Ah, the holidays… Delicious cookies baking in the oven. Spiced cider simmering on the stovetop. Relatives and friends jostling their way through your sad, frumpy old kitchen another year in a row… Sigh.
Yes, we’ve all been there. Kitchens get a lot of wear and tear, and they are one of the first areas of a house to feel dated. Remodeling the kitchen is usually the #1 priority with my new clients, and it is also one of the best places to make an impact with sustainable design. If a kitchen remodel is on your todo list for the New Year, check out this list of stylish and sustainable “must haves”.
1. A good range hood – Perhaps no element of a kitchen remodel is more misunderstood and neglected than the range hood. Oh sure, you plan to have one, but will you ever use it -at least before the smoke detector goes off? Well you should, because even when your house isn’t filling up with smoke, it IS filling up with noxious fumes every time you cook, especially if you have a gas range.
“But those fans are always so noisy!” you protest. “I can’t even hear myself think.” Well, the great thing is that there are now range hoods on the market that clear the air very well, but are so quiet, you might forget they are on in the first place! The Next Generation Europa line from Zephyr uses new technology that gives you an extremely quiet fan, as well as having other great sustainable features – such as warm white LED lighting!
2. Composite countertops – Granite is so last decade! Composite countertops are where it’s at now. Available in an amazing array of colors and textures, these environmentally friendly surfaces are not only beautiful, but they are usually more durable than natural stone too. Unlike the more porous nature of granite, most composite countertops on the market have very smooth surfaces which don’t require sealing, and are also less prone to staining and bacterial buildup. Some of my favorites include the fun recycled glass countertops of Vetrazzo, and the composite stone of Caesarstone.
3. Energy Star appliances – The “star” program of energy efficiency in the appliance world, this successful government program is the source for all those big yellow stickers you see when you salivate over that big stainless steel, french door refrigerator at your local home renovation mart. Purchase washers, dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, or dishwashers that are Energy Star rated, and you’ll start saving money as soon as you plug them in.
4. Cabinets w/ no-added formaldehyde (NAF) – Cabinets are THE big budget item in any kitchen remodel, so spending even a little more to ensure the wood doesn’t have any added urea formaldehyde may seem like overkill, but believe me, it’s worth it. Classified as a known carcinogen by the State of California, urea formaldehyde is also an airborne irritant as it off gasses into your home, especially for those with asthma and other respiratory issues.
5. Earth AND back friendly flooring – I’m a big proponent of using cork or linoleum flooring in kitchen for two good reasons. One, they are both made of natural, biodegradable materials, and that is always a good thing. Second, they are both resilient (especially cork!), which puts a lot less stress or your back and legs as you hustle around making your bonanza of a holiday dinner! Plus, if Aunt Alice gets a little too tipsy and drops her glass of champagne, it is much less likely to shatter into a million pieces. Whew!
Enjoy your holidays and may a sparkly, sustainable new kitchen be yours in the New Year!