If you want a kitchen countertop that's trendy, versatile and virtually indestructible, go with quartz. It's beautiful and easy to maintain.
Your ideal kitchen may be large and elegant or small and intimate, but whatever your personal proclivities, these areas deserve some attention:
- Add lavish countertops - Countertops are the little black dress of the kitchen. They should be basic, classic and built to last. Budget will play a big role in choosing the right kitchen countertop material for your needs, but whether you're planning on spending your kid's college fund on carrara marble, durable quartz or stainless steel, all countertop materials need maintenance and care -- even if it's just an annual application of a protective coating.
- Beautify your fixtures - If you can afford imported stone, hardwood and custom built-ins, you can probably write your own ticket regarding the small stuff. But that's the interesting part: Delightful design is often distinguished by the small stuff like the drawer pulls, the finish of the faucets and the light fixtures. Integrating your look is important, but being creative and unconventional can help raise your kitchen design to the next level.
- Update those cabinets - Because kitchen cabinetry is so visually prominent, it's often ground zero for a redesign. That, and the fact that it's a big ticket item, means that you'll see changes in cabinet trends every few years. This year, dark wood is the new thing; next year, it might be black lacquer (or red or even white bead board). A few years ago, open shelving was the rage -- and there's still some holdover from that. There's also tangential interest in cabinets that completely obscure those nasty large appliances, making your kitchen look less functional and more like a shipboard stateroom. Whatever you choose, make sure you're thinking long term if you don't have the desire or the budget to redecorate every five to seven years. Stay with the classics like quality natural materials in neutral colors, and you should be just fine.
- Customize the heat - Ranges, stoves and other cooking appliances are becoming more -- and less -- than you'd expect. The trend toward energy conservation and flexible functionality is making fire fun in the kitchen in lots of ways. If you grill, relying on a griddle or the temperature control offered by induction cooking, you can customize your range to suit. Don't like cooking smells in the house? Down draft systems lose the vent hood in favor of a more streamlined look that will still keep those fried onions on the down low. Need to maximize your energy savings? Try an induction cooktop (at a 60 percent savings over gas) with a convection oven. You'll get precision, shorter cooking times and flexibility, too.
- Take it outdoors - Your fantasy kitchen may not even be in the house. Outdoor kitchen options are becoming more lavish (think: imported tile, built-in fireplaces and dedicated icemakers). Cooking outdoors can combine all the fun of an impromptu campfire with the sophistication of modern design and function. There are even portable options for folks who want to stow their kitchens in winter.