The kitchen has evolved from the builder grade cabinets and plastic laminate countertops to a modern showplace with commercial grade appliances and exotic stone countertops. The days of the extreme 'over-the-top' kitchen remodel may be gone, but that still does not change the fact that the kitchen is one of the hardest working rooms in the home. Choosing durable yet attractive finishes is still important, but it should not break the bank. Here are some tips on choosing materials for your kitchen, including how to get a high end look without spending a ton of money.
Selecting Countertop Materials
There are many countertop materials to choose from, many people simply just do not know where to start. There is also a huge price range even within one material (such as stone). For an affordable option consider plastic laminate. There are some sophisticated patterns and colors available now that when paired with a tile backsplash and designer paint colors can look very good together. There are also new edge details that eliminate seams that can get damaged.
For middle-of-the road barriers look into solid surface materials such as Corian. These materials have evolved well beyond the basic white, and are now available in patterns that look more like stone. A big benefit of solid surface countertops is the ability to integrate a sink into the countertop. So wiping water into the sink and cleaning up is easier.
Another newer countertop option is Quartz. Quartz countertops turn quartz into slabs that appear almost stone like. One of the many benefits of these countertops is that they do not absorb liquids spilled on the surface.
Natural stone counters are also a popular choice and a visit to your local stone yard will show you that there are literally hundreds of choices. To help you find a suitable stone faster, ask for help looking for stone only within a certain price range and / or color range. When you find a stone you like try to take a sample home and see how it holds up to spilled wine, ketchup, mustard and oils. Beware of stones with a lot of fillers. Fillers are a sign of lower quality stone and can get damaged more easily and even fall out.
Other new choices are countertops made with concrete, glass and paper. Many of these are fine for kitchen use, but some will not be durable enough over time. If you are using a material that is not time tested inspect an installation that has been in use for some time ..
Selecting Cabinet Materials
One tip when choosing cabinets is to look at the interior door style in your house (the doors to each room, such as a bedroom). Many times choosing a coordinating cabinet door style to match the interior doors within the house is an easy and safe way to ensure that the new kitchen design looks good. Do not make the mistake of selecting an extremely fancy door style without your house warrants it. You do not want your friends to come into your kitchen and say, "wow, look at your fancy cabinets!" You want them to say, "wow, look at your amazing kitchen!" You want them to notice everything. If you have kids and pets, consider a stained wood cabinet rather than a painted cabinet. Usually they will end up looking better for a longer period of time, and they are easier to touch up when they get nicked. If you are considering a faux or decorative finish, keep in mind that when you are looking at a sample painted on one door, you'll generally want it to look less distracted than you think it should look rather than over bothered. When you install all the kitchen doors, it can look very 'over done' if you go too heavy handed on faux or decorative finishes.
Often the first thing I consider when choosing flooring is matching an adjacent flooring material in another room or space. If there are wood floors in adjacent rooms, a good solution can be to extend the wood into the kitchen. This is especially true in a smaller space, where continuing the same flooring material will usually make a space look larger. If you do not want wood floors in the kitchen, then consider a tile that is a similar color value to the adjacent wood floor, so the transition is not harsh and it does not separate the space. A resilient material like cork can be an excellent choice for the kitchen as it is slightly soft underfoot and is more forgiving if you drop a dish on it. Natural materials like Marmoleum are also great and a good 'green' choice.
How to Select Backsplash Materials
For some reason the backsplash is often the most difficult material choice for people to make. But the backsplash is one area that can have a amazing visual impact and help tie the design together. If you're having trouble choosing a material, look to the other surfaces in the kitchen for inspiration. In a more modern kitchen, choosing a stainless steel backsplash that matches your stainless steel appliances can be a wise decision. For a less expensive choice, look at plastic laminates that look like stainless steel that can even be installed by yourself (but resist the temptation to use these on countertops as many are not rated for horizontal surface use). Glass tile can be another good choice to tie together different color materials. There are so many choices in glass tiles available today it can be challenging to pick one. A safe place to start is by choosing a glass tile that pulls colors from your countertop. Other material you may consider are sheets of glass, plastic laminate, stone tile, ceramic tile, or even wood (painted or sealed, of course).
While choosing materials for the kitchen can be challenging, just take it one step at a time and you'll get there. Start with the countertop and cabinet finish. Once you have those chosen, select a flooring material. Then choose your backsplash and paint colors. This process will help you get everything changed more quickly, so you can get through the construction a little sooner, and then to enjoy your new kitchen.