Everyone wants 42 inch wall cabinets these days. They look better in many applications, I'd agree, and their greater height allows for more impressive molding. There are two problems with 42s, however. One, most people can't reach the items on the top two shelves without a step ladder. And, two, design is shifting toward simpler, pared-down looks that just don't call for elaborate trim any longer. In fact, the contemporary European brands I work with typically offer metric sizes closer to our 30-inch height than our 42s, leaving blank space on the wall above. Modern American kitchens are moving in that direction, as well. So bear in mind that good things can still come in small packages.
Contemporary European kitchens, like this one by Miton, typically feature wall cabinets closer to our 30 inch models than our 42s
Granite often comes first to mind when homeowners are looking at replacing their kitchen countertops. Not everyone craves stone, however, or should have it. For clients who want a softer, warmer top, I typically specify Corian. This acrylic-based surface can be easily repaired if it scratches, making it an exceptionally family-friendly counter, and it's also warrantied. Like quartz, Corian is nonporous and stain resistant, which add to its family friendliness. I like it for seniors, too, as its softness is more forgiving of aging eyes that might misjudge how far the plate or glass must travel to reach the top. As an added benefit, Corian allows you to create integral drainboards and sinks, both of which look great and have practical benefits. One cautionary note: Because stone has supplanted all other materials as the luxury top du jour, not using it could impact the short-term resale value of your project.
Pretty meets practical in Corian countertops... As good as they ever were!
Custom cabinets get all the magazine layouts, but stock cabinets can meet many project needs. They won't deliver the deep rich finishes that semi-custom or custom cabinets can. They won't offer all the bells and whistles of their pricey competitors. They can't be customized for luxury detailing. And they're mass produced for affordability. That doesn't make them bad.
I've worked on some beautiful projects with limited budgets that took advantage of stock cabinetry's recession-friendly price points. My role as a professional designer is to generate the best outcome at whatever investment level the client wants to make. Stock cabinetry can help me achieve that when funds are tighter. My go-to brand for quality, affordability, features, selection, customer service and warranty is sold in Home Depot as American Woodmark and in Lowe's as Shenandoah.
Style can be affordable, too, as shown in this American Woodmark stock cabinetry kitchen
The kind side
Like the popular new kid in town, French door refrigerators are getting all the attention these days. If the budget mandates a freestanding, rather than built-in model, I prefer side by sides. Style-wise, I think the water through the door dispensers on the French models throw off their symmetry and just look awkward. I also dislike bending over to reach anything I want in the freezer. Side by sides give users the option of storing their most frequently-used items at a more comfortable, easier to spot level.
The Linea by Bosch offers good form and functionality in a sleek side-by-side
Branding them as Crock Pots probably hasn't helped the slow cooker's image as an outdated, second string appliance. Don't be fooled; this countertop appliance can be a busy person's best friend. It seals in meat's moisture and works with even the toughest cuts. It prepares your meals at home while you're at work. It creates appetizers, entrees and desserts. It can even keep foods warm while your dinner guests are caught in traffic. The latest, most deluxe models let you brown foods on your cooktop in the same insert they'll cook in for the next few hours, rather than requiring a separate skillet. That translates to more time enjoying dinner and less time cleaning up afterward. Works for me!
Countertop Candy 2010 style: All-Clad's Deluxe Slow Cooker delivers high performance in a low expectation category
Yes, you can get a GelPro mat at your neighborhood bath store. That doesn't mean you should look down on these foot, hip, back and knee savers. There's a wide range of sizes and styles that work with more upscale kitchens and make meal prep and entertaining a much more comfortable activity.
Happy feet stand on GelPro mats
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not a fan of sheet vinyl with simulated grout. I've never seen one that meets my style standards, and over time, their edges tend to curl. Ugh. What I do like in certain very limited scenarios is self-adhesive vinyl tile. Here's where I'd consider specifying it: A rental project where the budget is limited, for a retro-styled room, or for a client who likes the look of tile but detests maintaining grout, which no sealer will protect forever. There are attractive options available at very affordable price points and it's easy to install for a do-it-yourselfer. Tip: Avoid styles that try to look like wood. They don't. The best application is to show it off for what it is -- kitsch for the kitchen. Pair it with a metal-edged Formica counter and 50s style appliances for a great old-fashioned space.
Pair this Armstrong Excelon Cherry Red Vinyl Tile with white to create a diamond dandy retro kitchen floor
Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.