Our New Kitchen Products Display

We are pleased to announce the completion of the first phase of remodel of our kitchen display area. This new space allows us to increase our display of kitchen sinks and faucets so you can see and feel more products.

Today the Internet makes it possible to discover so many products that we might never discover shopping at our local home center. That’s a plus certainly, but what you cannot do online is see things firsthand; we all know that what looks good in a picture may be different in reality.

We now offer the largest selection of kitchen plumbing products in the Napa Valley. Our new kitchen features sinks by Blanco, Elkay, Julien, Lenova, Native Trails, Oliveri and Rohl. We have copper, stainless steel (several grades), fireclay and quartz/granite composite in under-mount, work-top, self-rimming and apron front configurations.

Our faucet displays include Grohe, Hansgrohe, KWC, Elkay, Blanco, Brizo, Harrington Brass, American Standard, Moen and Rohl (plus a few more). Our faucet selection also includes taps for filtration and hot water by Mountain, Franke and ISE.

The following are a few highlights of our kitchen.

Elkay has always been known for their stainless steel products but in the last few years they have added copper, cast bronze and fireclay to their collection. The Explore fireclay group includes a beautiful double bowl under-mount model that would be beautiful in any kitchen. Fireclay is a very hard work surface and this sink features a curved shape and thin line divider for greater bowl capacity. We display the Explore in white but it is also available in “Terra Cotta”.

Elkay Explore Undermount Fireclay Sink

Brizo introduced their “Smart Touch” technology a couple of years ago and it has been a huge hit. “Smart Touch” allows the user to turn the water on and off with a touch anywhere on the faucet. This is a great option for both cooks and for those who may have limits on their ability to grip a handle.

Julien make (mostly) 16g sinks for those who want the best. Made in Quebec Julien designs are made in standard residential designs as well as some products not seen from other vendors. A good example is their worktop group. This unique design integrates a large work bowl with storage for knives and other kitchen tools right at your fingertips; and the raised backsplash protects the wall. You can learn more about Julien sinks here.

Julien Worktop sink

Residential interpretations of restaurant pre-rinse faucets have become very popular lately and I think few companies do it as well as Blanco. The Meridian Semi-Professional offers the high arc spring spray in proportions appropriate to a typical residential kitchen.  It is also ergonomically designed making the spray comfortable to use for anyone.

Blanco Meridian Semi-Professional

Franke is a well known and respected name in kitchen products. The vision model was introduced a few years ago and quickly became a classic. Slightly larger than a typical double bowl this sink features the fine finish that sets Franke apart from the rest.

Franke VNX12037 Vision Undermount

Rohl set an industry standard with the Shaws fireclay farm sink. Rohl’s Allia sinks use the fireclay material for typical double and single bowl counter sinks and this year introduced “matte black” in addition to white and biscuit. We currently feature both Shaws farm sinks and Allis matte black sinks on display.

Rohl Allia Matte Black Double Bowl Under Mount

This is a sampling of our new kitchen but there are many more things to see. We invite you to visit and see for yourself.

Apron Front or Farm Sinks – Firestone, Copper, Stainless and More!

Farm or apron front sinks first started to appear for general residential use in this country in the 1990’s. These sinks began as reproductions of fireclay sinks long common in England. Today these sinks are made of stone, stainless steel, copper, cast iron and even Corian.

Elkay Fireclay Dbl Farm Sink

I think the original appeal of the farm sink was twofold. It had the traditional country look and added a new design element to a kitchen. Farm sinks are also practical, offering a large work-space and solid construction.

London Farm Sink by Porcher

If you are interested in an apron front sink there are some things to know. A classic apron front sink is made of fireclay, not ceramic or china. Fireclay is a much harder, more durable surface that can withstand the wear and tear of kitchen work. A fireclay sink is fired at a very high temperature which fuses the glaze and clay making a rock hard surface. While a ceramic sink may look good new, it will not stand the test of time. Ever seen an old ceramic plate where the glaze is starting to wear out? It will scratch and stain at the wear points. Imagine that on your kitchen sink.

Rohl RC4018 Casement Front Farm Sink

The other thing to look for is that the sink you select is not warped or asymmetric. These are common flaws so look for a quality brand. Years ago a major fixture company introduced some fireclay sinks at a very competitive price point but the sinks came from a B grade factory. The result was almost every sink we ordered was warped or otherwise defective (although serviceable if appearance wasn’t a concern).

Blanco Magnum Apron Front Sink with Towel Bar

One last thing to understand about these sinks is that the bottom is often flat. This is in some ways desirable but be aware that sometimes some water remains on the floor of the sink instead of running into the drain.

Norwich by Sierra Copper

Fireclay apron front sinks are usually available 25”, 30” 36” and sometimes 40”. Most are single bowl although there are a few doubles too. The front is typically smooth and there are some models with a step detail that adds to the traditional look.

Kohler Whitehaven Cast Iron Self Trimming Apron Sink

The information above applies to classic fireclay sinks but today apron front sinks are also available in several other materials.
I believe that Kohler is the only manufacturer making apron front sinks from cast iron (Kohler also uses fireclay). Cast iron has long been a top choice for kitchen sinks but its popularity has decreased over time. This is probably due mostly to changes in the manufacturing requirements that have lead many companies to move away from cast iron. Kohler makes what they call a “self trimming” sink which reduces the need to trim the cabinet. I think it is true to say that when it comes to cast iron, Kohler is king.

Elkay ELUHFS2816 Stainless Apron Sink

Stainless steel is another common choice for apron front sinks. Elkay, Blanco and Kohler all offer such sinks but it is Julien that has brought some new design to the idea. Their “Worktop” group isn’t actually a true apron front but gives the same impression with a thick front edge and function backsplash. They also have step front, bow and square front models some with a front drawer.

Julien Classic Collection with Drawer

If you are looking for an entirely different look you might consider an apron sink made of copper or stone. Copper is actually a good choice for the kitchen because it has natural anti-bacterial properties. Copper is probably not the right choice if you don’t like a rustic look as it is going to be a “living” material that will react to water and other liquids that come into contact with it.

Sierra Copper Apron Design

But if a rustic look appeals to you there are many design options available. Native Trails’ collection focuses on plain front on a standard or bow front design. Sierra Copper has a selection of custom designs that may be added to most aprons. The choices available in copper provide a lot of options.

Native Trails Edna Valley Sink

Stone is the last material I will discuss and it is probably the least often used. There are a few different types of stone used for kitchen sinks. Soapstone is a traditional choice. We do not sell soapstone here so, while I have heard many different things about its suitability for the kitchen I do not have any first-hand information. Granite is another choice. Granite is a hard surface and there are some beautiful products made from it. It does require some care and it is possible to stain granite. My feeling is that if you want the unique look of a granite sink go ahead but be aware that it will require some care to maintain it’s look.

Stone Farm sink with Carved Face - R. A. Magnus

Julien – Excellance in Stainless Steel (and more)

Julien began as a supplier of kitchen accessories to restaurants in 1946. Leo Julien’s company struggled a bit in the early years but by the 1960’s it was going strong and was awarded the contract to supply kitchen equipment to “Expo 67” in Montreal. In 1995 the company was purchased by a group of its executives whose vision to grow Julien through excellence continues to succeed. Today Julien is known for kitchen products of high quality and design.

Julien Worktop Sink Classic Collection

Julien is known mostly for its stainless steel kitchen sinks, although they also make sinks of fireclay and granite composite. Most of the SS sinks are 16g (the J18 collection is the exception) and are available as under mount, farmhouse or “Worktop” models.

The 16g handcrafted group includes 5 collections; UrbanEdge, J7, Classic, Vintage, Trapezoid and Apron Front/Worktop.

Julien UrbanEdge

You may be familiar with the modern look that many commercial stainless steel sinks have. This is the result of the tight “zero radius” inside corners characteristic of these sinks. The Julien UrbanEdge collection brings this modern look to the residential kitchen with under-mount models in single and double bowl configurations.

Julien J7 Sink

The Julien J7 series builds on the zero radius concept but improves it for home use by opening those tight corners ever so slightly to 7mm. This keeps the crisp look but allows for easier cleaning and maintenance.

Julien Classic Collection with Accessory Drawer

The Julien Classic Collection has rounded corners which are welded and polished by hand. This collection has a softer, more traditional look while still displaying the large interior so typical of Julien. The Classic Collection also includes Julien’s entire stainless Farm House and Worktop sink group.

Julien Vintage Series Sink

The Julien Vintage Collection is a hybrid; the crisp geometry of the UrbanEdge softened with curves for a transitional style. The Vintage Collections uses zero radius corners.

Julien Trapezoid Series

The Julien Trapezoid Collection takes the zero radius and creates a unique shape for a striking design that maximizes cabinet space. Currently available is six configurations for under mounting.

Julien J18 Collection Sink

All the Julien collections discussed above are made in Canada using 16 gauge American steel (type 304). Julien also offers a collection of 18 gauge sinks, the J18 collection. These are also made in Canada from American steel and feature an 18mm inside radius (slightly smaller than the 23mm of the Classic Collection). To my eye this is a perfect balance and makes a sink with a generous bowl. This is a solid product.

Julien Fireclay Farm Sink and Undermount

Julien excels at working with stainless steel but it is not all they offer. Fireclay has become increasingly popular and Julien has entered the fray with several Farm House models and two under mount models, all hand-crafted in England. Julien “Granix” series are manufactured in Germany and are comprised of 80-85% granite. Bound with a high quality acrylic resin these sinks are highly resistant to scratching or chips. In addition the material includes natural silver ions which impart an anti-microbial quality to the product. Perfect for the kitchen! “Granix” sinks are available in both top and under mount models.

Julien Granix Sinks

Julien offers a full line of accessories for their sinks including bottom grids, colanders and cutting boards. All cutting boards are 100% hard rock maple, 1-1/2” thick and safe for food preparation.

You can see Julien J18, Granix and worktop models in our showroom today!

Don’t Like Stainless? Try Fire Clay!

In the past I have done several posts which talked about stainless steel sinks. Today I’d like to talk about an entirely different product, fireclay. Fireclay is somewhat similar to the vitreous china that is used to make toilets and bathroom sinks but with a critical difference. Fireclay contains a high amount of quartz and feldspar and is fired at 2264 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature fuses the clay and the glaze producing an extremely durable surface. The composition of the clay makes fireclay heavier and more durable so it can stand up to the wear and tear that a kitchen sink needs to handle.

Cast iron is a common material for kitchen sinks but does have some potential disadvantages that fire clay does not. If a cast iron sink is chipped or develops a hairline crack you will eventually get rusting from the underlying cast iron. Because fire clay is ceramic throughout there is no iron source to rust. In addition fire clay can be formed into tighter corners resulting in a more spacious interior.

Here is a video showing how easy it is to clean fire clay.

Farm house (also known as apron front) sinks can be made of several materials but the

Rohl Shaws RC3018 Farm Sink

 fireclay models have remained the most popular. If you are considering such a sink there are a couple of things to be aware of. These sinks are commonly installed under a solid surface countertop. A cabinet structure is needed to support the sink, including the sides and back. The floor of a farm house sink is designed flat with a slight pitch to the drain. In some cases this may require extra shimming and there may be a slight pooling of water. Finally this material does change in the firing process and no two sinks are alike; sizes can vary as much as 2%.

If you are thinking about an apron sink there are many to choose from, both in size and style. One of the best known is the Shaws sinks offered by the Rohl Company. Shaws has been making fireclay sinks since 1897 and these sinks are excellent examples of the classic style.  The most popular is the RC3018, a single bowl 30” wide it is available in white, Biscuit and now matte black. This single bowl sink is also available in 24” and 36” models. We stock all three sizes in white. Rohl also offers double bowl and casement front models.

Franke offers fireclay apron sinks by Villeroy and Boch, a company long known for the expertise in ceramics. Franke farm sinks have a somewhat more modern feel with a thinner wall and crisp edges. They offer 24”, 30” 33” and 36” models as well as two double bowl sinks. Franke farm house sinks are available in white, biscuit and matte black.

Elkay Double Bowl Farm Sink

Elkay has recently tossed their hat into the farm house sink arena with a 30” single and a 33” double bowl model. Elkay however has introduced a new color, “Terra Cotta” for their farm sinks. Elkay Farm Sinks are also available in Gloss White.

If you are interested in fire clay but the farm sink isn’t your style there are several drop in and under-mount sinks available. One of the best known may be the Allia by Rohl. This is a 60/40 double bowl sink which may be installed as an under mount or self-rimming sink. Rohl also offers three under mount single bowl sinks in 31”, 24” and 17”square sizes. Rohl Allia sinks are available in white or Pergame (biscuit).

Elkay offers a 31” double bowl under mount fire clay and as well as 23” and 17” models. All three are available in gloss white or Terra Cotta.

So if you are looking for a new kitchen sink and stainless steel isn’t for you please take a look at fire clay.

Kitchen Sink Basics

Kitchen sinks are one of the most commonly requested items in our showroom and the choices of material and style have grown tremendously over the years. For the most part kitchen sinks are made of stainless steel, fireclay, cast iron or composite. Copper has gained in popularity lately and we occasionally see sinks made from granite or soap stone.

Stainless steel is the most varied in style and construction and is the most misunderstood. You can buy a 33″X22″ dbl bowl stainless sink for $100.00 or $2000.00 and all points in between. To read mode about stainless sinks please see the tab under Product Knowledge and refer to our blog posts.

Fireclay is a great choice for both looks and durability. More companies have begun offering fireclay but still the choice of styles is limited compared to stainless steel. In general fireclay is a somewhat more expensive option.

Composite sinks have been around a long time and include a number of different brands. Not all composite sinks are made the same way. For example, Swanstone offers sinks made from their plastic compound that is compression molded. It is extremely heat resistant and tough. Quartz is another type of composite made from a blend of true quartz stone and a resin or plastic bonding material. These types of sinks have been around for 20+ years and will deliver years of service. Composite sinks do offer a fairly good range of styles, colors and prices.

Cast iron is offered by only a few manufacturers the most familiar of which is the Kohler Company. Kohler has continued to create beautiful options in cast iron and you can find styles both basic and intricate. Commercial Enameling is a California based company that also offers cast iron kitchen sinks.

These are the most common choices but not the only ones. Copper is gaining popularity in the kitchen. Soapstone is a material with a long history in the kitchen and can still be purchased from a few vendors today. Many manufacturers offer sinks cut from natural stone, most commonly in a farm sink style.

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