Category: Kitchen


Kitchen Countertops 101

Options abound for homeowners planning to install or replace kitchen countertops.

Kitchen Countertops

Photo: Tervola Designs

Consumers have a great deal of choice when it comes to kitchen countertops. There are options available from moderately priced to expensive; there are natural surfaces and manmade; the range is wide. The principal choices, from least to most expensive, are the following:

Laminate. This is the most popular category. Many colors and patterns are available, and the price is in the range of $15 to $40 per linear foot of countertop. Most consist of a core material with a surface veneer applied. Formica is one common brand name. Disadvantages? The surfaces can scratch or burn, and they are not easily repaired.

Ceramic tile. Like laminate kitchen countertops, ceramic tiles are available in a wide range of colors. In addition, tile comes in various sizes, textures, and finishes, and the grout that seals the joint between the individual tiles can also be tinted to add emphasis or highlights. Ceramic tiles can be installed by capable do-it-yourselfers, which can make them even more affordable. Costs vary from $10 a square foot or less to $50 or more, depending upon the tile selected and the installation costs. I’d recommend buying glazed tiles (they’re less likely to stain or scratch) and an epoxy grout. Disadvantages are that tiles can break (though repairs are relatively easy) and the grout will need to be renewed periodically.

Solid surface. These synthetic surfaces are manufactured of polyester or acrylic resins and mineral fillers. They are available in many colors, textures, and patterns, some of which resemble other materials, including wood, stone, and even glass. Thicknesses vary. One advantage of such solid surfaces as Corian and WilsonartGibraltar, two of the common brand names, is that scratches and nicks can be buffed out using an abrasive pad. These surfaces are unlikely to stain, but can be scarred by knives or discolored by exposure to heat. Installation is best left to the professionals. The price range is broad, from roughly $50 to $200 per linear foot.

Wood surfaces. The range of colors is much narrower than with laminates or ceramic tile, but most people who opt for wood kitchen countertops do so because they like the color of a natural finished wood. Maple is most often used as a counter surface, but cherry, birch, mahogany, and other woods are other choices. Most often wooden counters are so-called butcher-block surfaces, consisting of glued up strips of solid wood. They can stain, dent, or burn, but usually sanding and resealing will restore a uniform finish. Wood is also vulnerable to variations in humidity (producing swelling and even changes in shape), so careful sealing near sources of water and moisture are critical. The surface should also be periodically treated with a wax or varnish suitable to food-preparation surfaces. Costs are moderate, in the range of $50 to $100 per linear foot, and do-it-yourselfers may well be able to install these surfaces successfully.

Stone. Granite is the most popular stone countertop, but marble, soapstone, and others are also available. Stone kitchen countertops are extremely durable, but also very unforgiving—one slip with that antique China teapot of Grandma’s and it’ll be reduced on contact to a pile of shards. Stone is unlikely to nick, scratch, or scorch, though coffee, cooking oils, and liquids with natural pigments can produce staining, especially with marble counters. Soapstone requires periodic sealing to maintain its good looks, so granite is the closest to being a care­free stone surface. While stone is a great option if you want your kitchen counters to last forever, it’s also an expensive route to take, as the prices range from about $100 to $250 a linear foot installed. And the installation is best left to the experts.

Related:
Trending Now: Laminate Countertops
12 Wow-Worthy Woods for Kitchen Countertops
Top Tips for Keeping Countertops Like New


Bob Vila’s Guide to Kitchen Cabinets

Things to know when buying or refurbishing kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Cabinets

Maple Heirloom Kitchen Cabinets by Thomasville Cabinetry. Photo: Thomasville Cabinetry

Books have been written about making kitchen cabinets—and one could be written about buying them, too. But there are some key considerations and terms you should know. Here are a few brief guidelines to help in your shopping.

New or refaced. Perhaps the least expensive option in a kitchen remodeling is to replace existing cabinets. This means the boxes that contain the shelves and drawers remain in place, saving demolition, construction, and purchase costs. Only the fronts of the cabinets are replaced, which usually involves new doors, face frames, and hardware. If you’re happy with the layout and the number of cabinets you currently have but want to give them a new look, this may be the right way to go.

Thomasville Cabinet Door Villa C Nt S.D2.RetMaterial choices. Whether you’re buying all-new cabinets or just refacing, you’ll need to decide whether you want all-wood, wood veneer, or laminate doors and face fronts. With veneer cabinets, a thin ply of wood is applied to a substrate of plywood or a composite material like particle board (plywood is better, but more expensive). Laminate doors are often fabricated of polyvinyl chloride sheets that are heated, molded, and applied to a substrate to give a seamless appearance.

Buying the boxes. If you are buying all-new cabinets, you’ll want to know of what materials the boxes are made. Solid wood cabinets these days are rare and expensive; even plywood boxes are becoming pricy and less common. More likely, you’ll encounter melamine, a reasonably sturdy composite material made of resins. It will chip but is stronger than the lesser choices, which are little more than paperboard, sometimes surfaced with vinyl. When shopping for cabinets, ask to look at a cabinet box; a little visual examination will reveal how sturdy the secondary materials are. How well are the pieces fastened together? Are nails or screws apparent to the eye? It doesn’t take a cabinetmaker’s training to distinguish the wobbly and shoddy.Kitchen Cabinet

Look, too, at the construction of the boxes. Are the doors fastened directly to the sides of the box (frameless) or to an applied facing of horizontal and vertical members (framed)? Are the drawers dovetailed? Do the drawer bottoms flex noticeably when you put weight on them? What about the drawer slides? Do they work smoothly when you put a book or two in the drawer? Do the hinges and other hardware elements look well made and sturdy? Are they adjustable? (Look for slots and set screws.)

In general, the quality you get is a function of the money you’re willing to spend. Solid wood cabinets cost more than cabinets made of composite materials. Hand-rubbed finishes, Euro-style hardware, mortise-and-tenon joinery, and other top-of-the-line qualities come only at added expense. Remember, too, that accessories can add both to the convenience and the price of your new kitchen: sponge drawers, lazy susans, gadget garages, glazed doors, recycling bins, and built-in pantries are only a few of the options available.


Kitchen Remodel Ideas

Practical, stylish, and eco-friendly kitchen remodel ideas.

Kitchen Remodel Ideas

Photo: trendir.com

Busy lifestyles mean that many families are solution-driven in all they do—even renovating their kitchens. Here are some kitchen remodel ideas to bring your family’s cooking, eating, and socializing hub up-to-date, making the room more stylish, practical, and eco-friendly in the process.

Creating Kitchen Activity Zones
One solution is to “zone” the kitchen. Homeowners are no longer tied to the traditional kitchen countertop. They’re taking advantage of today’s innovative marketplace to create a “mix and match” approach that gives them the utility they need with the aesthetics they want.

Today’s zoned countertops are true taskmasters. Some get a daily workout as the center of busy family meal preparations or cleanup. Others are essential spaces for baking or fresh food preparation. Some serve as showpieces. Yet others have become one-stop home offices with room for phone, computer, and work space for parents or kids.

By creating activity zones with counters of appropriate heights and materials, the traditional matching countertop look is disappearing from the kitchen. Even backsplashes, which always used to match the countertop, are part of the new mix and match.

Build with Environmentally-Friendly Materials
If you’re replacing or updating your décor, such as countertops, flooring and tile, look for sustainable materials like bamboo and cork, which come from plants that re-grow quickly from the same source (as opposed to wood; it takes decades to grow back a tree) or recycled content from companies like Green Sage and Green Building Supply.

Designer Stelmack says other renewable materials are also finding their way into cabinets. Kirei board, for example, is an engineered product using the stalks of sorghum plants, and bamboo is used in a laminated plywood under the trademark Plyboo®. Reclaimed wood is also popular, she says.

“Re-using existing cabinetry is always preferred, especially if the cabinets are in good condition and pose no threat to the health of the people living in the home,” says Ashley Katz, communications manager for the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington, DC. “Using salvaged cabinetry can be a way to reduce the impacts of manufacturing new goods, as well as reducing the amount of material entering landfills. While the variety of cabinetry materials once was sparse and limiting, now the choices for environmentally friendly cabinetry materials are endless, and we expect this trend to continue,” says Katz.

Blend Things In
Call it the great cover-up. In a trend fueled by manufacturer innovations and designer imagination, appliances are the sight-unseen heroes of the home. Refrigerators, dishwashers, and TVs are melding into the woodwork — and that’s just where many homeowners want them. Kitchens are looking more like extensions of living rooms; small appliances are being streamlined to fit in just about any room.

Custom pieces often come with big price tags. Troy Adams, a Los Angeles-based kitchen and bath designer, introduced the TansuChill refrigerator as part of his hidden furniture line. The unit is a Sub-Zero refrigerator-freezer encased in traditional Japanese-influenced cabinetry. It can cost more than $24,000.

Camouflaging appliances, rather than tucking them off to the side so they don’t overpower the space, is just plain practical. Relegate them to the recesses, and you can lose the efficiency inherent in the traditional work triangle. But make them a focus and you won’t mind putting them front and center. “Wherever they go, they’re going to look great. Whether that means paneled sides, handpainting on a surface or using interesting door handles, it’ll make a statement,” Salerno says.

Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
When measuring the greenness of your kitchen, the first thing to look at is your appliances. “Outside of heating and cooling, the refrigerator is the main energy hog in the home,” says Jennifer Powers, media manager of the National Resources Defense Council of New York, NY. “The great thing about [today’s] refrigerators is that automatically, no matter what kind you have, it’s probably a good 70 percent more efficient than the old gold or green version from your childhood.”

With any appliance, you’ll want to look for two things: the Energy Star and Energy Rating Number. The higher the energy rating number, the more efficient the appliance. Energy Star ranks appliance efficiency—any appliance with the Energy Star label is in the top 25 percent of energy performers.

Trust Your Judgement
There’s been a change in consumer attitude, marked by people following their own style sense, rather than the trends. “Consumers have become more assertive,” says Gin Guei Ebnesajjad, manager of product styling and development for DuPont Surfaces, Corian and Zodiaq. They are smart and color-savvy, too, she says. As a result, their kitchens carry a creative punch that standard kitchens just can’t match.


Kitchen Renovation Basics

Important considerations to bear in mind during your kitchen renovation.

Kitchen Renovation

Photo: homeklondike.com

Thinking about doing a kitchen renovation? You’re not alone. The busiest room by far in most houses is the kitchen. Even in houses where cooking isn’t a top priority, the kitchen is usually a gathering place for after-school snacks and snatches of conversation. Guests at parties seem often to gravitate to the kitchen, whether for the drinks and hors d’oeuvres or to enjoy the warmth of the household. Yet there is no one model for a kitchen space that suits all needs.

Lifestyles are changing, so a more fluid arrangement of kitchen and attendant spaces may suit your needs. For example, food preparation has become something of a social activity in many homes. That has meant that casual entertaining is done and much of the life of the home is lived in the same area as the cooking. In addition to appliances and counterspace, kitchen designs now often feature islands with tall stools, televisions, and even couches. If your social rituals have changed but the old-fashioned separation between work and relaxation areas remain, your kitchen renovation plans may involve incorporating social spaces into the kitchen in order that the cook need not be isolated while cooking.

Look Around
You should be aware of basic concerns in your kitchen. Is there enough counterspace? You need some on both sides of the sink. The distance from front to back splash is typically two feet; for a good-size kitchen, a total of at least 20 linear feet of countertop is desirable. Do you have sufficient cupboard and shelf space? Is the lighting bright enough, especially near the sink, cutting board, and stove top? Do any of the doors to the appliances block one another so that, for example, the oven door can’t be opened when you’re loading the dishwasher? Are there enough electrical outlets, at least one for every 3 linear feet of counter space? Is there a service exit from the kitchen to make it easier to bring in groceries and carry out the garbage?

Look over your head, too. The kitchen ceiling is the one in the house most likely to need resurfacing. Is it discolored from years of smoke and moisture?

What is the floor surface? Is it attractive? Is it in good condition? If the flooring changes from the kitchen to adjacent rooms, look closely at the transition point: Many old kitchens have several layers of sheet flooring or other materials on top of one another, so the level may be raised above that of adjacent rooms. If you’re planning a kitchen remodeling, you will need to determine the condition, utility, and character of what’s beneath. You might find early hand-planed boards.

Are there indications of water problems in the kitchen? Look around the sink (both from above and below). Inspect carefully where the counter surface joins the back splash and the floors inside of and in front of the sink cabinet. Also check the joint of the wall and floor at the perimeter of the room. This is a wet-mop space and the water can produce mold, decay, or peeling paint
 when it gets into the structure of the walls and floors.

The Triangle
In the food preparation area, the kitchen triangle is the usual standard. It’s actually an arithmetic formula: The sum of the distances from sink to stove to refrigerator and back again should not be less than 12 feet nor more than 22 feet. Furthermore, the kitchen triangle rule specifies, no one side of the triangle should be less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet.

There are exceptions to the triangle kitchen rule, such as tiny galley kitchens and giant professional ones where there’s to be a division of labor. But if you’re planning a kitchen renovation you can use the triangle rule to your advantage. It saves footsteps and helps ensure that you won’t create a kitchen in which it’s difficult to work.

Islands and Counters
As with the rest of the home, the kitchen has become part of a design fusion, with more visual interest and more complexity. That trend is showing up in furniture-style cabinetry and customized countertops, distinguishing each area by its surface material and function.

The center island has become standard in any new kitchen layout. It can function as a food preparation, dining, or homework station. Counter peninsulas also do service for baking, dining, and food preparation. Countertops are available with various surfaces, at varying heights, and with insets and additions to match any task. Countertops can be deeper than standard or built to include leg space for desk and dining areas. Defining the task and applying creativity are the two skills required when designing today’s multi-tasking kitchen counters.

DIY Cabinet Re-Surfacing and Re-Painting
If the cabinets are still in good shape, you can change the look of your kitchen just by changing the color of the walls and re-surfacing or re-painting the cabinets. Cabinet re-facing, which involves replacing the veneers, is more expensive but still saves 50 percent over a complete remodel. As long as your cabinets aren’t laminate or melamine, you can re-paint them yourself. De-grease them with a citrus oil-based household cleaner, remove the doors and hardware, and apply a primer-sealer first though you might still have to sand them down before painting. New drawer and door pulls will make a huge difference as well.

Selecting Your Color Scheme
In rethinking your colors, go for a 60-30-10 color scheme, which means 60 percent of a main color, 30 percent of a complementary color and 10 percent for an accent color like a backsplash or a trim detail. Recommended kitchen colors often include shades of tan, peach, yellow and all the many off-whites. Keep the big-ticket items like cabinets on the neutral side and accent with easily interchangeable elements like wall paint, window treatments, and small appliances. That way, changing the look of your kitchen in another few years won’t have to be a major investment.

Sustainability
When measuring the greenness of your kitchen, the first thing to look at is your appliances. You’ll want to look for two things: the Energy Star and Energy Rating Number. The higher the energy rating number, the more efficient the appliance. Energy Star ranks appliance efficiency—any appliance with the Energy Star label is in the top 25 percent of energy performers.

If you’re replacing or updating your décor, such as countertops, flooring and tile, look for sustainable materials like bamboo and cork, which come from plants that re-grow quickly from the same source (as opposed to wood; it takes decades to grow back a tree) or recycled content from companies like Green Sage and Green Building Supply.

Professional Help
When it comes to turning your dream kitchen design into a reality, you may decide that working with a professional is the way to go. For kitchen design and construction, an architect or an independent Certified Kitchen Designer, or CKD, is the best place to start. The professional’s advice will be unbiased, and will help you in determining what will look best in your kitchen.

Not all architects are willing to construct a domestic kitchen. The best way to find an architect is through personal recommendations. If this approach does not work, then consult your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. They will be able to provide you with information about architects in your area. It is essential that you and your architect work well together and share similar tastes when it comes to design.


Countertop Types

Kitchen countertop types, and how to modify them to match any task.

Countertop Types

When it comes to countertop types, there are both natural and manmade surface options choices available. The principal choices, from least to most expensive, are the following:

Laminate. This is the most popular category. Many colors and patterns are available, and the price is in the range of $15 to $40 per linear foot of countertop. Most consist of a core material with a surface veneer applied. Formica is one common brand name. The disadvantages are the surfaces can scratch or burn and are not easily repaired.

Ceramic tile. Like laminate countertops, ceramic tiles are available in a wide range of colors. In addition, tile comes in various sizes, textures, and finishes, and the grout that seals the joint between the individual tiles can also be tinted to add emphasis or highlights. Ceramic tiles can be installed by capable do-it-yourselfers, which can make them even more affordable. Costs vary from $10 a square foot or less to $50 or more, depending upon the tile selected and the installation costs. I’d recommend buying glazed tiles (they’re less likely to stain or scratch) and an epoxy grout. Disadvantages are that tiles can break (though repairs are relatively easy) and the grout will need to be renewed periodically.

Wood surfaces. The range of colors is much narrower than with laminates or ceramic tile, but most people who opt for wood countertops do so because they like the color of a natural finished wood. Maple is most often used as a counter surface, but cherry, birch, mahogany, and other woods are other choices. Most often wooden counters are so-called butcher-block surfaces, consisting of glued up strips of solid wood. They can stain, dent, or burn, but usually sanding and resealing will restore a uniform finish. Wood is also vulnerable to variations in humidity (producing swelling and even changes in shape), so careful sealing near sources of water and moisture are critical. The surface should also be periodically treated with a wax or varnish suitable to food-preparation surfaces. Costs are moderate, in the range of $50 to $100 per linear foot, and do-it-yourselfers may well be able to install these surfaces successfully.

Solid surface. These synthetic surfaces are manufactured of polyester or acrylic resins and mineral fillers. They are available in many colors, textures, and patterns, some of which resemble other materials, including wood, stone, and even glass. Thicknesses vary, but Vz inch is perhaps the most common. One advantage of such solid surfaces as Corian and WilsonartGibraltar, two of the common brand names, is that scratches and nicks can be buffed out using an abrasive pad. These surfaces are unlikely to stain, but can be scarred by knives or discolored by exposure to heat. Installation is best left to the professionals. The price range is broad, from roughly $50 to $200 per linear foot.

Stone. Granite is the most popular of the stone countertop types, but marble, soapstone, and others are also available. Stone countertops are extremely durable, but also very unforgiving—one slip with that antique China teapot of Grandma’s and it’ll be reduced on contact to a pile of shards. Stone is unlikely to nick, scratch, or scorch, though coffee, cooking oils, and liquids with natural pigments can produce staining, especially with marble counters. Soapstone requires periodic sealing to maintain its good looks, so granite is the closest to being a care­free stone surface. While stone is a great option if you want your kitchen counters to last forever, it’s also an expensive route to take, as the prices range from about $100 to $250 a linear foot installed. And the installation is best left to the experts.

Countertops are available with various surfaces, at varying heights, and with insets and additions to match any task. Countertops can be deeper than standard or built to include leg space for desk and dining areas, or geared toward convenience in the following areas:

Entertaining. For some homeowners, food is all about sharing —with friends, family, and company. Granite and marble countertop types have long been popular as food staging and serving counters. New solid-surface, concrete, and e-stone selections also offer some striking options for display and dining counters.

Baking. For those interested in baking, a proper countertop is essential. That might mean installing marble or granite countertop sections that will maintain the cold for proper dough rolling. Depending on the height of the home baker, the tasks of kneading and rolling dough can be made more comfortable by lowering the countertop from the standard 36-inch counter height. Experts recommend a rolling counter that is 7 to 8 inches below the elbow for a baking and mixing countertop.


2011 Kitchen Trends

The latest kitchen trends spotted at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.

Kitchen Trends

Photo: LG

Kitchen Trends
Even as a seemingly endless stream of cooking shows, personalities, and cookbooks inspires you to take your culinary skills to the next level, manufacturers are focusing on their own criteria for success:  providing appliances and products that look great, save time, reduce energy usage, and ensure a clean, sanitary kitchen.

These themes were prominent at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Show in Las Vegas, where exhibitors displayed a number of cutting-edge products for the technologically up-to-date kitchen.

Time-Saving Appliances
Worried about being ready for your soon-to-arrive guests?  Need to add one more dish in a hurry?  A number of products reflect the idea time is critical.  The LG Studio Series cooktop, for instance, uses Ultraheat technology that accelerates cooking time, even if you’re just boiling water for pasta for 10 minutes, with heating settings ranging from 5,000 BTUs up to 19,000 BTUs. And the LG ovens used InfraGrill technology that reduces cooking time by 30 percent for some food, with infrared heating elements that reach broiling and other critical temperatures more quickly.

Summit Appliance is displaying an induction cooktop that, like competing products in this growing category, uses magnetism to generate heat that is confined to the cookware, providing for faster cooking times and greater energy efficiencySummit’s SINC424220 model offers a bonus for dwellers in apartments and tight spaces:  The 24-inch-wide induction cooktop fits into a 23-inch-by-20-inch cutout, with its four burners, 10 power settings, and easy-to-clean Schott Ceran glass ceramic surface.

Energy Efficiency
The theme of energy efficiency was widespread at the show, and that is welcome news, given the threat of higher utility bills in many communities.  For instance, Dacor showed its new 24-inch Renaissance dishwasher, which are Energy Star-qualified because of effective electricity and water usage.  While design aficionados might focus on the stainless steel finish and hidden ergonomic controls, reduced electricity and water usage are the name of the game, thanks to 6 wash cycles, 7 wash zones, and 2 drying levels that accommodate small loads up to the dishes and silverware from a large dinner party.

Faucets & Sinks
For those who have had one of those multitasking kitchen (or bath) moments where a third hand would have been useful, solutions are being offered by Muirsis and Danze , in the form of hands-free faucets, with a variety of functions, such as automatic water dispensing and easy temperature and flow adjustments.  These no-touch faucets also contribute to a cleaner, more sanitary environment, especially when one has been handling foods like poultry and meats.

While function is a big deal for kitchen product makers, design is still a top focus.  Rohl , for example, offers Perrin & Rowe® Filtration faucets that provide filtered water, with contemporary styling, as well as the Pull-Down faucet line emphasizing ergonomics and design.  For homeowners seeking unique design solutions, JSG Oceana presents what it describes as the only glass sink on the market, with a hygienic surface that is available in several colors and marketed as resistant to scratches, stains, and temperature changes. And Quadro SRL showed Scandinavian-design Ottavo products that complement a line that includes several high-end product families.


Childproofing the Kitchen

Safety products and common sense can help keep children safe.

Childproofing

Photo: shutterstock.com

Many child-safety experts believe that children should be kept out of the kitchen and that no amount of childproofing can make a kitchen safe. Jay Hanc of Safe Beginnings, a baby-proofing and safety company in Brookline, MA, says, “My first suggestion is don’t allow kids in the kitchen. Between cooking and cleaning, the kitchen is not a safe place. If they are in the kitchen, they should be in their high chair.”

To keep children safe, all kitchen entrances should have a safety gate to keep children out. “The biggest frustration for me is hearing parents complain about the looks of some of the safety measures,” says Mat Dann, a firefighter and paramedic. “You can stain or paint safety gates to match your kitchen or your baseboards. The most important thing is the safety of your child.”

Cabinets and Drawers 
Cabinets and drawers are major culprits for injuries to toddlers. Drawers, which are often at the height of a toddler’s head, should be installed with automatic closing slides that keep the drawer shut even after a hard shove. Better yet, Merillat makes the Soft Action Drawer Guide System, which regulates the closing of the drawer to prevent drawer slams and pinched fingers.

Cabinets and drawers should all be secured with internal locking devices because external locks that need to be put back in place after each use are often forgotten. One highly rated product is the Safety 1st Tot Lock system, which is installed inside drawers and cabinets that are 0.5 to over 1.5 inches thick and utilizes magnets as a locking mechanism. A switch on the locks disables them when they are no longer needed.

Electrocution Dangers
The 911 Infobook reports that 86 percent of electrocution injuries involve children ages one to four, with the highest concentration of emergencies occurring at mealtimes. The likely reason is that outlet covers have been removed, appliances are out, and children are in the kitchen during busy meal preparation.

While outlet covers are the most common solution to keep children from electrocution, Hanc warns, “They’re a choking hazard if they’re left off, which all too often, unfortunately, they are.” Hanc prefers a self-closing outlet cover that slides back into place when the outlet is not in use.

GFI (ground fault interrupter) outlets are required in new buildings in most areas, and have cut down on electrocution injuries, but cannot accommodate a self-closing outlet cover. Make sure no appliance cords dangle within reach of children. A slide-out appliance shelf high up in a pantry with a recessed power strip is easy to install but difficult for children to access.

Burn Prevention
According to the Burn Resource Center, burns and fires are the leading cause of accidental death in the home for children 14 and under. Children from birth to two years are most frequently admitted for emergency burn care and are most frequently burned in the kitchen. “Many of the accidents we see are from children pulling on a tablecloth,” Dann says. Small placemats that do not hang over the edge of the table or counter are the easy answer. Skid resistant placemats are an even better solution.

The latch to the dishwasher should be locked at all times, with locking straps as an available second measure of protection. “Run the dishwasher after the children have gone to bed,” Dann says, “because the steam escaping can scald a small child.” The oven and stove can also be made safe. “Turn your pot handles toward the wall, and if you’re not using all your burners, use the ones at the rear of the range,” Dann says.

Hanc recommends glass-top stoves because they have no open flame, preferably one with a heat warning light and burners set back from the edge of the stove. He also suggests finding an oven with the knobs at the rear of the stove where children can’t get to them, or failing that, knob covers. Induction cooking surfaces stay cool to the touch, but are pricier than other alternatives.

Stove guards, like the one produced by Prince Lionheart for around $25, are essentially plastic shields that prevent children from reaching onto the stove. Children pulling on or leaning against a hot oven door can burn their hands, however, so Omega Appliances produces an oven with a quadruple-glazed oven door that remains cool to the touch even during cooking. Electrolux ovens also feature Cool-Touch oven doors.

Self-cleaning ovens feature locks that can double as safety locks to keep children out, but several companies make separate oven locks. “They’re not always attractive,” says Dann, “but they are a necessity.”

“A lot of this is common sense on the part of the parents. One thing people often forget is to never keep treats above the stove or near appliances,” Dann says, “Kids are curious, and they are resourceful.” A kitchen designer will take children into account when planning a kitchen by placing outlets higher up, selecting child-safe appliances, or creating appliance garages. Take advantage of their expertise when planning your new kitchen or kitchen remodel.


The “Green” Kitchen

By changing your appliances and food storage methods, begin creating a "green" kitchen.

Green Kitchen

Photo: Flickr

Obviously there’s some green stuff in your kitchen, like lettuce and broccoli. But beyond buying organic food, it’s easy to make your kitchen more eco-friendly, whether you’re replacing your refrigerator or just banning bottled water from the fridge.

Use Energy-Efficient Appliances 
When measuring the greenness of your kitchen, the first thing to look at is your appliances. “Outside of heating and cooling, the refrigerator is the main energy hog in the home,” says Jennifer Powers, media manager of the National Resources Defense Council of New York, NY. “The great thing about [today’s] refrigerators is that automatically, no matter what kind you have, it’s probably a good 70 percent more efficient than the old gold or green version from your childhood.”

With any appliance, you’ll want to look for two things: the Energy Star and Energy Rating Number. The higher the energy rating number, the more efficient the appliance. Energy Star ranks appliance efficiency — any appliance with the Energy Star label is in the top 25 percent of energy performers.

The next thing to examine is temperature settings. “Set your refrigerator temperature at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit; your freezer should be set between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Powers. “Use the power-save switch if your fridge has one, and make sure the door seals tightly. You can check this by making sure that a dollar bill closed in between the door gaskets is difficult to pull out. If it slides easily between the gaskets, replace them.”

If you’re replacing a dishwasher, look for one that’s not only energy-efficient but also scrubs dishes well. That way, you can skip the pre-wash to save water, and use low-sudsing detergents, like those from Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers, which are non-toxic and biodegradable.

Build with Environmentally Friendly Materials
If you’re replacing or updating your décor, such as countertops, flooring and tile, look for sustainable materials like bamboo and cork, which come from plants that re-grow quickly from the same source (as opposed to wood; it takes decades to grow back a tree) or recycled content from companies like Green Sage and Green Building Supply.

“Going into a mining operation and mining out granite and marble is extremely energy intensive,” says Dr. Herb Hauser, president of Midtown Technologies, a green builder consulting firm based in New York City. Not only are they re-using materials, but they’re also cutting down on the energy required to mine and finish new products. Not everything is synthetic, either. Companies like Vetrazzo of Berkeley, CA, which uses recycled glass for countertops, are finding new ways to use recycled content to create unique looks.

But if marble or granite is the look you’ve always dreamed of, perform your due diligence and find out where your marble is coming from. Try to look local first. Buying locally means using less energy and fuel to transport the materials to and from the point of origin to the store to you. Added bonus? You’re supporting your local economy.

Green Your Food Preparation and Storage
Beyond the permanent features of your kitchen, you can also take a closer look at what you use to prepare, store and eat your food. “Go from plastic containers to glass,” suggests Dr. Hauser. “Glass containers are manufactured once, are used a lot until they break and then they’re recycled. Plastic has a much shorter lifespan than glass.”

That also means getting rid of bottled water. According to Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte, it takes 17 million barrels of oil each year to make plastic water bottles for the U.S. market. To eliminate using bottled water, add a filter to your faucet or get a whole house filter and use a refillable and re-washable water bottle.

Sometimes it’s not the kitchen but how we use it that makes it less environmentally friendly. A few small changes can make cooking and preparing food a greener process.

The first place to look is your water consumption. “Most of the water that we waste is not wasted when it’s in use,” says Hauser. “It’s wasted when it’s left on,” like if you’re washing something and step away but leave the faucet on. An easy way to rethink how you use water is to switch the faucet controls to your feet. “We have a foot pedal,” says Joaquin. “It forces people to be conscious of how much water you use.” It’s also sanitary — no more worrying about contaminating your facet after cutting chicken. You can find residential foot pedals at Pedal Valves.

You can also look for motion-controlled faucets — much like a faucet in a public restroom, they won’t turn on unless something is in front of it. Step away from the sink, and it’ll stop the water flow, therefore conserving this precious resource, as well as cutting down on your water bill.

Take recycling one step further by composting organic materials from your kitchen. This not only eliminates how much waste goes into landfills — the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream is yard and food trimmings — but it also puts nutrients back into your soil. For an easy-to-use guide to composting, check out our Quick Tip: How to Compost or the Compost Guide.

Whether you’re changing your appliances or changing the way you think about water usage and your garbage, it’s easy to make your kitchen into a greener one.


Eco-Friendly Cabinets

With homes increasingly air tight, eco-friendly cabinets are more important than ever.

Green Cabinetry

Photo: woodweb.com

Cabinetry is commonplace in kitchens, bathrooms, and often home offices and family rooms. But while durability, style, and color often dominate our selections, other factors to consider are the effects on indoor air quality and the sustainability of the materials.

Cabinets are often made from pressed wood products, such as particleboard, hardwood plywood paneling, and medium-density fiberboard. The problem is that these materials typically contain formaldehyde, one of the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are emitted as gases from certain solids and liquids, including various paints, lacquers, and binders.

With homes increasingly air tight, the release of VOCs into the air can present significant health risks, from asthma to cancer. While VOC levels may decrease over time, they can linger for years, and with people spending about 90 percent of their time indoors, that is a problem.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does regulate formaldehyde as a carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is advisable to mitigate formaldehyde that is present at levels higher than 0.1 parts per million parts of air, but there is no standard regulating other VOCs in non-industrial settings. Key symptoms of exposure to VOCs range from watery eyes, burning throat, or headache to difficulty in breathing and dizziness.

Given the possible presence of VOCs and other chemicals, here are things to keep in mind if you are considering cabinets for a new home or a remodeling project:

  • Look for cabinets made of materials with third-party verification of source or safety.
  • If someone in the household has specific chemical sensitivities, get samples of the materials and finishes you are considering. Review the Material Data Safety Sheets to pinpoint any specific known substances. If there are none, allow household members to live with these choices to determine if they will work.
  • Obtain and review the MSD sheets. Contact the cabinetmaker. If the cabinets are imported, contact the importer or distributor regarding your concerns and ask for manufacturing details.
  • Consider cabinet cores made from marine grade plywood (not particleboard or interior-grade plywood), which emits lower formaldehyde levels.
  • Avoid cabinets made from conventional particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) produced with urea-formaldehyde binder, especially in moist locations, such as the bathroom, says USGBC’s Ashley Katz. The material is highly susceptible to moisture damage. Water or even high humidity can swell these panel products. Repeated exposure to moisture can cause de-lamination or decomposition.
  • Check for the safety of finishes and adhesives. Having a finish that is water-based, for example, does not necessarily mean it is low-VOC. Check with the cabinetmaker.
  • Go eco-friendly with your cabinet hardware as well, suggests green designer Annette Stelmack. Check out shops that offer such treasures as recycled glass, aluminum and bronze, cork, eco-resin and antique pulls, hinges, handles and knobs.
  • When ordering cabinets, specify the needs for low- or no-VOCs and third-party certified wood to be assured that you are not getting default—and perhaps non-green—components.
  • If you have already installed new cabinets and found that they do contain formaldehyde or other VOCs, increase the ventilation in your home. If you are worried about formaldehyde, use dehumidifiers and air conditioning to control humidity, maintain a moderate temperature to help reduce emissions, and ventilate your home.

Get the Details
It can be useful to work with an interior designer versed in green products and with access to such professional green information sources as Building Green, according to Annette K. Stelmack of Louisville, CO, a green building expert who is a past chair for the American Society of Interior Designers’ National Sustainable Design Council. Those going it alone on their cabinet project should ask for and review the Material Safety Data (MSD) sheet that lists everything that goes into a product. It can often be found on the Web site of the cabinetmaker, says Stelmack.

As consumers demand more green choices in cabinetry, the industry is responding. One pioneering cabinet maker, Neil Kelly Cabinets of Portland, OR, went green more than 10 years ago, according to Mark Smith, chief executive officer. In 1998 the company came out with its Naturals collection, which used no-added-urea-formaldehyde agri-board panels, binders and glues, FSC-certified wood veneers and low VOC glues, adhesives and finishes. It was the first in the U.S. market with a full range of environmentally friendly materials and construction techniques.

With the success of that line, the company decided to make everything environmentally friendly. It continues its research so that it can meet increasingly tougher government mandates.

Wheat straw produced in the Minnesota area becomes the cores for a green line of cabinets produced by Koch Cabinets of Ashland, OR. According to Advertising Manager Betsy Macke, wheatboard has proven to be just as strong as particleboard, is a rapidly renewable resource growing in a single season, and is made without formaldehyde.

Neil Kelly’s green cabinets meet LEED Green Building Rating System® specifications for low-emitting materials and rapidly renewable resources. Its products may help projects earn points toward LEED® Certification. All adhesives used in assembling the cabinets meet LEED Green Building Rating System standards and are compliant with California Air Resources Board air quality standards. Hardwoods available for cabinets are certified through the PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes based in Geneva, Switzerland, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes sustainably managed forests through independent third-party certification.

Designer Stelmack says other renewable materials are also finding their way into cabinets. Kirei board, for example, is an engineered product using the stalks of sorghum plants, and bamboo is used in a laminated plywood under the trademark Plyboo®. Reclaimed wood also is popular, she says.

“Re-using existing cabinetry is always preferred, especially if the cabinets are in good condition and pose no threat to the health of the people living in the home,” says Ashley Katz, communications manager for the U.S. Green Building Council based in Washington, DC. “Using salvaged cabinetry can be a way to reduce the impacts of manufacturing new goods, as well as reducing the amount of material entering landfills. While the variety of cabinetry materials once was sparse and limiting, now the choices for environmentally friendly cabinetry materials are endless, and we expect this trend to continue,” says Katz.


Disguise Your Appliances

Disguise appliances by seamlessly integrating them into your kitchen.

Disguise Appliances

Photo: Mullet Cabinet

Call it the great cover-up. In a trend fueled by manufacturer innovations and designer imagination, appliances are the sight-unseen heroes of the home. Refrigerators, dishwashers, and TVs are melding into the woodwork — and that’s just where many homeowners want them. Kitchens are looking more like extensions of living rooms; small appliances are being streamlined to fit in just about any room.

Sub-Zero is credited with being the leader of built-in kitchen design. “The biggest and most unsightly appliance is the refrigerator, and Sub-Zero was the company that started disguising refrigerators with panels,” says Peter Salerno, a certified master kitchen and bath designer in Wyckoff, N.J. Panels trick the eye. They take away from a refrigerator’s mass and allow it to blend into the adjacent cabinetry. Sixty percent of Sub-Zero’s refrigeration production line is intended for panels or decorative appointments, according to Paul Leuthe, Sub-Zero corporate marketing manager.

Artful Designs
As a result, refrigerator integration has taken on exotic new forms. In one kitchen project, Salerno commissioned an artist to paint an urn overflowing with flowers on the center panel. “That’s high impact,” he says. In another kitchen, the refrigerator was cloaked behind a French door painted with a faux scene of the homeowner’s backyard which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. “It looks like you’re looking through the back door of the house, but in reality you’re looking at the refrigerator-freezer. It’s one more point of interest that becomes a conversation piece.”

Custom pieces often come with big price tags. Troy Adams, a Los Angeles-based kitchen and bath designer, introduced the TansuChill refrigerator as part of his hidden furniture line. The unit is a Sub-Zero refrigerator-freezer encased in traditional Japanese-influenced cabinetry. It can cost more than $24,000.

Camouflaging appliances, rather than tucking them off to the side so they don’t overpower the space, is just plain practical. Relegate them to the recesses, and you can lose the efficiency inherent in the traditional work triangle. But make them a focus and you won’t mind putting them front and center. “Wherever they go, they’re going to look great. Whether that means paneled sides, handpainting on a surface or using interesting door handles, it’ll make a statement,” Salerno says.

Taking Care
Beside higher price tags, there are some drawbacks to integrated appliances. Wood panels are especially vulnerable to moisture. The biggest threat is handling units with wet hands. Moisture can wear around handles and knobs and mar the finish. Another downside is that when appliances have to be replaced, the front panel may also need replacing. That not only adds to the cost, it adds on a complication: finding an exact match with the surrounding woodwork.

Beyond the Kitchen
Now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t innovation is allowing appliances to move out of the kitchen without sacrificing style. Small refrigeration units are doubling as tables in bedroom suites, wine cellars, exercise rooms and finished basements. “Under-counter refrigerators have become more versatile and stylized to accommodate the way people live,” says Salerno.

The Surprise Inside
Dishwashers are another commonly masked appliance. With control panels atop the door, they can easily disappear behind cabinetry. In addition to standard panels, Salerno has disguised dishwashers with shallow grain-bin drawers filled with beans and pasta. Chalkboard facings are another option, allowing the real estate to be used as family message centers. Custom dishwasher panels can add 50 percent to the cost of the unit, but Salerno is quick to add that clients rarely regret going “that extra step to customize. That type of detailing says it’s a custom piece. And that can drive an entire home.” For faster, less permanent facelifts, magnetic panels are available in a wide range of styles, from whimsical to classical.

Other hide-and-seek appliances? Cooktops concealed by cutting boards when not in use, paneled warming and refrigerator drawers, and microwaves that slide out behind pocket doors. Artful ventilation hoods, such as Miele’s stunning wall and island-hood line, are so sculptural in design, they often wind up as kitchen centerpieces.

Karen Black-Sigler, a certified kitchen designer and owner of A Karen Black Company in Oklahoma City, Okla., keeps her clients’ kitchen visitors guessing with hidden TVs. “We put flat-screen TVs into sleeves that pop out of islands and then revolve 360 degrees. It’s a great way to integrate televisions into the kitchen.”

Once upon a time, kitchens were off-limits to guests, but no more. Now they’re central to entertaining. And guests love the element of surprise, says Black-Sigler. “It’s exciting. When you’re able to walk into a kitchen and have people wonder where your appliances are, you have a kitchen that doesn’t look like a kitchen. And that’s appealing.”

Trending Up
The trend to disguise appliances as armoires and furniture pieces took off in the early 1990s. Then, says Black-Sigler, came the popularity of stainless-steel appliances and suddenly consumers became comfortable with refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens being focal points of their kitchens. But she’s starting to see a trend back to appliance integration. “Lots of people have had stainless-steel appliances and they understand the difficulties in keeping them smudge-free, so we’ve gone back to integrated appliances a bit more,” she says.

For those looking for the ultimate disguise, there’s Troy Adams’ hidden kitchen, which is actually a kitchen within a kitchen. Prep and cleanup is secreted in a separate room behind wood paneling allowing the main display kitchen to remain a spic ’n span showplace.