Kitchen Designing for Less

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If you are a kitchen designer or are interested in becoming one, you'll be happy to know that new developments in decorative laminates and panel products are making high-fashion kitchen designs more economically feasible.

In terms of countertops, prices for granite and some other stones have declined, according to Consumer Reports. The magazine’s website recommends saving money by mixing materials, such as having a large, average priced run of laminate with a small, expensive piece of stone for the island while splurging on rounded edges and curved corners for safety.

Consumer Reports also encourages homeowners to request more refrigerator space. ''Designers suggest a family of three or four needs at least 21 cubic feet of manufacturer’s claimed capacity; a family of five or more needs at least 25 cubic feet.''



Kitchen designers have also been saving money recently on doors and drawer fronts by mixing laminates that look like stainless steel with wood grains, according to Mark Wright Communications. American designers are popularizing the European technique of using domestically engineered veneers and laminates over different kinds of composite panels.

There are now so many options in types and patterns of laminates that mixing them has become popular and helps create a link between the look of furniture outside the kitchen and the appearance of kitchen cabinets.

While years ago, laminates were seen as ''fake,'' they have become more popular of late due to their easy maintenance and high durability, in addition to the wide range of expensive-looking design possibilities they allow.

Cabinets are generally acknowledged as the biggest kitchen expense, but Cathy Sparling, a Certified Kitchen Designer with McNulty Design Group and President of the Chicago Midwest Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, had some tips for saving money in that area. ''Stock cabinets cost 20 percent to 30 percent less than custom cabinets, but you can get the custom, furniture-like look with stock items. Depending on the line, you can change their depth or height or add moldings. Some lines offer glazing, too, which enhances the molding details. You can choose a ‘countertop depth’ refrigerator and surround it with stock cabinet panels to make it look built-in,'' Sparling recently told the Chicago Tribune.

Sparling also mentioned that one can save about 30 percent on the cost of cabinets by skipping the upper cabinets in favor of stainless steel or wooden shelves.

Kitchen designers are moving toward the use of darker woods and the European look of drawers and doors that have the grain running horizontally instead of vertically.

In terms of sinks and faucets, designers save money by implementing thin-walled, 23-gauge sinks which resist heat and dents and are just as quiet as the thicker, more expensive 18-gauge models. Oil-rubbed bronze and nickel have recently become available as faucet finishes for less-expensive models.

Money can also be saved on flooring by using highly durable laminate or vinyl flooring. Avoiding an island cook-top is also a money-saving strategy, as such an island requires an expensive range hood. Additionally, purchasing a dishwasher with a pop-in steel panel gives the illusion of an expensive stainless steel look.

''You can add a lot of drama without needing a lot of money by adding some under-cabinet down-lighting and over-cabinet up-lighting. If you have glass cabinet doors, put lights in there, too. In fact, some cabinet lines offer them. Pendants can be great focal points, and they no longer cost a lot. Use them over the sink and the island,'' Sparling told the Tribune.

Painting a kitchen wall is also a less expensive way to add favorite colors to the room, and is less expensive to change than the colors of structures like the countertop.
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