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Four Underrated Products

Europen kitchen with short upper wall cabinets.

Contemporary European kitchens, like this one by Miton, typically feature wall cabinets closer to American 30-inch cabinets in size than to 42-inch models.

Some products get all the attention! They supplant older offerings in consumers' minds, and those older options then unfairly fall out of fashion. That doesn't mean they're no longer functional or a good choice for your kitchen. They're just not getting good press any more. Here are four products I consider underrated, and why.


30-30 vision

Everyone wants 42-inch wall cabinets these days. They look better in many applications, I agree, and their greater height allows for more impressive molding. There are two problems with 42s, however. One, most people can't reach the items on the top two shelves without a stepladder. Two, design is shifting toward simpler, pared-down looks that just don't call for elaborate trim. In fact, the contemporary European brands I work with typically offer metric sizes closer to our 30-inch height cabinetry, leaving open space on the wall above. American kitchens are moving in that direction as well, so bear in mind that good things can still come in small packages.


Reconsider Corian

Granite often comes to mind first when homeowners are looking at replacing their kitchen countertops. Not everyone craves stone, however, or should have it. For clients who want a softer, warmer top, I typically specify Corian. This acrylic-based surface can be easily repaired if it scratches, making it an exceptionally family-friendly counter. It's also warrantied. Like quartz, Corian is nonporous and stain resistant, which adds to its family friendliness. I like it for seniors, too, as its softness is more forgiving of aging eyes that might misjudge how far the plate or glass must travel to reach the top.

As an added benefit, Corian allows you to create integral drainboards and sinks, both of which look great and have practical benefits. One cautionary note: because stone has supplanted all other materials as the luxury top du jour, not using it could affect the short-term resale value of your project.


Kitchen with white Corian counters.

Pretty meets practical in Corian good as they ever were!



Taking Stock

Custom cabinets get all the magazine layouts, but stock cabinets can meet many project needs. They won't deliver the deep, rich finishes that semi-custom or custom cabinets can. They won't offer all the bells and whistles of their pricey competitors. They can't be customized for luxury detailing. And they're mass produced for affordability. That doesn't make them bad.

I've worked on some beautiful projects with limited budgets that took advantage of stock cabinetry's recession-friendly price points. My role as a professional designer is to generate the best outcome at whatever investment level the client wants to make. Stock cabinetry can help me achieve that when funds are tighter. My go-to brand for quality, affordability, features, selection, customer service and warranty is sold in Home Depot as American Woodmark and in Lowe's as Shenandoah.


A kitchen with stock maple cabinets.

Style can be affordable, too, as shown by these American Woodmark stock cabinets in maple.



The Kind Side

Like the popular new kid in town, French door refrigerators are getting all the attention these days. However, if the budget mandates a freestanding refrigerator, rather than a built-in model, I prefer side by sides. Style-wise, I think the water-through-the-door dispensers on the French door models throw off their symmetry and just look awkward. I also dislike bending over to reach anything I want in the freezer. Side-by-side refriegerators give users the option of storing their most frequently-used items at a more comfortable, easier-to-see level.


A stainless steel side by side refrigerator

The Linea refrigerator from Bosch offers good form and functionality in a sleek side-by-side model.



To find out about three more under-rated kitchen products, visit my blog.


Kitchen and bath designer Jamie Goldberg

© 2011, Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS. Excerpted from Gold Notes: Nuggets from the World of Residential Design. Jamie is an NKBA-certified designer of kitchens and baths in San Diego, CA, and offers Sensible Style for Home Seller consultations around the country. She can be reached at (619) 796-2217 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.








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