Tuesday was such a momentous occasion, and many of us took time off from work to watch the inauguration and the rest of the exciting events of the day. In the afternoon I took one of the many photographs I’d shot from the television screen and emailed it with my best wishes to a huge list of family and friends. I called the photo and email “New Day in my Kitchen”.
It occurred to me that many of us spend important moments in our kitchens. Some of our best times with loved ones are spent there, and of course there is a lot of talk lately about those discussions of family budgets etc. occurring around kitchen tables throughout the nation. I took a look around my kitchen, and thought of some of the decisions I’ve made pertaining to it through the years. I also thought about comments from some of my clients lately as we look at homes they are considering.
My kitchen is very large and, as I enjoy entertaining, it is perfect for large or small gatherings and tends to be where the laughter and conversation is always liveliest. In the beginning when I purchased my home, I wanted to “gut” it as it has very 50’s white pine cabinets with that unmistakable “country kitchen” flavor. I like to think of myself as more Mediterranean than “country”, and so made some major modifications along the way to nudge the look that direction. But the cabinets actually grew on me, and now I love them and wouldn’t think of touching them. Other aspects of my kitchen did not win me over however, and so I had some decisions to make.
The counter tops had to go. I chose granite, and/but had to consider a few things as I made that decision. First of all, I decided on granite tile rather than slab. I did this because I had so many projects going on at once throughout the house and granite tile, being more economical than slab, allowed me to accomplish much more on my budget and still have that beautiful gleaming look that I love. In the process though, I had to take practicality into account and consider a few things about granite:
- If choosing granite tile, be sure to select product that is cut for minimal grout lines (some are cut in such a way as to necessitate wider grouting between tiles).
- Think about the whole kitchen, and how the granite contrasts or matches other elements such as flooring, cabinetry and fixtures. It should all work together.
- Know that granite requires careful cleaning and upkeep- You will want to seal, and then re-seal your granite every year or so to protect the integrity of the stone.
- Grout between granite tiles needs to be sealed and re-sealed as well as the granite.
- If you use lots of lemons in your cooking, know that the acid from citrus can damage your granite severely. My installer informed me that if you left a half- lemon lying upside-down on your granite counters overnight, it would eat a circle into the granite. I have not tried this to prove or disprove what I was told, but suffice it to say that you are now forewarned as was I. You will also want to eliminate citrus cleaners from your collection… and/or tell your cleaning service not to use them.
- Remember that, unlike laminates or even stainless steel which are both very popular and good options, things usually break when they hit granite. Now, tile of any kind will cause breakage as well, but with granite you at least generally do not have to worry about it breaking, which can be a problem with regular tile.
- Remember that there are other options such as quartz, poured concrete, and man-made granite look-alikes, all with their own charm and benefits. Talk to a qualified professional about your choices as I did.
The next choice for me was flooring. I was absolutely convinced that I wanted travertine in my kitchen. A very nice consultant talked me out of it explaining that it is very slick when wet, requires even more care and upkeep than granite, and can crack when heavy things drop on it. (Me? Drop things?!) Now, I was really hard to convince but I finally gave in. (I did put it in one bathroom however… so I got my travertine “fix”, and also chose rough travertine for my back splash in the kitchen getting some of the Mediterranean feel I was after.) He tried to talk me into the practicality of laminate for flooring, but in the end approved of my selection of porcelain tile. I achieved the Mediterranean look I wanted, and got a durable floor that requires less upkeep. I do still have to be mindful of dropping bowls etc., but for a different reason- porcelain is just plain hard, so unlike the more practical laminate surface, shattering is what happens when you drop ceramics or glass on it. Remember also- grouting needs to be sealed and re-sealed, and the grout color should take into consideration the fact that it is being walked on… all the time, as well as the unavoidable effects of gravity.
There is so much to talk about with kitchens, and I am not even going to get into sinks, appliances, range venting etc. in this post (another time : ) but I do want to look at the basics. The other day I was showing a property with a remodeled kitchen that had beautiful slab counters, tile flooring, and a great layout. My client pulled out a drawer and mentioned that her daughter noticed that the fixtures had been replaced but not the cabinets… just like she had seen time & time again on a popular TV design/remodeling show. She liked them anyway, but it is something to think about. Here in Lake Oswego, many homes were built in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, and if a remodel does not include new cabinetry, make sure you love the function aspect of the cabinets as-is. There is a reason people choose not to replace cabinetry. It’s expensive. Now, I made this same decision in my kitchen, and/but DO love my cabinets. There are times when I wish I could pull out smoothly rolling drawers and shelves, and spin in-cabinet lazy susans for easy access. I made a choice because I love the look of mine… they are rustic, and the iron handles are a feature I took into consideration when choosing the color of my granite etc. That said, if I ever choose to sell my home, a buyer will need to love them as well. If you are not so crazy about your cabinets and considering a remodel, know that the choices you make should appeal to the widest pool of buyers… that is if you know you will want to sell in a few years.
Lastly, as far as basics go, if you are shopping for a home, notice whether the layout of the kitchen fits your lifestyle. Do you use breakfast bars? Do you enjoy privacy while cooking or prefer “great-room” openness? Do you entertain? Do you enjoy cooking with your spouse or kids? If so, is there room for two or more people to move about in the kitchen? Just pay attention to how the kitchen matches your needs.
I would love to hear comments, personal kitchen remodeling experiences, or additional information you’d like to share. Please feel free to post a comment. Personal experience is valuable, and we’d all like to learn from yours!