White Kitchens a ‘little black dress’ for the home

Extracted from 24H Vancouver September 13, 2012 edition
By Linda White

Over the years, the white kitchen has been called many things: classic, contemporary, clean and sparse. It’s also never really gone out of style, though it has been cleverly reinvented.

“There are a number of ways that white continues to make an appearance, in hues ranging from snow white to varying shades of creamy, muted, milky tones,” the National Kitchen and Bath Association reveals in its list of top trends from this year’s annual design competition. “This combination of colours and textures is a strong representation of the reinvented and renewed white kitchen – strong, sleek and superb.”

What is the white kitchen’s enduring appeal? “It works in so many different contexts – from traditional to modern and everything in between … and always feels fresh, clean, bright and airy,” says Beverley Leigh Binns of Binns Kitchen and Bath design in Toronto.

She compares it to the little black dress: “It’s a classic framework and can be reinvented over and over again. You can infuse your personality and dress it up or down through elements such as wall colours, accessories and polished metals.”

The white kitchen can fit any type of furniture of flooring, says Martha Beckermann of Kitchen Concepts by Martha Beckermann of Kitchen Concepts by Kitchener, Ont. One of her designs was used by National Kitchen and Bath Association to illustrate the white kitchen trend.

“My favourite design approach is working with the warmth of a beautiful wood, offset it with the coolness of a metal – like stainless in the appliances – and then add a splash of colour to pop whole design,” she says.

Beckermann describes the modern white kitchen as “minimalist. Less is more. Clean, linear lines or simple design elements will give it a sophisticated sleek look.”

Features include mostly wide doors of the same size, drawers hidden behind doors and 24-inch rather than 18-inch backsplash tiles. “It looks sleeker and the designer can keep all the doors in one flowing line instead of raising cabinets over the cook-top or sink. Often linear lift-up doors are used for upper cabinetry in order to simplify the look,” she says.

Today’s white kitchen isn’t necessarily pure white but a variation, Leigh Binns says. It’s often a clean, neutral backdrop for other materials and textures – a marble backsplash perhaps – and can create interesting “tension.” When used as a background, it allows polished metals to truly shine and lets dark finishes stand out.

“Everything looks richer and warmer when paired or contrasted with white,” she says.

For a contemporary look, pair white countertops and cabinetry with a bold wall colour. For a softer look, mix a variety of vanillas and muslins to create textural statement. Layers of white with undertones of grey or darker values of white can create a traditional fell. “An infusion of contemporary into a traditional design can be done as well,” says Leigh Binns.

When opting for a white kitchen, consider whether you want it to be the focal point or backdrop. Also think about how a white kitchen will fit into the ‘story’ of your home. “If your home is filled with heavier textures and dark colours, a white kitchen can be jarring,” she says. “What is the right white – not only for your kitchen but the rest of your home?”

Consider the undertone of the white you select: Is it blue, green or even red or yellow? “On its own it may look like a strong colour but how it’s perceived against other colours is also an important consideration,” Leigh Binns says.

Hiring a great contractor

Most Canadians who renovate their home will rely on a contractor to get the work done. Here are some strategies for making sure you’re on the same page as your contractor, from hiring through to project completion:

Try to find a contractor with whom you’re comfortable communicating

You should be able to ask questions and get answers you understand. Asking around is a good start – get references from friends or find people who have had similar work done to their homes, and see who had good experiences with their contractors.

Be on guard for fly-by-night outfits

Steer clear of contractors who make extremely low-ball or limited time offers, request payment in cash, pressure you to sign a contract right when it’s presented, or ask for a large percentage of the project as a down payment.

Know what you want

Too many people sign on with a contractor to have a particular job done, but in the middle of the project realize that they want something else. Such indecision can wreak havoc with a contractor’s plans, perhaps causing them to undo some work, and can derail your budget.

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DIY – Do it yourself??

Many homeowners these days are willing to get their hands dirty with home improvement projects in the hopes of saving money – especially with the fabulous free courses being run by many home improvement superstores on an ongoing basis.

But although some projects can be tackled by homeowners, the do-it-yourself (DIY) route isn’t always the most economical – or safest, for that matter.

It’s often difficult to determine if a project entails more than you can realistically handle. Most people tend to gauge the complexity of a project by doing research online, as some DIY websites grade a project’s difficulty. But you should also look at the tools that are required for the job. If you come across complex tools you know little about, it may be best to call in an expert.

If you’re unsure about your ability to correctly finish a project, get an expert opinion before proceeding. Sometimes, you may end up spending more money to repair a bungled DIY job than if you had hired someone to do it right from the onset of the project.

Following are some examples of when you may want to consider turning to a pro:

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