Tag Archives: Countertop

6 ways to modernize your kitchen on a budget

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6 ways to modernize your kitchen on a budget

By Jo Alcorn

Sometimes the best design decision is not to change things too much. Let me explain. I was recently working with a client who wanted to update her kitchen. She consulted with me to figure out how to spend her modest budget wisely while accomplishing a new look.


Like most people, her dream plan included replacing the cupboards to have more efficient storage. After an honest appraisal with a critical eye, I could see that wasn’t entirely necessary. She didn’t even need to paint them – she just needed to lighten the space up and get creative with functionality, and there were far less expensive and easier ways to do that. The overall footprint of the kitchen was good, so just a few adjustments to the cupboards were necessary. By adding Gliding Shelf Solutions (glidingshelf.ca) within the cabinets, we were able to solve the efficiency issue and add extra storage on a budget. Not having to do a full demolition of the existing kitchen put money back into the budget for what truly mattered, and splurging on the proper key elements.


Changing out the countertops was mandatory. We needed to lighten up the space to make it feel more open, and to balance the darkness of the cabinet colour. We chose Caesarstone’s (caesarstone.ca) Empira White marble quartz because of its classic white base with deep grey veins to accent and complement the cabinet colour. This beautiful countertop modernized their kitchen instantly. Plus, it’s durable and easy to clean, so it’s a perfect balance of fashion and function for a busy household.


This kitchen needed a new backsplash. We chose white, beveled edge subway tile for its timeless-simplicity, and to play off the new countertops. By using larger tiles, this kitchen kept its clean lines, but the tapered edge offered elegant detailing. The custom range hood became the focal point of this space. We removed the small useless cabinet above the metal range hood that was more of an eye-sore than a focal point. By making it white, it pulled the colour scheme of the kitchen together perfectly.

New appliances

A Whirlpool black stainless-steel kitchen suite (whirlpool.ca) kept the continuity of colour in this kitchen. I love to match cabinet colours and appliances whenever I can; making your appliances blend into the shades of the kitchen gives the illusion of a larger space. The appliances are fingerprint resistant, which helps keep things looking sleek and fresh with minimal upkeep. Having the counter-depth refrigerator further made the space more open and accessible. On top of that, the French door option allows for more clearance when the door is open, which makes it easier to have two people in the kitchen at once. While the kitchen used to have a microwave stand to the right of the range, replacing it with a custom wine rack, colourmatched to the cupboards, was far more visually appealing. Fear not, they still have a microwave – it’s tucked out of sight and utilizing a wasted corner.

Shelving with purpose

Notice the floating shelves? I removed the closed cabinets to modernize the look. By tiling that whole wall and adding the natural wood tone of the shelving it creates a more up to date, open look. I wanted to replace the tan floor tiles, but the cost, timing and mess didn’t warrant it. Instead, I used the shelves, chairs and accessories to tie it all together, making the floor seem more purposeful, instead of like the elephant in the room. It’s also nice to have an element from nature (wood) to help ground the space and add an organic feel to the design.

Finishing details

While the cupboards were able to be used, the hardware had to go. The new, modernized, brass handles were the perfect accents. And I was able to include a pendant light over the sink to match. I would have liked to include pendant lighting all around the kitchen, but the light locations didn’t align with the table, so this was a perfect compromise. As I shopped for the appliances, I found an ultra-useful stand mixer in blue, and I knew it would be so useful and fun for this busy family. I choose accent pieces like the dishware and vase in a coordinating blue. The floor runners also have a blue tie accent. While many people hesitate to include a runner in a kitchen, I love it. They keep your feet warm, add softness to the space and tie colours in. The secret is to buy ones that are machine washable.

I know this once basic builder kitchen has transformed into a kitchen that suits the family’s modern lifestyle. Remember, don’t be too quick to replace your entire kitchen; sometimes, a strategic update is the better way. And it can save you a bundle!

HGTV Jo Alcorn is an interior and product designer for Alcorn Home, she has a full home furnishing and pet line collection displayed and sold across Canada and the U.S. She is known for her clean line savvy design concepts. Alcornhome.com


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Bathroom walls designed to wow!

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Bathroom walls designed to wow!

A feature wall adds a stylish statement in bathrooms of every size. Here are three examples to show you how.

People often underestimate the esthetic impact walls can have on a space, and all too often they underutilize or completely ignore this valuable square footage. Do you want your walls to impact or detract? From a designer’s perspective, we love high-impact bathroom walls. These typically small spaces don’t leave much room for accessories, so a fabulous feature wall does just the trick.

How does one achieve walls that wow? Here are some tricks of the trade.

All Eyes On Me

Which wall should be the main focus of your bathroom? In most cases, the easy answer is the vanity wall. This is where the main function of the room takes place, so it becomes a natural focal point.

By maintaining a neutral penny-round floor tile for texture, the wall stands out with a stunning, slate-patterned, large-format vertical porcelain tile.

In this powder room, we placed the feature wall at the vanity area. By maintaining a neutral, penny-round floor tile for texture, the wall stands out with a stunning, slate-patterned, large-format vertical porcelain tile. We then pulled the darkest colour from the tile into the vanity to complement the tile itself. The remaining walls, floor and countertop are finished in a neutral white, allowing the focal area to really stand out.

Designer Tip: We are fans of polished tiles on walls for their reflective quality, easy maintenance, and larger formats that reduce the number of separations and grout lines for an uninterrupted sightline as your eye moves through the room.

Bathing Beauty

The bathing area is another common focal point in the bathroom, so much so, that the room is named after it! Since the eye is immediately drawn to the bathtub and shower, it makes sense to make this a featured area.

Upon entering this master ensuite, you’re immediately greeted by the massive shower and freestanding tub; turn your head slightly, and glorious nature becomes your next focal point with a view of the mountains and ocean. So, our storyline became shower, tub, view, which formed the narrative.

The feature wall called for something earthy and bold, and in this case, cost-effective. We opted for large-format 24-by-48-inch porcelain tiles in a natural onyx pattern and colour, creating the appearance of natural stone slab walls. We carried the wall tile from shower to tub to window, creating a cohesive theme. This strategy also created the illusion of a larger space, with no definitive beginning or end to the shower and tub area.

Tile Talk

Tile is the most common material of choice for bathrooms, thanks to its practicality – it’s waterproof, easy to clean and durable. Tile also has awesome artistic merit. Think of your walls as a blank canvas, and a great place to introduce pattern, texture, colour and materials.

Porcelain tiles have evolved thanks to technology, and are now offered in colours and patterns evocative of natural stone. Marble, slate, you name it – these fabulous fakes make it tough to tell the difference from their authentic counterparts. And when it comes to price, these look-a-likes are the cost-effective option. Gone are the days of natural (also expensive and very heavy) marble and granite gracing our walls.

Thoughtful Details

You’ve likely heard the saying, “the devil is in the details,” and nowhere is this more true than in the world of interior design and decor.

In this bathroom, the tub and shower are the main focus. The eye is led effortlessly along the horizontal porcelain tile, which mimics the look of vein-cut marble. By gracing the walls and ceiling, the tile separates the bathing area from the rest of the space, while visually connecting the tub and shower.

The shower itself is a stunner, outfitted with “his and her” areas, which include double slide bar, hand-held showerheads and an overhead rainhead shower on each side. The tub area features an asymmetrical tub with a freestanding tub filler and hand-held spray for easy cleaning. Gold fixtures amp up the space’s general undertones of subtle luxury.

As you assess the bathroom you’re working in, step back and take it all in. What do you see? What are your bathroom’s best features? What would you like to highlight, or hide? It’s all possible with the right products and this sage advice – great bathrooms are designed with equal parts fashion and function. There is no compromise.



Award-winning designers, Phyllis Lui & Aleem Kassam, are the principal designers for Kalu Interiors. For more than a decade, this Vancouver-based design firm has become known for creating thoughtfully curated interiors that enhance and inspire how you live. The firm provides bespoke design services for clientele throughout Canada. kaluinteriors.com


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Designer Tip: Everyday Luxury

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Designer Tip: Everyday Luxury

Interior designer Heather Segreti creates a sumptuous retreat echoing the features and feel of a luxury vacation

By Heather Segreti • Photography By Larry Arnal

Vacation every day is the theme for this master bathroom. Who doesn’t want to wake up every morning and feel like they just walked into a luxury resort master ensuite?

With that being said, our departure point for this down-to-earth couple with exceptional taste was to provide them with all the amenities as well as the esthetic experience you would find in a luxury resort.

Nestled in the King City area of north Toronto, this sprawling bungalow set the stage for what would soon be an exquisite master ensuite oasis.

Where to start? With a grand tile of course!


I suggested we look at a large-format porcelain option, which is making headway in the marketplace right now. The latest trend is to digitally produce imagery of actual stone printed onto porcelain tile, the options are endless. Sizes can go up from five to 10 feet for the wall tiles, and smaller formats for the floors.

After viewing the product on display at CIOT Marble and Granite in Vaughan, we made our choice. Onice–Perla, a beautiful onyx image with a vertical vein direction, which would accentuate the 11-foot ceilings.


The space-planning mandate was to have a separate water closet, large shower with bench seat and rain showerhead, spa-like soaker tub with floor-mounted tub filler, as well as a spacious his-and-her double-sink vanity with makeup area.

We firmed up the details of the vanity, shower footprint along with the tub and enclosed water closet. Once the footprint for the space was established, we then expanded on the details.


The vanity sits on custom legs with a laser-cut, lower decorative panel allowing the tile to flow under the cabinets for a more open, furniture look. The custom vanity with fully integrated mirrors and lighting added to the customization and grandeur of the space.

In the centre of the vanity, in the mirror panel over the makeup counter, we added a recessed hidden cabinet in the wall to conceal bathroom items. You would not even know that it opens by looking at it.


One of the most exciting and impactful features of this ensuite is the large-format onyx porcelain wall panels, paired with the matching large-scale floor tiles. These panels created the perfect backdrop for the stunning Victoria & Albert Limestone soaker tub.

The “Toulouse” tub’s elegant curves complement the winding, vertical veining of the onyx slabs. Their tubs are made of a blend of volcanic limestone and high-performance resins. Naturally white, each item is individually hand-finished by craftsman. We complemented the tub with the very beautiful Perrin and Rowe floor-mounted tub filler in a polished nickel finish.


All the hardware in the space is polished nickel for a cohesive look throughout the rest of the house. I added in subtle details that add to the synergy in the space, such as the custom plaster crown moulding, which mirrors the wood detailing at the base of the vanity.

We created a calm, spa-like experience with a neutral colour palette that has minimal contrast. We utilized natural materials associated with nature, such as the porcelain panels, gentle, flowing lines rather than sharp angles like the oval undermount sinks, Toulouse V&A soaker tub along with the vertical veining in the porcelain onyx slabs.

The simplicity of the Caesarstone countertop and bench seat allow for the onyx slabs to stand out, yet I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the balance and synergy by choosing finishes that complement each other, rather than compete with each other.

Our master ensuite flows beautifully with the master bedroom adding to the calm oasis, a spa-like feeling the homeowners enjoy every day

Award-winning Interior Designer Heather Segreti N.C.I.D.Q. , A.R.I.D.O. ,I.D.C. known for creating true luxury bespoke designs Whether you are building a custom luxury home, renovating or redesigning an existing space, Segreti Design has the vision to make this space uniquely yours. segretidesign.com


Soaker Tub, Victoria and Albert Tub Filler, Perrin and Rowe, Sinks, Oval Undermount Toto Rendezvous Faucets, Perrin and Rowe

Porcelain Tile Floor, Onice Perla, Ciot Marble and Granite 30” x 30” Porcelain Tile Wall Slabs, Max Fine Porcelain

Counter top & Shower Jambs, Quartz #4600 Organic White, Caesarstone

Shower Floor Tile, Marble Depot Mosaic

Crown Moulding, Custom to match millwork base by Classic Moulding

Vanity, Manorwood Custom Cabinetry

Vanity & Wall Paint colour, CC-50 White Down, Benjamin Moore

Light Fixtures, Hudson Valley wall sconces

Custom Ottoman & Bench, Segreti Design Ottoman & Bench, Vinyl, JF Fabrics

Cabinetry Hardware, Richelieu


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Design: Sinks, Faucets and Countertops ... the Choices are Endless

Design: Sinks, Faucets and Countertops … the Choices are Endless

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Design: Sinks, Faucets and Countertops … the Choices are Endless

by Linda Mazur
Photography by Stephani Buchman and Jason Hartog

Kitchens are one of my favourite rooms to design and with the abundance of options available to us today, kitchens are more exciting than ever! From a multitude of colourful options and wonderfully organic finishes for our faucets, to virtually indestructible materials for our sinks and counters, the choices we have are enough to make our heads spin!

Today the traditional double bowl stainless sink has been pushed aside for options that offer greater style and function, that are designed to not only make our lives simple, but our kitchens look far more attractive. From different finish options other than the classic stainless steel, to a wide selection of colour, shape and size options sinks today have progressed to become a stylish feature instead of just a utilitarian necessity. And, for those of us who are smallspace dwellers, many manufacturers have designed sinks that pull double duty to increase the efficiency in your kitchen. When counterspace is at a premium, these sink options allow you to expand your work surface with add-on accessories such as grid trays, cutting boards, colanders and drain boards. Blanco Canada, one of these great sink manufacturers, offers us both an innovative and well-designed product line. One of my particular favourites – the Ikon apron sink or “farm house sink – is very much en-pointe in kitchen design this year. This sink offers great lines and a slightly tapered profile that gives us a rather modern approach to a traditional classic.

Brass is back with a vengeance and is one of the hottest metals moving forward in kitchen design. This is not the shiny yellow brass of decades past, but rather an unlacquered brass with its beautifully aged and antiqued finish that we are now seeing. This unlacquered brass has a look and feel all its own. It’s warm, less formal than polished nickel, less typical than chrome. This finish is organic and is sometimes referred to as a “living finish”. Because of the absence of the lacquer the durable solid brass is permitted to naturally age over time to develop a beautiful unique patina of colour and texture, that is forgiving of water stains. It offers sophistication, old world charm and yet modernism, and is a wonderful option for your kitchen faucet. Also hot in the world of faucets is colour! Fun can be had with a multitude of colour options for your faucets, but what is most striking is the return of matte black – a chic and classy addition to any kitchen.

We have a long list of options available to us today for countertops. From traditional granite and the ever-classic natural marble, to quartz, wood, and concrete – a trendy option for your kitchen. This year we are also introduced to a new product – Laminam. This is a stain, scratch and heat resistant countertop option that achieves the beauty of natural stone, wood and concrete and requires no maintenance.

With advanced technology and designs that enhance functionality and durability, these new product options will not only look great in our homes, but also add ease and simplicity to our everyday lives. If you’re looking to renovate your space, do a bit of research and consider some of the new and wonderful products on the market today …. sinks, faucets and countertops are not what they used to be!

Linda Mazur is a nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.




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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.


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 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 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 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.


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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Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

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Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

By Rebecca Hay • Photography By Stephani Buchman

A blend of traditional, contemporary and vintage touches, create a personality-packed kitchen

Nothing beats a good kitchen renovation. Especially one that transforms the way you use your home. This personality packed kitchen makes a statement and yet provides much needed functionality for a young family.

When we were approached to renovate and design the main floor of this Riverdale family home in Toronto’s East end, the couple was pregnant with their second child. This resulted in a tight timeline to make a major transformation. The family had lived in the home for three years before they decided to make some big changes, and knew exactly what they wanted as a result. A growing young family, with no plans to move in the near future, they needed an updated space and an open-concept kitchen for cooking and entertaining.


The home is a semi-detached Victorian with great historic features and good bones. Its ’90s-style kitchen had crumbling maple cabinets, terracota floors and oodles of wasted space. It even featured a terracotta-tiled countertop! The busy couple wanted a more functional, open-concept kitchen, suitable for raising their children and entertaining friends. Space planning was key to creating a functional layout. By tearing down the wall between the kitchen and dining area, we were able to create the large open space that the family desired. After assessing all our layout options, we decided on a peninsula versus an island. This created a U-shaped kitchen where the cook of the family (in this case, the husband) could slave away without interference by dinner guests… or little feet!


The current pantry was previously a lonely, empty wall with nothing but a small table leaning up against it and a pile of shoes. During construction we discovered there was space between the exterior wall and interior framing, so we moved some ductwork and gained almost a foot of extra space. This allowed us to make the kitchen bigger and provided space for the custom pantry with lots of storage. The full-height cabinets house a broom closet, pull-out shelves, cupboards for small appliances, and a nook for coats and shoes. Since the family has laneway parking and generally enters the house through the back door, the mini-mudroom was a must.


In addition to being extremely functional, we wanted the space to make a statement, while still being consistent with the character of the home. We chose a mix of traditional and contemporary elements, vintage touches and pops of colour to create an inviting and unique space. The rich blue cabinetry adds colour and depth, while the mosaic marble backsplash adds luxurious texture and interest. It also hides any water splatters or mess. The marble ties in seamlessly with the sleek white quartz countertops and Silgranit white sink. Hits of yellow and brass establish the fun and polished esthetic.

Vintage details help this new kitchen blend effortlessly into its surroundings. The school housestyle pendants and handmade wood shelves add an old-world feel. While the detailing on the walnut stools also has a trendy yet timeless appeal. The shelves and bench were handmade by the homeowner’s mother, and are a perfect personal touch.


Pops of yellow make a bold statement against the blue cabinets. The Roman shade adds colour and texture, and complements the custom yellow leather stools. A lot of time was spent searching for the perfect counter stools. The original design had wooden stools that we ordered and ended up returning because they didn’t make the right statement. Sometimes you have to be fluid with design and recognize when something just isn’t quite right. When we couldn’t find the perfect stool, I decided to design a custom one. They ended up being the showstoppers and the proverbial icing on the cake. The stools tie all the design elements together.

The end result is a personality-packed kitchen full of all the modern amenities and conveniences of modern family life.


DESIGN, Rebecca Hay Designs, rebeccahaydesigns.com CONTRACTING, TriMatrix Construction WALL PAINT Benjamin Moore 2125-60 Marilyn’s Dress CABINETRY PAINT, HC-155 Newburyport Blue & CC-40 Cloud White COUNTERTOPS, Caesarstone Canada BACKSPLASH TILES, Marble Granite Depot REFRIGERATOR, Oven, Range, Jenn-Air DISHWASHER, Whirlpool FAUCET, Delta STOOL FABRIC, Designer Fabrics CUSTOM STOOLS, Rebecca Hay Designs ROMAN SHADE, Tonic Living PENDANT LIGHTS, The Door Store CABINETRY HARDWARE, Upper Canada Specialty Hardware

Designer Rebecca Hay, Principal Designer of Rebecca Hay Designs Inc., is a Toronto-based boutique design firm offering complete design & renovation services for residential, commercial and vacation properties for over a decade. Known and celebrated for her design work and appearances on various acclaimed HGTV shows, Rebecca and her team design classic, livable spaces that reflect the homeowner’s personality. Servicing clientele throughout Toronto, the GTA and Canada. rebeccahaydesigns.com


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Decor Expert: Kimberley’s Guide To Kitchen Budgeting

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Decor Expert: Kimberley’s Guide To Kitchen Budgeting

In one of the most costly home renovations, it is important to know where you should splurge and where you can save.

There’s a limit. Regardless of budget, when it comes to renovating a kitchen, or any room for that matter, there is only a certain amount of money available. The leaded-glass cabinet doors may be worth the investment, but it’s only possible as part of an overall plan that incorporates other, more modest choices. In other words, splurge on a stone countertop and you might have to forego the gas fireplace in the eating area.

When it comes to the budget, staying on-target involves a delicate balancing act between what you can splurge on and where you need to save. Here are some splurges and saves to consider as you tackle your kitchen renovation.


SPLURGE Since the backsplash is at eye level, it’s worth considering a splurge for this feature. Opt for highly patterned tiles in high contrast or choose a seamless backsplash in quartz. In a small kitchen, spending a bit more on tiles can pay dividends in style and drama.

SAVE Still a popular choice, 4” x 6” subway tiles come in a variety of colours at every conceivable price range. It’s possible to lay a modestly priced tile in a more dynamic pattern to create interest without breaking the bank. For example, lay the tiles in an offset brick pattern (where vertical grout lines are staggered from one row to the next) or, create a more elaborate herringbone pattern, or use a dark grout to create contrast. Remember to ask for a firm price before commencing, because labour costs may be higher when you lay tiles in a more elaborate pattern.


SPLURGE If budget is no object, there are stunning countertop choices in natural stone and high-end quartz. Remember that natural stone is porous and as such, does require some care and maintenance.

SAVE Most homeowners want a durable, low maintenance countertop, which means you are typically limited to granite and quartz, two pricey options. To save on this expensive element, consider approaching various stone suppliers and see if they have mis-cuts or ends of lines for sale. Sometimes, you can save money by piecing together smaller sections of stone, rather than having large slabs. Or, you can save when an item becomes less popular. For instance, granite has fallen out of favour in recent years so there are deals to be had.

If budget is very limited, consider synthetic countertop options that look like their natural counterparts. For example, linoleum that looks like tumbled marble or a laminate countertop in place of granite.

You may want to visit a resource like Habitat Restore. They frequently get model-suite kitchens with countertops intact, and the savings can be substantial.


SPLURGE There’s a big difference between stock (fixed-size) cabinets and luxury custom-built cabinetry. For one thing, custom cabinets can go all the way to the ceiling, rather than stopping short at a standardized height. With custom, you can add niche storage options, heavy-duty self-close hardware, glass-front features and built-in lighting. To bring decorative dishes and glassware into the spotlight, add wallpaper to backs of shelves. Remember to light the full interior of cabinets rather than adding puck lights only at the top.

SAVE If you are working with existing slab-front cabinets, those with a totally flat appearance, consider applying a wood moulding to the face of each door to create a “panelled” look before painting. A clean coat of paint and new hardware give tired cabinets a fresh start without breaking the bank.

You can also stretch the budget by combining stock cabinetry in the lower sections with custom cabinetry in the upper sections, where the impact is more immediate. Or, use stock cabinetry everywhere, except as part of a focal feature such as a decorative hood over the range or glass-front cabinets over the sink and flanking a window.

Photography: Donna Griffith

Kimberley Seldon


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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.


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.


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.


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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Professional handyman saves big on reno

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Professional handyman saves big on reno

By Chris Palmer

Much to my wife’s chagrin, jobs around my house are often last on my list. However, this New Year I have resolved to transform my boring builder’s kitchen into a thing of beauty with improved, family-friendly functionality. I am going for a complete overhaul, but will be saving thousands of dollars on labour with things that I – and most readers – can probably do themselves.

Here are my DIY tips for projects big and small.

Visualize the look and functionality

Before you go knocking down walls, take time to envision how your kitchen will not only look, but work. Countertop space, traffic flow and what the kitchen will be used for other than cooking are all important questions. For example, my son is a toddler but eventually the kitchen could be a good place for him to do his homework. For me, I want the kitchen table to act as an alternative office space for invoicing and project planning, that’s why I’ve added a small desk nook on my pantry wall.

Know Your Limits

You can save thousands of dollars on hours associated with labour by handling manual tasks and finishing touches yourself. Before you go smashing down a loadbearing wall or bursting a hidden pipe, call in the licensed trades to make sure you are clear to proceed. Trade professionals have provided me with a lot of valued guidance. Their expertise has allowed me to use my time more efficiently because I won’t end up wasting time on jobs out of my skill set.

Tricks of the trade

Interior designers and renovators have a few crafty tricks to make kitchens look like something out of a glossy home decor magazine. Finishing touches can make a kitchen look expensive, but are easy to do. Hardware is like adding jewelry. While it’s readily available at many big box stores, specialty retailers like Lee Valley carry a comprehensive selection so you don’t have to settle for anything other than what your Pinterest-worthy vision originally entailed. Other simple upgrades I recommend anyone to do in a renovation are to go for a bigger baseboard and fatter crown molding. Personally, I won’t waste time with 4-inch trim. For a professional look, I will be installing a 5.5-inch baseboards throughout my kitchen. One other tip I like to recommend is to use a semi-gloss paint on your baseboards and crown moulding as this added sheen makes it all look that much richer.

Don’t underestimate under-mount lighting

It’s very rare that you can walk into a home and find good lighting. It typically needs improvement and requires a plan. One of the simplest things you can do to increase the functionally and improve the look of your kitchen is under-mount lighting. It makes a kitchen look if you spent thousands on a professional. The good news is that you can buy do-it-yourself customizable LED lighting from several retailers like Lee Valley and you don’t need to hire an electrician to install them.

Save vs. spend

Every minute I put into my kitchen myself adds up to money in my wallet. Most trades charge anywhere from $75 to $125 an hour. But there are a few things that I will be investing in. A double farmhouse style sink is one of them because it plays a major role in increasing work efficiency in the kitchen as you can wash, chop and clean in an organized manner. Quality appliances means less costs in repairs in the long run. However, you can save by purchasing the fridge, stove and dishwasher all together as most retailers offer an extra discount if you buy multiple appliances at once.

Chris Palmer is the founder and owner of Hand Crafted by Chris Palmer. He produces one-of-a-kind pieces for a wide range of commercial and residential clients. He also appeared on HGTV’s Canada’s Handyman Challenge and regularly shares his expertise with audiences across Canada through speaking engagements and media like Global TV, Cityline and more.


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