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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.


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: 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: Cabinet Trends

A kitchen with island and cabinets in contrasting colors.

Combining Painted and Stained Cabinetry


Question: "I am flipping a 1920 bungalow-style home and noticing a combination of painted and stained cabinets in the same kitchen. Is that the trend? I am thinking of off-white painted Shaker-style cabinets and a contrasting stained island. Thoughts? (I am also using a farm sink and stainless steel appliances)." —David B., N.C.  


Answer: Yes, combining painted and stained cabinets in the kitchen continues to be a strong trend. Using a different color for the island makes it look more like a furniture piece, which is how older kitchens looked.

A white kitchen is like a black tuxedo; it's a classic look that's hard to get wrong. You're smart to go with an off-white paint (ivory, cream and glazes are also popular) rather than a stark white, which is more contemporary.

You could do the white either on the wall cabinets or on the island; the first option would help to brighten and enlarge the kitchen's overall appearance, while the second would help make the island a focal point.

Shaker-style doors with wide rails and stiles are a great choice for a bungalow home. You may want to add some glass inserts in the upper cabinets for variety, authenticity and additional light.

For more ideas, I suggest picking up one of these two books: Bungalow Kitchens, by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen, or The New Bungalow Kitchen, by Peter Labau.



Should people ever consider painting tiles?

Kitchen Paint Project
Thinking about painting backsplash tiles? Most of our designers would beg you to think twice, or at least, do plenty of research before reaching for a brush.

Lori Carroll, Interior Designer: Personally, I wouldn't recommend painting any wall tile. I'm sure it is done, but that is a job I would leave to the professionals!


Lisa Elkins, Architect: There is a paint called Break-Through that applies easily onto tile. So if you like the texture but not the color of your tile, a product like that can be an option. You'll lose the differentiation between the tile and grout, but if you like the paint color it shouldn't be a problem. Breakthrough was developed for garage floors, so it is really durable. But it does not come off easily.


David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: As for painting tile, if that's your renovation idea, abandon ship!


Verdict: Most of the experts we interviewed were not keen on painting over tile. But if new tile isn't an option, certain industrial-strength paints can work well on hard-to-paint surfaces.


When choosing sustainable or green tile, what should consumers look for so they know the product is truly eco-friendly?

Recycled Glass BacksplashTile
Photo Courtesy of Fireclay Tile

The tiles pictured above are made from post-consumer recycled content.

Lisa Elkins, Architect: The biggest way to get green tile is to use recycled content. And it should be post-consumer recycled content. So like old Coke bottles turned into tile as opposed to something like glass scraps from a tile factory. That helps you with LEED points as well.

Verdict: If you're looking to use an eco-friendly tile for your backsplash, purchasing tiles made from post-consumer content is one of the greenest choices you can make.


Should certain backsplash materials be avoided because they can easily be damaged by high heat or food stains?

Backsplash Behind a Cooktop
Many tiles that can be used to create backsplashes will not be damaged by intense heat from cooking appliances, nor will they stain easily if there are cooking mishaps.

Lisa Elkins, Architect:Sometimes there are places where you'll be tempted to use paint instead of tile, and if you do that, make sure it's not a flat paint. Try to use a higher gloss paint that's easier to clean off. Also, really white grout can harbor stains like soy sauce.


David Portales, Spanish Tile Association:Usually the area that can get stained, grow bacteria, and generally result in the most complaints, is the grout. There are options though, you can apply special sealers to the grout to make it more resilient, or select a rectified tile. In rectification, tile edges are shaved off to an exact calibration, meaning all tiles are exactly the same. This allows you to get a very tight "credit card" joint line, therefore limiting the amount of grout exposed to kitchen wear and tear.


Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: Whenever a natural stone is used on a backsplash or behind a cook-top or range, we recommend that the stone be sealed. This will enable items that may splash on the stone to clean off more easily. Generally, glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles do not need to be sealed.


Verdict: Many backsplash tiles are durable enough to be placed behind a cooking area, but as always, it's best to check with the tile manufacturer (or distributor) on the best way to care for the backsplash. Also, don't forget to properly care for your grout, which can be susceptible to staining and other damage. Epoxy grout is often recommended in backsplash applications, as it highly resistant to stains.


An Overview of Frameless Cabinetry

Product-Guide Cabinets Cabinet-Types Frameless-DrawingIn frameless cabinetry, thicker side panels keep the cabinet rigid without the use of a front frame. Special hardware fittings secure the door directly to the side or end panels of the cabinet. Due to the lack of face frame, the cabinet doors lie flush with each other, forming a tight reveal of 1/8" or less. This clean style emphasizes the door and is often referred to as European style or full-access cabinetry.

Because no rails or stiles block the way, frameless cabinets offer slightly easier access to their interiors. Expect up to 10 percent more interior space. Also, many manufacturers eliminate the center stile in double doors, which provides easier accessibility to platters and oversize bowls and dishes.



More in this category:« Framed

Alternatives to Replacing Cabinets

Kitchen with white walls and light wood cabinetry

Save money on a kitchen remodel by refinishing or refacing cabinets instead of buying new cabinetry.

Not every kitchen remodel calls for all-new kitchen cabinets. If new cabinets just aren't in the budget, and your cabinetry remains in good shape but looks dated, you have options. Easy and affordable redos include adding organization accessories to the interior of boxes and drawers to provide more storage, and replacing knobs, pulls and other hardware to add fresh style.

Other exterior makeovers require more effort and money. Refinishing means that keeping all of your existing cabinetry and simply changing the color or finish. This is done through hand sanding or chemically stripping the existing finish from the wood, then applying a new paint or stain. This works best on wood cabinets. Laminate and thermofoil can't be sanded or stripped, and it's "nearly impossibly for paint to stick," says John Williams of Sears Home Improvement Products.

Refacing means keeping the cabinet boxes but replacing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts with new ones. This allows you to change both the style and the color. You can also replace cabinet side panels, face frames and moldings so that everything matches.

Can't decide between refinishing and refacing? Consider door style, kitchen layout and budget. If you hate your door style, why refinish them? Likewise, if you don't like your kitchen's configuration and want to add an island or other cabinetry, don't refinish; it will be very difficult to match to new cabinetry, unless you paint instead of stain. However, if budget is your top priority, refinishing is the cheaper option.



More in this category:Refinishing »