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Design Expert: Kitchen Counterculture

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Design Expert: Kitchen Counterculture

From natural to man-made surfaces, a guide to choosing a stylish, hard-working countertop on every budget

The counter top is of premium concern for any homeowner working on a kitchen renovation. Even if you’re just “sprucing it up,” the counter makes a huge impact. Beyond the wow-factor lies the more practical use as your food preparation area. But with so many products on the market, how do you know which is best for you? Everyone wants the combination of beauty and performance that suits their budget, but that means a different thing to everyone. Let’s explore a few of those options so you can make the best choice that suits you.

NATURAL STONE

The most typical natural-stone choices are granite and marble. Granite is a slightly harder product, while marble is somewhat more porous, making it a little more vulnerable to stains. You do need to seal all natural-stone products but the process is simple. The product will age slightly over time, but that makes it unique. These stones are mined from the earth, cut into slabs and usually polished to give them a high-gloss shine. They’re as individual as fingerprints as no two pieces are exactly the same. You can find marble and granite in a variety of colours and patterns, and they’ve been the surface of choice for literally hundreds, if not thousands of years. Unpolished stone or a matte finish has been increasingly popular, which also solves the problem of marks from acidic foods. The costs vary depending on the uniqueness of the stone, but on average you want to budget $1,500 to $4,000 including installation.

LAMINATE

Laminate counters were the rage after the Second World War when the product first appeared on the market. The colours and patterns are endless, ranging from stone looks to polka dots in neon colours, and everything in between. Laminate is very durable and long-lasting, impervious to stains, easy to clean and is highly cost-effective. The laminate is usually adhered to a substrate of chipboard to keep it rigid. If the chipboard gets wet, it will swell and fall apart. It’s the preferred choice for cafeteria tables, cottages and university dorm rooms. Typically, you can get it installed for about $500 making it the overall budget-friendly choice.

QUARTZ

Quartz countertops are a manmade product that combines crushed quartzite (a very hard, natural stone) and a variety of polymers to produce a durable, non-porous surface. The colour possibilities are vast, however, most manufacturers produce a natural- stone look. It’s perfect for people that want the counter to look the same on the last day they owned it as it did the first day it was installed. These surfaces require no effort to maintain outside of soap and water to clean them. There are a bunch of manufacturers that create a very similar product, although some provide more selection in colour and pattern. Most man-made countertops are quartz, however, they are often recognized by their brand names.

“You can find MARBLE AND GRANITE IN A VARIETY OF COLOURS AND PATTERNS and they’ve been the surface of choice for literally hundreds if not thousands of years.”

WOOD

Wood has been the choice of butchers for as long as I can remember, although most homeowners are not looking for a butcher’s block in open-concept kitchens. If you combine with a cutting surface, a warm wooden work surface warms up a kitchen in a way that stone cannot. Walnut has naturally occurring anti-microbial properties, perfect for a kitchen. The surface is sealed and simple soap and water will clean this up perfectly. This kind of surface will typically be less expensive than stone but is mainly ideal for a kitchen island.

HIGH-TECH FORMULATIONS

One of the newest products on the market is Dekton by Cosentino. It’s a man-made product that seems to have taken the thousands of years’ process of natural stone, and squeezed it into 48 hours. The combination of extreme heat and pressure mimics the natural creation of stone, however, because it is man-made, the look can be predetermined and consistent. It becomes a decorated stone, which is also where it got its name. The distinctive element of Dekton is its ability to survive the outdoor elements, making it suitable on both sides of the front door, unlike other man-made products. It’s slightly less costly than natural stone but the fabrication process may be slightly more costly until fabricators are more familiar with the product.

Ultimately, there are no wrong choices, but it is valuable to understand how one product compares to another, so that you can make an informed choice.

Extensive experience in residential, commercial and hospitality design. Principal of design firm Grafus Design Build, Glen Peloso is frequently in the media as design expert on the Marilyn Denis Show, and CHCH Morning Live, a contributor to Global Morning News, Breakfast Television Toronto, past series with HGTV and the Food Network, along with Radio and Blogs. Reporting on design trends from around the world, his work has been featured in various print publications throughout North America. Twitter: glenpeloso Instagram: glenpelosodesigner

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Which countertop should you choose for your kitchen?

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Which countertop should you choose for your kitchen?

With so many different materials in market to choose from, we broke down the most popular choices to help make your decision easier

Most families spend a lot of time in the kitchen; between cooking meals and entertaining it’s often the room with the most amount of traffic. Choosing the right countertop can make or break the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. Not to mention it’s going to be there for many years, which means you want to be happy with your decision.

Between granite, marble, laminate or butcher block it can be hard to choose the right one for you. There are three main factors to consider before purchasing a countertop: durability, maintenance and cost. The choices can seem overwhelming so we’ve rounded up the most popular options to help make your decisions easier.

Laminate

The cheapest option on the market is laminate countertops. They can be designed to look like the more expensive quartz and granite options but with a lower price tag. Laminate countertops are perfect for buyers weary of stains, scratches and water damage. With many different colours and patterns to choose from, you will definitely find something to match your kitchen. Plus it’s very easy to clean and maintain. The downside? Laminate countertops are sensitive to heat and won’t look as luxurious as their pricey counterparts.

Granite

One of the more popular options for countertops is granite. Even the sharpest knives won’t scratch these elegant surfaces. If you often cook with high temperatures then granite is definitely the direction you want to go in — bubbling pots won’t make a mark. Every slab has its own markup so you’ll never need to fear anyone copying your style. If choosing granite countertops, maintenance is very important. Typically a warm cloth with water and soap will do the trick but be careful of oils and acids as they will stain the rock.

Butcher block

This material is quickly taking over the often cool and harsh stone materials. Butcher block countertops can make your kitchen feel warm and inviting. True butcher block is made from wood strips blended together. Perfect for slicing, chopping and dicing directly on the surface, it’s a great alternative to cutting boards. The type of wood typically chosen includes walnut, cherry, oak and maple. Maintenance is relatively easy but make sure to wipe up stains immediately. Butcher block isn’t the best material around sinks or dishwashers but great for low traffic areas like islands.

Marble

If warmth is what you’re looking for in a kitchen and butcher block just isn’t sophisticated enough for you, consider marble. Similar to butcher block, marble can stain easily so placing it in low traffic areas around the kitchen is your safest bet. Many homeowners reserve marble countertops for kitchen islands. Make sure you aren’t placing hot pots or pans directly on the surface, wipe away any stains as soon as you can and research what cleaning solutions work best with the material. For all of it’s care and price, marble will stand out in your kitchen and last a lifetime.

Madisyn is a freelance writer and social media obsessed traveller based out of Toronto. Always looking for her next adventure but glued to her phone, you can contact her at madi@therestlessworker.com or visit her at www.therestlessworker.com

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4 Main Options when Picking Flooring for Your Home

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4 Main Options when Picking Flooring for Your Home

New floors can considerably change the look, feel and value of your house, especially if you are dealing with old flooring or need to replace the carpet. The good news is that there are many sweeping trends you can pick from. This article looks at the four main options you will have when picking the right flooring for your home renovation project.

Hardwood

The most prestigious material is definitely the hardwood. Hardwood is usually made from solid lumber that is a natural insulator. It is mostly preferred because it can match with just any interior décor, it’s easy to clean and adds significant structural strength. Oak, maple, and cherry floors are the most popular materials in Canada due to their hardness, thus durability. Hardwood floor will attract and retain less dirt hence reducing molds and allergens from your home.

The problem with the hardwood floor is that it is not moisture resistant. You cannot afford to leave spills for too long because the will be absorbed by the wood. Individual boards may also expand or contract when exposed to varying humidity levels indoors. For the best performance, you will need to keep the indoor humidity at between 45% and 55% throughout the year.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood is a much better alternative to a regular hardwood, although it is more expensive. These floors are made using the uppermost layer of dried hardwood and the lower layers are composed of solid wood, plywood or HDF. The pieces are pressure bonded.

The good thing about this option is that it is moisture resistant and more durable. You don’t need to keep a close eye on temperature and humidity levels when using this flooring. You also enjoy more flexibility during installation since there are many installation methods. The downside is engineered hardwood is costly.

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring has been very popular in Canada in 60’s and 70’ and up until 2000s was mostly used in commercial buildings. In the past few years Toronto homeowners have begun favoring cork flooring due to its unique retro-look and eco-friendly nature. Home gym, kitchen and kid’s room would benefit from cork floor’s shock-absorbent structure.

This flooring is made from cork oak tree and the tree itself doesn’t need to be cut to harvest the material. It is highly resistant to mold, mildew and bacteria which makes it a good option for people with allergies.

The downside is that cork scratches easily and it is not moisture-friendly. Most of professional contractors do not suggest using cork flooring in bathrooms, laundry area or basements.

Laminate Flooring

The forth option is laminate flooring. This one is gaining popularity mostly because it has longer life span and offers remarkable aesthetic effects; as well as several cost saving benefits. It is easy to install, clean and maintain.

One of the greatest laminate benefits is its versatility. Prints on laminate can simulate any desired pattern and color: from warm wood-like palette to modern grey stone or marble. And it will cost you much cheaper than actual marble floors.

Laminate floors are also a wise option if you are planning on installing in-floor heating. Nowadays homeowners in Toronto are including such floor-heating systems in their house renovation projects by default. First, it adds warmth and a comfort to any room. Second, it increases the house value overall making heated floors a rational investment.

Ceramic Flooring

Ceramic tiles are the best alternative to any other flooring if you need it to be waterproof or easy washable which makes them ideal option for bathrooms, kitchens or outdoor patios.

Ceramic floor is extremely durable and not so easy to crack when installed. Properly installed tiles can serve you for 20 years and even longer when properly taken care of. And even if one tile gets cracked it is pretty simple to remove it and replace with a new one.

In Toronto ceramic flooring would cost you between $1.50 to $6 per square foot depending on quality, tile size and pattern. This makes it moderately expensive option, but will long-term value to a property price.

Marble Flooring

Marble flooring is one of the most expensive, but durable and versatile type of floor. Most homeowners in Canada pay between 10$ to 20$ per square foot for professionally installed marble flooring.

Its luxury look and elegant texture can turn your house into a castle. Marble tiles come is various colors and sizes, easy to install and will last forever.

Another benefit of this floor compared to other soft flooring options is the fact that it’s easy to clean and hypoallergenic. It is also a perfect match for any floor-heating system, as a natural material marble stays warm longer after the heating system is turned off.

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The Skinny on Countertops

The Skinny on Countertops

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The Skinny on Countertops

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then perhaps the counter is the heart of the kitchen

Whether you choose from classic and natural materials such as marble, granite and limestone, or from a wide array of man-made materials and composites, it is the one element which can determine the style, level of luxury and functionality in a kitchen.

We all know that marble and granite are classic choices for a countertop, whether in a kitchen or a bathroom. They are both natural stones which must be quarried, leaving an environmental impact which must be considered when we make our choice. Though granite is virtually indestructible and heat proof, it can be very expensive and have a ‘heavy’ look in the space. With prices beginning at $50 per square foot and up, there are options for various budgets.

Marble provides a very desirable high end look and depending which strain of marble you choose, it has very good heat and waterproof properties, although it can scratch and stain unless it is professionally sealed. When choosing marble, you must be ready to accept that it will age over time and the ‘patina of your life’ will be reflected in the marble.

One of the most abundant minerals in the world, quartz is often considered the alternative to granite and marble. Available in numerous colours and now even in the look of marble and limestone, quartz’s non-porous quality makes it highly resistant to mold, bacterial contamination, stain, heat and all of life’s accidents making it a perfect choice for most residential or commercial applications. Because it is man-made, the availability of consistently sized and coloured slabs is a designer’s dream. Slabs of quartz are normally 55″ x 122″ and they are often available as jumbo sized slabs at 63″ x 132″, which is fantastic for design flexibility and often fewer cut lines. Priced from $80 per square foot, it is not inexpensive, but it is a perfect choice for those who want many customization options.

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed primarily of talc as well as magnesium, mica, quartz, chlorite and iron. It is very durable and has been used for centuries to create everything from fireplaces to sinks. It is coming into vogue these days because of its natural beauty and durability; hot pans, lemon juice and wine will not damage it. The colour ranges from light gray to black with random veining which gives it an ability to look great in rustic or traditional interiors as well as in modern and contemporary spaces. At about $80 to $100 per square foot installed, it is on the pricey side, but will provide a lifetime of enjoyment.

The desire to be eco-friendly makes recycled glass a perfect option for a contemporary space. Available in multiple colours and textures, it is perfect for a bar or as a secondary counter surface because it is easy to clean and resists heat and stains. Cement is often used with glass to create a textural look with various colours. At about $120 per square foot, it is easily customized and comes in multiple colours.

Semi-precious stone including quartz, iron, agate, petrified wood and fossils are high end options which add a luxurious and unique visual expression. Although this is a very costly choice, it will no doubt be the star of any space where it is used.

Solid surface counters can emulate just about any material because they are completely man-made. The ability to mould sinks, drains and creative shapes makes this a designer’s dream while the ease of maintenance makes it a wonderful investment for long term use.

Metal counters such as copper and zinc are not common, but they make a powerful statement. At about $100 per square foot and up, it is a creative choice which will patina over time and be the conversation starter in your kitchen or bar area.

Sustainably harvested wood will bring any serious cook’s kitchen to the next level with its natural beauty and ability to work as a built-in cutting surface. Maintenance of regular sanding and oiling will bring out a beautiful patina and enhance the inherent properties. Even though it is porous, wood has an inherent ability to protect from bacteria build up as long as it is cleaned regularly with mild soap and water. Prices vary from $35 per square foot and up depending on the type of wood and how it is fabricated.

Let’s not discount laminate counters as they are still the best option for budget conscious projects. Improvements in quality, fabrication, colour and textural choices make this a surprisingly good option when installed with no backsplash, simple edges and accented with beautiful tiles. Be creative and expressive in the design of the countertop by combining metal finishes and interesting translucent combinations, high gloss and t extural surfaces. With starting prices at around $8 per square foot, it is an attractive choice when your budget is tight.

Don’t reach for the obvious, consider the counter as a design expression which can complete and enhance the look and style of the space. The list is endless with options, make sure to research and explore the options based on your functionality, style and budget. By combining materials, finishing edges creatively, and considering ‘alternative’ choices, you will make your project stand out.


Recognized for her classic taste and eclectic style, Interior Designer EVELYN ESHUN has been providing innovative, forward thinking and consistently artistic design solutions for her discerning clients for almost 2 decades. A design personality on various television shows, including Take this House and Sell it, Evelyn is a regular contributor to local and national design publications.

For more information, visit evelyneshun.com.


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