It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The former refers to finding a mint condition set of gorgeous 1960’s sinks at the ReBuilding Center on a sunny Saturday morning. The latter refers to the installation of these mighty pastel beasts.
The Cadillac of Sinks
The Crane Criterion was the top of the line sink model for Crane Co. in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They were designed by Henry Dreyfuss, who is arguably the most famous industrial designer of the 20th century. He pretty much designed any iconic piece of midcentury modern lifestyle technology you can think of–Hoover vacuums, Royal typewriters, Princess telephones, Polaroid cameras, and even the classic Honeywell round-dial thermostat that is most likely gracing the wall of your grandparents house (and incidentally, is also gracing the wall at the Retro Ranch, and still working perfectly fine 52 years later).
And the colors–oh the COLORS! The Crane Criterion was available in Jade Green (got it!), Citrus Yellow, Persian Red, Shell Pink (got it!), India Ivory, Sun Tan, French Grey and Sky Blue. If we had more than two bathrooms you can bet your life that I’d be on a mission to collect one of each.
Insane in the Crane
Yes, the Crane Criterion was certainly the Cadillac of sinks. After discovering on deabath.com that each sink is worth more than 6x what we paid for it, we were even more ecstatic to add such an incredible piece of high-class design history to our home. With their smooth porcelain finishes, brushed aluminum fixtures and lucite trimmed handles, I was confident that these matching sinks would be the pinnacle of both our bathrooms! This was before I realized that each individual sink weighed a metric ton and there was some serious work that needed to happen just so we could properly hang them. Adding a Crane Criterion sink to your home basically means one of two things:
A) You selected it from the original custom builder’s catalog of bathroom fixtures when you had your home built in the mid-20th century, or B) You are mentally ill when it comes to retro-renovation. Guess which one we were?
For starters, the Criterion is over 30″ wide and 22″ deep. It’s practically like having wall-to-wall sink. Additionally, they each weigh 90 lbs. making them about as fun to shift around as a BarcaLounger full of roman bricks. These particular sinks can also be installed in three different ways: fully tiled-in, freestanding (perched on a sexy pair of aluminum and lucite legs), or overhanging the front of the counter, which was a pretty popular, swanky look back in the day. So you really need to figure out what is exactly right for your space before you start ripping into the walls of your tiny half-bath on a 95 degree summer afternoon in late July.
We had these sinks for a full year before we were able to get one of them installed. And our half-bathroom seemed like the logical place to begin since we were going with the freestanding installation option. We decided to attempt the install one Sunday, hoping to get it completed before out-of-town company arrived the following Tuesday. Because when you put a time limit on a bathroom remodel, everything ALWAYS goes perfectly according to plan. It’s just a sink–how hard could it be?
Any Given Sink Install Sunday
The morning of Sink Install Sunday began with David removing the old, plastic stationary tub and tearing open the wall behind it to add to the framing, so that this minty behemoth of a bathroom fixture didn’t end up pulverizing someone’s foot while they were washing their hands.
The afternoon of Sink Install Sunday consisted mainly of the two of us crammed into the smallest bathroom in the western hemisphere, now made even smaller with the addition of this midcentury monster we were desperately trying to level and center on the wall.
The evening of Sink Install Sunday ended with me crouching underneath it to see if I could mop up the leak that occurred during the final moments of the installation, when the u-shaped pipe extending from the wall crumbled into dust as David tried to connect it. Even the brand new shut-off valves were now dripping and giving us the finger. We went to bed frustrated, exhausted, sore and completely unsatisfied with this project.
Two leaky days later we greeted our houseguests with the statement “Look how great our fancy new half-bath sink looks! Just DO NOT USE IT.”
Four days leaky days later the plumber that installed the new toilet in that same bathroom (after the Dantes Toilet Inferno Flood of ’14) arrived to save the day once again. For $650. Which is more than 3x what the sink cost us.
And Then There Was One
Currently, our other (shell pink) Crane Criterion sink sits safely covered in our garage, waiting patiently for its special day to arrive. But knowing us, we’ll wait for some off-the-heat-index summer day to dig into that project. Preferably one that’s short on daylight and nice and close to a major event we’re hosting. I mean, it’s just a sink–how hard could it be?