Countertop Confusion: Quartz vs. Quartzite

Selecting a countertop for your kitchen or bathroom remodel can be a significant task, especially as you attempt to weigh the pros and cons of your various choices.  Two very similar sounding options, Quartz and Quartzite, have become quite popular; but many people are unaware of the significant differences between the two.

La Grange kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Stephanie BryantQuartz is the name commonly used for Engineered Stone, which is a manufactured product that contains a significant amount of the mineral Quartz.  “Quartz stones are a primary component of these countertops, along with resins and pigments, which is why people frequently refer to this engineered stone as ‘Quartz,’” says Normandy Designer Stephanie Bryant, CKD.  “This engineered stone is less porous than a natural stone which makes it resistant to etching and staining and it generally requires less maintenance.”  Quartz countertops are manufactured by many recognizable brand names such as Cambria, Silestone, Caesarstone, Zodiaq, Honstone, Viatera and Vicostone.  The manufacturing process makes the design or pattern of these Quartz countertops more predictable which makes choosing a specific slab for your project unnecessary.

Burr Ridge kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie LeeQuartzite, on the other hand, is a natural stone that is quarried from the earth, cut into large slabs, and eventually cut down further into countertops.  “Many Quartzites are harder than granite and they can have striking patterns,” notes Stephanie.  “They can create a very dramatic look in a kitchen or bathroom and because of these variations, it’s important to select the particular slab that you like best for your project.”  Because Quartzite is a combination of quartz and limestone it is vulnerable to etching from acids such as citrus juice or tomato juice, and it does require regular sealing.

Quartz and Quartzite are just two of the many different options available for your kitchen or bathroom countertop.  Schedule a time to talk with Stephanie about all the aspects of your upcoming kitchen remodel, or register for an upcoming educational seminar to learn even more about creating your ideal kitchen or bathroom.

Chicago kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Chris EbertBurr Ridge kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie Molloy

Hinsdale kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling

Purr-fect Spot for Cat Bowls

Pets are treasured members of the family, and as such have a special place in our homes.  So when planning for a new kitchen, this family made sure to incorporate the needs of their cat, just as they would for any other member of the family. “Each person has a designated place to eat or drink, so it was natural to create the same type of space for the family pet,” says Normandy Designer Ann Stockard.

Gurnee kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Ann StockardThe end of the island was the perfect place to create a dedicated location for the cat’s water and food dishes.  “We selected a man-made quartz product as the surface surrounding the bowls so that it would resist water damage and be easy to clean,” says Ann.  Homes that include a pet typically have a dedicated space for their pet’s dishes anyhow, and since this family is planning to spend many years in the home it made perfect sense to adjust the cabinets to meet the needs of their entire family, including their pets.

Accounting for the needs of your pet is just one of the ways that your kitchen remodel can be tailored to the unique needs of your home. Schedule a time to talk with Ann about your upcoming kitchen renovation or register for an educational kitchen seminar to get a primer on prepping for your remodel.

storage above food bowls in kitcheneating spot for cats in kitchen


Plate Storage Possibilities

Naperville kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Ann StockardKitchen designs can vary greatly, but one thing they all have in common is a designated place to store your plates and dishes.  You’ll find dinnerware most frequently stored in a traditional wall cabinet, but don’t resign your dishes to this predictable location before considering some of these increasingly popular alternatives.

“Open shelving is a growing trend in kitchen design, not only for the aesthetic that it provides, but for the ultimate in accessibility,” says Normandy Designer Leslie Molloy, CKD. Dishes are stacked in plain sight, making them easy to put away after washing and simple for guests to help themselves.

Lake Forest kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Kathryn O'DonovanIf you have vintage dishware or plates with a striking pattern, a plate rack may be the best choice for you.  “This vertical storage option lets the plates function as artwork, lending a unique and personal design element to the kitchen,” notes Leslie. Suitable for everyday dishes or for special occasion plates, this solution has the added bonus of minimizing dust collection on the plates since the dishes are stored vertically.

Open floorplan kitchens continue to gain in popularity, but one of their noteworthy drawbacks is the decreased number of wall cabinets. “One of my favorite solutions for plate storage in an open kitchen is peg drawers,” says Leslie.  “Nobody has ever heard of them, but as soon as they see how flexible and versatile they are, everybody wants one in their kitchen.”  These drawer inserts have wood, metal, or plastic pegs that can be moved into varying positions to tailor the drawer’s interior to fit the dishes.

Burr Ridge kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie Molloy, CKD

Storing plates in a traditional wall cabinet is still a solid choice for many kitchens, and with good reason.  “You don’t have to worry about the dishes being neatly stacked if you have a solid front on your cabinet,” commented Leslie.  “Or if you just prefer them being enclosed to keep off the dust, you can consider a clear or textured glass front that still lets your dishes peek out into the kitchen.”

Whether you choose to store your dishes out in the open, or tucked away within a cabinet, there are more options than ever for your kitchen.  Schedule a time to talk with Leslie about the best way to create your ideal kitchen, or join us at an upcoming kitchen remodeling seminar to learn the basics of preparing for a kitchen remodel.

Chicago kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Kathyrn O'DonovanBurr Ridge kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie Leekitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Ann Stockard







What is the Difference between Cooktops and Rangetops?

There are a wide variety of kitchen design solutions that would make a cooktop or rangetop the right solution for your kitchen, rather than a traditional stove. For example, if the kitchen has multiple work zones, or multiple ovens, it may be practical to separate the cooking surface from the oven below. While cooktops and rangetops similarly lack an oven below their burners, they have some practical and aesthetic differences that may lead you to selecting one over another for your kitchen.

Lisle kitchen remodelWilmette kitchen remodelA cooktop is typically a more integrated cooking surface built into the countertop. This cooking surface can be recessed so that it seamlessly blends into the countertop, or it can sit slightly higher. “In either case, the countertop edges surround the cooktop,” says Normandy Designer Laura Barber, AKBD. The knobs or touch pad to control the burners are integrated in the cooktop, either along its side or near the front. “With the controls being above the countertop, this is often an ideal choice for families that worry about curious youngsters and pets,” notes Laura. Cooktops come in a wide range of sizes and configurations and are available in gas, electric or induction cooking methods.

Rangetops are larger, professional style cooking surfaces that sit directly on top of a custom cabinet platform or other surface. They generally protrude about two to three inches beyond the cabinetry and counter top. “The heavy weight gives the appearance of a professional style range even though there is no oven below,” notes Laura. Unlike cooktops, the control knobs are located in front of the appliance. A wide range of sizes and configurations are available, however, range tops are only available with gas burners.

Hinsdale kitchen remodel by Normandy Designer Laura Barber, AKBDHinsdale kitchen remodel

Choosing between a cooktop and a rangetop largely depends upon your family’s preferences and overall style of your kitchen. If you would like to incorporate one of these units in your next kitchen remodel, schedule an in-home consultation with Designer Laura Barber, AKBD or come to one of our educational kitchen seminars.

A Weekend Getaway Helps You Prep for Your Remodel

Does your idea of a fun Date Night include browsing through tile shops or looking at fixtures as you and your spouse discuss what “could be” in your new kitchen or bathroom?  Then you may be the perfect candidates for a quick weekend getaway to nearby Kohler, WI.

Just a 2 hour drive north of Chicago, The American Club in Kohler WI is a 5-Star, 5-Diamond resort owned by the Kohler Co and is located in, you guessed it, Kohler Wisconsin.  This resort destination includes all the usual amenities, golf, spa, dining, shopping, but it also includes a multi-level kitchen and bathroom design center.

This design center has complete kitchens and bathrooms on display, as well as individual bathtubs, toilets, sinks, etc.  For anyone contemplating a remodel, this is a great opportunity to have some hands-on interaction with the products and solutions that you may be considering for your home.

Kohler also offers free tours of their manufacturing facilities Monday through Friday.  These tours include their ceramics and forging plants and are led by recently retired Kohler employees who really know their stuff.  For people who enjoy learning how things are made, these tours get you up-close and personal with the manufacturing process.

Once you’ve had your fill of learning about kitchens and bathrooms, you may choose to enjoy the Kohler Waters Spa or spend some time at their world famous golf courses.  Whistling Straits is home to the 2015 PGA Championship August 10-16 (you can see them setting up for the event in the photos below).  Both Black Wolf Run and Whistling Straits are open to the public to enjoy and offer an unforgettable and challenging experience.

Your upcoming remodel may be just the excuse you need for this short get-away, a perfect blend research and relaxation.

Top It Off With An Accent

Homeowners searching for a unique “wow” factor in their next home remodeling project would do well to try looking up. The 5th wall (your ceiling) is a frequently ignored surface in your home, one that can make a huge impact on the space if given a little special attention.

Some folks are content to simply paint their ceiling a striking color, but adding an architectural element can make a significant design statement. Depending on the existing room, or plans for the addition, different ceiling options may be appropriate.

Beams and Coffered Ceilings:

Glencoe remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Vince WeberBeams and coffers are very closely related since they both are visible and extend from the ceiling by a few inches. “Most beams are either decorative in nature, or conceal a structural beam, and typically run in a single direction,” says Normandy Designer Vince Weber. Exposed beams are more commonly found in Tudor or Rustic style homes, but can be modified to work with most Oak Park remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Stephanie Bryantaesthetics. Coffers are beams that are typically three to eight inches deep that intersect creating a grid-like pattern on the ceiling which gives the illusion of recessed panels on the ceiling. Coffered ceilings are best suited for traditional styles of homes.

Both decorative beams and coffered ceilings can be added to virtually any room, although it’s recommended to only apply them to spaces that have a minimum ceiling height of eight and a half feet. Because the beams will extend down into the room, you want to be sure there is ample space before adding the decorative element.

Tray and Vaulted Ceilings:

La Grange remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie LeeTray ceilings feature a center section that is several inches (or several feet) higher than the areas around the perimeter of the room. The recessed area can go straight up or at an angle. Depending on the style of the home, this raised area may include decorative trim, up-lighting, or an accent paint color. Tray ceilings make a room appear larger without adding any additional square footage.  “This is often a nice alternative to a vaulted ceiling, and is easier to implement in a remodel,” notes Vince.

A vaulted ceiling provides the greatest opportunity to create height within a room but they are best reserved for a newly constructed space.  “These are contextually appropriate for homes built within theNaperville addition by Normandy Remodeling last 30 years or so, and may look out of place in older homes,” says Vince. There are some cases when a tray or vaulted ceiling can be incorporated into existing space, but are most commonly seen as part of a new room addition.

Adding a unique ceiling design to your home remodel can be a striking focal point in an unexpected place. Schedule a time to talk with Vince to discuss the possibilities for your home, or see what other people have to say about working with the Normandy team.




Spice Up Your Kitchen Storage

kitchen cabinet spice storage drawerFinding the right home for your spices within your overall kitchen design can be a detail that’s easily overlooked.  Fortunately, there are a wide variety of options for spice storage, and their relatively small size makes them prime candidates for capitalizing on otherwise lost or under-utilized space.

Location is a key determining factor in choosing the right place for your spices, and most cooks opt to have their favorite spices and oils close at hand.  “One of the best places you can store your jars of spices is on either side of the range,” notes Normandy Designer Leslie Lee.  “They are easily accessible at the point of use and it’s these types of thoughtful placements that can make your kitchen more efficient overall.”

Drawers are available with special inserts to make your spices easier to see at a glance, but they tend to limit the size of the jar and the number of spices you can store in the space. Angle cabinet drawer insert for spices and seasoningsCooks with a large number of spices may keep their less frequently used spices elsewhere, such as the pantry, and keep only their preferred choices near the cooktop. “Some people are concerned with storing their spices so close to a heat source,” says Leslie. “But today’s ovens are well insulated and the cabinet itself should not become excessively warm to the point it would degrade the quality of the spices.”

Dedicated shelving that pulls out from a narrow cabinet is another popular option, which also greatly increases the storage options. “These pull-outs have adjustable shelves to accommodate varying sizes of jars and are a great choice for the space adjacent to the range,” says Leslie.  If you like this solution but are very tight on space, you may be able to incorporate spice storage into decorative pilasters or columns, which takes advantage of an otherwise wasted space.

spice and oil storage next to stovedecorative cabinet column with pull out spice storage next to stoveAdjustable shelves for spices and oil next to the stove

While designers do their best to optimize every square inch of the kitchen, there are times when the shape of the room or a primary design driver may create odd sized cabinets.  A shallow cabinet that’s created as part of an island or an existing wall bump-out that limits cabinetry options may not fit common kitchen items, but would be an excellent choice for spice jars.  Overflow spice storage in particular can be relegated to small or shallow cabinets that you might otherwise have been tempted to ignore all together.
Small kitchen cabinet for spice storage

If your cabinetry options have already been exhausted, it may be time to consider a well-placed niche.  Either adjacent to the cooktop or directly behind the cooking surface, these open spaces are a popular place for oils, salt and pepper, and other everyday spices.  Niches typically take advantage of either the space between the wall studs, in the case of behind the stove, or on the side of a cabinet to create a flexible space that can accommodate a variety of cooking oils and seasonings.

Addressing the fine details of how you work within your kitchen is one of the benefits you gain when working with a designer, such as Leslie Lee.  If you would like to talk with Leslie about creating a solution for your upcoming kitchen remodel, you can request a consultation, stop by our showroom, or even sign up for one of our educational kitchen seminars.

storage niche behind stovecabinet niche next to stove for oils and spicesOpen space for storing oils and spices next to range

La Grange Forever Home Featured in National Design Magazine

Check out the summer issue of Storage Solutions Magazine to read all about this La Grange remodel by Normandy Designer Leslie Lee.  These savvy homeowners are enjoying their empty-nest lifestyle, while preparing for their next phase of living.  You can find the magazine article on newsstands throughout the summer, and flip to page 128 to read all about the renovation.

Storage Solutions Magazine Ranch Home RemodelLa Grange Home Remodeling Forever Home

Getting a Handle on Kitchen Faucets

Kitchen faucets come in various styles, colors and options. One option to consider when choosing a kitchen faucet is whether you prefer a single handle or double handle faucet. One may argue that there is no difference between the two and that a faucet is a faucet.  In actuality, there are significant differences between the two.

River Forest kitchen remodel by Normandy Designer Leslie MolloyA single handle faucet is one handle that turns the water on and off, as well as adjusts the water temperature. Since single handle faucets have fewer holes in the countertop, there are fewer places for water to collect making them much easier to keep clean. The ease of  use and cleaning makes single handle faucets in kitchens more common. “Because they are simpler by design, single handle faucets typically have more contemporary styling”, says Normandy Designer Leslie Molloy, CKD. They are also considered to be more ergonomic, easy and safe for young and old. This is especially beneficial for a child or person with arthritis.

Hinsdale kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Ann StockardDouble handle faucets have two separate nozzles, one for hot and another for cold. These handles can be widespread or center set. Widespread is more common since there is more spacing between the handles and spout. Center set means it is 4” from one handle to the other, which is a great selection for vanities that are small with little counter space. Since double handles have more elements, they typically have a traditional style. “With two different sizes of double handle faucets, the aesthetic options are much larger than single handles”, says Leslie.

A kitchen faucet is one of many design elements that can make a huge impact on your kitchen’s overall style. If you are thinking about starting a kitchen remodel, schedule a time to talk with Leslie or register for one of our upcoming kitchen remodeling seminars.

A New Generation of Appliance Garages

La Grange kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Troy PavelkaWhen you think of appliance garages, do images of roll-top louvered doors come to mind? Despite their practicality, appliance garages fell out of fashion for a long time, largely because they instantly dated a kitchen and did very little to enhance the design aesthetic of the space.  But fans of these handy spaces will be thrilled to learn that not only are appliance garages making a come back, they now look better than ever.

“Kitchen design is constantly evolving, and new options for door hinges have led to an appliance garage renaissance,” says Normandy Designer Leslie Lee.  “The newer style of appliance garages have doors that can pop-up, tilt-up, or even open and slide back into pockets.” Nearly any style of door can be used, which makes them incredibly versatile and easy to incorporate in virtually any style of kitchen.  Another bonus of these unique door mechanisms is that they allow appliance garages to be added into relatively tight spaces, a major plus for homeowners with small, or galley style kitchens.

Burr Ridge kitchen remodel by Normandy Remodeling Designer Leslie Lee

“A common desire among people preparing for a kitchen remodel is to create a clean, uncluttered space, which is another reason for the resurgence in popularity of the appliance garage,” noted Leslie.  “Most people will still use the coffee maker, toaster, or blender on an almost daily basis; which leads to them either leaving these machines sitting permanently on the counter or being moved in and out of cabinets every day.  One or more appliance garages allow you to have your small countertop appliances available whenever you wish and they can quickly and easily concealed without moving a heavy stand mixer or espresso machine a single inch.” In fact, many appliance garages also have built in outlets for each appliance,
shaker style in white painted kitchen with green countertops and lighting within the cabinet for ease of use.

Appliance garages are just one of many potential design elements to consider when creating a kitchen remodel that’s right for you.  If you’re thinking about getting started on your kitchen renovation, schedule a time to talk with Leslie or register for one of our upcoming educational kitchen seminars.