I completed gutted and renovated three bathrooms and in the process did tons of research. To replicate the 50s look for the bathroom sinks, I narrowed in on three ways to go (note, this post includes Amazon affiliate links):
Kohler enameled cast iron drop-in Tahoe bathroom sink with metal rim — or a similar style from Ceco:
Two of my bathrooms have built-in vanities. Originally, they had square drop-in sinks with metal rims. You can still get this style of sink — Kohler Tahoe Metal Frame Lavatory, White on Amazon; here’s the metal frame to go with. You can also shop around for best price.
Note, there is another company, Ceco, that also offers sinks in this style and on cast iron. These look like another really great option! Ceco also has the metal-rimmed design with 8″ spreads — and it has an oval bathrooom sink with metal rim — and there are some colors (platinum, almond, black). (Kohler’s metal-rim Tahoe has a 4″ spread only; color options are limited.)
And, Bootz offers the same style, with a few design choices, but on a steel (rather than cast iron) substrate.
P.S. Yes, our 1951 has three full bathrooms! They are all very compact — two upstairs, in our “ranch style” layout, one in the walk-out basement. There are three in our family, so yes, we each got our own bathroom. What a luxury!
2. Kohler porcelain self-rimming:
My husband is a neat freak, though, and didn’t want those metal pieces, insisting the dirt collects there. So in his bathroom we used a “Tahoe” self-rimming model, same shape and same overall effect as the square sinks that we replaced but no hudee rim. Note, this Kohler design DOES come with 8″ spreads. There are a number of other self-rimming porcelain (rather than enamel-on-cast iron) models that also have a 50s look. In our third bathroom, we used Thoreau, a self-rimming model. Alas, now discontinued, the Thoreau was a big oval sink, the size was really great if you have the counter space to handle it.
As noted above, Ceco ALSO has enameled cast iron sinks in this style — check them out too!
I found a vintage bathroom sink — with chrome legs and built-in towel bars — by running a $12 ad in my local paper. (In the early 2000s, the internet was not so dominant — today you can also scour Facebook Marketplace and try craigslist, etc.) I got a couple of calls, and followed up on one that was instant pay dirt. I paid $60 for a sink that was in great shape and included high-quality metal legs and integrated towel bars. I’ve also seen quite a few of these kinds of sinks at tag sales, but obviously you’ve got to be very patient to go this route.
A couple of notes, though, on vintage sinks:
- Back in the day, height was only 30″ or maybe 32″. Today, a lot of pedestal sinks are 34″ high, reflecting the fact that we are taller. I’ve found that the 30″ height really is not a big deal, and I’m 5’8″.
- A related issue: Have your plumber measure the sink and where it connects to the wall carefully. He plumbed to the “standard” 34″ height without checking mine, and we ran into problems. Again, it’s an issue of 1950s specs differing from today’s.
- More: Note that 50s’ “white” china porcelain is a different color than today’s. Today’s is brighter, bluer, I think. Initially, I was really worried about the match — but ultimately it doesn’t bother me a bit. Your eye just mixes the whites all together.
- Finally: Be aware that old enameled sinks may contain hazards; for more information see my 2016 story Understanding potential lead hazards in old porcelain enamel bathtubs and sinks and ceramic tile of any age. Get informed so that you can make your own decisions how to handle.
Choosing a faucet
I used the Strom Plumbing Mississippi faucet on the two sinks I bought from Kohler; shop around for the best price. For more faucet options, see my faucet research.