FREE DESIGNS AND ESTIMATES

Types of Natural Stone For Your Home

types of natural stone

The most familiar natural stone types that are used in countertops and most home applications fall into three categories: Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary.

  • Igneous stone, such as granite, is formed mainly with volcanic material. Liquid magma underneath the earth’s surface solidifies while mixing with mineral gases and liquids to create different formations and colors.
  • Metamorphic stones were made from a natural from of stone that was transformed by a mixture of heat, pressure, and minerals. These types of stone include quartzite, marble, serpentine, and slate.
  • Sedimentary stone comes from organic elements where small sedimentary pieces accumulated to form rock beds and were bonded through millions of years of heat and pressure. They include limestone, sandstone, soapstone, onyx, and travertine.

Read more to learn a little about these different types of stone and the kinds of applications they are used for.

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Natural Stone Countertop Cleaning & Care Guide

Natural Stone Countertop Cleaning, Care, and Maintenance

This natural stone countertop cleaning and care guide will give you some tips to keep your granite or other stone surfaces looking like new. The natural stone you have purchased is an investment that will give your home or office many years of beautiful service. Natural stone surfaces include granite, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, quartzite, sandstone, adoquin, onyx, and more. Simple care and maintenance will help preserve your stone’s beauty for generations to come!

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Cabinetry Care Guide

Cabinetry Care

As with any product constructed of wood, a few moments of care and a little common sense can go a long way in keeping your new cabinets looking their best. Here are a few simple suggestions to make your cabinet care easier.

  • Clean cabinets as needed with a mild detergent or with soap and water (use sparingly) and dry well using a lint-free cloth for both washing and drying.
  • Wipe up spills, splatters and water spots as they occur, keeping cabinets and countertop surfaces dry.
  • Give special attention to areas near the sink and dishwasher that come in contact with moisture.
  • Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Cabinetry Care Kit: contains all the materials required to repair nicks and scratches

Touch Up Marker: used to re-stain small scratches (one-step application, stain only)

Putty Stick: used to fill nail holes, minor nicks and dents

Stopping Problems Before they Occur

DO NOT use abrasive cleaners, scouring pads or powdered cleaners! These materials may penetrate the cabinet finish allowing moisture to enter and cause deterioration.

  • Do not use aerosol sprays containing silicone or paste waxes.
  • Do not leave wet cloths on or near cabinets.
  • Do not allow oven cleaners or other caustic cleaners to touch the cabinets.
  • Follow instructions carefully for self-cleaning ovens and other kitchen appliances around cabinets.

Remedies For Common Kitchen Accidents

Most problems can be prevented by wiping up any spills as soon as they occur. Follow these first aid suggestions for common household accidents. When removing a spot, begin at the outer edge and work toward the middle to prevent the spot from spreading.

Food Spots / Water Spots

Clean cabinets as needed with a mild detergent or with soap and water (use sparingly) and dry well using a lint-free cloth for both washing and drying. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Greasy Spots

Rub grease, lipstick, crayon or oil with a damp cloth. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed. 

Chewing Gum / Candle Wax

Apply a plastic bag filled with ice on top of the deposit until it is brittle enough to crumble off. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Nicks / Dents

Most nicks and dents can be repaired with a cabinetry care kit from your cabinet manufacturer. 

Scratches / Cigarette Burns

Most common scratches or burns can be repaired with a cabinetry care kit from your cabinet manufacturer. Rub the area with fine sandpaper until you have removed the scratch or burn. Re-stain with the cabinets color-matched touch-up stain and apply a light coat of clear sealer finish. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Always treat your cabinets as you would fine furniture!

Floor Care and Cleaning Guide

Floor Care

Regular care and maintenance of your new flooring is a simple way to extend the life and performance of your investment and keep it looking like new for years. Here are some general guidelines to follow for the different flooring types. 

Carpet

Suck it Up: dirt, dust, and other small particles are sharp and abrasive, and when they collect in your carpet, they can rip and tear the fibers over time. Regular vacuuming keeps these particles from wearing away at the carpet, and it also improves its appearance. 

Bag it: if you choose a vacuum that uses bags, make sure you change the bag frequently to allow maximum cleaning efficiency – and to avoid all that dust blowing back onto your carpets! Newer bagless models may save time and make the effort even easier.

Watch Your Weight: heavy furniture, potted plants and other home décor can crush carpet pile and leave compressions that you may not notice until you redecorate or move. Use felt pads or protective caps and re-arrange the furniture periodically. 

Stay Out of the Sun: in the same way the sun damages our skin, its ultraviolet rays can also damage the color of your carpet over time. To avoid sun lightening to your carpets, shut the curtain or blinds when the sun is most intense or use UV glass or film in your windows. 

Snip the Snags: looped carpets tend to snag over time – especially at the seams. It’s best not to vacuum over loose yarn or pull at the snags. Instead, treat every loose thread like you would on an expensive suit. Grab scissors and carefully snip the snag flush with the plush. 

Watch the Spills: when these events occur to begin the clean-up process by using a dry cloth to blot up as much debris or liquid as possible. The longer you wait, the more the fibers will absorb the stain. Warm water should then be used to rinse the stained area. Press the cloth into the carpet to soak up the moisture until the stain is gone. Don’t scrub and don’t use hot water. You’ll damage the fibers. Finally, rinse the area with warm water and absorb the wetness with a dry cloth. After your carpet is dry, vacuum it to restore its texture and appearance. There are some carpet cleaners that do actually work. Ask your retailer about cleaning products that have earned the Carpet & Rug Institute’s (CRI) Seal of Approval. 

Read Up!: like a fine piece of clothing, carpet is a textile. Though it doesn’t come with a little white tag on the back of the neckline, it does come with maintenance literature provided by the manufacturer. Different fibers, styles, and finishes require specific care. In the same way, you wouldn’t throw a silk blouse in the washing machine, you don’t want to make a similar mistake with your carpet. Read up and follow the suggested guidelines. You’ll be glad you did.

Call the Pros: time and traffic take their toll. It’s just a fact of life. Carpet manufacturer warranties have very specific instructions on the type of professional cleaning necessary to keep that warranty in force. Refer to that material. Then, when necessary, call on a reputable carpet cleaning service to restore your rugs to their original luster. The knowledge, commercial equipment and experience of a professional can go a long way towards removing stubborn stains and keeping your home beautiful. 

Hardwood Flooring

Meet Mat: tiny particles, like dirt, can act like sandpaper and scratch your wood. By placing a floor mat at each entryway and encouraging family members and guests to wipe their feet, the majority of dirt and grime will remain on the mat. Also put a floor mat or rug in any area where water could be splashed – like near the kitchen sink. This will hinder any possible water damage. Note that rubber-backed or non-ventilated floor mats or rugs can damage your floor. Instead use floor mats or rugs made especially for hardwood floors and be sure to shake them out regularly. 

Whistle While You Work: along with a hardwood floor comes the responsibility of keeping it clean. The better care you take, the longer your floor will maintain its original beauty. 

  • Step #1 – purchase a high quality broom so that you can sweep your floor regularly of dirt, dust and other particles.
  • Step #2 – use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar to get in between the boards and other hard to reach areas. Deeper cleaning techniques vary depending on the installation and finish of your hardwood floor.

For “Finish in Place” hardwood floors, using an 8″x14″ terrycloth mop with a rotating head that makes cleaning corners, under cabinets and along base boards easier is recommended. Professional cleaning products recommended by your flooring manufacturer can be used to remove tough stains and spills without dulling the finish of your wood floor. Makers of “Pre-finished” floors recommend their own specific products for routine maintenance.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO use cleaners that won’t leave a film or residue
  • DO use a professional hardwood floor cleaner to remove occasional scuffs and heel marks (just spray some cleaner on a cloth and rub the stained area lightly)
  • DO clean sticky spots with a damp towel or sponge
  • DO minimize water exposure and clean spills immediately
  • DON’T wax a wood floor with a urethane finish
  • DON’T use ammonia cleaners or oil soaps on a wood floor – they’ll dull the finish and affect your ability to recoat later.
  • DON’T wet mop or use excessive water to clean your floor (wood naturally expands when it’s wet and can cause your floor to crack or splinter)

Protect Your Investment – all hardwood floors fade or change shades over time. Like our own skin, wood’s exposure to sunlight may greatly increase this process and cause permanent damage.

Window treatments are recommended to shade your floors from the sun’s harsh rays. We also recommend rotating area rugs and furniture regularly, allowing wood floors to age evenly from UV exposure. To avoid permanent marks and scratches, it’s a good idea to cover furniture and table legs with flannel protectors. Be careful when moving heavy objects across your floor to avoid scuffing. Ladies – your stiletto heels may be fashionable, but what’s not in fashion (or covered by your warranty) are the dents and scratches they cause to wood floors. Likewise, trim your pet’s nails regularly and keep any and all other sharp objects away from your floors. Love your floors and your floors will you back for a long, long time. 

Laminate Flooring

Sweeping & Mopping: dust and dirt act as an abrasive on a laminate’s surface and seriously dull its appearance. This fact of life can be avoided by regular sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming to remove loose dirt and grime. Either a broom or a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar will do the trick. Vacuum cleaner attachments are useful to capture dust and dirt between planks or along edges. An occasional damp mopping is also recommended. But be careful – laminate flooring can expand when it comes in contact with excessive water. After a damp mopping, a clean cloth should be used to wipe the floor dry. Placing doormats at each entryway is also a good idea to collect excessive moisture and dirt before they enter your home. 

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO use glides or floor protectors on the bottom of furniture to prevent scratching or abrasion
  • DO lift heavy furniture instead of dragging or pulling it to avoid scratching and abrasion
  • DO use carpet fragments face down under heavy objects when moving them across a laminate floor
  • DO your spot cleaning and occasional complete cleaning using the manufacturer’s recommended products
  • DON’T use soap-based detergents or “mop-and-shine” products
  • DON’T use abrasive cleaners, steel wool or scouring powder
  • DON’T flood your floor with water or cleaner
  • DON’T try to refinish or sand your laminate floor

Repair – replacement laminates may be a slightly different dye lot and/or texture than your original installation. With time and usage, however, the replacement product will blend in with the rest of your floor. With proper care and regular maintenance, laminate flooring will provide you and your home with many years of beauty, warmth and durability.

Vinyl Flooring

Your Mother Was Right: keeping the floor clean is not hard, but there are some guidelines to increase the life of your flooring. Dust, sand and grit particles are the enemy. Sweep or vacuum frequently. Don’t use a vacuum with a beater bar as it may scratch your floor and don’t use scrub brushes. When sweeping or vacuuming does not remove the dirt, mop the floor with clean warm water. Rinse the floor thoroughly with fresh water. If water alone does not clean the surface, use cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer. Most “no rinse” cleaners will work just fine. An ounce or so of liquid detergent or ammonia in a gallon of water will work, but you will need to rinse the floor well. Do NOT use detergents, abrasive cleaners or “mop and shine” products. And always toss in an ounce of prevention. Mats or rugs in front of outside doors will help keep the dust and grit from getting to the floor in the first place. Be sure the mats and rugs you buy are for vinyl floors. Some rubberbacked mats may leave stains or marks. 

It’s Just a Spill: for spots or spills, wipe them up immediately and use the same technique on the spot as you would for the whole floor. 

Sometimes It’s Serious: if you have a seam open up, you need to cover it to keep out the dirt. The same applies if you get a cut or gouge in your new floor. Dirt makes it harder to repair. Call your retailer or installer for information on who should repair the seam.

Ceramic Tile Flooring

Sweeping: dirt adheres easily to the surface of ceramic tile, especially styles with textured surfaces. Regular sweeping loosens and removes most dirt. A vacuum cleaner can also be used to sweep, but make sure you use one without a beater bar to avoid dulling and scratching the tiles. Vacuum cleaner attachments are great to suck up dirt along edges or in between tiles.

Mats: use doormats to keep dirt from coming into your home and shake them out often. This will reduce the amount of dirt being tracked across your ceramic tile floor, and reduces the wear to the finished surface. 

Mopping: ceramic tile floors should be damp-mopped using manufacturer-recommended grout and tile cleaners. For heavier soil, spot clean the floor with a sponge or clean cloth using the same recommended cleaners. 

Heavy Cleaning: mild scrubbing with a soft brush or electric polisher/scrubber may be required for textured tiles. After cleaning with a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water to remove leftover residue. If necessary, wipe the tile dry with a clean towel to remove any film. For soft water situations, an all-purpose cleaner may be necessary. Apply it to your floor and let it stand for 3-5 minutes. Then lightly scrub with a sponge, rinse well and you’re good to go. Cleaning products available from your local grocery or hardware store can be used to remove soap scum, hard water deposits and mildew stains from ceramic tile. Be sure to consult the cleaning product’s instructions to ensure the product is recommended for your type of tile. After cleaning, rinse well and wipe dry for a sparkling shine. 

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO clean up spills as quickly as possible so your grout won’t become stained
  • DO remember that while ceramic tile is very durable, it’s not indestructible and may crack or chip under extreme force
  • DO take the proper precautions when moving heavy objects across a ceramic tile floor
  • DO cover furniture and table legs with protectors to guard your floor against scratching
  • DO remember that if a repair is necessary, the replacement product may be a slightly different dye lot and/or texture than the original tile, however, with time and usage, the replacement tile will blend in with its neighbors.
  • DON’T use steel wool, scouring powders, or other abrasives that can scratch the finish of your ceramic tile
  • DON’T use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners – these products can discolor your grout if used too often

Caulking and Sealing – once your tile has been laid and grouted, it’s your responsibility to caulk areas that may be exposed to water. Caulking will prevent expensive subsurface damage and keep the tiled areas looking as good as new. Depending on your lifestyle, sealing your tile and grout may also be an option. After installation, sealing the grout and tile can provide protection from dirt and spills by slowing down the staining process. Grout colorants can transform the original color of your grout and, in some cases, can act as a form of sealant. Be aware that non-epoxy grout joints should be treated with a silicone sealer. Regular care and maintenance will keep your ceramic tile floors looking their very best for years to come. 

Area Rugs

You should vacuum or sweep your area rug as you would wall-to-wall carpeting. Watch the fringes. You don’t want to have to pull them out of the vacuum cleaner. Handmade area rugs can benefit from being turned over and vacuumed. Lift the rug up carefully and you will see all the dirt that had filtered down.

Turn, Turn, Turn: rotating your rug occasionally (annually) will help even wear patterns and prevent uneven fading. When rugs are exposed to the sun evenly, the colors harmonize and the rug ages nicely. If parts of the rug receive too much or too little of sun, one side might fade faster than the other.

See Spot? Go!: clean your area rug immediately after a spill. A water spill should be dried with a hair dryer set on a warm temperature. Try to dry both sides of the rug if possible. Anything else should first be blotted with paper towels to absorb as much as possible, and then apply salt or baking soda to the spot for a few minutes to absorb the rest. Once it dries, vacuum off the salt or baking soda. Professional grade rug cleaners are available. Be sure to test for color fastness before using. Take the rug to a professional handmade rug cleaner to deal with old or persistent stains. Do not try to clean it yourself. You might make it worse!

Read the Labels and Listen to the Pros: if you purchased a handmade rug, it’s best to have it cleaned by professionals. If you have a machine made rug, look to the manufacturer for the best way to clean it. Some can be machine washed. Others can be scrubbed by hand and dried outside.

Does Your Pad Need Padding?: consult with your retailer about the proper padding to be placed under the rug you choose. A pad can help stabilize and protect your rug. Some rugs come with a non-skid backing or a nice foam padding already attached.

Storing: if your area rug needs to be stored for a long time in a place without exposure to light or air, first vacuum it or get it professionally cleaned. For handmade rugs and those made of natural fibers, you might consider packing it with mothballs to protect against insect damage. Never fold your rug – roll it and store it in a dry location.

Rug Repair – repairing a handmade rug is an art form in and of itself. It is time consuming and labor intensive and therefore, often costly. Get the opinion of a professional before you have work done on a handmade rug – and be sure to use a reputable repairman. 

Stone Flooring

It’s Its Own Worst Enemy: sand, grit, and dirt can damage natural stone surfaces because they are abrasive. Use a vacuum on your floor if it’s textured, but avoid the beater bar. Those bristles are tough and might scratch your flooring. An old-fashioned dust mop works well, as does a broom. Wet mop as needed. 

Be Proactive: walk-off mats or area rugs on either side of entrances from the outside will help collect dirt before it reaches your beautiful new floor. Choose a rug or mat with a non-slip surface.

There’s Clean and There’s Cleaner: Damp mopping your natural stone floor will keep it looking beautiful. But your retailer or manufacturer can suggest special cleaners meant specifically for stone floors. Wipe up spills immediately. Use soap, not detergent, for good-old fashioned mopping. Liquid Ivory or a Castile soap product work well. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks, so rinse well. Change your rinse water frequently. Don’t use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone, or travertine. Avoid abrasive cleaners or any ammonia based cleaners. These products will dull the floor’s luster. Retail grout cleaners, scouring powders or bathroom tub and tile cleaners can mar the finish on your stone. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The combination creates a toxic gas. To remove algae or moss from your stone in outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas, flush with clear water and use a mild bleach solution. 

Green Flooring 

Green Tips for Adhesives:

  • Choose products with low to no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Avoid formaldehyde
  • Look for Carpet and Rug Institure’s (CRI) Green Label® or Green Label Plus® certification

Green Tips for Cleaners:

  • Choose products with natural and biodegradable ingredients
  • Consider homemade cleaners using things from the pantry: vinegar, baking, soda, salt, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, ammonia, or olive oil

Green Tips for the Whole House:

  • Keep caulked areas caulked (caulking prevents the loss of heat or cold air)
  • If you are installing a new floor, make sure that space between the flooring and the door is just right (too much space means you’re heating or cooling the entire outdoors while too little space means you can’t close the door)
  • Consider that space heaters are energy hogs and can generate more than two pounds of greenhouse gas per hour (use them too much and they might make your hardwood floors contract)
  • Choose low or no VOC products whenever you can
  • Insulation is not just for the attic anymore, it can be added between floors for additional saving
  • Choose a retailer that shares your commitment to the environment and knows about all the latest advances in green products.

8 Elements of Classic Kitchen Style

By: Rebekah Zaveloff

Many people are at a loss when it comes to defining their style. Some people know what they like but are afraid of getting the terms wrong, or they’re afraid of being pigeon-holed into one style when they feel like they’re in between a few different ones. The truth is, most spaces have elements of different styles and aren’t all one way. 

To sort all this out, join me on a tour of kitchen styles and sub-styles, from Classic to Modern, Industrial to Cottage, and lots in between. Today we’ll start with the most approachable of styles, classic style. 


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Classic kitchens are timeless and flexible. This comes with other givens, such as neutral color palettes and simple, unfussy details. Sure, a classic kitchen can be deemed too safe for the individualist and too ornate for the purist, but for me it’s like jeans and a white t-shirt: add a beaded necklace and heels or tennis shoes and black blazer and you can make the look your own. (And so can the next homeowner if you’re concerned about resale value.) 

1. White or cream cabinetry. Classic kitchens are timeless yet fresh. This is a style that almost everyone feels comfortable in, even some the modernists among us. White kitchens define this style.

2. Simple architectural details. You may see legs on islands, feet or furniture-style toekicks, crown molding and even a paneled hood, but these details are often restrained in a classic kitchen rather than being over the top and ornate.

3. Honed black countertops. Classic kitchens often go the timeless route with blacks or whites, whether it’s honed absolute black granite, soapstone, or cast quartz material.


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4. White marble countertops.Cararra marble and Calacatta marble are the two that really stand out in classic kitchens. In fact, marble countertops are often the focal point of a classic kitchen. Even though many homeowners know there are maintenance issues with marble, they can’t resist its beauty. 

5. White subway tile. It really doesn’t matter what size, though the classic is 3×6. It can be glossy, crackle, beveled or square edged, handmade or machine made, or even in white marble. If you’re looking for a twist on the classic, try a 2×6 or 2×8 or 2×4 — the proportions can really change the look of your kitchen, as can the grout color. 

6. Simple door styles, not too modern, not too ornate. Another aspect that defines this look is the cabinet door style — often either a simple shaker door or a shaker door with a bead moulding. You don’t see a lot of raised panel doors (of the sort often found in traditional kitchens) or flat-panel doors typically seen in modern kitchens.


7. Neutral palettes: Classic kitchens don’t have to be all white. This kitchen mixes stained and painted cabinetry, and even though the “white” cabinets have a glaze, the simple door style (shaker with a bead moulding) keeps it from going too traditional. The subway tile here has a bit more color than the classic white that’s so popular, but it’s still a classic.


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Black and white is about as timeless and classic as it gets. This kitchen with the shaker doors goes a bit more contemporary with the black island and dark subway tile with white grout, but its bones are still grounded in the classics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative palettes like brown and white or black and white also find their way into classic kitchen design. Here, walnut cabinets, white marble and classic door style have all the elements of a classic kitchen.


8. Flexibility: What I love about classic kitchens is that they’re chameleons: You can take the same kitchen and completely change its look by mixing in modern bar stools or lighting … or industrial bar stools and lighting … or traditional — you get the idea. Classic can become eclectic by adding modern tile and mixing it with a vintage-style table and chairs and industrial-style pendant lights.


Classic can go more traditional when mixing it with an ornate hood, traditional chandelierand turned island legs.


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Classic white shaker doors can go more modern by adding a modern light fixture and terrific Saarinen table to the mix. This kitchen even has a bit of farmhouse modern because of the ceiling, but it’s still classic.


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Sometimes it’s the architecture alone that influences a classic kitchen in one direction or another. Here, classic goes country-modern with exposed beams and voluminous space. As you can see, classic-style kitchens are limited only by your imagination — or the imagination of thousands of designers. 

Reclaimed Siding and Red Accents Personalize a White Kitchen

By Camille LeFevre


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Photos by Brandon Stengel

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with two teenagers
Location: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Size: About 450 square feet (41.8 square meters)
Designers: Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro of Bluestem Construction

In a busy household with two teenagers, the former kitchen was a natural gathering spot for family and friends, but it was feeling cramped. To make more space, designers Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro removed the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent breakfast room. Access to the backyard was also important, so a new doorway off the eating area leads to the patio and grilling area.


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The homeowners already had the red dining chairs, and they requested a neutral color palette to make the red stand out. “The mother is a seasonal decorator, and the red really works throughout the seasons, as she decorates for all of the holidays,” Miller says. The custom cabinets are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. The countertops are a mix of two Caesarstone products: white for the island, and black for the outer countertops and built-in desk. The wood flooring is new and is narrow-strip red oak. A farmhouse sink and stainless drawer pulls complete the look.


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“They wanted the feeling of an open kitchen but with character,” Ferraro says. “So we created the dark accents by utilizing some of the house’s old shiplap sheathing for the island, computer nook and mudroom wall.” 

The salvaged sheathing had served as insulation under the home’s previous exterior siding. When the exterior received new siding and insulation, some of the sheathing was saved to be used in the kitchen. The recycled wood was treated with a four-step stain process: deep purple, then a dry brush of warm gray, followed by a dry brush of soft white and ending with a final dry brush.

To free up counter space, the new island features a built-in microwave. The industrial-style pendants above the island and the light fixture above the dining table complement the reclaimed wood.


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By adding a built-in desk in the kitchen, the parents can monitor their teens’ computer use and searches without hovering over their shoulders. “This was our way of bringing the computer out of the kids’ bedrooms and into a public space,” Ferraro says. The built-in desk is counter height, and the same industrial-style stools were chosen for the island and the desk.


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The newly remodeled mudroom adjacent to the kitchen features the same reclaimed shiplap sheathing as in the kitchen. It covers the back wall of the custom built-in bench with coat hooks.

New Kitchen: 7 Questions You Didn’t Know You’d Ask

Some of the questions you ask when planning a new kitchen are obvious, such as, “Do I want white cabinets or wood?” and “Do I want stainless steel appliances?”

But there are many design decisions that you might not even know to consider until the project is well underway. To help you avoid surprises and unfortunate mistakes, here are seven questions you should ask yourself before you begin your kitchen design.


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1. What are the rules? I’m not talking about design rules for what colors will match or what wood goes with what stone. I’m talking about the actual rules that are laid out by your local building code, which can affect many decisions or none at all, depending on your area and project conditions.

For example, many building codes dictate what type of hood fan you must use to ensure proper ventilation. These rules are especially important to know during a major renovation or new construction, as a surprise inspection that finds violations will leave you with a serious headache.

2. How should my cabinet drawers and doors open? Designers often point out that changing out the knobs on existing cabinets can make a kitchen look new in a snap. Putting knobs and hardware on new cabinets for the first time, however, can take a surprising amount of thought to get right.

One of the trickiest parts of designing a kitchen well is making the cabinet door and drawer fronts look elegant and consistent while the cabinets themselves serve different practical functions in a variety of shapes.

You might find a single handle that works for all your cabinets, but you may need two or even three coordinating styles to address all your different sizes of fronts.

Once you’ve chosen hardware, you should give careful consideration to where to install it to best achieve a sense of visual consistency. Free software can be found online to model your kitchen in 3-D, and you can adjust details such as the directions that doors swing until the hardware lines up in a pleasing way.

Or you can skip the issue altogether and use knob-free touch-latch cabinets.

3. What profile should I use for my countertops? The shape of the edge of the countertop may seem like a mundane detail, but it can make a world of difference to the look and function of your counters, and the kitchen as a whole.

This kitchen shows an “eased edge” stone counter (essentially a crisp rectangle with slightly softened corners) on the left and a cove edge wood counter on the right.

An eased edge is currently a popular choice for contemporary kitchens because it gives a simple, modern appeal. More ornate profiles usually carry a traditional air and a sense of warmth and personality.


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One of the most popular choices for a counter profile is the “bullnose” or “demi-bullnose” option, which means essentially a half circle or quarter circle. The look is less “sharp” than a minimalist eased edge, but so is the experience of bumping into it by accident. Ultimately it’s a decision that comes down to personal priorties.

It should be noted, however, that a very rounded edge like this is not always the best choice for laminates: The edge tends to give away that the material is fake because the curves look unnatural and the pattern does not align at the seam.

To simulate the look of a true stone when using a laminate, look to a simple rectangular profile in a dark color so the seams and edges appear natural and subtle.

4. What finish should my fixtures be? Selecting the material for your kitchen fixtures isn’t all about trends and pretty color palettes. Metals come in various finishes, and there can be major practical considerations as well. Try mixing stainless steel with brushed brass for a subtle contrast, as shown here.

For instance, brushed finishes tend to hide fingerprints and light water spotting much better than polished ones. Brass and gold-tone finishes tend to be warmer and more dramatic, while stainless steel and silvery-tone finishes tend to blend into the color palette more but add more sparkle.

There are lots of details to consider, so it’s best to research the pros and cons of a style that you like.

It can also become even trickier when trying to coordinate multiple metal elements.

It’s usually recommended to choose appliances from the same manufacturer, if possible, especially if they’re situated very close together, because differing product lines can have subtly different finishes that become more apparent once paired together.

Tip: Take one sample of a handle you’re considering (or other metallic element) to an appliance showroom to get an idea for how the different finishes will interact. If the pairing seems off, you can exchange the handle for a different finish.


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5. How will I mount my sink? Choosing an undermount sink or a drop-in model, as shown here, affects more than just the look of the sink itself, so it’s a decision that should be thought through early.

Undermount sinks, like the one pictured, are generally easier for keeping the surrounding countertop area clean because the neater edge of the counter allows you to sweep crumbs and debris directly into the sink without getting caught on a high lip. However, undermounts can’t always be installed in a laminate counter because the counter cutout would leave a raw unfinished edge in the core material.

Knowing what style of sink you prefer will affect what materials are available to you, so it’s best to answer this question as soon as possible and then research from there.

6. What finish should my stone be? Besides choosing what material you want for your counters, backsplash and flooring, you also need to decide the finish of the material itself.

Popular stone materials such as granite and quartz can take on a polished finish, like the one shown here, which gives a hard face and an almost reflective look. A honed finish appears much more soft and organic.

A honed finish, as seen here, also has the advantage of hiding scratches that can stick out in a gleaming polished stone. However, they can be more easily stained if not well-sealed, as the material tends to be more receptive to absorbing oils. Each has its advantages, so you should research your choice and not make a snap decision when meeting with the supplier.

When looking at stone samples, be sure to ask what finishes are available and look at each individually, as the finish can greatly affect the appearance, even radically changing the apparent color. Applying sealant can also darken the appearance to a degree, so you should ask to see a sealed sample — it may be extra work for the supplier, but it will save you a potential surprise on installation day.


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7. What material should my toe kicks be? You might assume your toe kick has to match the material of your cabinets. But what if your cabinets aren’t one consistent color? Or what if you’ve used a sparkling white cabinet, but you don’t want the toe kick to get dirty every time it gets, well, kicked?

If your island is a different material from the rest of the cabinets, you can let its toe kick differ from the main cabinets. Another option is to use a third material that ties all the cabinets together: Stainless steel makes a great toe kick if you have stainless appliances or handles, tying the whole palette together.

3 Kitchens With Hardworking Storage Walls

Article by: Mitchell Parker

Storage is on everyone’s mind when creating a kitchen. But when smartly planned, storage can do a lot more than store your dishes, cookware and food. A multipurpose storage wall can free up room for an airier design that allows for a large island with plenty of work and eating space. These three kitchens show how it’s done.

1. Rustic and Roomy

Designers: Jean Rehkamp Larson and Amanda Kay of Rehkamp Larson Architects
Location: Deerwood, Minnesota
Size: 325 square feet (30.2 square meters)
Year built: 2015

Homeowners’ request: A generous kitchen with room for multiple generations to cook and socialize when they’re not out on the lake, where they take out their boat, swim, read books and have campfires in the evening. “This family wanted the space to feel hearty and laid-back with a nod to vintage log cabins, but still be light-filled and elegant,” architect Jean Rehkamp Larson says. 

Special feature: The integrated wall of storage, seen here on the left, includes a pantry, wall ovens and a range. “In a kitchen with lots of windows and few upper cabinets, a walk-in pantry answers the storage question,” Rehkamp Larson says. “We chose to make the pantry door and range hood disappear in order to let the symmetrical composition of windows, sinks and cabinetry be the focus and draw us into the space.”

Designer secret: Keeping the palette of colors simple. “This allows us to experience the whole space as an elegant, unified composition and leaves visual space to add elements such as unique light fixtures, glass cabinet doors, custom stainless steel-wrapped legs and an open metal dish rack,” Rehkamp Larson says. “Also, consider using small surface-mount light fixtures instead of recessed cans — it animates the ceiling.”

Splurges and savings: “Plumbing fixtures were kept simple,” Rehkamp Larson says. “We splurged on hiring an artisan to create and apply a custom finish for the wood walls and ceiling. It is, satisfyingly, both rustic and refined.”

The nitty-gritty: Floor tile: Medina pewter hexagon, Exquisite Surfaces; walls and ceilings: pine boards with resawn texture and custom white finish; ceiling trim: log with custom stain finish; cabinetry: custom; cabinet paint: Strong White, Farrow & Ball; countertop: Olympian White Danby marble with honed finish; island cabinetry: custom plain-sawn white oak with custom finish; island countertop: Lagos Blue limestone with honed finish; cabinet hardware: Ashley Norton with white bronze finish; sink: Shaw’s Original, Rohl; sink faucet: Tara in platinum matte finish, Dornbracht; lighting: Punch flush-mounts in polished nickel with bronze accents, The Urban Electric Co.; pendant: Double Prismatic Industrial, Urban Archaeology; rug: Aubry Angelo, Minneapolis (to the trade only); counter stools: custom-made locally

Team: Nor-Son (contractor); Alecia Stevens (interior designer); Bunkers & Associates (structural engineer); Frost Cabinets Furniture & Design (custom cabinetry); Otto Painting Design (custom wall and ceiling finishes); Bo Jacobsson (custom metalwork); Scott Amundson Photography

2. Contemporary and Comfortable

Designers: Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey of FAB Architecture
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 480 square feet (44.6 square meters), 20 by 24 feet (6 by 7.3 meters)
Year built: 2014

Homeowners’ request: Turn four 30th-floor penthouse units into one single unit with a centralized kitchen. 

Special features: A custom burnished brass shelving unit helps conceal a TV while providing display space. White oak wall cabinets hold a full-size refrigerator and freezer on one side of the work islands, and ovens, a microwave and a coffeemaker on the other. Both sides feature pullout pantries and central workspaces concealed by retractable doors. 

Why the design works: The burnished-brass shelving unit brings an opportunity for decor in an otherwise utilitarian space, while the quarter-sawn white oak walls give an ease and warmth to the space. Seating on the back sides of both islands creates a hub for gathering. 

Who uses it: Active empty nesters who split their time between Texas and Wisconsin.


“Uh-oh” moment: Architects Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey had to transform four penthouse units into one single unit. But the building’s mechanical systems were existing, and the plumbing locations had to be reused to not disturb the condo owners below. The kitchen is where two adjacent master bathrooms were once located. “It was like a huge puzzle,” Ousey says. “At every turn we were faced with an existing condition that needed to be addressed, either deciding to reuse, cap off or relocate as needed.”

The nitty-gritty: Countertops: 3-centimeter Taj Mahal quartzite with polished finish, Architectural Tile and Stone; Venetian plaster: Sloan Montgomery Finishes; wall cabinetry: custom, white oak; island cabinets: gunmetal-gray aluminum, Bulthaup

Team: Fern Santini (interior designer); David and Kathy Escobedo of Escobedo Construction (builders); Nick Johnson Interiors (photographer)

3. Modern and Multifunctional

Designer: Donald Billinkoff of Billinkoff Architecture
Location: Amenia, New York
Size: 300 square feet (about 28 square meters); 20 feet by 14 feet, 8 inches (6 by 4.4 meters)
Year built: 2015

Homeowners’ request: The kitchen was part of a complete reconstruction of the existing 1980s house. The original layout consisted of small discrete rooms that the homeowners wanted to open up to one another and the surrounding landscape. 

Special feature: Built-in refrigerators and wine coolers in custom wood-veneer cabinetry, plus a separate wall of cabinets and glass-front case for dishes. 

Plan of attack: Moving the original laundry room to another part of the house allowed architect Donald Billinkoff to open up the kitchen to make room for a large island with an interlocking custom walnut breakfast table. New windows increased natural light. ray porcelain tile floors connect all the spaces throughout the house. 

Who uses it:  semiretired New York City couple, who use the house on weekends and throughout the summer. 

“Uh-oh” moment: “The ‘uh-oh’ moment was probably at the point the homeowners determined that tearing the house down and building new would likely cost the same or less than renovating,” Billinkoff says. “In the end however, the owners decided that given their long history with the house, they would experience greater satisfaction giving the house new life.”

Nitty-gritty: Appliances: Thermador; flooring: porcelain tile, Uneik; countertops: Chroma quartz; cabinets: wood veneer, Tabu; faucets: Hansgrohe; sinks: Lavello; seating: Poltrona Frau; paint: White Heron, Benjamin Moore

Team: Judith Melinger Design (interior designer); Chris Colomello of Ducillo Construction (general construction); Edi Silva of Silva Woodworking (cabinetmaker); Jason Buchta of Metalcraft (metalwork) 

2 Ways to Rethink Kitchen Seating

Article by: Mitchell Parker

Kitchen seating seems simple enough. Scoot in a few bar stools around an island or a peninsula and you’re done. But when you’re trying to create something flexible for small and large gatherings, accommodate a view or make the most of a compact layout, it’s time for something a little more outside the box. Here, two designers explain how they rethought mealtime in the kitchen.

1. Compact Combo

Designer: Dianne Berman of Delo Interiors
Location: Toronto
Size: 320 square feet (about 30 square meters) 
Year built: 1975; was renovated in the early ’90s, and this recent update was completed in 2015

Kitchen seating: Given the small footprint and square shape, designer Dianne Berman knew she had to make every inch count. By grouping the dining space with a large island and connecting the bench seating to it, she created one path of travel around the entire kitchen rather than two. “This layout also created a more intimate feel,” Berman says. “The homeowners can cook and prep while family and friends gather around the table, bar area or island. Everyone faces toward the center of the space, which makes conversations flow.” 

Homeowners’ request: Clean lines, minimal ornamentation and a calm color palette. Functionally, they wanted space to entertain small and large groups of friends and family. The entrance to the home opens to this space, so storage for coats, boots and shoes was a must. Berman integrated built-in cabinets and drawers beneath the stairway.

Why the design works: To make the kitchen feel larger, Berman carried the backsplash to the ceiling. She also kept space open on either side of the vent hood so the area by the cabinets didn’t look crowded. The waterfall-edge countertop on the island adds to the clean lines requested by the homeowner.

What wasn’t working: The previous kitchen had a dropped 7-foot ceiling over a peninsula, an out-of-commission wood-burning fireplace and a dining table that felt like an afterthought. Berman removed all these hindrances to open things up. She then added recessed LED lights, undercabinet lighting and decorative drop pendants to further push the openness. 

What goes on here: Intimate meals, large parties for family and friends, and quick breakfasts while watching the morning news. In the summer months, the family opens double French doors to extend the space to the patio. 

Who uses it: A health system researcher and a product development chemist.

Designer secret: “Storage is always key in urban environments,” Berman says. “We added a ton of concealed storage to keep all belongings tucked away and out of sight.”

Splurges and savings: The homeowners splurged on the three colored hand-blown Italian light fixtures over the island while saving on pendant lights from West Elm for a nearby bar area. 

Team: Next Generation Woodwork (millwork); Valerie Wilcox (photography)

2. Airy and Adjustable

Architect and designer: Jill Neubauer
Location: Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Size: 264 square feet (24.5 square meters); about 12 by 22 feet (3.6 by 6.7 meters)
Year built: 2008

Kitchen seating: Two tables at varying heights offer traditional sit-down dining or more casual bar-height dining. The lower table can be wheeled out to combine with a second, identical table to create room for dinner parties of 20 people, while the higher table works as extra prep space. 

Homeowners’ request: A large, open, social and hardworking kitchen that has full views of Martha’s Sound off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. 

Plan of attack: Making the most of a narrow house, designer Jill Neubauer placed the main elements of the large, open kitchen along the street-facing side of the home to open the space to the ocean on the opposite side. 

Vertical-grain Douglas fir cabinets and one portion of the island (on the left) warm the concrete floors and countertops. Stained plywood tops the island on the right — “warm, easy, beautiful, soft, quiet, forgiving, inexpensive,” Neubauer says of the material. Open shelves make work easier in the busy kitchen, and allow guests to be more helpful too because they can see where things are. 

Who uses it: This is a summer house for a family.

Designer secret: “Walk the line of richness and clarity,” Neubauer says. It also helps to have clients with style. “The owner had magnificent, cool furniture,” she says. “It brought the house to an entirely new level of aesthetics and pulled it all together with warmth and memories.”

“Uh-oh” moment: Neubauer’s challenge was to make a modern, raw, industrial house in a historic district — “without making the house look like a box with cool stuff dropped inside,” she says. Communication and collaboration helped push the project over the hurdles.

Splurges and savings: Neubauer and the homeowners saved by not striving for perfection. Cedar walls were installed in a simple fashion, with dings and bulging boards welcomed. “This gave a feeling of softness and livability, not perfection,” the designer says. 

Take-away: “Combining raw material — warm, soft wood with hard cool concrete — is a success. It’s all about balance,” Neubauer says. Also, “all construction is costly.”

Team: Chris Harris (project manager); Billy Reagan (builder); Core Metals (metalwork); Cataumet Sawmill (tabletop)

New This Week: 2 Ways to Rethink Kitchen Seating

Article by: Mitchell Parker

Kitchen seating seems simple enough. Scoot in a few bar stools around an island or a peninsula and you’re done. But when you’re trying to create something flexible for small and large gatherings, accommodate a view or make the most of a compact layout, it’s time for something a little more outside the box. Here, two designers explain how they rethought mealtime in the kitchen.

1. Compact Combo

Designer: Dianne Berman of Delo Interiors
Location: Toronto
Size: 320 square feet (about 30 square meters) 
Year built: 1975; was renovated in the early ’90s, and this recent update was completed in 2015

Kitchen seating: Given the small footprint and square shape, designer Dianne Berman knew she had to make every inch count. By grouping the dining space with a large island and connecting the bench seating to it, she created one path of travel around the entire kitchen rather than two. “This layout also created a more intimate feel,” Berman says. “The homeowners can cook and prep while family and friends gather around the table, bar area or island. Everyone faces toward the center of the space, which makes conversations flow.” 

Homeowners’ request: Clean lines, minimal ornamentation and a calm color palette. Functionally, they wanted space to entertain small and large groups of friends and family. The entrance to the home opens to this space, so storage for coats, boots and shoes was a must. Berman integrated built-in cabinets and drawers beneath the stairway.

Why the design works: To make the kitchen feel larger, Berman carried the backsplash to the ceiling. She also kept space open on either side of the vent hood so the area by the cabinets didn’t look crowded. The waterfall-edge countertop on the island adds to the clean lines requested by the homeowner.

What wasn’t working: The previous kitchen had a dropped 7-foot ceiling over a peninsula, an out-of-commission wood-burning fireplace and a dining table that felt like an afterthought. Berman removed all these hindrances to open things up. She then added recessed LED lights, undercabinet lighting and decorative drop pendants to further push the openness. 

What goes on here: Intimate meals, large parties for family and friends, and quick breakfasts while watching the morning news. In the summer months, the family opens double French doors to extend the space to the patio. 

Who uses it: A health system researcher and a product development chemist.

Designer secret: “Storage is always key in urban environments,” Berman says. “We added a ton of concealed storage to keep all belongings tucked away and out of sight.”

Splurges and savings: The homeowners splurged on the three colored hand-blown Italian light fixtures over the island while saving on pendant lights from West Elm for a nearby bar area. 

2. Airy and Adjustable

Architect and designer: Jill Neubauer
Location: Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts 
Size: 264 square feet (24.5 square meters); about 12 by 22 feet (3.6 by 6.7 meters)
Year built: 2008

Kitchen seating: Two tables at varying heights offer traditional sit-down dining or more casual bar-height dining. The lower table can be wheeled out to combine with a second, identical table to create room for dinner parties of 20 people, while the higher table works as extra prep space. 

Homeowners’ request: A large, open, social and hardworking kitchen that has full views of Martha’s Sound off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. 

Plan of attack: Making the most of a narrow house, designer Jill Neubauer placed the main elements of the large, open kitchen along the street-facing side of the home to open the space to the ocean on the opposite side. 

Vertical-grain Douglas fir cabinets and one portion of the island (on the left) warm the concrete floors and countertops. Stained plywood tops the island on the right — “warm, easy, beautiful, soft, quiet, forgiving, inexpensive,” Neubauer says of the material. Open shelves make work easier in the busy kitchen, and allow guests to be more helpful too because they can see where things are. 

Who uses it: This is a summer house for a family.

Designer secret: “Walk the line of richness and clarity,” Neubauer says. It also helps to have clients with style. “The owner had magnificent, cool furniture,” she says. “It brought the house to an entirely new level of aesthetics and pulled it all together with warmth and memories.”

“Uh-oh” moment: Neubauer’s challenge was to make a modern, raw, industrial house in a historic district — “without making the house look like a box with cool stuff dropped inside,” she says. Communication and collaboration helped push the project over the hurdles.

Splurges and savings: Neubauer and the homeowners saved by not striving for perfection. Cedar walls were installed in a simple fashion, with dings and bulging boards welcomed. “This gave a feeling of softness and livability, not perfection,” the designer says. 

Take-away: “Combining raw material — warm, soft wood with hard cool concrete — is a success. It’s all about balance,” Neubauer says. Also, “all construction is costly.”