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Ask a Designer: Stainless Steel Pros & Cons


What are the pros and cons of stainless steel?

I think some of the Pros to this is the look of it and its value, as well as … I guess people could say it's easy to clean, and then not easy to clean. I know that a lot of people that cook a lot like to use it. They love the stainless, because they do feel afterwards it's really easy to clean up and be done with, as far as it being kind of a sterile surface.

You could look at a Con and say with a full stainless steel refrigerator and/or dishwasher, if you have children, you'll get a lot of fingerprints. As far as a daily maintenance, it's a little harder to keep up. [Then and the part 00:00:48] with the paint on it, we are not going to see all those little fingerprints all over the place. That would be the biggest Con. The biggest concern that I see with clients is that fingerprints, and their children, and not wanting to have to deal with that. Overall I think going with stainless is definitely something that's a good idea.


Ask a Designer: Framed vs. Frameless


What’s the difference between framed and frameless cabinetry?

Terry: In America, we make furniture and cabinets with a face frame on it, which is about an inch and a half to an in inch of face frame that runs around the outside front of the cabinet so that you end up having a little bit of area behind the face frame where things get lost. Frameless cabinets are also known as full access cabinets. There is nothing on the outside of the cabinet; it’s just basically a box. All of the decorative elements are attached to that box. The Europeans started that construction. They use man-made materials for that, typically. That’s because in Europe, they save the woods for the exterior of the cabinet were account. They don’t have much wood over there as we do here.

Ask a Designer: Choosing Stone Counters


Which types of stone make good kitchen counters?

It is best to use granite, because it is really durable, and not as porous as a marble or a limestone. You do see people, because for a specific look, going towards limestones and marbles and things, but some people tend to try to steer you away from that, because it is a softer material, it is more porous, but you can use it, just not as easy to maintain as a granite or quartz product would be. Again, a trapertine is going to be really soft, more porous material. Soapstone, same, which we use a lot. Soapstone is very soft. If you have a kitchen that you want kind of an older look, and you don’t mind, after ten years, having the soapstone be a little bit beat up, or, in areas that you work more, having a little worn look to it, I think that’s okay.

If someone’s wanting a countertop that’s going to stay very pristine and clean, soapstone is probably not the way to go. I have marble in my kitchen. It is a little soft, had to get used to that, but I like it a lot. There’s something about a marble [flag 00:01:21] with the [veining 00:01:22] and the beauty of that, that you’re not going to get in a solid surface. There’s no granite that’s pure white with a [inaudible 00:01:29]. Unfortunately, they don’t have that. So, there are some materials that you can get, like I said, a similar look, but you’re never going to get that exact same look.

Ask a Designer: Clean, Safe Countertops


Are some countertops cleaner or safer than others?

Janice: Definitely the stone countertops and the composites, the quartz material countertops are very sanitary because they are steel and so things do not penetrate into them. Wood countertops you have to be a little more careful with the sanitation because they are porous. If you're going to be using your wood countertops to cut on, you can't cut meat on it and then turn around and cut something else on it. You need to make sure you disinfect it because it is a porous material. [Solid surface 00:00:38] is very very good as far as cleanability because it's an acrylic material. It's not porous at all. Laminates, again, are not porous, but you can't cut on laminate because you're going to leave knife marks.

Any countertop you really shouldn't cut right on the countertop anyway. You should have some sort of cutting surface that is completely dedicated doing your chopping and cutting. Those smaller surfaces, again, are easier to maintain and keep clean and disinfect than an entire countertop. Bacteria can sit on the surface of anything. It's how well you can clean it and how easily you can clean it to get the bacteria off. Any countertop, if you cut on it or prepare food on it, you're going to have bacteria. If you don't clean it, it 's going to remain there.

Ask the Editor: Convection Ovens

A Viking convection oven

Courtesy of Viking

The Difference Between Convection Cook and Bake


Question: "What is the difference between 'convection cook' and 'convection bake'? I have both options on my Viking stove and I don't know when to use which option."


Answer: Understanding a little bit about how convection heat differs from conventional heat will help you make the right call on which mode to use.

Convection ovens, unlike conventional ovens, use a fan to circulate heated air throughout the oven cavity. By distributing the heat, the oven cooks food more evenly and quickly. Both gas and electric ovens can use convection heat.

"True convection" or "European convection" ovens are electric ovens that have an extra heating element located in the back near the fan. This third element is in addition to the normal top and bottom heating elements, and it allows the fan to blow heated air into the oven.

Sue Bailey, Viking's manager of product development for major appliances, has the following recommendations for you: "The convection cook or TruConvec™ setting on a Viking oven is for foods that require gentle cooking, such as pastries, soufflés, yeast breads, quick breads and cakes. Because the rear element only is operating on this setting, there is no direct heat from the bottom or top elements.

"Breads, cookies and other baked goods come out evenly textured with golden crusts. This is a very versatile function and can be used for single-rack baking, multiple-rack baking, roasting and for preparation of complete meals. This setting is also recommended when baking large quantities of baked goods at one time, as all six rack positions can be utilized at one time.

"The convection bake setting on a Viking oven is for food that is dense, such as casseroles or meats. The even circulation of air equalizes the temperature throughout the oven cavity and eliminates the hot and cold spots found in conventional ovens. When roasting, cool air is quickly replaced, searing meats on the outside and retaining more juices on the inside with less shrinkage. The hot air system is especially economical when cooking frozen foods."

Sue's willingness to help out brings me to another point: Many manufacturers of pro-style appliances offer significant learning resources to prospective and current owners of their products. Some have video demonstrations on their websites; others provide hands-on classes at special showrooms. Some appliance dealers offer their own product education courses, too. When you've made or are planning to make a major investment in your appliances, these courses are time well spent.



Ask the Editor: Range Hood Power

A glass canopy hood by Zephyr.

A glass canopy hood by Zephyr.

How Powerful Should a Range Hood Be?


Question: "I am putting in a Dacor Epicure cooktop with approximately 85,000 Btus. I want to use a Zephyr Milano glass canopy island hood with a capacity of 715 CFM (cubic feet per minute). Do you think this will be a problem?"


Answer: More than likely, a cooktop with 85,000 Btus will need a ventilation hood with greater power than 715 CFM. Here's why: Dacor's Epicure line of cooktops has gas burners. And when dealing with gas burners, there is a simple ratio to consider when buying a range hood for your kitchen.

"A rule of thumb is 100 (Btus) to 1 (CFM), so a cooktop with 85,000 Btus would require a ventilation hood with 850 CFM or more," says Bob Lewis, Dacor's assistant vice president of product development.

One other thing to consider is that island hoods typically need extra ventilation power compared to range hoods that are situated against a wall. "Island installations have more cross drafts to contend with," said Lewis. "Wall mounts are relatively protected which allows the motor to establish a consistent airflow pattern." So for island hoods, there's a chance that it will need more power than 1 CFM for every 100 Btus.

You might be able to get away with a range hood that doesn't quite match your cooktop's full heat potential if you never use all the burners at once or you usually use low heat when you cook. But if you're constantly cranking up the Btus, you'll want to follow the 100:1 ratio. (Although if you're purchasing a cooktop with 85,000 Btus, your cooking style probably is more professional and takes advantage of all the heat your appliance can generate.

When it comes to finding range hoods for electric and induction cooktops, there isn't a handy rule of thumb to guide you. The 100:1 ratio won't work because electric and induction cooktops measure energy in kilowatts instead of Btus. Even if you converted the units (1 kilowatt equals roughly 3,400 Btus), you would still need to account for the fact that electric and induction cooktops distribute heat more efficiently than gas cooktops. Since less heat is escaping into your kitchen with electric and induction cooktops, they require less ventilation than gas cooktops do.

How much less should be determined on a case-by-case basis, since heat distribution efficiency can vary by manufacturer. So it is best to consult with the manufacturer of your electric or induction cooktop as to what type of ventilation unit you'll need.



Ask the Editor: Choosing Granite

Vent hood hanging over granite countertop

Designed by Northbay Kitchen & Bath, Petaluma, Calif.

Get the Right Granite Color


Question: "I love one of the photographs on your website and I would really like to know what the countertop is. I have had this photo (see above) pasted as my desktop for months now; I like it that much. We are finally at the point where we are ready to replace our countertop, and this is the countertop I want." —Sandi U.

Answer: I can tell you for sure that this is a polished granite countertop with a bullnose edge. What I don't know is the color; but even if I did know that, it wouldn't necessarily be useful information

For one, granite colors don't have consistent names. Countries of origin, importers, fabricators, installers and retailers each have their own naming conventions for granite. It's sort of like finding the right paint color; my bedroom is painted "Under the Big Top," which is code for sky blue.

Secondly, photos — whether on the Internet or in a magazine — have their limitations. What looks great in a 4-inch x 5-inch photo of someone else's kitchen might not measure up in person or in your home. For that reason, you should always pick out colors — whether of paint, countertops, flooring, tiles or cabinets — where you can see the actual product for yourself.

Most importantly, every slab of granite is unique and contains variations in color, veining and particle size. This is true even if you are looking at two slabs of Absolute Black from the same quarry. That's why you can't just choose a color of granite-you have to go to the granite yards (typically a retailer/installer) and pick out a specific slab for your countertop.

Some relatively common granite colors include:

















Absolute Black



Baltic Brown



Blue Pearl



Emerald Pearl



Giallo Ornamentale



Black Galaxy



Dakota Mahogany



Volga Blue



Peacock Green (or Verde Peacock)



New Venetian Gold



Black Impala (or Impala Black)



Santa Cecilia






Ubatuba (or Uba Tuba; it is a dark green)







Tan Brown









Tropical Brown






Knowing your colors in other languages can help in the search, as many granites come from Italy, Spain, India, China, Brazil and other foreign countries.


Here are a few pointers:












































Finally, a few thoughts on cost: granites are typically divided into anywhere from three to six pricing tiers, depending on the seller. The most exotic, rare or difficult to obtain stones cost can cost more than twice as much as the options in the lowest tier.

Other options that affect price include the thickness of the slab, the elaborateness of the edge treatment and the type of finish.


Ask the Editor: Dual-Fuel Ranges

A Dual-Fuel Range

Courtesy of GE Profile

Installing a Dual-Fuel Range


Question: "I am looking at purchasing a GE Profile 30-inch, dual-fuel, freestanding range (model P2B912SEMSS) that uses a 120-volt hookup for the oven. I know that most ovens and ranges need a 240V hookup, so I am curious as to how this works, and is it as efficient as a 240V? It would be great to not have to add a 240V outlet, as I am a contractor and know it will take some work to get a 240 line to the existing range area." —Kainoa D., Hawaii


Answer: The vast majority of dual-fuel and electric ranges, as well as electric wall ovens and cooktops, require a 240-volt outlet. If the home previously had a gas range, the only nearby outlets are likely to be 120 volts, so switching to a dual-fuel range (in which the oven runs on electricity but the cooktop runs on gas) typically requires a new electric line.

This particular dual-fuel range works with the existing 120V outlet. GE's standard line offers a dual-fuel range fueled the same way

GE representative Allison Eckelkamp explains how it works: "While the oven is electric [as are all ovens in dual-fuel ranges], it actually uses gas to help with the pre-heat so that the higher voltage is not needed. Once warmed, the electric takes over so that people get that nice even baking they expect from an electric oven.

One potential drawback: this dual-fuel range does not offer convection cooking, which could be a deal breaker for some homeowners. 





Ask the Editor: Small Appliances

Bosch Evolution Dishwasher installed in a small kitchen

Courtesy of Bosch

The Bosch Evolution 500 series dishwasher is just 22 7/16 inches deep and 23 9/16 inches wide, making it a good choice for a tight space or small kitchen.

New Appliances for Old Homes


Question: "We have an older home with counters/cabinets that are only 23 inches deep. Are there any built-in dishwashers out there that will fit such a space?"


Answer: Yes, there are. Although the standard built-in dishwasher size is 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep, European dishwashers often tend to be a little narrower and shallower than U.S. models. Bosch, Thermador, Miele and Asko all offer models about 22.5 inches deep. (FYI: These will all cost at least $500.) If your countertops are stone or another hard surface, you'll need a model that can mount on the side instead of to the top.We can't emphasize enough the importance of consulting with an experienced, knowledgeable professional at a good appliance store or retailer. Such a person will be familiar with the local housing stock and its typical challenges, as well as the products most likely to work in a challenging situation. Bring along exact measurements for potential dishwasher locations; not just the depth of the counter but also the height from the floor to the bottom of the countertop.

You don't mention the width of your base cabinets. Standard built-in dishwashers are about 24 inches wide, give or take half an inch. Built-in dishwashers also come in compact 18-inch models, which may be a better option for your cabinetry. Try to select a location near your sink that won't interfere with your ability to open and close cabinet and refrigerator doors.

By the way, installing any dishwasher in a kitchen that has never had one is a challenge, so we strongly recommend hiring a professional. Not only will you need to cut out a section of your base cabinets to create space for the dishwasher, you will have to run dedicated water and power lines to the dishwasher. This electrical and plumbing work will require opening up the wall, which has the potential to uncover rot, code violations and other not-so-fun stuff. 


Ask the Editor: Colorful Cabinets

A kitchen with contrasting red and grey cabinetry.

Courtesy of xulinablu

Break up red cabinets with cabinetry in a complementary neutral shade.

How to Make Red Cabinets Work


Question: "I am presently designing a kitchen for my new home. I am tired of the "wood" look and that of white/ivory. I was thinking of doing something different and having RED cabinets built. My floor is dark hardwood.

The question I have is about color. What could work for a granite top and a backsplash? Also, would tile be the best choice for the backsplash (as opposed to glass/stainless steel)?" —Donna from Canada


Answer: Sometimes we all just want something different. You can definitely put red cabinets in the kitchen-just know that if you're going to sell sooner rather than later, red might not be to everyone's taste. In fact, you might tire of the look after a few years. Consider breaking up the red cabinets with cabinetry in a complementary neutral shade. For example, the culinablu kitchen shown here features red laminate wall cabinets and light gray island cabinetry.

You could also use the red cabinets to make the island a focal point, like the green island in this castled-themed kitchen. Another alternative would be to use red cabinets to make the cooktop or range a focal point, as with the green cabinets in this country kitchen.

Your material and color choices for the countertop and backsplash will depend partly on your design style. However, I recommend choosing lighter colors to balance out the dark shades of the cabinets and floors.

For a cozy country or Old World feel, go with warm red cabinets and gold-toned granite, possibly Kashmir Gold or one of the Juperanas. A cool red would look good with a light gray or white granite. Similar colors in quartz or solid surfacing would also work well.

In a contemporary kitchen, try a honed finish instead of a glossy finish on your granite, or choose a stainless steel or laminate countertop.

As for the backsplash, your options are limitless. You can continue your countertop material up the walls to your cabinet. A stainless steel backsplash behind the range can work in a traditional or a contemporary kitchen. For an Old World look, go with brick or stone

Glass, ceramic and stone tile backsplashes can work in nearly any style of kitchen. Tumbled marble or other stone tiles, often with metallic accents, are popular right now. So are hand-painted ceramic tiles or glass mosaic tiles, both of which are great ways either to add color or to pull together different colors used throughout the kitchen.