Countertops usually have us thinking about look, but practicality and economy are of equal importance.
There was a time that laminate was the only real choice, but today we can choose from a huge variety of natural stone, high performance solid surfaces, composites, stainless steel, tile, butcher block and concrete.
A decision should be based not only on cost and appearance but the functionality of the material selected. Getting to know the properties of each takes a little research, but its well worth the journey.
Some stain more easily than others, some are very forgiving of cuts and heavy use, some are more green than others, with finishes that range from high gloss or honed, natural or solid colour. Do consider longevity as well as economy. A countertop you have to change in five years because it didn’t hold up to your family’s daily use or granite that once sparkled but now appears dated, may not be the best choice.
Kitchens historically included three zones: preparation area, cooking area and clean up. Today, with an expanded selection of appliances such as microwaves, venting systems and trash compactors, not to mention the addition of eating counters and breakfast nooks, those zones require a bit more engineering to provide flow, safety and comfort.
For cooking equipment you’ll want to think beyond the heat sources of electric or gas to consider induction cooker elements and modular component systems that offer flexibility. In addition to the traditional oven, whether part of the stove or mounted separately, you can have steam, convention, warming and microwave.
Refrigerators are often concealed behind matching cabinetry to blend into the landscape of the kitchen and feature a host of options from side by side to drawer units.
Appliances are long term investments and as such care should be given to thinking about any members of the family who are aging as the market now offers many smart solutions that eliminate deep bending and reaching. Actually, drawers instead of standard lower cupboards, pull down upper cabinetry and corner unites that swing outward are smart choices for cooks of all ages and physical abilities.
Kitchen flooring is diverse, among the most popular being ceramic, stone, cork, cement and wood. Each material has pros and cons and your selection will depend upon your lifestyle and function of the kitchen, as well as appearance. The versatile nature of wood is the surface that will take you over the longest period of time before wanting to change it out as it works with contemporary and traditional styles.
Ceramic is hard wearing and durable but should a tile be cracked, replace of the tile (which may be difficult to match) is necessary, whereas wood can be sanded and resealed.
Bamboo and cork have become very popular for both green considerations and a good foot cushion experience. Retro and economy minded DIYers have often turned to heavy duty vinyl tiles. If a commercial grade is purchased they have a long shelf life but are easily scratched requiring tile replacement.
Kitchen lighting involves much more than the old centre of the room flush mount of yesteryear.
Pendants for eating and prep counters, recessed ceiling (pot) lights, under upper cabinet task lighting and decorative lighting are also part of your overall kitchen design.
Now that the entire industry is moving to LED lights including strips that can be easily fitted under upper cabinets, no kitchen should be without adequate lighting for safety and aesthetic reasons.