June 25, 2021

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A Great Sink Is A Masterpiece

Ever notice that in a face wash commercial, there’s always a big splash of water but never a sink from whence it came? Maybe it’s because casting the right sink is trickier than it seems. You never want to alienate your audience with controversy, and folks have strong opinions about this stuff! “People get really upset by certain sinks, and the fact that they can spark that kind of emotion is very interesting to me,” says the man behind Sink Reviews on Tiktok. (He’s asked to stay anonymous for this interview to preserve the objectivity of the account, so from here on out we’ll call him SR.) Sink Reviews has 869.4K followers who regularly tune in for sink-specific design analysis, and the hashtag #sinktok has 46.7 million views in total. Clearly, something’s hitting a nerve.

A Sink Reviews video follows a very specific format: SR visits a public bathroom and (after respectfully making a purchase at the establishment in question) rates their sink on a scale of one to five sinks. There are no half sink ratings, and sinks with two separate faucets for hot and cold can’t receive higher than a three. “A sink that I would give five sinks to has to work well, because that’s obviously its primary function,” SR says. “But I also take its context into consideration.” In other words, the sink in your bathroom serves a different function than a sink in an airport, or at a Starbucks, and its design should reflect that. In addition to ratings, SR also critiques the sinks using art history-speak. The reviews are lofty, conceptual, academic and… cold. An art and film school graduate, SR was familiar with the general tone of design critiques and the idea of using it on a sink was just funny.

Sinks worthy of review are either really well-designed, or poorly-designed, or in very bad shape, which makes it easier to find points of reference. When SR describes the Dyson sinks at the Museum of Modern Art (“they cost like $8,000 or something, and don’t work very well”) I’m reminded of Méret Oppenheim’s Le Déjeuner en Fourrure, a surrealist teacup covered in luxurious fur, on display elsewhere in the building. “In my mind, a really overpriced, conceptual sink that doesn’t work well is one of the worst sinks you can have,” he explains. Just like Oppenheim’s fur-lined spoon made onlookers uneasy in the ‘30s, so can something like Kim Kardashian’s bathroom sinks, which inspired so much public confusion and anger that CNN covered it.

I ask SR if there are any famous sinks he’d love to visit in person. (There aren’t, but my running list is Elon Musk/Grimes’ bathroom, the sink in Javier Senosiain’s Organic House, Etihad Airways’ first class residents bathroom sink.) He does share that his perfect sink would be classic, and made of marble or stone. It wouldn’t need much room for storage—atop the one in his bathroom rests just soap, a toothbrush, and a coincidental bottle of Milky Jelly Cleanser.

After our call I head to the bathroom to look at mine: a wide white basin with an easy-to-use faucet that’s slightly too close to the countertop, which has just barely enough space for my essentials. I’m not sure how many sinks I’d give it, but I am looking at it differently now.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG