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kitchen design

2013 – A Good Time To Renovate












Good news for the home building industry. Last week (March 2013) the Commerce Department report showed the rate of single-family home construction at its highest level in four and a half years, the results of this study point to a strengthening economy, housing and renovation market. Yeah!

A survey done  by the popular Houzz site showed that 54% of those polled are planning to do a renovation project on their home this year. All that “pent-up” energy is about to be released into newly designed bathrooms, kitchens and more. In fact, 28% are sprucing up their bathrooms, while 23% are planning to tackle their kitchen or an addition.

Here in Asheville, I have definitely seen an increase in activity. The projects on our schedule this year include a mix of kitchen and bath remodels with several additions, as well as some new construction.

We’re happy to see people investing in their homes.



Kitchen Countertop Comparisons

Clients often ask me what kind of kitchen countertop is the best?

That depends upon 3 main factors. I call these the holy trinity of design.

  • how you use the space
  • the overall style
  • the budget

How you use your kitchen? Are you an avid chef who needs workhorse surfaces? Do you like to entertain and have guest gather as you make the final preparations for your feast? Or are you happy with popping something into the microwave?

What’s the overall style of your kitchen? Traditional? Contemporary? Country or mid century modern?

What’s your budget? Whether your are building a new home or renovating an existing kitchen, it’s important to determine your budget and what part of that you are willing to put toward your countertops.

Once you have answered the questions above, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of your needs as you read through the following descriptions of available countertop materials. Narrow your choice down and be sure to let your design professional know which you prefer. They can show you samples, which will help you make a final decision.

The good news is there are countertops that can fit every budget, need and style.

Found at Consumer Reports, here are comparisons of the several types, listing the pros and cons and price range of each.




Best for busy kitchens and baths. It’s stain- and heat-resistant and low-maintenance. It doesn’t need sealing and is available in vibrant colors and in styles that mimic natural stone.

But edges and corners can chip. Rounded edges help. Stone finishes can appear more uniform than natural.

Price $50 to $100 per sq. ft.




Best for a natural stone look. It can withstand heavy use in a kitchen or bath. It resists stains when it’s properly sealed and it also resists heat and scratches.

But it needs resealing to protect it from stains. Color and grain can differ from samples, so it’s best to choose at the stone yard.

Price $45 to $200 per sq. ft.



Best for use near stoves because it’s heat-resistant. It comes in many colors, patterns, and prices.

But it chips. Grout between tiles stains and is prone to mildew, even when sealed. Poor installation can increase those problems. Thinner grout lines and darker grout might help.

Price $10 to $30 per sq. ft.



Best for a wide variety of colors and patterns at a budget-friendly price. It’s excellent at resisting stains and heat damage and is simple to install.

But it’s easily scratched by kitchen knives and isn’t repairable. Most have visible seams, though post-formed (seamless) options are available.

Price $10 to $30 per sq. ft.

Solid Surface

Solid surfacing

Best for seamless installations, especially in baths. Many colors and styles are available, including those that mimic concrete, stone, and quartz. It’s stain-resistant, and small nicks and scratches can be repaired.

But it’s easily scratched. Stone finishes can look more uniform than natural.

Price $35 to $100 per sq. ft.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel

Best for a modern kitchen. It repels stains and heat and doesn’t rust or discolor. The countertop can be made with an integral sink for a seamless look.

But it can look cold in a bath. It shows fingerprints and dents and scratches easily. Matte or grain finishes hide damage better.

Price $100 to $150 per sq. ft.




Best for customizing. It can be dyed or textured.

But it can develop cracks. Its durability depends on the fabricator’s skill and the sealers used. Topical sealers, which resist stains but not heat, are best for bathrooms. Penetrating sealers resist heat but stain and must be reapplied.

Price $80 to $120 per sq. ft.



Best for a natural stone look without heavy veining or graining in a guest bath, powder room, or low-traffic kitchen. It withstands heat very well.

But it’s a very soft stone that is easily sliced, nicked, and scratched. It’s also porous, so it stains easily even when properly sealed.

Price $60 to $100 per sq. ft.

Butcher Block

Butcher block

Best for a country kitchen and for cutting produce. It’s easy to install and repair.

But it might need periodic sealing or refinishing to remove cuts, dings, and scratches. Its finish affects performance. Varnish improves stain resistance and penetrating oils decrease it.

Price $30 to $65 per sq. ft.



Best for a classic stone look in low-traffic areas, like a baking zone or guest bath. It’s available in a wide range of natural colors.

But it’s more porous than granite, so it’s not as stain-resistant. It also scratches easily, isn’t very heat-resistant, and needs periodic sealing.

Price $50 to $140 per sq. ft.



Paperstone 100% post-consumer recycled paper that has been saturated with PetroFree™ phenolic resins and selected natural pigments.

Best for its warm look and feel. If scratched it can be lightly sanded like wood. Can be sealed and refreshed with a light application of natural sealer. Great eco-friendly choice.

But it can scratch and get rings. And it is expensive.

Price $85 to $95 per sq. ft.

Eco-Friendly Oven Cleaning

In my quest to bring more eco-frinedly finishes and products into my client’s homes, I keep finding that “the simple-old-fashion” way is sometimes the best ecological choice. That’s what happened when I went in search of a more ecological method for cleaning my oven. It’s not a task I ever look forward to and mostly because of the obnoxious smell of the cleansers. And when some ordinary task, like cleaning the oven can be both non-toxic and easier – I’m game for giving it a try.

So here is a very simple and natural method for cleaning those splatters in our oven. It really is as easy as I had heard.

Simple household minerals such as baking soda can clean like magic. The key is using enough of the minerals. Sprinkle baking soda all over the bottom of the oven until it is covered completely with about 1/4 of an inch of baking soda. Then, using a clean spray bottle, spray the baking soda with water until the baking soda is thoroughly damp but not flooded. After that, go off and do other things. When you think of it, dampen the baking soda again if it is drying out. Before you go to bed, do that again. When you wake up in the morning, the baking soda can effortlessly be scooped out of the oven with a sponge, bringing all the grime with it. That’s it!

Now if your next delicious dish creates havoc in your oven, you’ll be ready!

Surviving A Kitchen Remodel

With economic times as they are, many of my clients have decided to fore go the expense of moving or building a new home. Instead they have decided to renovate their existing homes.

One of the best ways to get good return on your renovation investment is to update your kitchen. This can be an overwhelming project but with a few preparations and a good design strategy, you can withstand the ups and downs of having your kitchen torn apart and put back together again. Here are a few tips for surviving a kitchen remodel. Hope they help. Perhaps you have some you would like to post to this list. (Source:

  • Keep essential items handy: microwave meals and non-perishables like soup; condiments; cereal; microwave-safe dishes and utensils; dishcloths; dishwasher soap; paper plates and cups; coffee; coffee pot and sugar/creamer; paper towels; napkins; and garbage bags.
  • You’ll be without water in the kitchen for a time, so plan to do the dishes in another sink or the bathtub. Or stock up on eco friendly disposable plates and cups, paper towels. Be sure to have some disinfectant cleanse handy.
  • Move your old refrigerator or a small mini-fridge to a convenient space close to a water source. Add a table with a microwave above and a trash can below.

Obviously, small appliances such as microwaves, toasters or toaster ovens, hot plates, and small electric grills will be immensely helpful in preparing home-cooked meals. Just remember, the area where you set up your temporary kitchen might not be able to support multiple appliances running at the same time, not to mention any other electronic items typically used in that room. You might need to have only one thing plugged in at a time to prevent blown fuses.

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Refrigerator Dimensions

If you are about to renovate or design your kitchen, here are some helpful dimensions for popular refrigerator styles.    (Source: Dimensions


Refrigerators have three standard styles and these are the bottom freezer, top freezer, and side-by-side. There is a style called French door refrigerator which has a double door bottom freezer. Refrigerator dimensions are dependent on the style and cubic feet capacity of each one.

Comparing the three standard styles with similar capacity, the most energy efficient is the top freezer, next in line is the bottom freezer, and the least energy efficient is the side-by-side style. Refrigerators are also less energy efficient when they have indoor water and ice dispenser compared to those that have none.

Side-by-Side Refrigerator Dimensions

A. Free Standing Side-by-Side
Width: 32 inches to 36.5 inches
Height: 66 inches to 70 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 28 inches to 29.5 inches

B. Counter-Depth Side-by-Side
Width: 35 inches to 36.5 inches
Height: 68.5 inches to 72.5 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 24 inches

C. Built-In Side-by-Side
Width: 42 inches to 48 inches
Height: 83 and 3/8 inches to 84 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 23.5 inches to 25 inches

French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator Dimensions

A. Free Standing French Door Bottom Freezer
Width: 33 inches to 36 inches
Height: 68 and 5/8 inches to 70 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 28.25 inches to 29.5 inches

B. Counter-Depth French Door Bottom Freezer
Width: 35 and 3/4 inches to 36 inches
Height: 69 and 5/8 inches to 71 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 23 and 3/4 inches to 24 inches

C. Built-In French Door Bottom Freezer
Width: 42 inches to 48 inches
Height: 83 and 1/8 inches to 84 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 23.5 inches to 25 inches

Bottom Freezer Refrigerator Dimensions

A. Free Standing Bottom Freezer
Width: 29 and 5/8 inches to 36 inches
Height: 66 and 3/4 inches to 70 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 28 inches to 30 and 7/8 inches

B. Counter-Depth Bottom Freezer
Width: 35 and 5/8 inches to 36 inches
Height: 69 and 3/4 inches to 70 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 23 and 3/4 inches to 24 inches

C. Built-In Bottom Freezer
Width: 35 inches to 36.25 inches
Height: 82 and 3/4 inches to 84 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 23.5 inches to 24 inches

Top Freezer Refrigerator Dimensions

Width: 28 inches to 36 inches
Height: 61 and 3/4 inches to 69 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 25 and 7/8 inches to 28 inches

Compact (Under-Counter) Refrigerator Dimensions

Width: 17 and 3/8 inches to 24 inches
Height: 19.5 inches to 34 and 1/8 inches
Depth without the door and handle: 13.5 inches to 18 and 3/4 inches

In selecting a specific refrigerator unit to purchase, the dimensions play a major part on the decision making. Measure the allotted refrigerator space in your kitchen so that the unit that you will purchase will really fit into the specified kitchen space.