Spruce Up Your Kitchen

By Nancy Moffett

A recent USA Today article ) noted that only 11.6 percent of Americans changed their residence from 2010 to 2011, “the lowest rate since the Census Bureau began collecting the statistics in 1948.” That’s pretty amazing, given a high of 20 percent in the 1980s. Of course, a sluggish economy and continuing housing woes are the cause.

With many of us planning to stay put, now’s the time to make improvements to our homes, not only for resale value when markets improve, but also for our own enjoyment. The kitchen is a good place to start. According to area businesses, you don’t have to do a full remodel to get a fresh, new look.

Countertops and Backsplashes

One of the most dramatic kitchen upgrades is new countertops. Anthony Costantino, owner of Antone’s at the Market (aka Antone’s Tile and Stone), says granite is the top choice of home owners these days. “It’s become more popular in the last five years,” he notes. Other good choices include solid surface acrylics (such as Corian®) and quartz (engineered stone), such as Silestone®.

The difference between granite and other materials is that granite is natural stone that is highly polished. “The engineered product is more predictable,” Costantino says, “whereas granite has more variations in color and pattern when you cut into it, like a marble cake.” Maintenance is just a bit harder with granite, but “If you love it, it will love you back,” he posits. It is more subject to staining, but only needs to be kept clean and re-sealed once a year.

If you’re replacing countertops, think about a new backsplash as well. Costantino says glass tiles are beautiful and come in lots of variations in color, style, shape and texture. He recently used a silver hammered glass on a kitchen remodel that was striking.

While you’re at it, you may as well replace the sink with one that’s mounted from underneath, says Dan Lenner CMKBD, designer for Morris Black Designs. An under-mount makes a clean transition between sink and countertop and is easier to keep clean than a top-mount sink.


Although none of the vendors we talked to do cabinet re-facing, they say some homeowners are opting to paint existing cabinets that are in good shape. Or, they decide to replace the doors and drawers, reusing the existing shells. Either of these may be an option for the budget-minded do-it-yourselfer, as even low-grade new cabinets can cost $5,000 and up. However, unless you’re skilled and confident, this may be a job for a professional painter or carpenter. On the other hand, if your cabinets are in good shape, just installing new hardware will freshen them up, Lenner points out.

How about either installing or replacing an island? Design trends favor using a different finish than that of the existing cabinets–perhaps paint on the island if the rest are wood or vice versa. Lenner notes that wood tops for islands are resurging. Not the butcher block of old, but dense woods with the durable properties of mahogany, such as walnut or Lyptus™ (made from eucalyptus).


Kitchen faucets are getting larger and taller, Lenner says, like those used in professional kitchens. Styles range from industrial (with some as tall as two feet) to retro, bridge faucets in polished nickel and chrome for an antique look. Whatever the style, these new faucets have modern functions like single levers and pull-out nozzles. If you’re replacing countertops, a new faucet is a must.


Pendant lights are popular for islands and eating spaces. Adding more recessed and work lighting can help make a kitchen more functional. Under-counter lighting is not only helpful for prep work, but also provides ambiance. Make sure all new lighting is on a dimmer for less energy use and the ability to create warm spaces when you’re entertaining. Or add dimmers to existing lighting for the same result.


Watch for sales that offer whole-kitchen packages if you’re ready to replace your white or black appliances with stainless. Stainless is a must these days for prospective home buyers. Lenner notes many new choices, such as smooth, induction cooktops; touch-pad controls and gas stoves with sealed burners.


There’s a new generation of vinyl flooring that can be a practical, economical way to replace a worn kitchen floor, according to Billy Koch, co-owner of Spectrum of Floors. These are cushioned products, resistant to tears and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. “They’ve come a long way in texture, appearance and ease of maintenance,” he says.

What about hardwood? Yes, it can be practical for a kitchen thanks to new aluminum oxide finishes, Koch explains. “It’s extremely durable, not like the old wax finishes. A lot of homeowners use it for a nice flow-through from adjoining areas.” Regarding tile, several companies are making limestone tile products, which are warmer than ceramic and more flexible. They don’t need a subfloor and are grouted the same as ceramic. “They don’t crack or break, and people love them,” Koch says.

A new manufactured flooring product that Koch likes is Konecto®. It comes in tile or wood patterns, glues together and floats over the existing floor—a good project for the DIYer, he says. “I’ve put it in restaurants and it holds up really well.”

Other options for a kitchen spruce-up are a fresh paint job in a warm color and new window treatments. Any of these ideas will add to the enjoyment of your home now and help when you and the markets are ready to move on.

Antone’s at the Market
1801 South 12th Street
Allentown, PA 18103

Morris Black Designs
984 Marcon Blvd., LVIP III
Allentown, PA 18109
Rt. 611, Shoppes at Crossroads
Bartonsville, PA 18321

Spectrum of Floors
3700 William Penn Highway
Easton PA 18045

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