An idea that borrows from a centuries-old tradition is the new way to update a bathroom.
Lynn Chapman, regional director of field operations with home-staging provider Showhomes, says vessel sinks - a look based on wash basins used in the days before running water - have surpassed the "fad" or "trend" stage among homeowners.
"With the versatility in shapes, styles and colors, vessel sinks are now a standard in bathroom design," she said.
Unlike the classic porcelain sink that is recessed into a cabinet, the vessel sink sits on top. The choice of materials includes granite, rock, porcelain, glass and copper.
Chapman recently remodeled her 1990s-style master bathroom to include his-and-her vessel sinks.
"My home is very traditional, and I wanted a touch of contemporary, so I chose two square ceramic vessels with one-piece, oil-rubbed bronze faucets," she said. "I love the look - simple, sleek and modern."
The sinks are as practical as they are attractive, she said. Her husband, who is tall, especially likes that the vessel sinks sit higher than recessed designs.
"Another advantage to having a vessel sink is that they are easy and inexpensive to replace if you decide you want a different style or color down the road," Chapman said. "Also, if you decide you want a recessed sink later on, it would not require replacing the countertops, just some alterations."
Hank Matheny, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, said vessel sinks started becoming popular about eight years ago.
"Based on the simplest concept - a bowl into which you would pour water - this trend has quickly grown. There are many choices of shapes, sizes and materials available to fit almost any style and budget," he said.
"I mainly like to use them in guest baths and powder rooms to make a statement. One thing you must realize, if you plan to use a wall-mounted faucet, that decision needs to be made early on, to be able to plan for plumbing in the wall, and most of the time this will be an extra cost above a standard faucet. If that is not possible, most faucet companies offer taller faucets to clear the 4- to 6-inch height of most vessel bowls," Matheny said.
Though the traditional undermount porcelain bowl continues to be the top choice for Matheny's clients, manufacturers are creating "exciting new details" on the vessel bowls, he said.
"I like to use a rectangular-shape bowl for a more masculine look and perhaps a round bowl for ladies," he said. "There are more hand-painted and decorated porcelain bowls on the market, while copper and bronze undermount sinks remain a nice option. I also enjoy using a stainless-steel sink bowl in a more transitional or modern bath. It has the same wonderful properties - easy to clean, stain-proof, hard to damage - that make it the No. 1 choice for kitchen sinks."
Chapman said she has seen homes sell "simply because a buyer fell in love with an updated bathroom with a vessel sink."
"In today's market, with so much competition, a home for sale must win the 'beauty contest' for a quick and top-dollar resale," she added.