Over the last few weeks, Ace and I have been focusing on the upcoming kitchen remodel and new floors.
We have chosen:
* A GE dual oven, stainless, with ceramic top.
* A BOSCH dishwasher, stainless, with hidden controls.
* Cherry cabinets with a "bordeaux" finish (cherry/mahogany).
* Simple silver hardware.
* "Rustic Maple" laminate floors.
I wish the oven had a rating from Consumer Reports, but they haven't done oven/ranges in a while, so I have no ratings... I also am aware that a glass cooktop requires immediate clean-up, but that's such a minor thing; we're okay with that. I wish we could do a gas range (they do have this same model in a gas style), but there's no gas lines in the area... bummer.
The dishwasher, however, rates very high. C.R. rated a higher-end model the highest in their tests, but the one we chose is about 1/3 of the price, and still rated within the top 15. My favorite feature is the blue LED that lights up the floor to tell you it's on, since it's so quiet (47dB).
The cabinets are real cherry, with a reddish-brown finish. All our home accents are burgundy, so these are perfect. We are keeping the same rough layout of our current kitchen, but will have some upgrades to the cabinetry -- soft closures, matching simple silver hardware, an upper corner unit with interior lighting and glass front, a special couple of inserts in the lower pots/pans cabinet to make it easier to reach pieces, drawers inside our pantry cabinets, and a small island for more prep space.
The flooring was a tough choice... Do you go with hardwood, engineered hardwood, or laminate? Laminate won out for several reasons: (1) The higher-end ones are more durable than anything else (Ace dropped his screwdriver on our sample piece, on purpose, to test this), which we need since we have kids and dogs. (2) Hardwoods (even the engineered ones) require refinishing once in a while (with engineered, you only get two - maybe - refinishes before it has to be completely replaced). Even if you disregard the UNeco-friendliness of having hardwood these days, the laquer used for refinishing is so nasty, you have to be OUT OF YOUR HOUSE for a WEEK! (3) Hardwood floors would probably qualify as overimproving my house for the neighborhood. Most importantly - (4) This laminate is the ONLY one we've found, in all our searching, that had the right color. We wanted as light as possible without being pink (which would look even more pink with our burgundy walls/furniture and the cherry cabinets) or yellow (CLASH!!).
We have yet to determine what product we'll use on our countertops, but yesterday, we went to inFUEZ (http://www.fuez.com/) in Portland to check out some of their samples, found two we liked a lot, and had an estimate written up for one of them. While the financial expense is not much less than granite, granite is NOT eco-friendly at all, and really, a bit over-the-top for my small home. I've been interested in recycled glass countertops for years, but these fuse locally collected curbside glass with concrete, and the effect is awesome! The only downside, as far as I'm concerned, is NOT the price, but the timeframe involved for turn around -- 10wks or so (they measure, then make to order).
We are also looking at CAESARSTONE (found three looks we like), SILESTONE (found two), and CAMBRIA (three) countertops; the company we chose to do our flooring also carries and installs all three of these countertops. CAESARSTONE costs a little less than the FUEZ countertops, but require very little maintenance, and the turn around is only two to three weeks. Soapstone (http://www.soapstones.com/soapstone_collection.html), by the way, is AWESOME, but, while the product is eco-friendly (and so fantastically cool), the distance it has to travel (Brazil, for the most part) is not. I'll update when we've made a choice.
We have this really cool home design program that shows us all sorts of things... we took a lot of time and energy about a year ago taking measurements and getting everything "installed" -- we can now virtually test out options, and see what our home will look like when we're done. It doesn't do everything I want (of course) but it's close. It will definitely come in handy when we talk to the contractors.
Once we figure out countertops, that's the next step... contractors. I have four names/numbers, and CCB#s for them all (which I've already checked out). We will be interviewing them to make sure our personalities match and they listen to our wants/needs. We will be contacting some of their prior clients and (hopefully) we'll be going to see some of their work, in person. Of course, their estimates are also important, but it's not about having the cheapest bid; it's more about doing the job right the first time, and the quickest. I don't want to have to be displaced for any longer than necessary...
If you're interested in more details of what we're doing (model numbers, slab names, etc), comment here, and I'll email it to you. I can even save/copy/send you the layout of our house from the design program!
**Side note -- there's some very minor legal stuff brewing, but nothing set for sure yet, so I'll update when I have more to give you.**