Design Tips & Terms

Nothing can help freshen up an older home or help in the sale of a property or inspire your kitchen workspace like a new or remodeled kitchen. Kitchen design is becoming increasingly more important as space is rapidly growing smaller. Designing or remodeling your kitchen can be an incredibly exciting adventure but with it can come a lot of stress, and complication! There are many things to consider with regards to kitchen design in order to make your new space work for you.

Kitchens are often the heart of the home, where families and friends tend to mingle. The goals of greening your kitchen should include good natural lighting, good ventilation, low-toxicity surfaces and finishes, energy and water efficient appliances, and surfaces that are easily cleanable, durable, and, of course, esthetically pleasing.

Ideally, a healthy kitchen would be designed to encourage healthy habits such as regularly preparing nutritious, appetizing meals and eating fresh, whole foods. But even if you use your kitchen mainly to brew coffee and down a bowl of cereal, why not design it to be beautiful and enticing, so that you’ll be tempted to slow down and really enjoy that coffee and cereal?

Once you decided to remodel your kitchen, ask yourself a question. What you would like to have in your kitchen? Give this a lot of thought because design today can incorporate special storage and space savers into the cabinetry design today! Write a list of everything you couldn’t live without. This list will also become a very important guideline for you, your contractor, or designer to follow. Here are a few questions to paint an example for you:

  • What kind of cabinetry will you use: frame, frameless?
  • Doors finished or painted?
  • Do you want stainless steel appliances or covered with panels?
  • What type of a countertop?
  • Tiled flooring?
  • Is it heated?
  • What will your color palette be?
  • What can I not live without?

Lighter-colored cabinets and countertops will make the kitchen feel more spacious.

Cabinets tend to cover the lion’s share of the wall area in a kitchen, and counters split the horizontal plane with the flooring material, so choosing a wall color is secondary to cabinet and counter material choices in determining overall lightness or darkness.

Dark woods and black countertop materials can drastically reduce the quality of light in your kitchen; if you choose them, you’ll have to increase the number and wattage of lighting sources. Lighter materials are a more sustainable choice. You can use intense colors as long as they give off light rather than absorb it. Increasing the reflectivity of the surfaces will also help – gloss helps bounce light around. Beware of too much glare, however, which is tiring for eyes focused on the work (literally) at hand.


Countertops are often kitchen showpieces, speaking to the style and environmental sensibilities of the homeowner. And because we prepare our meals on them, their environmental and health effects are intimately linked with our daily lives.


CaesarStone is the original quartz surface manufacturer. CaesarStone’s green nature is enhanced by the fact that its product is the only countertop material to be ISO 14001:2004-certified with UKSA Environmental Management: the foundation for solid ecological management systems. CaesarStone is also nonporous and resistant to mold and mildew. In addition, unlike other countertop surfaces, CaesarStone does not need to be repeatedly chemically sealed or cleaned with harsh detergents that can be harmful to one’s health. As further proof of CaesarStone’s commitment to the environment, the National Sanitation Federation (NSF) approves its surface material


Concrete is highly durable and can be poured in place for custom counters. It is not inherently a green product – cement production and transportation are extremely energy-intensive – but if the aggregate is recycled and locally sourced, the energy intensity falls. Concrete can be molded into custom shapes and dyed almost any color or given distinctive blended looks, though you should inquire about the toxicity of dyes. Once cast into countertops, concrete can withstand heat very well. However, concrete counters should be sealed periodically to limit stains, water damage and bacterial growth, and heat can damage the seal. Treated well, concrete can last a lifetime. At the end of its useful life in your kitchen, it can be reused whole or cut for other projects. Unwanted concrete can be crushed into aggregate for producing new concrete, saving energy used in mining resources to produce new concrete and keeping old concrete out of landfills.

Glass Tiles

Glass tiles can be environmentally preferable to ceramic – they can have 100 percent recycled content. The production process for recycling glass into tiles, called sintering, consumes far less energy than making new tiles from virgin materials. Glass tiles scratch more easily than ceramic, however, and may be less uniform, making it necessary to use more grout. Their potential surface irregularity may affect their use as countertops, which is why architects and designers often recommend using them only as accents or backsplashes.

As with ceramic tiles, locally produced tiles are environmentally preferable. Glass tiles do not off-gas Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)if water-based grout is used. Glass tiles are easier than ceramic to reuse or recycle, but removing them is just as difficult.


Terrazzo consists of crushed stone and glass set in cement or epoxy substrate that is buffed smooth. Overall, terrazzo can be a good green choice due to its 40-year-plus lifespan, low maintenance and high recycled content, especially if you use local materials to avoid transportation-related energy use and emissions. Glass, stone and other recycled materials can make up as much as 95 percent of the materials in terrazzo. Products like those from EnviroGlas and Icestone have particularly high-recycled content.

The environmental and health impacts of terrazzo lie in the epoxy or cement substrate, which is up to 30 percent of the material. Epoxy is petroleum-derived, cannot be recycled and can contain a number of potentially harmful chemicals such as phthalates. Once epoxy has cured, it has little impact on air quality, is nonporous and does not need to be sealed. Cement binders have high embodied energy and contribute greatly to global CO2. Cement-based terrazzo should be sealed to limit staining; it resists scratches extremely well. It can be crushed and incorporated into new terrazzo, effectively recycling it.


Untreated hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the best choice on strictly environmental terms. Since growing and harvesting trees is an environmentally disruptive activity, salvaged wood is environmentally optimal. FSC-certified wood from local, sustainable managed forests cuts down on shipping costs and energy. Untreated wood is truly a renewable resource, and it requires much less industrial processing than other countertop materials. Wood is not a good choice for continually wet areas, such as the space immediately surrounding a sink. It can also be burned, scorched, dented and stained, so it requires care and regular cleaning. However, kept sealed with natural mineral oil to prevent drying wood is a highly durable and healthy counter material. Mechanically fastening wood countertops avoids adhesives and makes removing the material easier. At the end of its use as a countertop, wood can be reused, given to materials exchanges or, if not treated with toxic materials, chipped and composted or allowed to biodegrade.


Marble is a metamorphic rock resulting from metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks, being either limestone or dolostone. Marble is not particularly a green product as it needs to be mined from the earth and is seldom recycled. Energy costs due to transport also make this product an environmental concern. Marble is very porous and requires discipline in ensuring its quality. Regular treatment with a stone sealer is necessary as marble can stain and scratch very easily. It is best used in kitchens owned by responsible and careful individuals!! These counters are also well suited for kitchens where a cold smooth surface is required. Pastry chefs and bakeries rely heavily on marble countertops for rolling pastry and baking.


Soapstone is a smooth soft stone that is made up primarily of magnesite, dolomite, chlorite; talc.Soapstone is quite old in fact 300 to 400 million years old! It can be brittle, very soft to the touch and have a "soapy" texture to it hence its name. The texture is derived from the talc in the stone. Soapstone is not as harmful as other quarried stones in that it is mined from the surface. Soapstone is inert and is highly resistant to alkalis and acids. Soapstone is extremely durable and heat resistant. Since soapstone is inert, it does not retain stains as easily as other stone countertops. Since soapstone is non-porous it is an excellent hygienic material for the kitchen and very easy to clean with simple soap and water. Soapstone is very soft though and will scratch. Scratches are easily removed with another coat of mineral oil and deeper cuts can be sanded away! With a regular treatment of mineral oil or a sealer, your soapstone countertop can live a long life; a classic countertop that will hold up to the test of time. Soapstone is great for a bustling kitchen.


Granite countertops have been all the rage in the last decade in new home construction as well as renovation and many consumers equate granite countertops with luxury, opulence and style. This extremely popular countertop choice is quarried from deep in the earth and mined in large slabs. These slabs are hard volcanic rock filled with quartz, mica, and feldspar crystals. It is a porous rock and is used worldwide in various large scale construction projects. Granite is very durable and is extremely versatile and this lends to its popularity as a kitchen countertop surface. Granite is fantastic as it is scratch resistant due to its coloring through out the entire slab. This material is also incredibly heat resistant and will not burn. One Caveat though, granite is very porous and can therefore absorb moisture and of course stain. It needs to be used in conjunction with a sealer every six months. Granite is not a particularly green product as it is mined from deep within the earth and is rarely recycled. Energy costs associated with the transportation of this material is also an impact on the environment.

Kitchen Cabinetry

Kitchen cabinetry is generally a focal point in most spaces, completing the style blueprint of the design, yet its appearance is only a disguise for cabinetries true identity: FUNCTIONALITY.

When choosing cabinets, we recommend our Consumers to look for the KCMA Seal KCM and KCMA Environmental Stewardship Program SealKCM.

The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association Certification Program assures the user of kitchen cabinets and bath vanities that the cabinet bearing the blue and white seal complies with the rigorous standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and sponsored by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA). Green and white seal assure that cabinet meeting the certification requirements in areas such as air quality (low-formaldehyde emitting composite wood), resource management and environmental stewardship.

Stock-Kitchen Cabinets

Stock-kitchen cabinets are designed to keep costs down by making only certain shapes and sizes in limited styles and colors. This can be a great option if you have a standard sized kitchen with reasonable requirements. The only down side to stock cabinetry is versatility. Your space has to accommodate the manufacturers’ specifications.

Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets

Semi-custom kitchen cabinetry can better address your kitchens needs as they are built to order. There is a wider variety of styles, colors, and finishes available and the manufacturer will generally also allow for some size adjustments as well. These cabinets are made with better materials and require more production time.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets

If your budget allows it, custom kitchen cabinetry is the way to go. Kitchen cabinetry design today is so advanced, that creating the ultimate in kitchen functionality is easy. The sky is the limit with custom kitchen cabinetry, with all materials, sizes, colors, textures, glazes, stains, and cool storage options at your fingertips. Of course with perfection, so does price.

There are two stereotypical characteristics of cabinetry style; Traditional or Contemporary, both of which can be achieved in the frame.

Framed Kitchen Cabinets

In this form of kitchen cabinetry the doors and drawers do not cover the entire space of the cabinets leaving a portion of the frame visible. When choosing framed kitchen cabinets you have to decide on Reveal – How much framed space is visible around the cabinet door or drawer.

  • Traditional overlay – The frame space is partially covered by the cabinet door or drawer.
  • Full overlay – This is where most of the frame is covered by the cabinet door or drawer.

Frameless Cabinets

This form of kitchen cabinetry is associated with a more contemporary appearance where no frame is visible. Doors are therefore attached to the insides of the cabinets giving you a nice clean look.

Cabinetry Surfaces

Nothing matches the great beauty of hardwood except maybe its expense! In all spaces where hardwood is used the value of your home will always increase so rather than it being an expense, consider hardwood as an investment. The versatility of wood is unparalleled where any color, style, and texture can be achieved. Hardwood cabinetry can last a lifetime and can be repaired. In today’s environmentally conscious world, hardwood is considered a renewable resource as this industry strives to protect and restore the forests from which it takes. Wood byproducts are all recycled into other products and used in flooring, cabinets, decks and furniture. Hardwood can also be recycled as well.


A veneer cabinet surface is made with a thin piece of solid wood glued on to the cabinet surface of particleboard. Veneer is less susceptible to changes in humidity than hardwood and is therefore more stable. Veneer can be formed into flat and recessed paneled doors.


This is a durable surface material which is applied to cover Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). MDF is a wonderful wood product produced from wood factory byproducts. Melamine is easy to clean and is available in several colors. This surface is very affordable and is biodegradable and does not emit harmful toxins when incinerated. Although durable, melamine is susceptible to damage.


This versatile product is an excellent option for kitchen cabinetry surfacing as it is extremely durable and can realistically replicate many surfaces. Laminate is available in more colors, textures and styles than melamine and is more durable. Laminate is primarily made from paper and wood byproducts making this another environmentally conscious product. This surface is about 30% or more expensive than melamine.


A relative newbie to the kitchen cabinet world is thermofoil, a product that combines heat, pressure, and vacuum to work with a silicone membrane which laminates a vinyl substance over MDF. Typically this surface is very durable and is impervious to staining and non-abrasive cleaners. Thermofoil is available in several colors and its vinyl qualities allow thermofoil to replicate wood grain, metals and textured surfacing as well. Thermofoil has a core made from wood byproducts aiding in factory waist management, however vinyl is a well-known environmental offender, although the vinyl industry is working hard to disprove this fact.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel has been a trend among appliances for sometime now, but today one of the biggest trends occurring in kitchens is restaurant style designs where stainless steel is definitely the star of the show. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and is well known for its durability, flexibility, sanitary qualities, and stunning good looks. This product is a perfect fit for any kitchen. Stainless steel is not exclusive to appliances anymore as it is now being applied to backsplashes, countertops and much more including cabinetry! Stainless steel kitchen cabinets can be made to your specifications and some manufacturers are able to mix materials by creating insets of glass or wood and other metals. Stainless steel cabinetry has the ability to create strikingly unique kitchen spaces.


Glass insets have been used in kitchens for decades. Ideal for displaying treasured antique pieces and collections or even to show off great stemware. However, these days glass is taking on a slightly larger roll in kitchen cabinetry than before by taking on cabinet door surfacing. Glass kitchen door cabinetry is available in several styles, colors and textures. Many are taking on specific designs incorporating stained glass, etched glass, and even marbled glass. Glass is yet another fabulous material that can be worked into your kitchen cabinetry design. Easy to clean and relatively durable, glass can certainly work in your kitchen space.

Get it done, Son! Click To Learn More