Kitchens: It’s A Changing World
When we first began as remodeling contractors – wait a minute – back in the days of the Arc…there were only two basic choices when it came to kitchen countertops: 1) ceramic tile, or 2) plastic laminate. Yep, once in a while we had a request for butcher block, but mostly laminate or tile. What was really interesting was that the folks who had tile tops wanted “Formica” and those who had plastic laminate wanted ceramic tile. At times it was quite laughable. We would second guess a prospective client as to their choice and we would be right over 95-percent of the time. In the late 1980’s a local countertop fabricator suggested that we add an amazing new solid-surface countertop product to our showroom called Corian ®. He insisted that we would be amazed. Even better he agreed to supply and install a complete countertop in our showroom absolutely free of charge – no strings attached. We were so excited. A state of the art countertop was going into our showroom and all at no cost to us. Totally cool! Anyway, the top was installed and almost a year past with no interest from any of our clients. We tried like crazy to interest folks in the new innovation. It had the groutless beauty of a plastic laminate and the durability of ceramic tile. It was easy to clean, good looking and easy to repair. But no one was interested. We couldn’t understand what was going on. Here was a seamless product that could be repaired that looked good and there were no takers. Talk about confused.
Almost a year had past and we got a call from the fabricator. “Hey, what the heck is going on with you guys? We installed a countertop for you over a year ago and you haven’t had a single sale”. We couldn’t explain it. Then, about a week or so later, a customer asked for a quote on a Corian ® shower. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful showers we had ever built. For no apparent reason the product finally began to sell like hot cakes and folks who remodeled their kitchens now regularly asked for prices on ceramic tile, plastic laminate and Corian ®. Soon after several other companies began to manufacture solid surface countertop materials and the race was on.
A few years passed and our more affluent clients threw a new request into the mix – slab granite. Although not many actually made the purchase almost everyone wanted to know the cost. With the advent of Corian ® – which was more expensive than tile but less costly than slab granite – consumers were slowly moving to fancier and more unique kitchens. Everyone seemed to want unique. Many opted for granite tile. The grout lines in granite tile are narrow and usually colored to closely match the granite. Additionally, granite tiles are typically one-foot square making for even less grout than would be found in a conventional (4×4- or 6×6-inch) ceramic tile installation.
As the countertop metamorphosis was taking place other changes began to occur as well. Our customers began asking for fancier appliances, better flooring, finer cabinetry and more extravagant lighting systems. Take cabinets for instance. Where the end of a cabinet was once a flat piece of plywood we now see recessed panels that match the doors. Adjustable shelves are a standard rather than an option. Concealed (European) hinges are definitely vogue. Oh, and be advised that you don’t have the best unless they adjust 6 ways and allow snap-off door removal. Remember when the only thing in the world that adjusted 6 ways was a car seat? Even cabinet drawers are being scrutinized. The drawer boxes themselves must have dove-tailed joints and full extension drawer glides. The dove-tail joint is not new. But it is the strongest of connections. Also, it is the most pricy. Full extension glides allow the drawer to be pulled out all the way. In the open position no portion of the drawer remains within the cabinet. The entire drawer box is fully available when open. Folks are even beginning to ask for drawer glides by weight rating. “I want 150-pound glides”, they exclaim.
Today, it is apparent that consumers are better informed and enjoying the kitchen more than just about any other room in there home. Where we once found ourselves explaining how to design a kitchen that was simple and comfortable we now find that the average consumer wants to be surrounded by something that looks like a restaurant with the luxury of a castle. Why not! You only live once. And that’s all there is to it.