Have you already gathered lots of ideas for how you’d like your new kitchen to look, once it’s remodeled? Perhaps you’ve thought about the style of cabinets you’d prefer or the beautiful materials you envision on your countertops and backsplash.
You should also consider these three kitchen trends that will add both safety and convenience to your kitchen. And, their green benefits extend beyond the usual energy and water savings.

1. Hands-free Faucet Controls – touch or motion activated

A kitchen faucet with hands-free technology is a tremendous advantage to meal preparation. Advanced sensors detect movement or a slight tap on the faucet itself to start the flow of water. If your hands are full or too dirty to turn on the faucet, a wave of your hand, the touch of your arm, or the presence of your hands under the spout will start the water flowing.
Hands-free technology saves water, since faucets shut off automatically, unless instructed to do otherwise. And, it can be incorporated as part of Universal Design for those with restricted reach and/or limited hand mobility.

2. Induction Cooktops

Would you be surprised to learn that induction cooking technology was developed in the United States? It didn’t immediately take off here–as it did abroad–possibly because of the specialized cookware requirements. It now appears to be gaining popularity in the U.S as consumers become better acquainted with its advantages.
Induction cooking uses induction heating to directly heat a cooking vessel, as opposed to using heat transfer from electrical coils or burning gas as with a traditional cooking stove. For nearly all models of induction cooktops, the cooking vessel must be made of a ferromagnetic metal, or placed on an interface disk which enables non-induction cookware to be used on induction cooking surfaces. Induction cooks food very quickly–90% of the energy produced is used in the cooking process as it heats only the pan and the food inside the pan–rather than the kitchen environment. The induction cooktop surface remains cool to the touch, so spills can be wiped up easily and there are no open flames or hot burners that can cause safety issues.

3. LED Lighting

LED lighting has opened up amazing new opportunities for placing light in your kitchen wherever you desire and however your imagination dictates. It doesn’t produce heat so it is perfectly suited for the inside of refrigerators and food storage cabinets. And, it’s available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from long, narrow strips that fit under cabinet toe-kicks to round pucks suitable for cabinet interiors. LED provides white light in warm and cool tones, as well as a wide variety of other colors that can add drama to your kitchen décor.
Quality LED products typically last longer than CFLs, and are therefore preferable for hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. The long life of LED lights make them an eco-friendly product.

15 Nov 2012

Less is More

If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathroom and contemplating what material to select for your backsplash, consider the sleek and contemporary alternative to tile or stone–simple, classic, architectural glass. While an elaborate tile or stone backsplash may provide a focal point for your room, sometimes less is more. Back-painted glass slabs provide more than a focal point; they can change the whole feeling in the room, providing a sense of depth and vibrancy in a clean, uncluttered way.

It can be used virtually anywhere you currently use glass, tile, or stone: kitchen backsplashes, bathroom vanity tops, tub and shower walls, fireplaces, accent walls, and refrigerator and cabinet door panels.

Maintenance is easy; back-painted glass is non-porous and seamless and outlasts many architectural products such as tiles and laminates. It doesn’t allow mold or bacteria to form; it is water-proof or water-resistant and it is easy to clean.

  1. Fast & easy installation. Has to be tempered but this can be done by the glass company you choose. The glass is optically clear and the thickness is typically 1/4″, 3/8″, or 3/4″.
  2. It can blend well with the colors you have already chosen for your remodeled room. Instead of trying to find the perfect size, color and textured tile pieces, glass slabs can be painted to match the color codes of all leading paint manufacturers.
  3. The simplicity of a glass wall allows you to get creative and fun as well. Glass is the perfect surface to tape decorations, stick cling-ones, and best of all dry-erase markers can be used to draw on the walls! It wipes right off! Chalkboard paint is fun, but the kids will love this too.

Even if you’re not needing to use your range or refrigerator tonight because you’re sending out for pizza, chances are you’ll be using your kitchen sink for clean up. The sink is one of the most heavily used fixtures in the kitchen. Doesn’t it make sense to purchase a sink that performs well for your needs? Be sure to review all the options below, before you choose your new sink.

Homeowners tend to give their kitchen sink little consideration when making selections for their new kitchens. They may spend weeks deciding on the perfect chef-style range and then only rarely use it, while the sink is put into service continually. Why shouldn’t your sink be highly functional and lovely to look at — in others words, a joy to use?

1. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks complement the look of commercial-style appliances. Steel is more protective of dropped glassware than harder materials like cast iron. It does scratch and can dent if a heavy pot falls into the sink. A thicker gauge of steel will be less apt to dent. Sound-absorbing pads underneath the bowl will result in a quieter sink.

2. Porcelain Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron sinks boast a glossy porcelain finish that is available in a wide variety of colors. This sink can withstand a hot pot, but if a pot is dropped into the sink, the enamel can chip, after which the underlying iron may corrode. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner to protect the finish.

Granite composite sink

Granite composite sink

3. Fireclay (Vitreous China)
Fireclay is hard and quite heavy — made from a ceramic-like material that is fired under intense heat. The glossy color goes all the way through, so there is nothing under the surface to corrode. Using a nonabrasive cleaner, the sinks are easy to maintain, but they can chip.

4. Granite Composite (such as Silgranit)
Granite composite sinks are made of a mixture of 80% natural granite and acrylic resin — the material extends throughout. These sinks resist scratching and chipping, plus they are non-porous and resist most household stains. They can easily handle a hot pot up to 500 degrees.

5. Solid Surface (such as Corian)
Solid surface sinks may be joined to a countertop of the same material for a seamless look. The non-porous material offers easy maintenance, since there are no recesses to collect bacteria. A downside is that the sink can be damaged by heat and sharp objects.

6. Natural Stone
Natural stone sinks are valued for their unique beauty and ability to integrate with a stone countertop. Most stone is porous and should be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Even after sealing, certain acidic liquids may stain and etch the surface. Always use a nonabrasive cleaner.

Recycled copper sink

Recycled copper sink

7. Copper
Copper sinks develop a patina over time, which is one of the characteristics most people love about the material. The relatively soft metal can scratch, but most scratches may be removed by polishing. Avoid long exposure to hot pots, which can distort the shape of the sink.

8. Concrete
Concrete offers great versatility in the shape, color and texture of a sink. Objects may be embedded into the concrete for decorative, as well as functional purposes. Newer products are highly resistant to cracking, chipping and staining — problems that plagued concrete sinks in the past.

Greetings!

Is it your New Year’s resolve to get a kitchen make-over? You definitely want your kitchen to function better for you, but you also want to pull all the elements together into a design that is pleasing visually. Read further for some ideas on how to do that.

Are you wanting to remodel your kitchen because your existing cabinetry no longer provides the storage or function you need? Or perhaps you want to update your kitchen with efficient appliances and fixtures to save on energy and water bills. Either way, you would also like your kitchen to be beautiful and feel inviting to your friends and family. This last aspect may feel very elusive, because you aren’t sure how to pull it off. You want your kitchen to look fresh and original, but not to the extreme. How can you know when your kitchen design is too bland, or when it is too elaborate for current aesthetics?

Today’s look is clean and simple, but definitely not cold and sterile. Perhaps you are like many other homeowners who are entertaining more at home these days, and you want spaces that feel welcoming. Soft matte finishes and artisan finishes, like bronze, copper, and brass give warmth to sinks and faucets. If your preference is for traditional style cabinetry, think minimal ornamentation and lots of white. Old World Tuscany features, such as high cathedral arches on cabinet doors and heavy corbels, are being traded for simpler elements like picture rail and painted bead board. Craftsman style cabinetry that emphasizes natural materials and honest craftsmanship, is currently the most popular look.

Clean and simple does not mean plain vanilla — pay attention to the details that will give your kitchen personality. One idea is to vary the color of your cabinets in sections, mixing natural wood with paints or stains in delicious new colors, such as raspberry or grass green. Another possibility would be to juxtapose smooth and rough textures, matte and shiny finishes, or light and dark shades throughout your kitchen — in your cabinetry, countertops, and flooring. Cream and chocolate brown is a current favorite, but black and white never goes out of style. The layered glazes that were so popular a few years ago are being replaced by texture and depth, such as visual brushstrokes and surfaces with an aged look. Just remember to exercise restraint, allowing enough space for a dramatic item to shine, rather than compete for attention.

If you are concerned about the long term, and you want to make trendy choices only in areas that can be changed easily and inexpensively at a later date, try selecting just one focal point to emphasize in your kitchen. It might be a kitchen window with a stunning view, an island, or a unique ventilation hood. By highlighting that area with an unusual color, a contrasting finish, uncommon hardware, or special lighting, you can make a distinctive design statement without a big expenditure. Choose neutral finishes for the larger, more permanent items.

1) DEDICATED SPACE — Are you an avid gardener, a craft-enthusiast, seamstress, or woodworker? Dedicate a space in your house to your hobbies. Often a guest room can be repurposed into a study or hobby room that would be used on a regular basis. Install a Murphy bed on one wall that can be used pulled down for guests but remain out of the way 90% of the time. Purchase storage furniture or install built-ins with drawers and cabinet doors that conceal office or hobby items when not in use. An innovative and pricey alternative may be this Zoom Room Murphy bed that rolls into the wall rather than being pulled down. It’s so attractive and innovative that the price may be worth it.

2) OPEN SPACES — One housing trend that is here to stay is the open floor plan. Opening up small rooms helps to make your home feel larger (long views trick the eye into perceiving a larger space) and brighter, because light can travel unimpeded throughout the house. Taking out walls, parts of walls or even creating openings in walls to allow views from room-to-room will make your home feel more spacious and up-to-date.

Wrapping and decor armoire tucked in a living room corner

3) REPURPOSE WASTED SPACE — We often become unaware of the wasted spaces in our homes because we’re used to things as they are. Carefully examine how often each area in your home is used. Most formal living rooms and dining rooms are used only for entertaining. Consider repurposing these areas for other uses or incorporating a new function into an existing space.

A corner of a living room can become an office area. Furniture-grade cabinetry with doors that hide the office equipment will make it unobtrusive, or a privacy screen can be used to separate the areas. A dining room can become a craft room and gift wrap area with the addition of an armoire to house craft and wrapping supplies. Or, purchase, task-specific storage furniture that can be easily moved out-of-the-way for the 4-5 times a year the room is used for dining. Extra space in an entry can be used to create a “launch pad” with cabinets for jackets, backpacks, or sports equipment and hooks for keys, umbrellas, and hats. A mudroom or laundry room may be able to house a potting bench and gardening nook by adding a table with drawers and installing some shelves and/or cabinets on the wall.

4) CREATE A RENTAL UNIT — An idea for empty-nesters may be to create a rental unit within your current home. If the kids have moved out and your house is nearly paid off and in a fantastic neighborhood, but you feel like your space is too large, it may make more sense to stay put and create a separate rental unit. By reconfiguring your house to accommodate a small rental unit with its own exterior entrance and kitchenette, you’ll earn extra income and have a built-in house sitter if you travel.

Read more on this topic at Mother Earth News.

Greetings!

The holidays will soon be here. Have you looked around your home to see if there are ways it could function better for family gatherings and feel more inviting? Even if you haven’t the budget for a major remodel, there are less expensive ways to make a big impact. We are here to help you get those projects completed.

Fall is a great time for having remodeling work done, so prepare your home now for welcoming holiday visitors. Our workload starts to loosen up a bit, which means we may be able to begin your project sooner than at other times of the year. Also, our vendors often offer special sale prices on their products in the fall with savings we can pass on to you.

Entrance Foyer

Here’s where your guests catch their first glimpse of your home’s interior, and you want it to be visually appealing. Have those tired walls covered with a fresh coat of paint. Choose a zero-VOC product, so there are no lingering, harmful fumes. Add interest to the door and ceilings with decorative wood trim in an unusual pattern. If your foyer has a low ceiling, consider track lighting instead of a chandelier.

Kitchen

As various family members get involved in preparing those holiday meals, you’ll want your kitchen to provide a functional workspace, as well as attractive surroundings. Now would be the perfect time to upgrade to a range with two separate ovens so multiple dishes may be cooking at different temperatures at the same time. Install a new faucet with a pull-down spray so both food prep and clean up can go faster. Have your scratched and stained plastic laminate countertops replaced with beautiful new solid surface or granite. Likewise, replace your worn vinyl flooring with engineered hardwood flooring-a product that not only is durable, but also handles moisture well.

Family Room

There never seems to be enough storage space for all the games, toys, magazines, DVDs, pillows etc. that accumulate in the family room. You will want to clear up the clutter before your holiday guests arrive. We can help suggest places where you can easily tuck some additional cabinets or shelves, such as below a bay window, beneath a stairway or against an empty wall.

Bathroom

If your bathroom lighting is limited to an overhead ceiling fixture, install additional fixtures, such as stylish pendants or sconces at the vanity. This is convenient for guests applying make-up at the mirror, but more importantly, it helps prevent accidents for those with diminished eyesight. Update a basic plate-glass mirror by adhering decorative molding around the outer edges to form a frame. New hardware can greatly enhance the look of your existing cabinets. Choose hardware with a creative design or unique color that also coordinates with the existing finishes.

There’s No Law that Says You Have to Do it All at Once

The unstable economy has forced many people to put their larger remodeling plans on hold. However, a number of homeowners are completing their projects one stage at a time. Additionally, some are doing updates in lieu of complete remodels. Below is a list of budget-friendly projects that can increase the enjoyment of your home now but also contribute to its long-term value. Some require professional remodeling services (that’s us) while others are DIY. Find more budget- friendly before and after photos on the Sunset website.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) surveyed more than 100 of its designer members across the country to uncover the likelihood that they would incorporate various materials and styles in their designs. The following seven top kitchen trends and four top bathroom trends emerged for 2011. Note: percentages may not total 100% as the survey tallied only whether a designer specified a product in a design, not how often they did so. Results reflect national trends and may not be consistent with local preferences.

Kitchens

  1. Shake It Up

    When it comes to style trends in the kitchen, Traditional remains the top choice. The big news is that Shaker has now supplanted Contemporary as the second most popular look.

  2. Dark and Beautiful

    The most specified type of finish for cabinets and floors is a dark natural finish. In contrast, the use of medium natural, glazed and white painted finishes has diminished.

  3. Take the Chill Off

    Interestingly enough, unchilled wine storage has grown in popularity, while the incorporation of wine refrigerators seems to be on the decline.

  1. French Revolution

    In terms of refrigerator styles, the French door refrigerator is now the most popular (78%.) Freezer-bottom models (single-door refrigerator on top, single-door freezer on the bottom) fell slightly in popularity to second place (59%.)

  1. Induction is Hot

    Induction cooktop selection is heating up! This trend is expected to continue due to induction’s energy efficiency. Gas cooktops are still the most popular though specification fell from 76% to 70%, while conventional electric cooktop specifications increased slightly from 38% to 41%.

  1. LED Lighting the Way

    For energy-efficient lighting solutions, designers are flipping the switch on LEDs (light emitting diodes) rather than CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) most likely due to the poor quality of light CFLs produce.

  2. Take Out the Trash

    Trash or recycling pull-outs were included in 89% of the kitchens designed by NKBA members. There was also an increase in both garbage disposals and trash compactors.

Bathrooms

  1. Of Quartz

    Quartz solid surfaces such as Zodiac™ and Caesarstone™, are an increasingly-popular choice for bathroom countertops, up from 48% to 54%, but quartz still has not had the impact it has in the kitchen. For bathroom countertops, granite remains the most popular choice (83%.)

  2. Going Green

    The use of the color green in bathrooms is on the rise. Whites and off-whites, beiges and browns remain the most commonly used color tones, however.

  3. A Worthy Vessel

    Undermount sinks continue to dominate the bathroom scene, but vessel sinks have become the clear second choice among designers.

  4. Supreme Satin Nickel

    In bathrooms and kitchens, satin nickel is now the favorite faucet finish, while brushed nickel comes in second. Stainless steel remains popular in the kitchen, but not in the bath.

Greetings!

The winter solstice occurring on December 22 marks the beginning of winter and the longest night of the year. The amount of light that reaches us from the sun decreases this time of year, which can darken our home interiors more than usual. Read below about how you can bring more natural light into your home this season and year ’round.

Today’s consumers, in general, give more thoughtful consideration to their purchases than they did a few years ago. People want to be sure they are getting good value for the dollars they spend.

As you are making plans to improve your home, perhaps you long for the upscale look and functionality of kitchens you see in magazines and on TV, but you want to avoid frivolous spending when you remodel. Our practical suggestions can help you get “more bang for your buck.”

  1. Exquisite glass or metal accent tiles used on a backsplash make a big design impact in a kitchen. Use them to create a focal point below the range hood. Select a less expensive coordinating field tile for the remainder of your backsplash.
  2. Select a luxurious granite, wood or quartz surface for the kitchen island countertop, while using a solid surface for the rest of the countertops. Beautiful new introductions in plastic laminate convincingly imitate natural stone, providing another good option.
    Formica’s new laminate pattern:
    Belmonte Granite
  3. A free-standing double oven range supplies the convenience of double wall ovens, without the added expense of purchasing a separate cooktop. These appliances are available in a variety of finishes — including stainless steel — that offer an upscale look.
  4. Choose a cabinet-depth refrigerator that provides the look of an integrated built-in without the expense.
  5. A kitchen sink with a low-profile basin divider offers the ease of handling both large pots as well as smaller items. You only need to purchase one sink.
  6. Purchase pull-out drawers in the cabinets you will use on an everyday basis and for the less accessible areas of your cabinets. Utilize adjustable shelving — a less pricey option — for the rest of the cabinetry.


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