The Kitchen Island

The Kitchen Island

What is the most requested Kitchen renovation option? I want an “ISLAND” in my kitchen…

Well let’s discuss some Kitchen Island ideas. Today we are adding islands to our designs more than ever and the larger the better! I think the big trend towards islands is people tend to congregate in the kitchen and to do this around a central table seems to just work, hence the island. In, the island you can place a stovetop for cooking, a sink and dish washer for cleaning, a secondary sink for food preparation… It can be a seated island one level or two… it can be permanent or movable… and they can be done in many shapes, lets discuss.

The Cooking Island: A few ways to use the island for cooking is with a cook top and oven, a range or just a microwave in a base cabinet. Major cooking in your island tends to be more complicated. You will need to add ventilation whether a hood overhead or a down draft system. You will also now have a harder time controlling splatter and grease during cooking especially if the island is seated and can be dangerous with having unexpected hot surfaces. This being said, it still can be good for the right circumstances. Today most of my cooking islands tend to only include a microwave. When installing a microwave island you can use microwave drawer which is designed for this application, a standard microwave with a side swinging door and now some manufacturers are building combo microwave / convection that open like a conventional oven.

The Sink Island: This type of island tends to be the most popular and very useful. We will usually include dishwasher and garbage for functionality. The best part of this type of island is it allows preparation and clean up while still maintaining good social interaction because nobody has his or her back to anybody. This type of island tends to work very well with seating especially with children so serving and clean up of quick meals goes effortlessly. You can also place a secondary sink on an island which works in multiple cooks / prep kitchens. This allows 2 people to work more comfortably in a kitchen preparing meals and not getting in each other’s way.

The Clean Island: The clean island has nothing in the way and has a nice large unobstructed surface. This type of island tends to be for the household that does projects and/or entertains frequently. When doing projects whether school with the kids, sewing project or just organizing pictures for photo albums having a nice large layout space is great and is actually requested often for these types of reasons. Also, this type of island is perfect for laying out food for buffet style entertaining or even food staging during large gatherings.

The Seated Island: Again most of our islands end up being seated when the space allows. I almost always recommend single level islands when having seats. Even thought it might seem to be more interesting or that it might block the messiness, a two level island tends to be very inefficient and uncomfortable. There are also harder to keep clean than a single surface. The other type requested seated option is 2 and 3 sided seating which makes the island look a little more like a table / cabinet hybrid. These islands are great when removing the eat-in kitchen table and still maintaining a dining room table. The main reason for this request is that it is hard to socialize in a single row so having 2 and 3 sided really helps a family communicate with each other.

The Long Island: This is really the oversized island. Today we are doing larger and larger islands and most customers are looking to do this with single slab construction so they don’t encounter any seams. Usually this type of island needs to have countertop choice not only made but the actual slabs secured prior to ordering the cabinets. Once you commit to cabinet layout and order them it becomes very difficult and expensive if you need to change them later if you can’t get a top that fits. Even with man made quartz materials in jumbo sizes available you might find yourself waiting for backordered material and no replacements. Also don’t forget and make sure you can get the top it into the space when installing, very heavy and they don’t bend around corners.

Island Spacing and Function Tips:

1. Try to keep you minimum walkways to 42”, If need can go as close as 36”

2. On seated sides minimum 48” for walkways.

3. Allow 24” in width per seat, your shoulders are wider than the actual stool.

4. There are three types of stools, Table Height for 30” tables, Counter Height for 36” typical kitchen cabinet height and Bar Height for 42” raised counter height.

5. Typical stool overhang is approximately 12”

6. Don’t hang lights lower than occupants standing eye height

7. Don’t forget good outlet locations and USB outlets are great too.

The interesting thing about the “Kitchen Island” is no matter what style you choose or even combining styles that fit your family’s needs, I have never had a customer who regretted having an island that was designed right. So whether it is long, short or even “L” shaped it will never be deserted. So plan well, think about your needs and build that island!

Decisions, decisions – Picking the Right Countertop

Decisions, decisions – Picking the Right Countertop

One of the toughest and most important decisions you will have to make for your kitchen renovation is the countertop material. This is the most used and abused piece of the job, but also the most satisfying. It will help you keep clean and actually protect your cabinetry. So, let’s talk about some of the more popular choices in our region:

Granite: One of the best materials to date being used. Cost has come down but this material is still a premium compared to laminate. It gives a very natural look and is extremely durable and scratch resistant. There are some concerns with staining, but I have not experienced this at all over the years. I would always recommend sealing the surface periodically and always remember -the darker the material the denser and more impervious it is.

Quartz: Like granite, not only one of the best materials but has also become one of the most popular materials due to its ability to look like granites, marbles and other natural materials while maintaining excellent durability. This material is man-made using a resin and quartz content virtually impervious and stain proof. It has excellent fabrication abilities, too. If you find a style you like you can’t go wrong here. Indoor use only.

Marble: This natural stone has become very popular again even though it is one of the most fragile and easily damaged countertops. It will stain and scratch very easily depending on the choice. Also certain types, like Calcutta Gold, have become extremely expensive.

Quartzite: Some of the most beautiful countertops that I have seen have been fabricated from this material. While it is not as durable as granite, it is still very durable and often has a lot of character and depth to the stones. If you find one you love, don’t be afraid to use it.

Wood: Adding a wood island or other accent to your kitchen can be exciting with its beautiful texture and ability to stain in any color. Wood is not cold to the touch like a stone top and will not handle hot pots or extreme humidity changes. While it is not the most durable, there are some great looks using wood. If you’re not afraid of being careful you can do your whole kitchen with wood. Walnut and Maple seem to be the most popular types.

Ultra Compact/Porcelain: While this material is most likely where the future seems to be headed, these countertops have definite fabrication restrictions. Some come as thin as 1/4 inch thick which does pose some complications with the design, too. Because of its extreme durability and impervious nature, this is the best material to use for outdoor projects.

Other types – Laminate, Concrete, Recycled Materials, Stainless Steel, Soapstone, Solid Surface: These materials are still being used for projects but are not the top choices today in our territory for residential countertops.

So, when planning your new kitchen countertops, I would first make your choice of what style you love and then factor in its durability in your household. I would always shy away from recommending marble or wood in a house with small children, but I have done it and have seen it stay in really good shape. Quartz and granite seem to be the most selected types due to their ease of care, durability and cost. It all depends on how you take care of your countertops. This is an important decision as it will most likely remain in your home for the entire time you live there; make it something you can live with for a long time. Enjoy!

To Heat or Not To Heat, That is the Question

To Heat or Not To Heat, That is the Question

One of the biggest trends today in Residential construction is something we don’t see but definitely makes us feel good, radiant heating. From our Bathrooms to Kitchens to the Entire Home is has become the most requested type of primary and secondary heating today.

Radiant heating systems are nothing new, they have been around for thousands of years, they were even used it to heat the Roman Coliseum back in the gladiator days. Today most radiant systems are using either electric resistance or hot water to create the heat transferred to the radiating mass. This mass is either your floor tile, panels, sheetrock, even your wood flooring. The heat is then transferred to other objects including people which gives a more comfortable control of the room environment as opposed to hot air which warms the air and baseboards/radiators warm the air and objects but as with hot air cause a lot of air movement in the rooms. Radiant systems can be designed and used in floors, walls and even ceilings to heat living spaces.

In bathrooms and kitchens we usually install electric cabling or water tubes under the tiles to create a nice warm floor. Hot water systems have a larger heat mass in the tubes that enable them to be used as primary heat or secondary (there is another heat source in the space) heat systems. Hot water systems do require that you have a hot water source (eg. Boiler, hot water heater) and if placed in a mud floor raise the floor level a lot and in most cases cost more initially. Electric systems are sometimes easier to install, thinner, can be quicker responding and if the heating area is large enough can be primary but most times it is used as a secondary system. Most electric systems come with programmable thermostats that allow the user to precisely tailor their warming needs in order keep costs low. One company’s electric thermostat will actually calculate you electric costs based on KWH you enter. Their system can also be placed in wet areas, shower seats, walls, etc.

It is important to use a professional that understands each system, how to design them properly and guide the homeowner to what is best for them. Today most consumers are finding when planning your new kitchen, bath, basement or even new home, using radiant heat that this hidden aspect of their new project ended up being their favorite piece for years to come. Happy Heating.

Why Radiant Heat? Some of the benefits of Radiant Heat are:

1. Invisible, No radiators, no grills, no baseboards

2. Doesn’t dry the air

3. Feels good on your body.

4. Costs less to run.

5. Healthier living

6. Less air movement, cleaner environment

7. Less heating noise, almost silent

8. Better for allergy sufferes

9. Warm feet mean a warm body

10. Your pets will love it, too!

The Highs and Lows of Island Seating

The Highs and Lows of Island Seating

I think most of the kitchen design that I do and teach is that most good design comes from the people it is being designed for. You and your husband both probably have good reasons for wanting either choice so I’ll just give you some general rules I use to help guide my customers.

1. What is the height of the users?

2. Are we going to have cooking (hot surfaces) on the island?

3. Will the space be used for food preparation?

4. Will you layout buffet style food on special occasions?

5. Does anyone that might use them have any ailments that could limit them?

6. Do you have a dog that can steal food from your counters?

These are just a few questions to ask yourselves that might help guide you to your best layout. As for my 2 cents, most times a single level island is a more user friendly set up in general. It offers larger uninterrupted space, easier for kids and seems to allow everyone to use all 4 sides better. You need to work with a good designer that listens to the needs of their customer and helps guide them.

Appliance Shopping – High End or Not?

Appliance Shopping – High End or Not?

A lot of clients come to me questioning the higher end appliances and service issues. I think the first thing to remember is all mechanical items will require service calls, hence warranties. From my experience all levels of appliances have their issues I think that when people spend 3 or 4 times on a high-end appliance they might voice their complaints that much more when something goes wrong. What high-end appliances do offer besides the name tag are better quality components, more features, nicer designs, and superior integration. I always assimilate it to shopping for a car, make sure you fit the car with the driver, because it might cost as much, lol!

Window or Wall – Placing Your Kitchen Range

Window or Wall – Placing Your Kitchen Range

I don’t have a definite answer on all the codes, and they do vary from town to town but I don’t believe there would be any code restricting except for the flammability of the trim or frame. The other issues that could be of concern would be, does the window open? If it does the air movement could cause safety issues with carbon monoxide, blowing out a flame or even causing a fire flare up if it becomes windy. Also there will be condensation and grease build up on the glass when cooking. And if placed too close a very hot pot with cold glass can cause the glass to crack.

If you decide to still to do this than I would check with your local jurisdiction on codes and a hydrophobic glass coating would be great to apply to this glass to help keep clean (e.g.. Diamon Fusion)