Spice up your kitchen with some advice from area remodelers.
By Kate Rader
As the saying goes, home is where the heart is, and the kitchen is the heart of the home.
It’s most often located at the center of the house, both physically and emotionally. It’s where we congregate to bond over a meal with family, learn to cook, and many times, its design sets the tone for the rest of the house.
There are many things to consider when it’s time to design (or redesign) our home’s central hub, including layout, accessibility, cabinet and countertop materials, appliances, fixtures and finishes, flooring, lighting, and color. Today, more than ever before, there are many ways to make your kitchen more functional — and more beautiful.
THE STUFF KITCHEN DREAMS ARE MADE OF
In 2016, when Robert Helmick and his wife Jorgina Andrawos moved into their Black Rock home, they wanted to make it their own. The couple knew that remodeling the kitchen was at the top of their list. Robert — who was a chef for years before working in IT — says they love entertaining Jorgina’s big family. His only request? “I wanted a Wolf stove,” he says. “Jorgina designed everything else.”
Jorgina brought her design vision to Hagerstown-based The Granite Guys, who’ve specialized in granite and natural stone sourcing, design, and installation for 18 years. Owners Tom Simon and Herbie Bennett have devoted their careers to cultivating a deep knowledge of the products and processes behind the countertops, backsplashes, fireplaces, and bathrooms they create.
They recommend a client start by bringing their ideas into the showroom to discuss options. Tom says they “like to educate our customers about what they’re getting, and how to take care of it. In the showroom, people can see and feel the difference between materials and we can make recommendations based on their lifestyle.”
The couple chose a striking black granite for its “durability and aesthetic. It has a feeling unlike anything else,” Robert says. The Granite Guys added about nine slabs to Jorgina and Roberts’ home — installing kitchen countertops, a full-length backsplash, and a 10 ft. x 50 in. eat-in island; along with a floor-to-ceiling granite fireplace and additional countertops in the basement.
Each slab weighed about half a ton and took six people to carry in by hand. Much of the granite used in the couple’s house was imported from Brazil, with white or gold veining running through each hand-cut slab. Herbie says the biggest challenge they faced was getting the varied veins to match up.
Jorgina and Robert spent several years renovating their home. Just as the project neared completion, an electrical fire tore through the living room, causing extensive smoke and water damage to the first floor. So Tom and Herbie did what they do best — assist their customers. They pulled all of the home’s granite, extensively cleaned it, and reinstalled the countertops and backsplash once the new cabinets were in place. They later added the fireplace, which is now one of the home’s focal points.
While The Granite Guys believe in granite’s durability and ease of care, they’ve seen an uptick in clients’ interest in other natural stone, like Carrara marble, solid-surface quartz, and quartzite which is naturally occurring and has a shiny appearance. Typically, customers turn to these products when they’re looking for lighter-colored countertops without the veining, Herbie says, and notes that each type of material has pluses and minuses. For example, “quartz comes in solid colors and is less shiny than quartzite or granite, but it can be scorched by a hot pot or scratched more easily, whereas scratches in granite can be polished right out.”
“People worry about cleaning granite, but it’s pretty easy,” Tom says. He recommends only cleaning it with granite wipes or granite cleaner, and that you can get one with a sealer in it for everyday use.
They both say that the most important thing you can do when considering a new build or renovation is to “Do your homework. Research materials, ask questions, and ask your family and friends for recommendations.”
Kelli Nunnaly has been a kitchen design professional for 30 years. She shares her deep product and design knowledge with customers of J&D Kitchen Distributors in Hagerstown, MD, helping them understand how they can get the most out of their space. “Layout is always based on the homeowner’s priorities,” Kelli says. “Do they want the kitchen to be open to other areas of the house? Are there multiple people cooking and they want to share their time in the kitchen together?”
She says storage is important and there are lots of new storage solutions available. Hidden trash cans for trash and recycling, pull-out drawers and cabinets for pots and pans and spices, and rollouts in the pantry for easy access are all popular.
She’s also noticed that while white and grey kitchens are still trending, people are starting to embrace color. Warmer tones are out, while lighter wood tones are trending again — with a twist: cooler shades. “Lightly stained wood tones paired with shades of green are very popular. Dark emerald green or sage mixed with a light wood tone is very pretty.”
Homeowners are choosing to go with creamier whites paired with accent colors. She’s seeing more two-toned cabinets, where the bottom cabinets are a different color than the top ones. “I recently designed a kitchen for a log cabin where they wanted a black island and base cabinets and the upper cabinets were a beautiful hickory wood,” she says.
Kelli says changing just a few things can make a big impact, too. “If you have golden oak cabinets with a gold countertop, we can change out the countertop to a white with a little gold veining, and add a backsplash; change out the cabinet hardware to give it a fresh look.” Before the project begins, she enjoys creating a full-color mockup to help customers envision the finished design. “Every customer is different.”
In Chambersburg, PA, says she thinks time spent at home during Covid sparked the renewed interest in color. “People were home and noticing how hard all-white kitchens were to clean,” she says. “There’s also been a big focus on bringing the inside outdoors, resulting in earthy tones like green and dark blue with pops of color, and outdoor kitchens.”
Kitchens are becoming more inviting, with features like ambiance and floor lighting and conveniences like USB charging outlets. Kacie says improved accessibility is paramount, and they work with homeowners to implement a “Living in Place” philosophy, which advocates for safety and accessibility, allowing them to age in their homes comfortably.
Since 1997, the company has specialized in flooring, kitchen and bathroom designs, cabinets, and countertops for new construction & renovations. When meeting with potential clients for the first time, Kacie says it helps to bring photos of the room and general measurements. That way, they can look at products together and discuss what does and doesn’t work for them. “We get a preliminary sense of the budget and make adjustments to fit. There are always ways to save. Something like door style alone can affect the price a lot.”
People looking for that more organic look, she notes, are switching from tile to luxury vinyl floorings like Karndean, which can look like tile with grout or marble, have a wood look, and offers different shapes. “It’s easier to clean, stand on, and replace if there’s damage,” she says.
The projects she enjoys the most require creativity to update a challenging space. Recently, a clientwith a kitchen designed in the ‘70s wanted to keep her original cabinets. So, they made other modifications — reworked the layout, replaced the floor and countertops, and added a backsplash. Kacie said the outcome was amazing. “It looks like a whole new kitchen, updated but it complements the age of the home.”
Habitat for Humanity ReStores save consumers money and materials from the landfill.
Renovations mean out with the old and in with the new. The Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County ReStore provides a place to donate gently used (or unused) building supplies, furniture, and appliances — and a way to purchase these items for your own remodel.
“Customers can see a 30-90% savings on items purchased at our store,” Assistant Manager Justin Hoke says. Profits from sales at the store subsidize homes built by Habitat for Humanity so more Franklin County residents can become proud homeowners.
Habitat acquires the land and
building materials, but future residents participate in the labor required to build the home. “If someone donates a sofa, they very well are paying for a door in a house.” Justin believes wholeheartedly in the mission of the organization and how it helps the community. “I’ve seen close to 20 houses built in the eight years I’ve been here.”
2023 Spring Home Show Schedule
Home Builders Association of Washington County Home Show\
Saturday, March 4: 9am-5pm
Sunday, March 5: 10am-4pm
Hagerstown Community College’s Athletic Recreational Community Center (ARCC)
11400 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown, MD
Adults – $2.00
Children 12 and under are FREE
Berkeley County Home Show
Saturday, March 25
Sunday, March 26
100 E. Liberty St., Martinsburg, WV
Frederick County Building Industry Association Home Show & Builder Olympics
Saturday, March 18: 9am–5pm
Sunday, March 19: 10am–4pm
The Frederick Fairgrounds,
797 E. Patrick St., Frederick, MD