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What’s Popular for Kitchen Islands in Remodeled Kitchens

Homeowners often add or upgrade an island as part of a kitchen renovation, choosing features that make the island both stylish and functional. Cabinet styles, countertops and colors that differ from the rest of the kitchen are commonly used on the island, according to new research from Houzz.
The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from nearly 2,600 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. Read on to find out what homeowners are choosing for their kitchen islands.


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More Than 60% of Renovated Kitchens Feature Islands
Islands remain a mainstay of renovated kitchens, with 61% of upgraded kitchens featuring them. (The numbers in the chart have been rounded down.) One-third of renovating homeowners remodeling their kitchens are adding islands, while others are upgrading an existing island (22%) or simply keeping it as is (5%).

Homeowners who have a kitchen island and completed their kitchen renovation in 2019 said they use their islands for eating (58%), entertaining (49%) and socializing (45%), according to the study.


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Nearly 2 in 5 Choose a Contrasting Island Cabinet Color

Among renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island with storage, 39% select a contrasting color for the island cabinets. Gray is the top choice for contrasting islands (26%), followed by blue (19%), black (11%) and medium-tone wood (11%).


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More Than 1 in 10 Choose a Contrasting Cabinet Style for Islands

Among renovating homeowners adding or upgrading a kitchen island with storage, 13% are opting for cabinetry door styles different from the perimeter cabinetry. The most popular contrasting style is flat-panel (31%), followed by louvered (27%) and glass-front (21%).

Notably, Shaker is the island door style for only 6% of renovating homeowners upgrading a kitchen island with storage and choosing a contrasting door style for the island cabinets. Given that Shaker is the most popular door style for cabinets overall, this makes sense.


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1 in 4 Upgraded Islands Features a Contrasting Countertop Material

More than a quarter (26%) of upgraded kitchen island countertops in renovated kitchens feature a different material from the perimeter counters. The top choice for these contrasting kitchen island counters is butcher block or wood slab (41%), followed by engineered quartz (28%), granite (15%), marble (7%), quartzite (5%) and solid surface (2%).

Nearly 3 in 10 Kitchen Island Counters Have a Contrasting Color

Twenty-nine percent of added or upgraded kitchen island countertops feature a contrasting color in relation to the perimeter counters. Among these, the top contrasting color choice is wood tone (35%), which includes medium wood (21%), light wood (9%) and dark wood (5%). White is the second-most popular contrasting island countertop color (23%), followed by gray (10%) and multicolored (10%).


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Storage Is a Top Feature of Most Upgraded Kitchen Islands

Almost all renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island include at least some storage in it (98%), with cabinets with doors (79%) or drawers (70%) the most popular options.

The majority of upgraded kitchen islands in renovated kitchens are rectangular or square (84%). A smaller share are L-shaped or U-shaped (11%).

A large share (39%) of upgraded kitchen islands are 6 to 7 feet long, while 32% are longer than 7 feet and 29% are less than 6 feet.


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More Than Half of Upgraded Islands Include Appliances

More than half of renovating homeowners (52%) adding or upgrading a kitchen island include a a new appliance in the island. Thirty-two percent of this group include microwaves, followed by dishwashers (31%), garbage disposals (24%) and cooktops (21%).


Lighting Above the Island Remains Popular

A majority (92%) of renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island install new light fixtures above it. Pendant lights are the No. 1 choice (66%) among this group, followed by recessed lights (32%), a chandelier (11%) and a fixture with a fan (3%).

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from 2,598 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. The study was fielded between June 19 and July 2, 2019.

5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

By: Moorea Hoffman 

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


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How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel yourself or with a kitchen designer, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


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1. Daily Use vs. Special Events

This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


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2. Cost vs. Value

As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


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One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


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3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite. 

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


4. Speed vs. Patience

Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one. 


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5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.


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5 Favorite Granites for Gorgeous Kitchen Countertops

 Article by: Charmean Neithart

Selecting a countertop material for your kitchen remodel or new build is a big decision. I often encounter clients with a mental block when it comes to making a decision on the numerous considerations, like color and edge detail. Additionally, once the countertop hurdle is over, then there is cabinet selection. 

I like granite and use it often for its durability and its earthy colors that add great texture to a kitchen. I have a few favorites that I have worked with over the years. These granite selections get my stamp of approval because of color, movement and their flexibility in complementing different cabinet styles. Take a look at these countertop selections and how they seamlessly blend with either painted or stain-grade cabinets to make winning combinations.


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1. Bianco Romano

Bianco Romano with painted cabinets. I suggest this granite when I have a homeowner who wants that classic white kitchen. This granite works great with pure white, warm white or beige cabinets. Additionally, nickel or oil-rubbed-bronze hardwareworks great with all the colors of the stone, which include white, cream, gray and a deep bordeaux.


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Bianco Romano with stain-grade cabinets. Due to the warm white, beige and gray palette, this granite works equally as well with stain-grade cabinets. I have seen it work beautifully with walnut and medium oak.


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2. Seafoam Green

Seafoam green with painted cabinets. This granite is just beautiful. The shade of green is earthy, with gray and brown undertones. There are great markings in the stone that look almost geometric to me. This granite works with painted cabinets and satin nickel hardware. I prefer this stone when it is polished.


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Seafoam green with stain-grade cabinets. If you are looking for a rustic or earthy feel for your home, this is a great combination. Add oil-rubbed-bronze or copper fixtures for the perfect lodge experience.


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3. Costa Esmeralda

Costa Esmeralda with painted cabinets. I first came across this granite when I had a homeowner ask me to create an ocean palette throughout the house. This granite is between green and blue, and of course will vary from batch to batch. The green-blue of the stone blends perfectly with sandy white cabinets and nickel hardware and fixtures.


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Costa Esmeralda with stain-grade cabinets. It’s equally stunning with stain-grade cabinets, for a masculine and warm look. This granite works particularly well in light-filled kitchens; the sunlight highlights the stone’s complex coloring.


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4. Absolute Black

Absolute Black with painted cabinets. This is my idea of a classic kitchen. I love this traditional look of white cabinets and Absolute Black granite, which looks great polished or honed. Painted cabinets in many colors pair perfectly with this granite, and nickel, chrome or oil-rubbed-bronze fixtures and hardware look terrific.


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Absolute Black with stain-grade cabinets. Another classic look that can feel rustic or modern. I love Absolute Black with medium oak or walnut. Rift-cut oak also has a great transitional look.


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5. Typhoon Bordeaux

Typhoon Bordeaux with painted cabinets. One of my favorite granite selections, Typhoon Bordeaux comes in cream, gray, brown or brick red. It’s a perfect choice for a light kitchen that has red undertones in the flooring. This granite really can vary by batch, from subtle brick-red veining to strong waves of brick red. Try it with beige or cream cabinets for a warm, light-filled kitchen.


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Typhoon Bordeaux with stain-grade cabinets. I’m a sucker for warmth, so this combination really appeals to me. The brick red and browns in this granite pair beautifully with walnut, oak, mahogany and cherry cabinets. It works well in Spanish homes that feature Saltillo floors. The deep red and brown in the granite and the rustic charm of Spanish architecture are a match made in heaven.

How to Work With Cabinet Designers and Cabinetmakers

Article by: Matt Clawson

When selecting cabinets for your home, there are questions to ask your cabinet designer and questions to ask yourself. Today we take you through that process, helping you define and communicate your vision while sharing tips on working with design professionals.

In the first two installments of this series, we reviewed cabinet basics. We determined the purpose of your cabinet project and its scope, and provided an overview of your cabinet options. You should at least have a cursory grasp of these concepts before you proceed to the next step: choosing your cabinet designer and beginning work.

Once you have a basic understanding of the cabinet possibilities, you’re ready to firm up your cabinet vision. If stock, ready-to-install cabinets work for you, you may not need a cabinet designer, and you will probably save considerable time and money. But for most projects, and certainly all custom and semicustom cabinet installations, the cabinet design and construction processes should be thoroughly planned and examined.


Finding Inspiration

This goes beyond the scope of your project, and cuts more to the picture in your mind of how the installed cabinets should look and operate. You do not need to have all the answers, but you should at least conceptualize what your finished picture might look like. Be prepared for this vision to morph a bit as you get into the design phase, but take the time to form a picture in your mind. 

Is style important to you? If so, find inspiration among the plenitude of cabinet ideas available on Houzz, or you can emulate something you saw at a friend’s home, on television or in a magazine. The point is, find a specific example that shows a cabinet style that attracts you.

Also, it’s important to decide the primary function. Is it display, storage or improved day-to-day efficiency and livability? 

And if you have to prioritize one over the other, is your primary concern style, or is it simply maximizing cabinet function? You should weigh your priorities, though the hope is, with a good designer and proper preparation, you won’t have to totally settle on one element over the other.

Defining the Details

Now let’s take a look at that picture of your project. For the sake of our little exercise, say the photo above is the one you picked. The first question to answer is, why did you pick this one? 

Make sure what you love about this room is in fact the cabinets themselves. These are some of the simplest cabinets you will ever see. There is no display space and there are no visible frills, like crown molding or paneled ends. The cabinets possess a nice high gloss and a stark white finish, and are Euro style (with no visible face frame). They have flat-panel doors and drawer panels, and oversized chrome hardware pulls. They are modern and spartan. 

Do you like all of that? Perhaps what really attracted you to this space was its utilitarian, U-shaped layout, with a full backsplash of uniform beige subway tiles. Maybe you admire the lofty ceiling with a high-set, horizontal window. These parts of the picture relate, of course, only if you too can achieve those elements in your space. Try to look closely just at the cabinets themselves and determine why you like them and what, if any, element you might want to change.

We can also closely examine the more traditional kitchen cabinets seen here, providing another possible example of your vision.

These cabinets are certainly custom-built, constructed with inset construction and using some well-thought-out design techniques to make the space unique. For instance, the drawer banks have two types of drawers. Note the look of the two upper drawers in each base-drawer section — they are not paneled, while the lower drawer beneath them is paneled. This technique produces a freshly elegant effect.

There are also barn-style doors on the island, upper display cabinets flanking the sink and fully paneled cabinet ends. The paneled range hood mirrors the beadboard ceiling and backsplash treatment, and the green painted cabinet finish nicely contrasts the gray-white granite top.

If this look is the one that strikes your fancy, be sure to really investigate each of these features, and try to specifically determine why the cabinets themselves suit you. Do you like the way the corbel details below the upper cabinets precisely relate to the backsplash transition between slab and wood paneling? Do you like the dark floors and the white paneled ceiling? Do you appreciate the brass hardware and fixtures, which might be a resurgent finish choice? Every specific feature of the design that is your inspiration must be examined carefully, so you can properly communicate to your designer exactly what you like about just the cabinets themselves.

Picking Your Cabinet Designer

When it comes to designing cabinets, the usual suspects are architects, designers, builders, specialty cabinet designers and cabinetmakers. Any of these folks might be the right person to design your cabinets, but how do you know which one to choose?

Job title is not really the critical criteria here — expertise is. You need to find out from the person you are considering how many projects he or she has designed. You need to see examples of his or her work. You need to determine if those examples closely match the vision you have for your own project. You need to interview past clients about their satisfaction with both the working experience and the final product. 

You should ask all potential designers to explain the process of working with them. Be sure they expect plenty of communication, and expect to give you the opportunity to review plans and make changes or comments.

When you’re reviewing past work, unique design ideas can show that a designer is willing to give your project the time it deserves. In the photo shown here, the display cabinetry with wine storage above is a nice example of a small cabinet that maximizes its potential. 

When you share your vision with a prospective designer, how receptive does he or she seem? Do you feel like the designer strikes the right balance between giving advice and listening to your ideas?

Listen. Once you have selected your designer and shared your vision, it is time to listen hard to his or her ideas. All of that experience is worth something, and it’s possible that some of your ideas are flawed in some manner. That’s where a designer can help.

Ask for your designer’s advice, given what he or she knows about your vision and your needs. A good designer will have a method, and you need to be willing to let him or her take the lead, and to listen to this pro on the path to creation. Given your basic understanding of cabinets after reading this series, you will have a head start understanding the decision-making process, and in conceptualizing all the options your designer is sure to present.

Take Your Time Reviewing the Design

A common mistake customers make is not taking the necessary time to thoroughly review the design before signing an approval. In most cases, your cabinet designer will take a week or more to complete the first design draft after meeting with you. Once you’ve received a set of drawings for sign-off, you should spend time studying each cabinet section. At the very least, the design will include a floor plan (layout), as shown here, and elevations (the cabinet view from straight on). Some designers will also provide a 3-D rendering, which can help you visualize the way the cabinets relate to your space.

If possible, you should walk the room with a tape measure and try to visualize each section. You should make sure nothing is left off that you might have discussed, and you should try to get a feel for how the cabinets will affect your space functionally and aesthetically. Don’t just assume your designer got it right. Your satisfaction matters most, and it is you who must take the time to confirm that the design really is all you want it to be.

Communicate Concerns

You may come up with some concerns, and some of those concerns are likely to be well-founded while others are not. If your designer deviated from some of your expectations, find out why. There may be good reason, or it may be an oversight. Take the time to explain anything that seems amiss to you, and give your designer a chance to explain his or her thoughts before you get worked up.

After the first draft, there are supposed to be changes. A good designer will expect this and be prepared to offer insight while listening to your thoughts.

If, heaven forbid, you find yourself working with a designer who resists changes or does not seem to really hear you, then you may need to get another party involved in the discussion. Sometimes it can be a good idea to involve the builder or architect more actively to smooth out the process.

Compromise

I don’t mean this as a bad thing, but almost all designs are a compromise among competing elements, such as cost, a spouse with different opinions than yours (who knew?) or the style-versus-function dilemma. There almost certainly needs to be some sort of compromise in your plan, and if you have a clear understanding of your priorities, you can properly weigh the few hard choices that are sure to arise.

Get 2 Recommendations and 2 Bids From Cabinetmakers

When working with a cabinetmaker, my advice is to trust your designer and builder. Good builders and designers, who have completed hundreds of jobs for satisfied clients, want to satisfy you too. They know good cabinetmakers, and they have probably developed a good working rapport with more than one. I recommend getting two recommendations, and then two bids for the cabinet construction once the designs are completed.

Your job is to pick the bid that’s best for you. Consider price as well as the advice of your designer and builder. Ultimately it’s a gut decision, but as long as both bids come from reputable cabinetmakers your builder knows and trusts, you have done all you can to ensure a quality finished project.

Patience

Custom cabinets can take two months or more to construct, plus a week or more to install. Once you have made all your design and finish choices, you will have to wait. The installation process can be an exciting time, when you actually see the tangible shapes you painstakingly pored over fill your room. 

Don’t panic during this period. It seems like a long time, and worries can fester, but if you took the time to study this and the other cabinet stories in this series, and found an experienced designer and cabinetmaker to work with, you have done all you can.

How to Keep Your Stainless Steel Clean

Article by: Bonnie McCarthy

For the past few years, designers have debated whether or not stainless steel will continue to reign supreme in kitchens across America or lose its popularity to glossy black or white appliances boasting sleek, smooth finishes.

While the trendsetters debate, however, millions of us continue to choose to live with the commercially cool look and functionality of stainless steel. Whether you have a little or a lot of the shiny stuff, here’s what experts suggest we do about those fingerprints, and how to care for and clean one of the hardest-working surfaces in the house.

Keeping Stains off the Stainless. Aside from looking great and having a smooth, nonporous surface that hinders the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, one of the reasons stainless steel is so widely used in professional kitchens is that it won’t rust easily in spite of daily wear and tear. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean rust and stains can’t happen.The experts at the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers say that if the protective film on stainless surfaces is scratched with a steel pad or wire brush, comes into contact with hard water that is allowed to puddle or sit, or is exposed to chlorides from household cleansers, it becomes vulnerable to damage.

Safety first. For safe care and cleaning, start with the right tools. The European Stainless Steel Development Association, or ESDA, suggests using soft sponges and microfiber cloths as the first line of defense.

Don’t clean with steel scouring pads, which can scratch. Instead choose plastic scrubbing pads for tough jobs.

Go with the grain. On stainless steel surfaces with brushed or polished finishes, always wipe and scrub in the same direction as the “grain” lines in the metal.

Better with age. The ESDA says in addition to the availability of an increasing number of fingerprint-proof finishes, regular stainless steel shows fewer fingerprints over time. Patience is a virtue.

Stainless solutions. When it comes to choosing cleaning products, Mindi DiNunno, owner of Polished 2 Perfection, says whatever you decide, the key to cleaning is sticking to it. “Stay consistent,” she says. “Most cleansers don’t blend together well, and it makes it much harder to keep perfect. For appliances, we use CLR [Stainless Steel Cleaner]. It will clean off any hard-water stains from the water and ice dispenser and any drips or food.” 

Like the other experts, she says to make sure to go with the grain.

Since products containing chloride can be harmful to the protective finish on stainless steel, the ESDA advises using the following:

  • Diluted vinegar (for cleaning limescale)
  • Baking soda (to remove coffee deposits)
  • Alcoholic solvents, such as acetone (for removing adhesives)
  • Chloride-free glass sprays (especially efficient for polished, mirror-like surfaces)
  • Commercially manufactured pastes and sprays that specify use on stainless steel

Naturally clean. For a DIY approach to cleaning using pantry items, the sustainable-living team at Eartheasy advises dampening a cloth with undiluted white vinegar or olive oil and wiping in the direction of the grain.

To clean a stainless sink, it suggests pouring club soda on an absorbent cloth to scrub, then wiping dry.

Shine on. Spray cleansers made specifically for cleaning decorative stainless steel surfaces usually contain silicone oil, and although they will remove fingerprints and smudges, they will not prevent them. The ESDA says the silicone oil can be completely removed by washing with mild soap and water. 

Using a polishing paste is another way to keep stainless sparkling. Commercially sold pastes, such as 3M Marine Metal Restorer and Polish, will create a microscopic wax layer on the surface that will make it easy to clean. Since the pastes are resistant to detergents, treatment with a polishing paste may last several months. It can be removed using alcohol on a soft cloth.

It’s important to note that pastes and sprays meant for cleaning decorative stainless steel elements — refrigerator doors, kitchen backsplashes — should not be used on pots, pans or surfaces where food is prepared.

Do not use silver dip polishes, like the ones used for cleaning jewelry, because they are corrosive to stainless steel.

The Case for Hidden Storage

Article by: Laura Gaskill

It’s easy to fall in love with beautifully styled open shelves, and to feel swayed by the convenience of keeping frequently used items sitting on the kitchen counter, bathroom sink and desk — but are these methods of storing your belongings really helpful? While there’s certainly nothing wrong with keeping things out in the open, I’ve recently been discovering that making fuller use of hidden storage makes for a cleaner, neater, more peaceful and easier-to-maintain space. Read on and see if you become convinced to give the surfaces in your home a clean sweep.

Gain more useful, usable space. It seems innocent enough at first with a simple canister of wooden spoons beside the stove, a knife rack, an attractive cutting board — after all, isn’t it nice to have things within reach? But when the coffeepot, teakettle, mixer, blender, toaster and dish drying rack are all vying for space, it can be hard to carve out enough room to prepare much more than a bowl of cereal. Imagine how luxurious it would feel to start dinner prep with the counters wide open and clear.

Keep items dust free. Open shelves (when carefully maintained) can be gorgeous, but they also collect dust, and in the kitchen, this is made worse by the addition of cooking oil spattering from the stovetop. If you have open shelving that you don’t plan to change, try keeping a small number of everyday dishes on the shelves, and protect the rest of your kitchen items behind closed doors.

Have less to hide when company is on the way. I recently discovered that by simply cleaning out the medicine cabinet and adjusting the shelving so it could fit some taller items inside, I can easily contain all of the toiletries and toothbrushes behind closed doors instead of on the sink. With only a pretty container of soap and vase of flowers at the sink, a quick swipe with a cloth is often all that needs to be done to get the bathroom party-ready.

Make cleaning quicker and easier. With countertops and surfaces clear, dusting and cleaning take far less time and effort than when those same surfaces are filled with items that need to be cleared off, then returned. Floors free of clutter are ready for a quick sweep or vacuuming, and you’re more likely to get into every corner when nothing is blocking the way.

Make it simpler to avoid accumulating more clutter. When piling stuff on any available surface is the storage method, there is almost no limit to the amount of stuff you can add to the teetering towers of laundry, books and papers. But when putting away is the rule, and you’ve gotten into the habit of keeping surfaces clean and clear, it’s actually easier to maintain a clutter-free home.

Find a place for everything and put everything in its place. If you come home and toss things onto the kitchen table or pile up to-dos on your desk, the clusters of items quickly run into one another, making it harder to find what you need when you need it. By dedicating a certain drawer (or section of a drawer) to each thing you own, you’ll know exactly where to get it and where to put it back when you’re done.

Tame the chaos. You know those perfectly styled photos of busy family mudrooms with cute little backpacks on hooks and rain boots lined up by the door? The reality is often much less attractive. Think muck-covered soccer cleats tossed unceremoniously in the middle of the hall, bags with their contents spilling out and hooks overflowing with all manner of rain gear and sweatshirts. Hide all of this behind neat closet and cupboard doors, and you can at least gain a visual rest from the mess.

Enjoy a more peaceful feeling at home. Even if you choose to clear off only one area in your home — your bedside table, kitchen counter, desk or bathroom sink — the head-clearing, peaceful effect might surprise you. Waking up and coming home each day to a perfectly cleared area is calming and pleasant, and makes everyday tasks and routines easier to handle.

How to Make Your Mudroom Shine

Article by: Mary Jo Bowling

A recent Houzz Call for your mudroom photos drew a lot of praise for this drop-it-all zone off the entryway — and some strong opinions. Perhaps the highest praise came from reader lake1114, who said, “The mudroom is one of the best house creations since indoor plumbing.” When we talked with Houzzers who have created great mudrooms, we found out more about the layout, setup and cost of this hardworking space. All of them emphasized one thing: A mudroom is as individual as the people who use it.

Architects Byron Haynes and Andrew Garthwaite of Haynes & Garthwaite Architects say that mudroomsare essential in New England and other areas that have wet and/or cold weather. In fact, the home feature is so key, when the men launched their practice 18 years ago, “No mudroom is too small” was their private (and only half-joking) motto. “I believe one of our first projects was a mudroom off a garage,” says Garthwaite.

Nearly two decades and many mudrooms later, they still believe in the importance of the space. According to these New Hampshire architects, the front door on most New England homes is ceremonial. “Most people enter through the garage,” says Haynes. “But the key thing is that it has to be in a location that’s convenient.” And by “people,” he means guests too; that’s why the architects generally make the mudrooms fit the style of the house.

The configuration of the room depends on what their clients want. “We have clients who don’t like to see any clutter, and they want everything put away. For those people we give them closets and cabinets,” says Garthwaite.

“But for some others, such as people with kids, it’s more important that everything be accessible and easy to find. Those are the people who do well with cubbies or hooks,” Garthwaite says.

When it comes to cubbies, the architects have found that a stack of niches — one for shoes on the floor, one for coats in the middle and one for less frequently used items on the top — works nicely.

A lot of mudrooms on Houzz are more than mudrooms — some incorporate laundries, message centers and even craft tables. When clients ask Garthwaite and Haynes for additional functions in the mudroom, it’s generally a powder room, a dog shower or a small countertop that can hold keys and mail.

In terms of surfaces, the architects think the key surface is the floor. They say that most of their projects have some variety of a slip-resistant natural stone, such as Vermont slate, but they have also used porcelain tiles and Marmoleum. “We think the best mudroom floor materials don’t absorb water, aren’t slippery and are easy to clean,” says Haynes.

Travis and Arielle Weedman, of Weedman Design Partners in Oregon, do all kinds of mudrooms, but in general their philosophyis “less is more.” The two remodel a lot of older homes, and they find that there’s not always room for a large mudroom lined with hooks and cabinets. “In my opinion, mudrooms that work well have just what you need on a daily basis,” says Travis. “There are other places in the house to store the rest.” 

Case in point: The small but mighty drop zone seen here, which the Weedmans created in the entry of an older home. It holds the bare essentials: a bench for removing shoes, a mesh-front cabinet for hanging jackets and stowing backpacks (note: Each family member has one jacket space here, and the bottom of the unit is divided into two backpack cubbies), drawers under the bench for stowing shoes and a small drawer for keys.

“I personally don’t think every pair of shoes belongs in the mudroom,” says Travis. “That’s what the bedroom closet is for.” Following that line of thinking, the two adults and two kids in this household each stow just one pair of shoes here.

The key drawer is seen at right; the small cupboard below is for the dog’s leash and waste bags.

The Weedmans have designed mudrooms with painted cabinets and with natural wood finishes. “Natural wood wears well and does not chip, but wood painted with a semigloss paint should be easy to wipe down,” says Arielle. “A lot of it is simply personal preference.”

Individual styles also come into play for colors of walls and floors. “We have clients who don’t like to see dirt, so they choose darker colors,” she says. “However, we have others who want to see the dirt so they can clean it.”

Shelly Lindstrom, of Fluidesign Studiohas designed a number of mudrooms that were built by Barak Steenlage, of Anchor Builders, including this one. In her design mind, the room should be laid out carefully with an eye to operations, just like a kitchen. “There’s a high level of traffic in these rooms, so you want to make sure there’s good flow,” she says. “It should be easy to enter and exit, and you should be able to do so without causing everyone to shuffle around. You don’t want people to have to move so others can walk in or out.”

Other layout considerations include sight lines and seating. “In general you want to make sure you can’t see directly into the mudroom from other parts of the house. Not everyone wants to see a row of drying boots,” Lindstrom says. “And you will always need a place to sit to remove boots and shoes.”

Lindstrom echoes the other designers when she says that flooring needs to be durable and not slippery. For other finishes she favors beadboard paneling painted in a semigloss finish. “I like the lighter, brighter feeling of painted wood, and I’ve found it much easier to clean and maintain than drywall,” she says. The designer says she usually reserves darker wood for the top of bench seating, because that area takes the brunt of the wear.

Many of her clients with kids choose open hooks for coat and backpack storage. Lindstrom favors hooks with two prongs — one for coats, one for backpacks.

Costs: You can create a mudroom inexpensively with freestanding lockers and cubbies, or you can invest in custom built-ins. The consensus among the architects and designers interviewed is that setting up a built-in mudroom can range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000, depending on the amount of cabinetry and built-ins.

Haynes and Garthwaite estimate that a budget between $5,000 and $10,000 would be needed.

Arielle Weedman says there’s quite a range in costs of mudrooms, and notes that many of them are folded into kitchen renovations. She would budget roughly $3,000 to $10,000 for a mudroom project, and says a mudroom similar to the one shown previously from her company would cost roughly $7,500.

 

“In Minnesota you could spend between $1,000 and $8,000 to do a mudroom in a renovation,” Lindstrom says. “For a mudroom addition, you would expect to spend $15,000 and up.”

A comment from fern6951 sums it up nicely: “Each person/family has different lifestyles, so each mudroom needs to be designed differently. Some people need and want a simple, bare-bones, workhorse of a room; others prefer something more refined. There are no right or wrong ways to set up a mudroom as long as it works for the family living there.”

9 Ways to Spice Up Your Kitchen Cabinetry

Article by: Jo Leevers

Freestanding cupboards, mix-and-match colors, contrasting textures, individual drawer pulls — kitchens can be as creative as their owners. If sleek, clean-cut units don’t get you excited, take inspiration from these nine ways to get a more varied look in the kitchen.


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1. Mix cabinet styles. This kitchen’s cabinets are all the same trendy gray, but they sidestep predictable symmetry because two pieces are different styles. They work together, but their drawers have different depths and storage options. A rail for pots and pans creates more variety.


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2. Feature a key piece. To keep things interesting in a kitchen with matching cabinets, add a standout storage unit. It could be a plate rack or a bright or weathered dresser. It will break up the rigidity of a single-finish kitchen and let your personality shine through.


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3. Work in an island. For impact in a large kitchen, an island needs to be a “hero” piece that can carry the space. This weathered central island doesn’t conform to any norms. Along with the industrial storage on wheels, it adds just the right amount of character.


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4. Try an urban loft style. A strong dose of industrial style livens up this slim kitchen. Wood, metal, gray paint and ceramic surfaces mix easily, thanks to similar tones. Then there are the contrasts: Bare bricks are mirrored by glossy metro tiles, waist-level units by a taller cabinet. Matching kitchen pieces in this space could have looked too uniform; these look freed up and innovative.


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5. Go two-tone. A blend of two shades — palest green and natural bare timber — brings a breath of fresh air to this kitchen. Tongue and groove cabinets and two types of handles are extra custom twists.


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6. Compare and contrast. A creative kitchen doesn’t have to be off-the-charts unusual. Simply combining two tones, two surfaces and two heights does the job. Carefully crafted finishes give the space a quality feel.


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7. Cast it in monochromes. The dark-on-light color scheme here adds visual interest, and the contrast of raw, waxy timber and smooth marble creates a look that’s unique.


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8. Add your own handles. This kitchen works its magic with off-the-shelf Ikea units with tactile leather handles. They handles are eye catching and pleasant to hold — significant, when you consider how often they’ll be used. Open shelving on top combines with a stainless steel countertop that wouldn’t be out of place in a chef’s kitchen.


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9. Pare it back. This converted industrial warehouse is a dramatic space, so the designer wisely didn’t try to make the kitchen steal the show. Zinc-colored doors inside pale frames, metallic tones and a pared-back 1960s vibe for the furnishings help this kitchen work in its setting — proof that statements don’t always have to be shouts.