Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Kitchen~Heart of the Home

Over the last several weeks, as some of you know, we have been remodeling several areas in our home. The current project is our kitchen. This is always the most exciting room to redesign. It is usually the heart of the home and the place that people congregate in their daily lives as well as when entertaining. A great kitchen will sell an otherwise average house in a heartbeat. Whenever people think of a newly remodeled kitchen one word pops into their minds almost immediately. Granite. Everyone seems to want it! We thought we wanted it too until I started actually looking at it.

I think what people really mean when they say they want granite is that they do not want little six inch tiles with grout or a laminate surface. They are looking for a stone surface for its beauty, durability and it value in terms of resale. However, as we have found, sometimes in working with what is already in the kitchen, granite is not the best choice.

Our home is several decades old and has random plank oak flooring with wooden pegs. It is a beautiful floor and in excellent condition after many decades of being carpeted. We had it refinished a few year ago and love it.

I am still looking for the perfect area rug in our dining room!

Because it is in the adjoining rooms of our kitchen, we selected a stone tile pattern for our kitchen and had it installed in our kitchen, entryway, laundry room, pantry and small bath at the same time. We really like this floor and did not want to replace the entire run of it during our kitchen renovation as that would be quite costly and it is practically new.

When purchasing a granite counter top you usually go to the showroom and choose a color and pattern that you like and then hope for the best. Since granite in not a man made surface you will never get one that looks exactly like the one in the showroom. There are always naturally occurring variations in the pieces. Granite is very beautiful and I love it, but it was not for our kitchen and here is why.

Usually granite is sold in 8 foot slabs. I spent quite a bit of time in the granite store selecting what I thought would be a good choice for our kitchen. Then you wait a few days while they actually truck in your pieces. Once you sign off the pieces indicting that this is what you want, you will soon have a beautiful new counter top. It sounds simple enough, but not really. Twice we went down to see the granite they brought in for us and it did not look anything like the sample in the showroom. We needed three slabs and each was as different as you can imagine from the other two. (Note: If you are keeping your flooring or cabinets, you need to take a sample of them with you when shopping for a counter top.)

This is what I learned from this unsettling experience:

  • If you have a patterned floor, think twice about granite as your choice. Our particular floor is really beautiful but varied in both color and texture and pattern. The problem~ that is exactly like those same characteristics in a slab of granite. There were pieces of granite we looked at that would have looked like we had run the same material on both the counter and the floor! They were much too similar and there was not enough contrast. Granite seems to work beautifully with wood flooring but not always so well with geometrics or color variations in patterned flooring.
  • If you have a counter run of more than 8 feet like we do, you may run into matching problems. We have a 19 foot run of counter which would have looked like a plaid shirt with mismatched stripes if we had selected the granite we liked in the showroom.
  • You can have a beautiful stone counter tops other than granite that looks great with patterned flooring. Patterns mix best when the scale of the patterns is quite different. Since we have a rather large, random, pattern on the floor featuring both copper and silvery metallic tones, I have selected a much smaller, predictable pattern for the counter top. The pattern is in black which will compliment the black appliances. The color will compliment the warmer tones in the flooring.
I ended up selecting a Silestone counter top which was more expensive than granite but was right for our home. The color is kind of a brick and not represented well in this photo. We do have a brick hearth and black cast iron fireplace in the room as well so lots of patterns going on and the counter top needed to be subdued and still compliment the colors in the existing elements of the room. Silestone does have a lovely shine like granite as opposed to a Corian mat surface.

There are at least four companies that make a fabricated stone counter top like Silestone that is amazing. It is virtually maintenance free. No annual sealing or anything like that. I learned that they are all made by the same manufacturer on one machine and distributed to the various retailers. They are made of crushed quartz~ which is essentially granite with a man made pattern for more continuity. When that pit in my stomach went away I knew it was right for us. Whew!

Even though I have worked with several clients selecting countertops for their kitchen renovations, I realized that every one of them had a wood floor and that made granite selection pretty easy.

So when you are making a purchase of several thousand dollars, be informed, select carefully and realize you will be living with it for a long time. If you plan to sell your home, think stylish, updated and somewhat neutral. Remember to think about what is already in the room and coordinate accordingly. Go more to the neutral side and jazz it up with paint and accessories. Something classic will appeal to the largest number of potential buyers and you will tire of it less frequently over time. Happy hunting and think beyond granite sometimes! I'll have some photos of our finished project in a few weeks.


Marie said...

Very imformative Bonnie. I love your wood floor. It's very beautiful.

Laura said...

Good advice----one day I will be looking back at this post!!!