Let’s Talk Kitchen Sinks

October
23
2013

 

 

I was browsing around the Houzz site the other day, when I saw a discussion about sinks.  I haven’t decided yet on what type of sink I want to install in the kitchen of our new house, (although I know I want just the one bowl, very large and deep) and I’d love to hear your opinions on what you have, and why you love it or hate it.

In the Crab Shack I have a stainless steel sink, and here at my present home I have a Corian sink, since we have Corian counters and I wanted a totally seamless design. (This kitchen was put in over 20 years ago, and Corian was a big upgrade.  I didn’t realize how much I would have loved granite!)  In other places we’ve lived I’ve also had stainless and clay, now updated to be called “fireclay.”  I suspect all of them have their good points and bad points.  There are some new materials I didn’t know about though, or didn’t realize were being used as sinks.   Here’s a rundown:

Stainless Steel: this is the most popular material for a sink by far.  Many people have it and love it. I have it in the Crab Shack because Lowe’s gave it to me free with the Granite counter top.  (Yes, we bought the counter top at Lowe’s.  It was the same one as in the kitchen store we were looking in, for about half the price.)  I’m going to admit something here because we’re buds and I know you won’t judge me too harshly….   I hate stainless steel.  There I said it.  And the ceiling didn’t fall in.  I just cannot stand the fingerprints.  It never looks clean, even after it’s just been cleaned. The sink has marks that look like scratches and constantly shows water spots. I want to love it, it looks so professional. But I just don’t want to spend that much time trying, without too much luck, to keep it shiny and finger-print free.  And no, my mind hasn’t really changed.  This will be an issue in my new kitchen.  I’ve already planned on getting the refrigerator with the panels that look like the cabinets (I have that now and love it!!) but I’ll probably be getting a stainless dishwasher, double oven and microwave.  But not a stainless sink, that’s for sure.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Apron

Composite Granite: These sinks are 80% granite and 20% acrylic resin.   They are supposed to be very durable and come in a variety of hues. They have been known to crack during shipment, so it must be inspected carefully when it arrives.  It’s only available in matte and the finish can dull over time, but people have noted that this adds to the personality of it, and it’s not a “bad” thing.  The dark colors seem to be the overwhelming favorite because they don’t show the spots. It’s been recommended to clean and dry it with a dishcloth every night, which seems like too much work, (the drying, not the cleaning)  but again, people have noted that it’s not that big a deal, and with the darker colors, this isn’t even necessary.  These sinks are very pretty, I’m adding it to my list of possibilities.

Composite Granite

 Fireclay:  These clay sinks are highly resistant to scratches but can stain and chip!  Cleanup, however, is easy.  If you want a white sink, this material comes highly recommended.  It is mostly seen in the “Farmhouse” or apron style sinks.  It doesn’t come in a large variety of sizes, although I wouldn’t think this would be an issue.  It is very heavy, and would need adequate support and it’s not “friendly” to dropped dishes.  I’m probably not going with this one.

Fireclay apron sink

Enameled Cast Iron:  This sink is smooth, glossy and shiny, which gives it some appeal.  It won’t crack or dent, but I don’t think most sinks would dent.  (Maybe stainless)  It would be a consideration if you know you want a white sparkly sink.  (Although other colors are available.) It is also very durable, but can chip, and show stains and nicks.  Some people have said it shows pot “scrapes” and it is very, very heavy!  This (like the clay sink) will not be one of my choices.

cast iron

Natural Stone:  There are a couple of different “stone” sinks on the market, I hadn’t heard about them before but they are beautiful.  Like all the other options however, they have pros and cons.

Soapstone -  This sink is non-porous and unaffected by heat, bacteria and stains. It’s a little “softer” than other materials so some care has to be taken with it because it could get scratched or nicked.   I’ve read it’s not easy to install, but compared to the heavy cast iron or clay sinks, how hard could it be?  Also, I’ve read it’s not cheap.  But who wants a cheap sink?  If you buy cheap, you get cheap, that’s my motto.  (Well, it is now.)  The one thing in its favor is it’s absolutely beautiful!  I’m going to have white cabinets and this sink would be just gorgeous!  I wasn’t thinking about getting soapstone counters though, I was thinking granite.  And with the veining in the granite, do I need a sink with veining also?  I’ll put it on my list as a possibility for now.

soapstone sink

Slate -  I did not even realize this was a sink material.  However, it is resistant to fading, burning and scratching.  And custom designs can be sand blasted into it to make a truly custom look.  This feature would only be helpful if you have having the apron type sink, which I am not leaning towards, but am still undecided about.  It is a material that will last forever, and people have written it keeps its beauty, and even if it got a nick or two, it’s hardly visible.  The etching on this one is adorable, especially since our house is on the water, and we love the “water” theme.

Slate Sink

slate

Quartz -  This sink is made from 70% quartz and 30% resin filler.  It is a step below the granite composite in terms of wear and durability, but still a good choice.  It is resistant to dings, dents and stains, but the darker ones tend to show scratches more than the lighter colors, on ones with more of a pattern.  It would be a good choice if you’re using quartz countertops and want a seemless look.

Quartz

 

 

quartz.2

 

Copper:  Copper comes in various thicknesses like stainless, and that will be reflected in the price.It’s easy to shape so can come in a wide variety of sizes.  It is anti microbial, which is good, but people have written they would be worried about the copper leaching into food, such as vegetables soaking in the sink.  The finish will almost certainly change over time, this could be either a pro or a con, depending on how you feel about that.  For me it’s a con, the copper is pretty when it’s brand new, but I don’t like the change.  The thinner variety can dent and scratch.  The hammered sink is very pretty, in my opinion, but I don’t think this is one product that I will consider.

CopperCopper.2

The last two sinks I looked into and have pictures of are tile and hand painted.  But these, along with glass sinks, are better left as a “show” sink in the powder room.  Yes, they are beautiful and different, but keeping them clean and free of dings would be difficult in the hard-working kitchen area.

Tile -

Tiletiled sink

Hand painted -

Hand Paintedpainted

 

Well, suffice it to say today we have many, many choices when it comes to kitchen sinks.  It’s overwhelming at times.  But by narrowing it down, and doing a little research, and by being honest about how much you are willing to clean, or live with in terms of water spots or nicks, you and I  will finally figure out which one is the best choice.  I hope.

 

The Crab Shack

September
25
2013

Little Choptank Nov.5 to 7, 2011 078

 

A kind reader asked me to show you around the inside of the “Crab Shack.”  You’ve seen the outside, and I’ve mentioned that we actually were going to build a different building, one we called the “Boat House,” modeled after the lighthouses on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  But, after all the soil testing and the modifications and the collapse of the economy, we scaled it down.  John found plans online, Katrina cottage plans, and much to our builder’s delight, we still decided to build something.  We love our little “Crab Shack,” and yet, if we had it to do over again, there would be a change or two we would make.  We don’t have room for a table and chairs, so we would probably push the front of the building out maybe four more feet, giving us room for not only the table, but a dishwasher.  It would also make the “living” room a bit bigger, and with the amount of company we sometimes have, that would be a good thing.  But for the two of us, it’s wonderful.  Have a look:

This is what you see when you walk in the front door

This is what you see when you walk in the front door

 

When Thom, our builder, first painted the place, he called us and said we should come down and take a look at it.  He thought the color might be too dark.  So we took a trip down, looked at each other and said, “It’s perfect!”

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

As you first walk in, the kitchen is to your right.

While we were looking at tiles for the backsplash (and bathroom and fireplace) John saw these heron tiles for behind the stove and just fell in love with them.  We (as you will see) love using herons in our decorating, so these were perfect!  We had to “fit” a refrigerator into the space, we only had so much room, and we were lucky to find something that fit exactly right.  I have learned, however, that I don’t really like the freezer on the bottom!  I know it’s very popular now, and many people really like it, but I find that things get buried down at the bottom, and with “Reynauds” in my hands, rummaging around in the freezer is not my favorite thing to do.  You understand, right?  I’m going to stick with the side by side for the main house.

The "living" room is to your left when you come in the front door.

The “living” room is to your left when you come in the front door.

 

We had this couch, chair and coffee table from our place in Pennsylvania, but we think it goes pretty well here.  We had Thom make the TV stand to fit right in between the windows and we bought the leather chair and ottoman because it was a smaller profile and fit in that space so well.

When we first started building, we decided John would do most of the “decorating” of the Crab Shack, and I would do the house.  We both wound up making the decisions, but the Crab Shack does have more of a “fishing” cabin feel because of his choices.  It’s cute though, it fits the area.  The chair on this side is from my mother in law’s apartment, we also think it fits in well.

 

Looking back at front door

Looking back at front door

The stairs at the far end of the living room lead up to the loft.  Originally we thought John would use the loft as an office, plus it would also be a bedroom for guests.  We found out, however, that the reception for his phone (and therefore his internet connection through his phone) was not the best up there, and he moved his office to the room above the garage.  So now, it’s a guest room.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.

Heading up the stairs to the loft is the fishing wall of fame.

 

The loft area

The loft area

 

From up in the loft

From up in the loft

 

Looking down into living room.

Looking down into living room.

 

 

See our fun fan?  We first saw it at the Blue Point Restaurant at the Hyatt Resort in Cambridge, MD.  (If you’re ever around there, give it a try, the food is great!) It reminded us of boat propellers!  So we tracked it down, went to Dan’s Fan City in Laurel, MD and we think it fits in perfectly!

Okay, moving on, as you walk down the hallway, the first room after the kitchen on the right hand side is the bathroom.  When we first saw the room before it was actually built, when it was just studs, I couldn’t picture how everything would fit it!  I thought we’d be squished in the shower so that your arms would be touching all the walls!  But, small as it is, it’s got plenty of room!

Here's what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

Here’s what the kitchen and bathroom looked like

Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 500

 

Little Choptank 2013  H August 2 to Sept 4 503

 

After the bathroom, again on the right hand side, is the mudroom/laundry room.  Thom did advise us to add to the original plans in the back part of the house, so we expanded it about 4 feet.  It gave us a bigger mudroom, and also a bigger bedroom.

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back

Looking from the door in the hallway out to the back

 

This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

This angle is from the back door to the door in the hallway

And then, if you’re back in the hallway, the room on the left hand side is our bedroom.  We’re so glad Thom advised us to make it bigger.  We love waking up and being able to look out at the water. We pinch ourselves and can’t believe we were lucky enough to find and buy this property.

Looking in from the door in the hall

Looking in from the door in the hall

 

We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed.  Again, herons.

We recently purchased the artwork that is over the bed. Again, herons.

 

Here's a closer look at the artwork.  Looks like it was just made for us!

Here’s a closer look at the artwork. Looks like it was just made for us!

Heron lamps too!

Heron lamps too!

 

Looking back to the hallway

Looking back to the hallway

 

Back deck and patio area.

Back deck and patio area.

Thank you for joining our tour of the inside of the Crab Shack.  It was the first time we built anything, and we never realized how many decisions and choices we’d have to make.  It gave us a good preview of what we’ll be doing when we start building the house next year.  I’ve read if a couple can survive building a house together, they can survive anything.  We say, bring it on!

 

Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Crab Shack and garage from the water.

Enjoy the sunset!

Little Choptank Nov 13, 14 2010 067

“What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You”

August
14
2013

Book Review

 

I was surprised to learn that you can expect to make 1500 decisions when you are building a new home.  Scary!  Especially when you don’t really like making decisions anyway! The author tells us, “Your choices are infinite when you start, so design is more a process of de-selecting than selecting.” The author, Amy Johnston, guides us through this process.  She says owners will be entering a culture that is much less straight forward than it appears, and everyone in that culture knows more than we do. And added to that are all the new relationships, deadlines, quality standards and more money than we’ve spent on probably anything else, and it becomes a huge undertaking that most people don’t know how to prepare for, and few have wanted to tell us. Until now.

If you are planning on building a house, (and by building I mean hiring contractors and builders to do the actual work) or even if you are just thinking about building your dream home, this book is a must to have on hand.  Ms Johnston says, “This book is not about how to swing a hammer, or even how to be your own general contractor.  It is about how to be a savvy consumer of design and construction services and a competent participant in your own project.” And she does not disappoint.

Her advice covers how to start a project, including picking the people on your team, from bankers to surveyors. It also talks about the project plan, how to keep good notes and information, and how to distinguish between needs and wants.  She also suggests (and this really is great advice) be true to yourself and the way you really live, accept your own lifestyle.  For instance, if you spend the evenings watching TV (like we do), don’t make the fireplace the focal point in the room the TV is in.  And I don’t know about you, but I can’t really understand the TV over the fireplace design element.  I would think your neck would hurt by the end of the evening, plus it seems to “take away” from both items!

My well used book

My well used book

Ms. Johnston suggests not to ignore the tried and true.  Yes, newer and sometimes even more efficient designs, materials, supplies and equipment come on the market every day, some are great, but some will be off the market in a few years.  You don’t want to try to replace a broken part or find someone to fix it then, which is especially true in heating and air conditioning.

She discusses and helps with how to work together as a couple and make more balanced choices, how to provide more details so the project runs smoother and how to work well with a contractor and/or architect.  Also, what gets you the most bang for your buck, and cost estimating and budgets.  She talks about contract structures (I spoke about that in a previous post), putting the contract out to bid, insurance, rules for change orders (there are 4 kinds), permits and the way to monitor your project.  Her advice is invaluable and will save you both time and money.  And hopefully, you (and I) will be a more educated homeowner, and wind up with a project that runs much more smoothly than it would have.

Enjoy the sunset.

 

Sunset on the Little Choptank River

Sunset on the Little Choptank River

One or Two Stories?

July
27
2013

I’ve just had knee surgery.  And this has started me thinking about how many stories our new house should be. But here’s the problem…. I already have house plans!  It has taken me years to come up with house plans I am happy with.  Literally, years. (And don’t think I didn’t drive everyone around here crazy talking about it, and pondering, and questioning and even arguing.) It’s been a long process.   I searched online, and you know how many plans there are to look at?  Hundreds of thousands.  I searched in books,  which I bought new or second-hand.  I searched in the library. And I’ve been to many open houses.  Finally, I took all the different plans I saved, and I came up with my own.  (This was no small feat.) Then we had a residential draftsman draw them up. Finally, after years of research and drawings and conversations, we’re all done, right?  And now I’ve had knee surgery.  And I’m wondering, do I want a two-story house?

This is the kind of house I'd be looking at

This is the kind of house I’d be looking at

 

And this one!

And this one!

 

We’re building on the water, so we already need the house to be raised up in case of flooding. So we already have one set of stairs just to get in the house. In our present floor plans I have the spare bedrooms on the second floor, plus my office and a craft room.  I can change the craft room I think, and put it in the garage, although then I am left with an extra room.  I originally wanted that room to be a storage room, so I guess I could go back to that.  That wouldn’t make me unhappy, but when you’re paying for every square foot that’s being built, having an extra storage room might not be the best use of our money. So if we say yeah, that can go back to storage,  now we have the two guest bedrooms and a storage room up stairs, not places I’d have to go on a daily basis.

But now we’re onto what the main issue would be…. my office.   This is a place I WOULD go to, not just every day, but many times during the day.   Originally my thoughts were -  we are more active down there, the water and openness just lends itself to being outside more, so there’s more walking, more gardening, more kayaking, more bocce playing.  (Ah, we can’t wait!)   And I figured stairs wouldn’t be an issue. But what if?  That’s the big question.  What if?

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Do I change years of work and start over drawing up a one story house?  We both definitely want a “widow’s walk” on top of the house, would that look silly on a one story?  And truthfully, I’ve never been that crazy about ranch houses, although I do think architects and draftspeople are making them look better now.  They don’t look as much like a train, all flat and low.  Do we just keep the house the way it is, and hope we won’t run into any kind of health issues that would hinder our doing stairs?  Should I just redo the floor plans somewhat, leave the upstairs with two bedrooms (thereby considerably altering the design of the house) but move my office downstairs somewhere?

So many designs and floor plans for “retirement” homes are one story, and many also have a “universal” design, with wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, or railings in the bathrooms.  It makes sense. And we’ll probably incorporate some of these designs into the house. But it’s difficult to realize we’ll be in the position one day where stairs may just prove to be too difficult.

For now, since we’re still a year away from building, we decided we’ll get a price to build the plans we presently have, and then we’ll go from there.  But stay tuned, things could change any minute.