By Zev Shalev
When building or designing a home in Israel, the most expensive room to furnish is usually the kitchen. So let’s think about how to make the wisest decisions when choosing the ingredients.
- Cabinetry. This can be the greatest single expense. Tthe cost of the cabinetry is a function of three factors: quantity (more cabinets cost more than fewer cabinets); outside finish (there is a wide selection of materials for cabinets in Israel ranging in quality and price e.g. formica cabinet fronts cost less than solid wood-framed doors); hardware (a door concealing a fixed shelf is cheaper than a drawer or pull-out shelf of the same size). So if you’re on a fixed budget, (who isn’t?) before you commit yourself to a kitchen with solid wood doors, make sure that you’re okay with potential sacrifices in functionality. A little creativity can give you a very upscale look in a lower priced kitchen- trim, accessories, correct lighting design, or creative edging can all do wonders.
- Countertops. Of all kitchen elements, this gets the most wear and tear. A light color will reflect light so in a dark room or where dark cabinetry has been selected that might be preferable. However, the glare caused by a light counter may be disconcerting to people with poor eyesight. For the observant, it’s also important to look into the kasherability of the counter you’re considering. Porosity is also a major consideration- a more porous material will stain easily. Some materials you may want to consider are Caesar Stone, Silestone, granite, Corian, stainless steel, butcher block, or glass. I will devote a future article specifically to this topic.
- Sinks & Taps. Two important considerations are type of installation- sinks can be over mounted, under mounted, or flush mounted; and material. Sinks are available in stainless steel, porcelain enamel, granite composites, Corian, and many other materials. When choosing your sink, some important points to consider are kasherability, stain resistance, and acoustics (poorly insulated stainless steel sinks will make a racket when you turn on the faucet and wash dishes). Is it advisable to go for more expensive name brands? Some of the cheaper models imported from China may work well but their finish may be difficult to clean to a shine, as noted recently by a client of mine. It’s important to choose a faucet that is high enough to maneuver larger pots and pans in the sink, but not so high that it will cause the water to splash unnecessarily. Because of the poor quality of Israeli water, it’s also wise to choose a good quality faucet. Is it worth bringing a sink or tap from abroad? Through the years, many of my clients have asked me this very question. I don’t recommend it as a cheap faucet will not stand up to the quality of Israeli water and even a better product might need service which is not necessarily available here. Most carpenters and kitchen companies maintain a supply of catalogs of sinks and faucets and if convenience and saving time is important to you, you may choose to order these items directly from them. If it’s important for you to get the lowest possible price and you have the inclination to shop around, there are many brands available from the stores that will supply you your floor and wall tiles.
- Electrical, Water & Gas Points. In general, it’s critical that you coordinate the precise location of all your gas, electric and plumbing points together with the design of your cabinetry and your choice of appliances- does your oven need an electrical hookup that provides greater power than the standard outlet? Does your refrigerator have an ice maker or water dispenser? Is your cooktop gas or electric? If electric, what capacity electric supply is necessary? Do you want to have the option of changing any of these items in the future? Even if you’re okay with one sink, might you ever sell the home to a buyer interested in separate sinks? Have you addressed the issue of adequate and pleasant lighting? This is a loaded topic which I intend to address in much greater detail in the future.
- Backsplash Not only does this area get a lot of wear and tear, it is also a major visual element contributing to the total look of the kitchen. Some materials that can be used here are ceramic tiles, granite or other counter materials, glass, stainless steel, or just paint the wall in washable durable paint. If you’re thinking of a stone backsplash, will it need to be resealed periodically? It’s very popular to “sprinkle” a few decorative tiles in various areas of the backsplash-be careful about this- nothing dates a kitchen more quickly than trendy decorative tiles. When in doubt, remember two important rules that apply to all design issues: 1. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and 2.Less is more. Whatever the choice is, make sure that it’s not going to go out of style next year.
- Appliances. Purchasing your appliances will eat up a major chunk of your budget. Given the choices available, making the best decisions can be a daunting process but some important things to consider are -repair records (is this brand new on the market?) -personal recommendations (always important) -size (don’t forget that most kitchens in Israel are smaller than those abroad- do you want your kitchen to look like an appliance store?) -energy efficiency-service-capacity (Do I have the same cooking and shopping habits that I had abroad or can I get by with a smaller oven/fridge?) -integrated appliances? -purchasing the appliances overseas or in Israel? -design trends (French door refrigerators, chimney-style range hoods, etc).
- Flooring. The floor is another element that gets major wear and tear and has an impact on the look of the kitchen. Most floors in Israel are stone-based and are therefore harder on your legs than a softer material. If that is a consideration for you, you may want to look into new generation linoleum which is less tiring to stand on over a period of time and is an environmentally friendly product, although will not give you the same durability as a ceramic tile floor. Wood-look flooring (locally called “parquet”) is also very popular at the moment. This type of flooring falls into two major categories- real wood or laminate. If you choose the former, make sure that it will be of a quality that is easy to refinish and has been treated so it will not absorb kitchen spills. If you choose laminate, make sure that it’s rated for high traffic areas. Whatever floor you choose, practicality is critical in the kitchen- you don’t want it to show every crumb or spill immediately.
- Walls. Wallpaper has been hibernating since the eighties, but it’s making a very strong comeback. It’s a very inexpensive way to add a lot of punch to the look of the kitchen. Interesting tiling treatments can also add a lot of character to a kitchen without busting your budget. There are also many sources available for ideas on one-of-a-kind paint schemes, too. And who says that framed pictures or posters have to be restricted to the living room?
- Handles and Knobs. The choices are virtually endless. Handles are generally defined as having two mounting screws while knobs have one. If you might ever think about changing the look of the kitchen by updating the handles or knobs, you’re better off with knobs because they commit you to one screw hole giving you almost endless options for replacement handles or knobs. A handle will dictate the length of any future handle. Handles should be easy to grab and their placement should be intuitive -a handle located in the center of a door might look very sleek but it won’t tell you which is the hinged side and which is the opening side. When getting a quote on your kitchen from the supplier, clarify if the handles are included. Generally, the supplier will include in his price a basic selection but if you’re looking for something more unique, you may expect to pay extra. Don’t compromise on this- there are many stores that specialize in kitchen hardware and if you want to upgrade your handles or knobs by choosing something other than what the carpenter offers, go for it.
- Lighting. Regardless of the size and amount of light produced by the fitting in the center of the ceiling, it’s important to provide adequate and pleasant lighting directly over the work spaces in the kitchen. That’s what under cabinet lighting strips are for. This lighting should not flicker, should not distort color, and should not produce unnecessary heat. It’s also very pleasant to have a dedicated light over the eating area so that after you prepare the meal, you can dim the other lights and have your meals in a warmly lit area- not every area of the kitchen needs to be lit like an operating theater- think about other kinds of theaters that create drama and warmth.
It’s not that difficult to have a great kitchen but it takes lots of planning and, to avoid surprises, compromises and headaches, make sure that all your decisions have been made and coordinated in advance. And unless you’ve done this successfully many times in the past, you can avoid many of the pitfalls and save lots of time ,money and aggravation by consulting a pro.
The writer is a freelance interior designer and space planner with more than 20 years experience with the English-speaking community across Israel. Zev can be contacted by telephone +972 523-834-208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this article are designed to provide the reader with general information and not to serve as legal or other professional advice for a particular transaction. Readers are advised to obtain advice from qualified professionals prior to entering into any transaction.
© Copyright 2010.