Materials matter in home design


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For many homeowners, aesthetics and function are the primary considerations of a kitchen renovation.

However, before you lay out your space and start selecting colors, there is another essential factor to explore: the materials you will use for each feature.

In fact, there are numerous factors to consider as you narrow down your options. Giving special attention to the material composition of your kitchen, particularly when it comes to the aspects that take the heaviest use – the floors, sink and countertops – can help ensure your renovation stands the test of time.

Flooring

Though often taken for granted, the floor is generally the kitchen feature that sustains the heaviest use over time. Whether your tastes tend toward tile, wood or another option altogether, there are still numerous variables to explore.

Tile is an excellent choice for the kitchen because it stands up well to the heavy traffic and spills common in that space. However, tile can also be slippery and can be uncomfortable if you spend long amounts of time on your feet in the kitchen. Ceramic tile is the easiest to install but not as resistant to damage as porcelain or stone tile. The latter options require more skilled installation, and stone especially tends to be more expensive. You'll also need to pay attention to factors like water resistance and texture, both of which affect safety and how easily the floors can be cleaned.

When it comes to wood, one of the first decisions is whether you prefer engineered or solid hardwood. Engineered versions tend to offer greater durability and flexibility in installation while the texture and appearance of solid hardwood are its strongest appeals. Other variables include the wood type, which further affects the look and strength. Oak is most common, but other traditional selections include options like maple or cherry and specialty woods like teak or bamboo. Plank width influences overall aesthetic, with slimmer boards lending a more modern look. Color is also a consideration, as you'll need to determine whether you want to match, complement or contrast your cabinetry.

If something a little less traditional is more your speed, an option like foot-friendly cork or a modern take on vinyl may be more to your liking.

Countertops

In a bustling kitchen, hot pots, sharp edges and spills mean the counters can take a real beating. That's what makes stone a favorite choice for this surface. Natural stone like granite or quartz is hardy, but engineered options offer even greater resilience. Options like marble or limestone deliver beauty similar to natural stone but these softer materials require more care and caution.

Concrete and wood are popular and stylish alternatives, but their susceptibility to stains and other imperfections may make them impractical for a busy family. For the budget-conscious renovation, there are ample options in laminate, which falls in the mid-range for durability, to achieve an eye-catching look for less.

Sink

Identifying the shape and size of the sink you need can help narrow down the options for this aspect of the renovation, but considering the abuse this vessel endures, this is one place the material is especially important.

Classic stainless steel is not only practical, it's also extremely versatile. It complements any kitchen and is a favorite of enthusiastic cooks and designers alike. While stainless steel's neutral color and sleek looks work with a wide range of kitchen styles, it's most often found in contemporary, professional-style kitchens. This classic, durable material lives up to its name. Hot pans won't hurt it, and it's less likely than harder materials to damage delicate dishware that may slip from your grip.

If you're looking to make a statement, an enameled cast iron sink may be the answer. These sinks withstand whatever your family dishes out, from heavy pots to searing skillets, and with a range of colors to choose from, you can go bold with deep hues, be subtle with pale tones or choose a finish that adds dimensional character.

Selecting a Sink

Materials aside, there are many factors to consider when choosing the right sink to complete your new kitchen.

Installation

Top-mount sinks extend above the countertop surface. This type is the easiest to install and is often used with laminate counters.

Under-mount sinks are mounted beneath the countertop, making it easy to sweep debris off the counter. They are most commonly used with solid-surface, stone and quartz countertops.

Apron-front sinks, also known as farmhouse sinks, are notable for their attractive front panel or apron. This style can be mounted under or on top of the counter.

A tile-in sink is specially designed for installation in a tile countertop and can be grouted as if it were another tile for a clean look similar to that of an under-mount sink.

Bowl Configuration

Single-bowl sinks: Ideal for washing large pots and platters.

Offset bowl sinks: Provide separation for washing and rinsing, typically with one large and one small bowl.

Double-equal sinks: Separate bowls offer versatile workspace, with the option for extra-deep bowls.

Smart Divide sinks: Available exclusively from Kohler, these sinks feature dividers half the height of conventional double-bowl sinks for the openness of a single bowl and the function of a double bowl.

Accessories

Sink accessories add another level of function and convenience. Choose from a wide range of practical options, such as sink racks, baskets, cutting boards, caddies and colanders. Other accessory selections such as soap dispensers and sponge holders aid in cleaning and organization.



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