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Achieving a Timeless Kitchen Design

Kitchen design trends come and go (do wallpaper, linoleum floors, and pastel-colored appliances make you feel any sort of way?), but there are a handful of principles we can abide by to ensure a truly timeless kitchen design. Having the benefit of centuries worth of hindsight, we can much more readily identify the biggest hits and misses — there’s a reason certain things disappear while others stick around. Because it’s 2021, your kitchen remodeling options are wide open — and ultimately, it’s about what you like. But if it’s staying power you’re after, read on. 

Distinguishing features of kitchen design

In the broadest strokes, today’s kitchen designs fall into one of four major categories — and although the distinctions between them can be vague, they can give us a general sense of where a customer’s head is at. 

Traditional kitchen design

When we talk about traditional kitchen design, we are generally referring to those that reference Old World and American colonial traditions, pre-dating the 20th century. These kitchens are marked by ornate detailing and natural materials such as wood and stone — after all, the technology to create the man-made materials did not exist before then. 

Although the term “traditional” or “classic kitchen” is a little ambiguous and not fully reflective of the diversity of architectural and cultural sensibilities here, you can generally expect things like raised cabinet panels, decorative mouldings, warm kitchen lighting from chandeliers, pendants, and sconces, stone backsplashes, and kitchen countertops made of marble, soapstone, or limestone. Because modern appliances were also not invented yet in these kitchens’ heyday, the oven was the focal point. 

Modern vs. contemporary kitchen design

The term “modern kitchen design” is often used interchangeably with “contemporary kitchen design,” but the two are not one and the same. Modern kitchen design harkens back to a particular span of the 20th century, from approximately the 1920s into the 1970s. Encompassed within that are several design movements, including Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern. The latter has enjoyed a comeback in recent years, embracing an earthy color palette, flat paneled cabinet doors (painted or woodgrain), and furniture with curved or rounded edges.

Contemporary kitchen design, on the other hand, is about the aesthetic sensibilities of the here and now. In the 21st century, it’s most often associated with cleaner, more simplified lines and total composition. Colors are generally still neutral, but designers may judiciously incorporate a brighter color somewhere for visual interest — perhaps an accent wall or a backsplash. Glass and stainless steel have become increasingly popular materials. Recessed and track lighting have taken precedence. 

Transitional kitchen design

Transitional kitchen design seeks to blend traditional and contemporary details in seamless fashion — white or off-white is the most popular color scheme, but blues, grays, greens, and beiges can also work beautifully. Natural and manmade materials are equally valid options with a transitional approach — it’s all about the right mix and balance, and whether the client wants to lean more traditional or contemporary. Cabinets (usually Shaker style, but painted or stained?) and countertops (marble, quartz, or solid surface?) are key to this. Whatever the design decision, it’s all about looking crisp and clean. 

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So what makes a timeless kitchen design?

Timeless kitchen design is concerned with what will always look good and function well, independent of trends or fads. A few best practices:

  1. Favor neutrality over flash in your color scheme — white cabinets or countertops may sound boring to some, but they’re extremely popular now, have been historically popular, and will likely continue to be popular in the future.
  2. Use high quality, natural materials whenever possible. Not only will they hold up better, they’ll create a more organic sense of space.
  3. Simplicity and cleanliness of lines —  think Shaker style cabinets, subway tiles, etc. Transitional kitchen design has been in vogue in recent years because it does embrace these “timeless” qualities
  4. Lighting to tastefully illuminate work spaces and entertaining areas. 
  5. A kitchen layout that works with you and not against you.

Timeless kitchen design in action

This recent kitchen remodel in Mickleton, NJ pulls together both traditional and contemporary elements for a look that’s both transitional and timeless. White Shaker style cabinets surround the perimeter of the workspace, with natural wood cabinets composing the center island. Soft, neutral colors are present in the stone flooring and ceramic subway tile backsplashes. Recessed lighting generally illuminates the space, while pendants accent the dining area and island. 

At Ayars Complete Home Improvements, it is our hope that every project stands the test of time, bringing together craftsmanship, expertise, and communication to achieve the best possible result. Let’s cook up something special together.

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Kitchen Countertop Ideas You Can Count On

Homeowners these days are overflowing with kitchen countertop ideas, and that’s because the palette of options is broader than ever. The types of materials available to build kitchen countertops are constantly being added to and evolving, and the conscientious ways we are using them to define spaces are changing with the times too. The kitchen countertop is a design tone-setter, combining with backsplashes, cabinets, and flooring to create a cohesive identity. 

There is a lot you can do with a kitchen countertop — perhaps beyond the scope of one blog post — but let’s take you through some basics and current trends so you can conceptualize for your next remodel. 

Popular kitchen countertop materials

What are kitchen countertops made from? Anymore, the answer is just about anything and everything, running the gamut from totally natural to entirely manmade. Your choice of kitchen countertop material can either greatly limit (not always a bad thing) or expand the overall vibe and style your kitchen will have.

Popular natural materials

Although some homeowners favoring a farmhouse/rustic look still turn to wood (aka “butcher block”), natural stone is far more prevalent and versatile — and in most cases more easily maintained. 

Granite

Perhaps the most coveted variety of natural stone countertop, granite slab is desirable because of its unique looks, durability, and relative seamlessness. Granite countertops can also be purchased in smaller slabs fitted together (modular granite) or in tile form, although these are often seen as compromises that diminish the benefits discussed above.

Marble

In terms of sheer aesthetics, marble is the belle of the ball. But while striking and luxuriously beautiful, marble countertops are fragile compared to other types of natural stone. Their softness makes them more susceptible to scratches, and their porousness makes stains a serious threat unless sealed. 

Soapstone

Soapstone, a type of metamorphic rock containing a high concentration of talc, has been used in architecture for centuries. It is not as soft as marble, but not as hard as granite. Colors range from white to various shades of gray, and it is easy to clean and naturally stain-resistant.

Slate

Slate countertops are the more practical foil to marble, with much better wear characteristics at a lower price point. However, it lacks the smoothness and color options of some of the other types of natural stone. 

Popular manmade materials

Engineered quartz

Engineered quartz, which consists of crushed stone bonded and reinforced by resins, has become the preeminent engineered countertop material. It very convincingly mimics the characteristics of natural stone, including patterns and veining, and is more than capable of standing up to the abuses of a busy kitchen. Kitchen countertop ideas are truly limitless with this material.

Solid surface

Solid surface has taken a backseat to engineered quartz in recent years, but is still a respectable mid-tier option. This manmade material is formed from acrylics and polyester bound together with resins, sometimes with a bit of natural stone dust sprinkled in for character. It’s more affordable than quartz and also hugely versatile in style, but not as rugged and will scorch and scratch (so use cutting boards and insulate from hot pots and pans). 

Laminate

Laminate countertops have a reputation as the “cheap” option, but technology has come a ways since their heyday to create a better-looking and better-performing product. It’s easy to install and available in a ton of colors and patterns. However, there is a reason it is economical — that thin plastic laminate layer can peel and burn if you’re not careful, exposing the underlying particle board.

Concrete and stainless steel

Concrete and stainless steel countertops have been in vogue lately, especially in industrial designs. 

Concrete can be poured into any form, and color and texture treatments can lend these countertops a greater variety of looks and finishes than you’d initially think. It is among the heaviest of kitchen countertop materials and can be a bear to install, so it is best left to professional craftsmen.

Stainless steel, while typically thought of in the context of commercial settings, has become more common in the home.

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Kitchen countertop trends

Now that we’ve touched on some of the more popular materials, let’s get an idea of kitchen countertop trends. 

Mixing materials and finishes

Switching up surfaces and materials has become a trend in modern kitchens, adding both contrast and functionality — for example, a section of butcher block on an otherwise natural stone or engineered quartz countertop. 

Eco-friendliness

Homeowners as a whole are becoming more environmentally conscious, which has led to the development of countertop materials derived from recycled content (e.g. glass, aluminum, even paper composite) or from more sustainable sources. Some of these are not widely available yet but keep an eye out for them in the future.

Shaping and edges

We are living on the edge of kitchen countertop design — as of late quite literally.  Flush countertops trim away the excess (evened up with the underlying cabinetry) for a sleek look, while waterfall countertops make the edge the focal point, with extended outcroppings of countertop material creating additional legroom and storage space along the lengths of peninsulas and islands.

What’s your kitchen countertop idea?

Do you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a kitchen countertop yet? If you’re still having trouble, it might help to think of your overall vision for the space and how you’re using it — if you’re a dedicated home chef, it may make the most sense to have a stainless steel countertop; if you’re more interested in entertaining and wowing guests, a marble countertop may be worth the expense.  

If you’re still stumped, schedule a consultation with the experienced craftsmen at Ayars Complete Home Improvements and we’ll happily figure it out together. 

front porch and siding remodel

How to Increase Home Value in 2021

People often fantasize about finding their “forever home,” but what they should be daydreaming about is ways to increase home value — particularly those with a high return on investment (ROI). A National Association of Realtors study showed that the median time span between a home purchase and a home sale was around 9 years — far short of “forever.” 

How you approach a remodel or renovation depends on your long-term goals — do you plan on sticking around a while (5 years or more), or is your current residence just a stop along the way? It doesn’t make sense to delve into a highly involved, low-ROI project if you won’t be around to enjoy the fruits of that labor (and recoup those costs yourself). Conversely, a simpler, high ROI project will yield greater dividends over a shorter period of time — consistent with a seller’s mentality.

The Cost vs. Value Report for Home Remodeling Projects

So what are the best ways to increase home value then? The answer can vary from year to year and region to region, which can make it hard to know where to start. Thankfully, the Cost vs. Value report published annually by Remodeling magazine helps keep things straight. The report compares the average cost of 22 popular remodeling projects with the value they retain at resale across 101 U.S. markets — in our case the Middle Atlantic and more specifically Philadelphia (right across the Delaware River). 

Compared to 2019, the costs of nearly all project types went up while the perceived value dipped. It’s important to note, however, that there are many factors that figure into the numbers — such as the condition of the rest of the house wherein the project is taking place, the economic health of the surrounding region and home values within the neighborhood, and the fact that many projects come with some sort of tradeoff. A solution you’re creating for yourself may actually be problematic for a prospective buyer. 

For instance, say you absorb the walk-in closet or spare bedroom beside your master bedroom to create a luxury master bath. Yes, certain buyers may appreciate the beauty and indulgence of that reimagined space, but the loss of an additional bedroom may be a dealbreaker for buyers with growing families. This is why we see such variances from region to region (e.g. a population heavy with single young professionals vs. families) 

Three popular remodeling projects (and their ROIs)

In South Jersey and across America, kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects were among the most coveted in 2020. Home Advisor’s annual State of Home Spending Report polled 5,000 Americans about their home improvement spending habits, and kitchens (22.6% of respondents) and bathrooms (30.9%) both ranked within the top 5 most popular. On average, people spent $745 more than the previous year on home improvement — a byproduct of higher prices and a lot more time spent at home due to the pandemic. All that stress had some Ayars customers wanting to retreat into a beautifully appointed new master suite.

Kitchen remodeling projects

kitchen remodel south jersey

Midrange minor kitchen remodel

The midrange minor kitchen remodel mentioned in the Cost vs. Value Report assumes a “functional but dated 200-square-foot kitchen,” the project calls for replacing cabinet fronts with shaker-style wood panels and drawer fronts with new hardware, as well as upgrading the range and refrigerator with new energy-efficient models. Laminate countertops, sink, faucet, and flooring all receive mid-priced replacements. The walls, trim, and ceilings get a new coat of paint.

Major kitchen remodels

A midrange major kitchen remodel takes all that but ups the ante with a more functional layout, including 30 linear feet of semi-custom wood cabinets and a 3×5 foot island. An upscale major kitchen remodel spares no expense: fully customized cabinets, stone countertops, imported tile backsplash, commercial-grade cooktop and wall oven, designer faucets and filtration system, upgraded general and task lighting. 

Return on investment

The midrange minor kitchen remodel had the highest ROI, with 73.2% of costs recouped at resale. The midrange major kitchen remodel still saw South Jersey homeowners recover over half (54.0%) of their investment, while the upscale remodel yielded the lowest return of the three.

Bathroom projects

mullica hill master bath herringbone floor and vanity

Bathroom remodels

The Cost vs. Value Report bases its midrange bath remodel (5×7 bathroom) on updates to all fixtures with quality but affordable materials (porcelain-on-steel tub, ceramic tile surround, solid surface vanity top), with features you’d expect in a modern bathroom (single-lever temperature and pressure control in the shower). Its upscale bath remodel template greatly builds on that, not only in size (100 sq. ft. vs. 35 sq. ft.) but in luxuries (recessed shower caddy, body sprayers, freestanding soaker tub, electric in-floor heating, etc.). 

Additional bathrooms

The Cost vs. Value Report’s baseline bathroom addition projects call for very similar features and functionality as the remodeling projects mentioned above, but with the added preliminary steps of framing walls and extending HVAC, wiring, and plumbing. 

Return on investment

Generally speaking, bathroom projects had some of the lower ROIs listed in this year’s Cost vs. Value report, with remodels (45.1% to 54.9%) faring better than additions (41.9% to 43.1%) — running new plumbing and wiring is not a cheap date. That said, an extra half bath adds about 10% to a home’s value, while converting a half bath to a full bath adds about 9%. By extension, a brand new full bath would increase home value by 19% (National Association of Home Builders).

Master suite additions

clarksboro nj master bathroom renovation

Midrange

The midrange master suite addition involves 24’x16’ of new space, with a carpeted master bathroom with a walk-in closet and dressing area, and a master bathroom with a double-bowl vanity (his and hers), freestanding soaker tub, and 3’x4’ ceramic tile shower

Upscale

The upscale master bedroom suite addition is an even classier affair, with 32’x20’ of additional space with a lounge area, custom millwork, a high-end gas fireplace with a stone hearth, fully functional wet bar, custom lighting controls, master bathroom with a dual shower, freestanding tub, and separate custom vanities, and a whole lot more. 

Return on investment

A new master suite is worth the investment if you’re looking to spoil/pamper yourself for years to come, but maybe not so much if you’re on your way out. The midrange project had an ROI of 44.1%, while the upscale project had an ROI of 37.3%.

High ROI vs. Low ROI remodeling projects

The top 5 ROI remodeling projects in South Jersey (i.e. Philadelphia area) favored exterior home improvements: manufactured stone veneers (94.1%), garage door replacement (70.0%), wooden deck addition (66.6%), and vinyl siding replacement (64.0%); midrange minor kitchen remodel (73.2%) ranked second. 

Across the board, more “luxury” and “upscale” remodeling and renovations projects tended to not increase home value as much as one might hope. So is it worth it to add an upscale bathroom, totally reimagine a kitchen with state-of-the-art features and materials, or build on a gorgeous new master suite? 

Again, it depends on your long-term plans and your willingness to spend. If you’re ready to settle down and have the budget, there’s no question that significantly upgrading and beautifying your home will seriously enhance your enjoyment of the space, and in turn, your quality of life. If you’re planning on selling soon, think more surface level. But if you’re planning on staying for the long haul, think deeper about what you want and what would make you happy. 

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Kitchen Layout Designs: Possibilities and Limitations

If you were to poll people about what they love (or hate) most about their kitchens, it would almost certainly come down to their kitchen layout design. No matter how easy on the eyes a kitchen is, if it is difficult to navigate and use, you might as well have thrown your remodeling budget down the garbage disposal. The kitchen is the heartbeat of the home, pulsing with the life of family and friends, meals and memories. Do not bypass the fundamentals. 

What your kitchen layout needs to accomplish

The key to a successful kitchen layout design is an uninterrupted work triangle. The work triangle is the path between the refrigerator, stove, and sink — or where food is stored, prepared, and washed away. These work areas should not be too far away from one another, nor should there be any obstacles in between. It should allow for appliances, tools, and utensils to be stored or placed within easy reach and, if no dining room is present, residents or guests to be seated comfortably. 

Recapping the kitchen shapes

Kitchen layout types are classified into five basic shapes, often influenced by the amount of space available or the overall floor plan design. As much as we’d like to have every option at fingertips, sometimes a certain layout just will not be compatible with your home. In that case, it’s a matter of making the most of what you have (or building an addition to give you what you don’t).

white single wall kitchen

Single wall kitchen

What it is: Everything — cabinets, appliances, and workstations — along a single wall, effectively flattening the work triangle into a straight line.

Who it’s for: People for whom space is at an absolute premium, such as those who live in a small apartment or condo.

Pros: Conservation of space elsewhere — the kitchen in this instance is part of a multifunctional room.

Cons: Finding a place to put everything — smart storage solutions and organizational efficiency are a must.

Will it island?: Yes, and in fact it’s becoming rarer to find single wall kitchens without one. Adding a kitchen island parallel to the wall creates a more open version of our next major kitchen shape, the galley. 

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Galley kitchen

What it is: Counters, cabinets, and appliances arranged parallel along two facing walls, creating a corridor in which the cook can work.

Who it’s for: Seafarers, or those who’d prefer to use their kitchen for cooking.

Pros: Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency — there’s a reason this is the preferred kitchen layout design of many professional chefs. Moving from task to task is as easy as taking a few steps to the side and/or spinning around. And of course, two full walls for storage is better than one.

Cons: Depending on the width of the corridor, galleys can feel a bit claustrophobic. Also if they are closed off by a wall at either end, they’re not ideal for socializing while you’re at work.

Will it island?: Sort of. In a traditional galley with two full walls, a kitchen island would very much be in the way. However, islands can be used to create a galley-like workflow in a more open environment — by either knocking out a wall, or by installing two islands parallel to one another. 

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L-shaped kitchen

What it is: In the L-shaped kitchen, two runs of countertop meet perpendicularly in a corner.

Who it’s for: Nearly anyone! The L-shaped kitchen is perhaps the world’s most popular because of its versatility and natural compatibility with open-concept designs.

Pros: Great for teamwork, as two chefs can work together at their own stretch of counter simultaneously without bumping into one another. Also excellent for entertaining and socializing as the dining area — or family or living room in open concepts — is often opposite the working area.

Cons: Susceptible to wasted space or disruptions in workflow, especially in the corners — plan ahead when slotting in your major appliances.

Will it island?: Absolutely — so long as the room is big enough. Just make sure you don’t accidentally disrupt the work triangle if you’re allocating one or more workstations to the kitchen island. 

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U-shaped kitchen

What it is: Also called a horseshoe kitchen, the U-shape surrounds the chef with work space and storage on three sides with another end open (typically to a separate dining room).

Who it’s for: Home cooks with a lot of dishware and/or gadgets, as there can be plenty of cabinetry and shelving to accommodate all of them.

Pros: The horseshoe kitchen is another fine choice for the serious chef, as it tends to be used predominantly for cooking and provides ample storage.

Cons: Can create a potential safety hazard if there is a traffic trying to pass through — such as with an entry door. The temptation to overload with wall cabinets can result in a bland and boxy aesthetic. Save a wall or two for open shelving, focal tile, or another form of visual interest.

Will it island?: Yes, if your horseshoe is adequately sized, a kitchen island could function terrifically. In fact, by adding an island you could potentially create two or even three work triangles for the ultimate mealtime tag team effort. 

Woolwich, New Jersey Kitchen Remodel

G-shaped kitchen

What it is: The G-shaped kitchen is also sometimes referred to as a peninsula kitchen for its defining detail, a partial wall jutting out from the corner on one of its four sides, resulting in a sort of sit-down bar.

Who it’s for: People who want an island but do not have the space for one.

Pros: Enjoy the utility of a U-shaped kitchen while adding some of the entertaining potential of an L-shaped kitchen.

Cons: Prepare for traffic jams in the narrow entryway formed at the end of the peninsula.

Will it island?: No, the appeal of the G-shaped kitchen is in its hybrid quality — it’s a sort of compromise, but often a very compelling one!

What kitchen type is best for me?

By now, you should have a fairly good idea of what kitchen layout design is best suited for your home. But how to execute it to its fullest potential? Leave that to the kitchen professionals at Ayars Complete Home Improvements. We take great pride in the process of crafting quality cooking, dining, and entertaining spaces from beginning to end. Wherever you’re at in your relationship with your kitchen, it’s time to either start loving it or start loving it a little more. 

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Getting Started on Home Interior Renovations: Form Follows Function

Residential interior design is so much more than wall paintings, vases, and area rugs (i.e. interior decorating) — it’s a philosophy. Specifically, it seeks to question how our indoor living spaces work for us, how they make us feel

Consider your day-to-day life and the rooms where you spend most of your time — are they laid out in a fashion that frustrates, or in a way that facilitates? That should always be the starting point when contemplating home interior renovations. The finer details of colors, styles, and textures are the icing on the cake!

Floor plan designs

One of the core tenets of residential interior design is the floor plan. Do your home’s rooms flow together in a way that makes sense? Are its shared spaces accessible from more than one direction? Are rooms with similar functions adjacent to one another (kitchen and dining room, for instance)? How easy is it to get to the nearest bathroom? 

While it’s important to ask yourself these things prior to buying a house, deficiencies aren’t always apparent from the outset. But before you change your floor plan, think about how you might make better use of the existing layout. For example, you might shuffle the kids’ bedrooms around or finally get around to finishing that basement

Knocking down and/or reconfiguring walls can get complicated quickly, and might become more than you bargained for if structural engineers, plumbers, or electricians need to get involved. If your home’s layout just isn’t working for your or your family’s lifestyle at all, you may be better off looking for a new house altogether.  

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Functional living spaces

In residential interior design, form always follows function. Having a beautiful space is secondary to having a usable space, although it’s certainly desirable to have both! 

Open and inviting kitchens

Consider the example of a kitchen. Of course, a kitchen’s most important function is the preparation and cooking of food. If there are obstructions between the sink and fridge and oven (the work triangle), that’s a problem. If there is inadequate counter space to prepare food, that’s another problem. If it’s a struggle to store or locate food, utensils, appliances, or cookware, you’re going to be tempted to order out more frequently than dine in. 

But for most people, kitchens serve another essential purpose — gathering, socializing, and entertaining. That is why open concept kitchens are among homebuyers’ most coveted items. Without walls between the kitchen and dining area (and possibly living room), communication is free and easy. People are pleased to be in one another’s presence as opposed to in one another’s way. 

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Rounding home interiors into form

Once you’ve arrived at a floor plan design you’re pleased with, then you can turn your attention to surrounding yourself with the features, fixtures, and decor that reinforce or support a room’s intended function. For instance, you might choose kitchen lighting that helps illuminate workstations and a color palette that is warm and inviting.

Secluded and peaceful home offices

Now consider something like a home office — focus and privacy now become paramount. You’ll want it located in an area of the house that is more isolated or removed from the action. You might tab a socially distanced corner of your upper story (with a nice view of the backyard or nature) or the basement so you can focus on work and not get distracted by play. You might invest in soundproofing to muffle foot traffic and commotion overhead (basement) or a skylight to add more natural light (upper story). 

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Find the heart and soul of your home’s interior

Residential interior design has too much impact on daily mood and quality of life to ignore. Whether you’re shopping for your dream home or mulling over home interior renovations, it’s important to honestly assess how each part functions — both independently and in relation to others. Find a floor plan that fits your lifestyle, then maximize its potential. 

Don’t know where to start? Ayars Complete Home Improvements has been helping South Jersey homeowners through this process for decades. 

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Planning and Focusing Your Kitchen Lighting Layout

As the home’s cooking, communication, and entertaining hub, it’s really not all that difficult to spend too much time in the kitchen. It’s the place where we most often eat and socialize, and as such perhaps the most “human” room in the house. Because kitchens play such an integral role in day-to-day life, they’re also frequently cited among homeowners’ greatest sources of frustration.

Lighting may not be first in our hierarchy of kitchen needs, but it definitely should not be forgotten about. After establishing how you want to use your kitchen, where in the kitchen those functions will be allocated, and what furnishings, fixtures, and appliances will slot into those areas, then you can begin to conceptualize the kitchen lighting layout. Ideally, the lighting plan will harmonize with the floor plan in general, ensuring that your kitchen is both easy to work in and delightful to be in.

The Three Levels of Kitchen Lighting

Within the kitchen (and any room for that matter) there are three major ways lighting can be applied:

As ambient lighting. This refers to general lighting that is meant to illuminate the entirety of the space (e.g. “Turn on the lights, I can’t see.”)

As task lighting. The kitchen has three or more primary work stations — one for preparing food, one for cooking (or baking), and one for storage. Kitchen task lighting shines brighter on these areas so you can be absolutely assured that you can see what you are doing — very important when handling hot pans or sharp objects.

As accent lighting. After you take care of business with your kitchen lighting layout, you can attend to highlighting the room’s aesthetics. Is there a piece of artwork or architecture that stands out? A passage to an attached deck or patio or dining room? Try accenting it.

kitchen remodel island countertop wine bottle

Kitchen Lighting Types (And Where To Use Them)

There is an overwhelming number of kitchen lighting styles on the market — but some are definitely better suited to certain areas than others. Here are some of the more popular.

Recessed kitchen lighting: The most popular choice for ambient lighting, each lighting “can” is directly embedded into your ceiling. They come in both standard and wafer depths, which determines how deep the recess is. Unobtrusive and modern, they seamlessly integrate into the scene.

Flush and semi-flush mount kitchen lighting: The more traditional option for ambient lighting, these fixtures are either flush (directly mounted to the ceiling) or semi-flush (the housing hangs slightly below where it is mounted to the ceiling).

Pendant kitchen lighting: Like a pendant or medallion hung around one’s neck, these fixtures dangle from the ceiling. They can be simple or ornate, rustic or contemporary. They can serve as either task or accent lighting — for instance, over a kitchen island. A kitchen island is both a central design feature and an area where food preparation or entertaining might occur.

Under-cabinet kitchen lighting: The go-to for most task lighting applications, these lighting pucks or strips are applied to the underside of cabinets above the countertop, shining a spotlight on your abilities as a home cook. Take care to limit glare with shinier or more reflective countertop surfaces.

Track lights: Exceptional as an accent over a bar or dining area or even as a task light over the sink/dishwashing area, track lights are a series of lights laid along a fixed straight or curved path.

Additional kitchen lighting tips

Your kitchen renovation specialist may recommend assigning a dimmer switch to all lighting — helping you modulate the intensity of artificial light according to the time of day (especially if you receive a lot of natural light through a window or skylight) and the mood. Decorative switch and outlet covers ensure that even the lighting controls are in sync with your overall kitchen concept.

But first thing’s first — a gorgeous, durable kitchen design that fulfills all your needs. Bring your ideas to the Ayars Complete Home Improvements team, and we’ll ensure your kitchen radiates beauty from the floor to the ceiling.

custom millwork fireplace

4 Good Reasons to Save Interior Home Remodeling Projects for the Winter

Preparing for hibernation this winter? A little R&R is fine — and probably well-deserved — but if you sleep through the whole thing, you might miss the best time for interior home remodeling projects. Whether you’re in the market for minor touch-ups or a more major undertaking, winter can actually be quite kind to the opportunistic homeowner. Here’s why.

You have more downtime

During the spring, the outdoors demand our attention as we prepare for a busy summer. When the warm weather finally arrives, it can be a struggle to go everywhere, see everyone, and do everything we want to. Autumn is a scramble with back-to-school shopping quickly giving way to a string of holidays. When things finally settle down for the winter, the quiet can seem downright eerie. Interior home improvement can be the perfect way to fill the void. Consider what’s working for your space and what isn’t, and use that as a springboard to plan your remodeling projects.

Remodeling contractors have less volume

Quality remodeling contractors are busy year-round — repeated successes build trust, and a good reputation breeds more opportunities. However, warm weather means longer work days and more projects. That means if you wait until the spring or summer to schedule your kitchen or bathroom remodel, it make take longer for your contractor to get around to your project. Therefore, winter is the ideal time for interior renovations — your contractor will appreciate being kept out of the elements, and you’ll appreciate additional insight during the process, including the scoop on available and forthcoming specialty products that can elevate your project to the next level. 

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Home improvement material prices increase in spring

The leaves may have fallen, but the laws of supply and demand are evergreen. Manufacturers leverage the fact that more home renovation projects occur in the spring and summer and adjust prices accordingly. On average, material costs increase 2.5 to 5 percent at the start of the spring season. Beat the rush by slating your home improvement project for the winter and reap the savings. 

Winter remodeling is a good excuse to travel

Interior remodels can be disruptive. Although most professional contractors will try to minimize their footprint as much as they can, there’s just no getting around it. Fortunately, however, the colder months often coincide with vacations and holiday getaways. South Jersey winters can be harsh at times, which is the perfect excuse for an escape. Meanwhile, your contractor will enjoy unimpeded access to an otherwise crowded workspace. This can alleviate much of the stress that a bathroom or kitchen remodel can impose on some families. When you return, much of — if not all— the work may very well be done. And you’ll be much happier and may even have a sun tan. 

Best interior home remodeling projects for the winter

  • Walls: Cooler, drier air conditions are ideal for painting. Interior crown molding and wainscoting add a refined touch to any room, especially dining rooms, living rooms, and master bedrooms. Tiled backsplashes can add a pop of color to a bathroom or kitchen while protecting walls from moisture and water damage. 
  • Floors: New carpeting, tiling, or hardwood flooring can help refresh the look and character of any room. Exposed hardwood floors have especially gained popularity with modern homeowners for their timeless appearance and ease of cleanup. 
  • Basements: A finished basement or home entertainment center is not only a great place to huddle together during the winter, but it’s also a great place to escape the heat in the summer. It’s also a terrific boost for home resale value. 
  • Kitchens and bathrooms: Build the kitchen or bathroom you’ve always dreamt about with stylish lighting, fixtures, and decor.
  • Custom Millwork: Installing new cabinets or shelving systems can both reduce clutter and uplift a room’s aesthetic.

Whatever your winter upgrade plans are, Ayars Complete Home Improvements has the staffing and experience to help you make the most of the season. Contact us for a free estimate today.

kitchen backsplash range

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas: Design You Can Get Behind

Many homeowners consider their kitchen the heart and soul of their homes — a place for friends and family to gather, for meals and hospitality to be shared. Given its importance in both entertaining and day-to-day living, it is one of the more eligible and popular candidates for a remodel. Much attention and care are applied to choosing flooring, countertops, appliances, and cabinetry — and for good reason — all undeniably have a significant impact on the look and feel of the space. However, there is one crucial aspect that you should not overlook during your kitchen remodeling project.

Functionally, a kitchen backsplash protects walls from moisture and grease. Aesthetically, it might be your kitchen’s single most defining design element, establishing an overall personality and tying everything else together. Here are some kitchen backsplash ideas and tips to consider before you get started.

kitchen remodel backsplash countertop

Backsplash coverage

How much area do you need your kitchen backsplash to cover? At the minimum, you should consider installing it behind the sink and/or stove, as these walls are most vulnerable to deterioration and discoloration from liquids and steam. Many backsplashes span the entire workspace, from one end of the counter to the other, providing an all-around barrier from all-too-often messy meal prep.

Vertically, the backsplash usually occupies the space between the countertop and the cabinets — the expanse between your waist and your chin. However, it can be made even more of a focal point of the room by extending it all the way to the ceiling. Determine whether your needs are more practical or more aesthetic. 

Best backsplash materials

Kitchen backsplash materials are really limited more by imagination than budget. Wallpaper (including chalkboard wallpaper that can be drawn on), glass (decorative and mirrored), metal (bronze, copper, tin, stainless steel, etc.), stone, and even reclaimed wood and other recycled materials having been successfully applied by creative kitchen remodelers. 

The best backsplash material by far, however, is ceramic or porcelain tile. Not only is it generally more economical, but it is also more versatile. Today’s manufacturers are able to successfully mimic colors, patterns, and textures of more expensive materials — innovations that empower modern homeowners and kitchen remodelers alike.

south jersey kitchen remodeling contractor ayars

Kitchen backsplash design

Tiles can be cut and arranged in a boundless array of configurations, from the elegantly conservative to wildly and whimsically abstract. Rectangular subway tiles are arranged horizontally for a simple and modern look. Diamond, herringbone, and circular tile arrangements up the ante in terms of visual interest, while custom mosaics can literally turn your kitchen backsplash design into a work of art.

Consider how the backsplash design will fit in with the rest of the kitchen (for example, color coordination with painted walls, cabinets, and countertops), the personality you want to exude, your budget, and your skill level (if self-installing).

Get started on a beautiful kitchen renovation with Ayars

Ayars Complete Home Improvements has decades of experience in helping homeowners identify what they want from their home’s identity. For a glimpse of the beautiful kitchens we’ve designed for our customers in South Jersey or for more kitchen backsplash ideas, visit our kitchen remodeling gallery. Or get started on your own — we’re just a phone call or form submission away. 

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Increase Your Home Value with 8 Home Remodeling Ideas

Increase Your Home Value with 8 Home Remodeling Ideas

Did any of your home upgrades pay off when it came time to sell?  There are many things you can change and remodel in your home, but these 7 key home improvements are guaranteed to increase the value of your home.

  1. Remodeling the Kitchen

The kitchen is usually the first room in the house that needs updating.  After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  I’m not sure about you guys, but the hang out spot at my house is usually the kitchen.  Remodeling continues to have the highest budget allocation.

 

For many families (mine included), this room is where everyone gathers around or entertains their guests.  Holidays, birthdays, a little family get together; this room is definitely utilized the most in a home.  For this reason, you can expect to recoup 60%-120% of investments from remodeling a kitchen, as long as you stay within your budget.

 

  1. Adding a Bathroom

You can never go wrong with having more than one restroom in your home. This is why you can recoup 80%-130% of investments from adding another bathroom. Most homebuyers will use any room with underutilized space or take an extra room to upgrade it into a master bathroom.

 

  1. Reinventing a Room

This home improvement can be the most expensive upgrade to a house. Adding more square footage to your home can easily accumulate costs but it can bring you a 50%-83% return on investment.

 

  1. Adding Energy-Efficient Windows

Energy-efficient home improvements not only recoups 60%-90% of investments cost, but it can also reduce energy taxes as well!  When you replace your windows or doors with energy efficient models, you can receive a tax credit and 10% of costs, up to $200.00 per window.

 

  1. Adding a Deck

Outdoor living spaces, otherwise known as staycations, can significantly increase the value of your home.  As more homeowners are adding decks and patios to their backyards, it instantly becomes more appealing to prospective buyers when the house is for sale.

 

  1. Energy-Efficient Insulation

It’s about that time everyone has basic insulation installed, otherwise the cost to live in and maintain an unmodified home can be a burden.  Most potential buyers make sure to include this home improvement into their reports.

 

*One way to ensure your house is well insulated is with the right masonry.

 

  1. Basic Updates

Making basic updates to your home is a no-brainer.  Making small improvements such as fixing a leaking roof, replacing rotting wood and keeping paint fresh will always add the most value to your home.  A solid and safe home is always appealing to homebuyers.

 

So if you plan to remodel or make improvements to your home, remember that even the smallest of projects can make a big difference to the value of your home.  Also, focus on making your home safe and energy-efficient because it guarantees lower energy costs in the future.

 

  1. Flooring

Take a look at your home’s soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.  Hardwood flooring is also an upsell.  Visually it’s beautiful, and gives such a natural feel to your home.

Top Tips To Maintain Your New Kitchen Design

Top Tips to Maintain your New Kitchen Design

 

The kitchen is the epicenter of the home, particularly with today’s open plan kitchens and multi-functional spaces.  This busy room sees more traffic and is subjected to more dirt and grease than most rooms.  If you just completed a kitchen remodeling project, how to clean and maintain the room may not top your list of priorities.  It should!  Understand how to keep on top of dirt and maintain the new surfaces in your kitchen is critical to keeping it looking good as new.

Here are a few of our top tips for properly maintaining your new kitchen:

  • Keep the clutter at bay
    • When your kitchen renovation is just completed, look at the new room before you move all of your small appliances, pots and pans, and cookbooks back into the space. It looks perfectly clean and neat, right?  While adding your personal touches really complete the room, too many items left out on countertops or shelves look messy and make it harder to clean surfaces.  Use the specialized storage you added to your kitchen cabinets to keep the clutter to a minimum.  Storage accessories allow you to better utilize all of your available space and make sure that every item in your kitchen has a home.  This way you keep countertops and other spaces free to use as work surfaces and make regular cleaning an easier task.
  • Be surface wise
    • There are so many options available for countertops, floors, and backsplashes for today’s kitchens. You probably spent hours researching just the look you wanted, checking out pictures online, and discussing options with your kitchen design expert.  You picked a look and color scheme that best represent your tastes and lifestyle.  Now you need to understand that a granite countertop may require different care than the laminate countertop you used to have.  The wood floors you chose have a different maintenance routine to the tile floor in your old kitchen.  Make sure you know how to maintain the new surfaces to keep them looking good as new for as long as possible.

For example, most countertops can be cleaned with a warmsoapy water mixture and then rinsed thoroughly, through an antibacterial cleaner can be used when required.  Stick to non-abrasive cleaners and a soft cloth or sponge, particularly for surfaces like a stainless steel countertop that can be prone to scratching.  Some surfaces may be able to stand up to occasional, gentle scrubbing or a mild bleach solution to remove dirt and stains, while other surfaces may not be compatible with bleach solutions as it can affect the color or even damage the surface.

Re-sealing is required on occasion for maintenance of some surfaces and to prevent stains, while others do not need re-sealing.  Tile countertops are typically exempt from re-sealing but the grout lines require regular re-application of a grout sealer.  The same principles apply to your backsplash, floor, and cabinet surfaces.

Understanding the new surfaces in your kitchen will help you properly maintain them from day one, and keep them stain and scratch free as long as possible.  Consult manufacturer’s guidelines or, better yet, talk to your kitchen renovation professional to get the best insights into your new kitchen surfaces.

  • Go Natural
    • There are many natural solutions that serve as excellent alternatives for regular cleaning of kitchen surfaces. These standard household products can achieve the same result as harsher chemicals but are much better for your kitchen surfaces, your family, and the environment.  Baking soda combined with water or white vinegar with water are very effective at removing residue, stains, and dirt on many surfaces, including countertops, floors, and backsplashes.

Make sure your new kitchen stays in prime shape by learning about your new surfaces and products.  Proper maintenance from day one and regular cleaning routine using suitable products will keep your kitchen clean and the finish and color of your surfaces looking good as new.

2016 Kitchen Trends

2016 Kitchen Trends

Houzz just dropped their 2016 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study.  It’s a must read for designers, builders, and homeowners who are planning a remodel.  The study uncovers the trends that define today’s kitchen, including the emergence of the “super kitchen.”  This room serves multiple purposes, blurring the lines between the room and other living spaces, and incorporates features, functions and décor typically associated with other rooms.

Other takeaways include:

  • Kitchens are the hub of the home:

A majority of homeowners spend more than three hours per day in their kitchens.  Other than cooking and baking, top activities are eating and dining (69%), entertaining (49%) and socializing (43%).

  • Kitchen walls coming down:

48% of renovating homeowners are making their kitchens more open to other living spaces and 46% of renovated kitchens are completely open to other interior spaces.  18% are more open to the outdoors.

  • New kitchens mean new style:

76% of renovating homeowners change the style of their kitchen during the project.  Top styles are transitional (21%), contemporary (19%), and modern (12%).

  • Borrowed from the Living/Dining Room:

Many homeowners are adding features such a dining tables (25%), chandeliers (23%), TVs (14%) and desks/workspaces (7%) to their updated kitchens.  Customized features that support entertaining are also popular, including wine refrigerators (11%) and built-in stations for coffee/tea (10%).

  • Pro help key:

87% of homeowners are enlisting professional help for their kitchen renovation project.  General contractors top the list (54%), followed by design professionals such as kitchen designers (27%), interior designers (14%) and architects (11%).

Kitchen Jewelry

Jewelry for your Kitchen Design: A Guide to Selecting Cabinet Hardware

Kitchen-remodel-3

Just like picking the right jewelry completes a special outfit, kitchen hardware puts the finishing touches on a kitchen design.  A kitchen renovation involves making decisions on items such as kitchen cabinets, countertops, and flooring that are typically a significant investment and must stand the test of time.  The kitchen hardware you select complements these items by pulling together the colors and style of your room.  Hardware selections also allow you to bring out your personality in a way that enhances your design, but also can be more easily swapped as tastes change.

In the same way that selecting simple gold earrings gives an outfit a different feel than adding diamond drop earrings, our choice of kitchen hardware can greatly influence the tone and style of your design.  There are endless arrays of options available in a wide range of prices, so how do you go about selecting the right hardware styles to bring out the best in your design?  Here are some of the key things you must know about hardware when making this selection.

WHAT IS KITCHEN HARDWARE?

Typically one of the last things to be considered in a kitchen remodeling project, hardware allows you to easily open your cabinet doors and drawers.  The only exceptions to this are cabinets specially designed to open without hardware, like those using recessed channels or cutouts.

Decorative hardware fits generally into two main categories: knobs and pulls.   Knobs are attached to the door or drawer with a single screw, while pulls can be either cabinet handles or drawer pulls and usually attach with two or more screws.  Some hardware comes with a decorative back plate that lies flat against the door.

HOW DO I COORDINATE HARDWARE WITH THE REST OF THE KITCHEN?

Most cabinets today do not have exposed hinges, but if your cabinets do then the hardware should match the cabinet hinge.  Other than this, there are no fixed rules to selecting cabinet hardware so let your senses be your guide and add a bit of personality to your design.  Hardware selections should complement other elements of your design, such as the cabinetry, sink and faucet, light fixtures, and appliances, but by no means do they need to exactly match the finish of these items.  You could also select something completely different like glass of crystal to bring a glamorous shine to your kitchen, or painted ceramic knobs to add a vintage look to your cabinetry.

  • A simple cabinet style will lend itself to a wider range of options for selecting hardware.
  • Traditional cabinetry usually suits a more ornate or classic style hardware, while contemporary designs typically fit better with streamlined hardware like tubular or rectangular pulls.
  • You can also mix and match different materials and styles to achieve your desired effect, particularly where you have main cabinets and island cabinetry in different finishes. The primary factor in determining your hardware choice should be how it fits your style and personality, and that it is pleasing both to look at and touch. 

WHAT ARE THE MAIN OPTIONS AVAILABLE?

With all the styles to choose from, it can be difficult to make a selection.  Your kitchen renovation professional can help you navigate the choices and usually has displays available to help you find the best option.

knobsKnobs are available in a variety of shapes including round, square, rectangular, novelty, and more.  The sizes vary though they are typically smaller and intended for opening cabinet doors or smaller drawers.  Knobs come in an array of materials and finishes, including brass, stainless steel, glass, stone, ceramic, or even unusual materials like re-purposed buttons or rope.

pullPulls come in a range of options including bar, cup, ring, and bail pulls.  Drop handle pulls give cabinets a more furniture like look and recessed pulls are built into the door facing to give a sleeker appearance.  Like knobs, pulls are available in many different materials and colors.

Your kitchen design professional is a knowledgeable expert who can guide you through this maze with an understanding of your space, the other elements of your design, and your person style.  A design professional can also help with technical considerations like the appropriate size of pulls for your drawers of exactly where on your cabinet doors and knobs should be positioned.