It’s the heart of the home, so naturally this is where people want to spend the majority of their remodeling budgets. Even with today’s challenging economy, kitchen remodels are a priority for some, as people are staying in their homes longer or want to distinguish their homes from others on the market.
And regardless of one’s budget, it’s possible to go green, especially as green has moved beyond trend status and is now the standard for many consumers.
“The kitchen is becoming the real social point of the home,” says Rob Muller, marketing director, Native Trails. People are adding more amenities, he says, and naturally kitchens get bigger as people build bigger houses.
Native Trails, which offers hand-crafted copper sinks, has seen more kitchens with two or three sinks, or primary ones that are bigger. The company just introduced a 40-inch wide farmhouse apron sink “that’s in response to requests we’ve had for custom orders for larger sinks,” says Muller. Retails for the 40-inch farmer’s sink are $4,625 for the antique finish, and $5,985 for the brushed nickel version.
The larger trend follows through to tiles as well. Tiles now can measure 12 by 24 inches, and Artistic Tile expects it to expand beyond that as the company has seen larger ones at Italian tile shows. Resorts and spas are probably the impetus for this trend, as people want to incorporate this calming look in their own homes, says Nancy Epstein, founder and chief executive officer of Artistic Tile. Larger tiles have less grout line, giving a cleaner look.
Artistic Tile’s line ranges from under $10 per square foot to “as high as you want.” The firm’s new ecofriendly line called Concrete Solutions (which retails for about $18 per foot) incorporates such green features as paint-free, dye-free coloring. “People want concrete but it can be daunting,” Epstein says. “Tile is a great way to get that look.”
For an even less expensive option, slate is another way to achieve a great look and stick to local sources as well, says Kate Dayton, principal of Green Courage. Slate can cost around $2 to $3 per square foot.
In cabinetry, the call is for clean, simple lines and rich wood tones, says Andrea Langford, associate kitchen and bath designer for Langford Kitchen Studio. “You see that even in traditional styles—it’s scaling down traditional.” Cherry wood is still strong but in a dark brown stain, not reddish. Her company is also doing more veneers. “You can get into more exotics that way,” she says.
Ana Sternberg, chief executive officer of NY Loft Kitchens & Home Interiors, also sees clean lines, but in natural woods and lighter tones as darker colors are now everywhere and people are looking for a change. “There’s more shift back to contemporary styles,” she says. Mocha and gray hues are the hot colors right now, she adds.
Consumers are also shifting to products produced in the U.S. Bazzèo, an offshoot of NY Loft that launched this year, manufactures a new line of cabinetry in Secaucus, NJ.
The line has a contemporary feel and is available in compressed wheat board with reconstituted veneers, aluminum or Paperstone, which is made of post-consumer paper. Prices are available upon request. Because the kitchen and living room are becoming one, the kitchen cabinets need to look like furniture, “and I think we’ve achieved that,” says Kevin Henry, executive vice president, Bazzèo.
In countertops, granite is not the number-one choice for homeowners anymore. “It’s passé,” says Sternberg. “People don’t want to seal it every year.” They want something maintenance-free such as stone or quartz.
And after recent news reports about the health issues surrounding granite, people were concerned. “We received 200 calls in three days” after an article ran in The New York Times, says Maggie Wood, principal, Maggie Wood Design. That also shows homeowners are looking to make more educated choices about their purchases, including the manufacturing and transportation costs, she says.
Dayton loves countertops from IceStone, a local resource—“they’re fabulous,” she says. “It’s not for everyone, but it’s similar to stone,” and there are five price groups depending on the type of glass or other elements, such as seashells, one chooses. It retails from about $70 to $100 per square foot, says Dayton.
And though bamboo is usually given kudos in the ecofriendly world because of its sustainability, experts point out much of this wood is grown in China, upping its transportation footprint. However, many other choices abound. “We’re lucky in the Northeast because of all of the small sustainable forests we have,” says Wood.
Options such as maple or reclaimed pieces can help achieve a “low-impact” kitchen, she says. This includes both flooring and cabinets, which people are choosing to buy from nearby manufacturers, as well.
Cork is another “extremely popular” flooring option, says Dayton. “It’s so forgiving on the legs.” Cork tile Globus Cork would run one about $7 to $8 per square foot.
To cut down on renovations, experts recommend mixing low-cost items with high-end ones. Wood suggests painting the cabinets, getting new hardware, and using reclaimed sinks to keep expenses down. Or one can incorporate a few feet of expensive tile into cheaper flooring to make it special, says Langford.
And in the true spirit of recycling—if homeowners are willing to put in more effort to save a lot of money—consumers can purchase previously used kitchens, ranging from one appliance to everything plus the kitchen sink. Green Demolitions, for example, has taken in 330 full kitchen donations this year, says Steve Feldman, founder, and about a tenth of them probably retailed for more than $100,000 each. At Green Demolitions, kitchens cost about $25,000 to $36,000. Prices on average are 50 to 70 percent off, he says.
Build it Green is another such company, and “our biggest seller is kitchen cabinets,” Justin Green, program director, relates. Though the company also has high-end kitchens, most cabinet sets retail for between $1,000 and $2,000. And a lot of times the products are practically new, he adds, as some apartments or homes have built-in spec kitchens that new owners rip out to put in the kitchen they want. Homeowners who plan to renovate can pass their old kitchen to someone who can give it a second life—which is better than sending it to the landfill.