This country kitchen classic has become hugely popular on Houzz. Here are some ways to style yours
Houzz UK deputy editor. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for the… More
The butler or Belfast sink – they’re almost the same, except that the latter has an overflow as part of the design – has become a ubiquitous feature in modern kitchens, whether contemporary in style, traditional or rustic.
Though there are lots of deviations from the original designs, these days the basic look is a stand-alone ceramic sink with softly squared edges. It can be undermounted or, because it looks good on all sides, overmounted – to stand on a vintage cupboard, for example. The original models, and some new ones, tend to be extremely deep and became popular in the 1920s as they were good for washing clothes in, and also babies. These days we probably like them more for their looks. Here’s why.
Boost your draining zone
Unlike contemporary style sinks, which often have draining boards attached, your butler sink never will.
That said, you can buy portable ceramic or wood drainers designed to match your sink, but in the absence of one of these – or in addition to one – a wall-mounted drainer could be an invaluable asset. This antique-style one looks lovely but only has space for plates – if you need yours to work harder, look out for designs that have drainer shelves for bowls and cups, too.
Get creative with your taps
As you will see from many of these photos, deck-mounted taps are a classic choice for a butler sink, since, of course, there is no space to fix them into a pre-drilled holes in the sink, as there often will be, for example, on a typical modern stainless-steel design with a built-in drainer.
But they’re not the only choice. Here, the designers have created their own fixings using copper plumbing pipe stretched along the wall and brass bib taps fixed above the sink (and if you can’t stretch to brass taps this could be an affordable alternative to consider).
Check out 11 more ideas for DIY-ing your own copper piping taps
Here is another example of copper piping used to create affordable taps with a trad feel. Here, though, they’ve used the more classic option of deck mounting them.
Aesthetics may come first, but consider carefully whether you will get impatient with separate hot and cold taps, especially if you’re used to a mixer.
Check out the rest of this stunning kitchen, which only cost around £5,000
Give it a view
A sink in front of a window is a classic. But how to connect your butler sink to your window area? This classic design nails it, and provides a good solution for when there isn’t much space between sink and window, as here.
This will mean – in a new installation – you may need to make a tough choice to remove an original windowsill. But let this photo inspire you – it couldn’t be a gentler update for a Georgian home.
Make a feature of your mount
Here the kitchen has an industrial feel, with slab-front grey drawers, factory-style lighting and painted brick walls. An unexpected detail in this tried-and-tested style is the design of the unit upon which the sink is mounted: the stand – the solid structure supporting the weight – has been exaggerated and highlighted in white. It’s a simple idea but one that gives this space real design kudos.
Build in a drainer
Draining, or lack of, has already been mentioned. As well as freestanding or wall-hung solutions, there are also built-in ways to dry your dishes. Here, a Corian worktop has had drainer grooves cut into it. This is something that can also be done with bespoke wooden worktops.
Here’s an example of a butler sink with a wooden worktop that has a grooved drainer. Take your pick.
Let it help you to work around a low window
A lot of us gravitate towards the window as the optimum position for a sink. Even when we have dishwashers and spend less time in front of the sink than we might have done in years gone by, it’s still a spot for pausing, gazing and contemplating, whether you’re putting a particularly grimy pan in to soak or filling the kettle.
But not all windows will obviously accommodate a sink – in some cases, as could have been the case here – the window is lower than the top of the sink, meaning you risk losing a chunk of window and creating an ugly view from outside.
But this is the beauty of choosing a butler sink. It looks beautiful from both sides – but it will need careful consideration when fitting. This is one option if you have the space – a long section of worktop that is lower than the rest of the kitchen and upon which you can mount your sink, along with deck-mounted traditional-style taps like these. Another option if you have less space, is just to have the section behind the sink (or the width of the window) at a low level. The back of the sink will look pretty from outside, as will those taps; find attractive receptacles for washing-up liquid, sponges and the like, and the gap created becomes practical, too.
Stay surface level
Here, again, the sink has been surface-mounted, rather than undermounted, which tends to be the norm in a kitchen situation, as you can see in most of the other images apart from the one above.
When the sink is butted up against a wall like this, you get another variation for the position of your taps, as the only option you’ll have space for is to have them mounted to the wall behind the sink. This also makes for a great way to include a butler sink if you’re short on space.
Go non-trad for your worktop
Wood and marble are favourites for a worktop that goes well with the aesthetic of a butler sink. But here the classic design has been given a contemporary twist with a sleek and chunky polished concrete worktop.
The modern stainless-steel mixer tap and black wire drainer enhance the look.
If you don’t want to go for a solid concrete worktop (these can be very expensive as they’re poured to order), you might consider a micro concrete product, which can be applied to existing surfaces to a depth of just a few millimetres, but looks and feels like concrete. It’ll give you a far less heavy worktop, too.
Mix trad and contemporary
This kitchen’s basic design ticks all the trad boxes: Shaker-style solid-wood doors, antique table and chairs, brass taps and cup handles and, of course, that classic butler sink. But when it comes to colour and lighting, things start to get a little twist… and as for the tiled splashback, it completely transforms the feel of the space, giving it a cool, creative and contemporary spin (see how the black ties in with the wall lamp and the chairs, too – using the designer-favourite rule of three for balance).
So if you’re installing one of these beauteous sinks, let your splashback be the rebel – tiles are never one of the cheaper parts of a refurbishment, but a splashback is a smallish area so perhaps you can afford to push the boat out.
Here’s another way to give your butler sink a contemporary twist: choose one with a curved front. This is a subtle update, but will give you a slightly larger sink without taking up more worktop space.
To ensure it still has a traditional look, pair it with solid-wood Shaker cupboards and period-style tiling – here there are metros on the walls and the sort of classic chequerboard flooring you’ll often see leading up to the doorway of a Victorian house.
Play with materials
This butler-type sink, rather than being traditional ceramic, is custom-made from slate.
Hunt around, you’ll be surprised at the other materials you can find for this style of sink…
…Here, a double sink is made from copper, giving a wonderful aged effect in a rustic kitchen.
Again, because the sinks are stand-alone pieces, both this and the slate design could also look beautiful surface-mounted.
How would you style or fit a butler’ sink? Share your ideas or photos in the Comments section.