style sinks have integrated steamers for vegetables and boiling water. It seems like the only thing kitchen sinks can't do is clean themselves."
But Olson doesn't like the popular single-basin sink , which many kitchen designers prefer for its clean look and capacity to hold large pots and pans.
"There's no place to rest [drying] dishes with a single basin," says Olson, whose family is renting a house with a single-basin kitchen sink . "They go on the counter. And you don't want the kids' water bottles to go in this big single basin with dirty pots and pans. I prefer a double- or even triple-basin sink ."
Manufacturers such as Kohler have come up with a compromise: single-basin sinks with a 6-inch tall divide that maintains the streamlined look yet keeps functionality intact.
A splash of color
As for appearance, colors beyond stainless steel or white -- think browns, beiges and grays -- are becoming popular. But consumers are also going for reds and yellows in the kitchen , especially in farmhouse-style sinks , says Adam Horowitz, director of marketing for Kohler kitchen products.
"That apron front on a farmhouse sink really brings color into the kitchen ," Horowitz says. "People are refreshing versus remodeling their homes. Color is a pick-me-up."
New countertops and cabinets are usually necessary when a new farmhouse sink is installed because of its wide girth. Stainless steel farmhouse sinks weigh 150 pounds; cast iron, another 50 to 75 pounds. Kohler recently introduced a farmhouse style that doesn't require new cabinetry.
Undermount sinks in general call for new countertops. But today's drop-in sinks are looking more streamlined.
Blanco's Micro-Edge sink has a 1.25 millimeter edge that's flush to the countertop, says Blanco marketing manager Christy Emens.
Whatever material you choose for your multitasking basin, be sure to wipe up daily. Choose a specialized cleaner -- avoiding abrasives -- that's intended for the material, such as Bar Keepers Friend for stainless steel.