Q+A With Kitchen Crasher Alison Victoria
Q: What are the most durable countertop surfaces? I always hear granite is the best.—Nancy Miller, Eaton, OH
Alison: Don't get me wrong: I think materials such as granite and marble look beautiful, but they can be impractical for some homes. People don't realize granite should be sealed a couple of times a year and marble scratches and stains easily. I have marble at home, and I'm always forcing coasters on my guests! For a high-end look without the maintenance, try engineered quartz countertops. The surface is nonporous, so it easily stands up to hot pots and sauce splatters. Price-wise, quartz typically costs the same as a midrange granite, but it's a smart investment because it's so durable.
Q: How do I figure out the right size for an island?—Lisa Ferree, North Tonawanda, NY
Alison: It depends how much of your kitchen you want to sacrifice. If your island will serve as a prep station and have seating, go as big as you can-but make sure to leave at least three feet between the island and the counters. Good space planning is so important. In terms of placement, I like the island to go right in the center of the kitchen. That way it won't interrupt the flow of the paths between the sink, fridge, and stove.
Q: What are some finishes and colors that won't go out of style anytime soon?—Ginny Hunt Harvey, Virginia Beach, VA
Alison: On Kitchen Crashers, we use lots of bold colors and patterns, but that's not always the way to go for a timeless look. Most people change their style every 10 years, and wouldn't you like the pricey stuff to last? That's why I'm a big fan of counters in neutral colors like white or gray, or natural-looking shades of blue or green. For cabinets, you can't go wrong with white Shaker-style doors with hardware in a silvery finish, like chrome. I'm also a sucker for stainless steel appliances and sinks. White appliances are making a comeback, but stainless steel's industrial look will never go out of fashion. For backsplashes, classic white subway tile is still a winner, but if you love bright colors, try it there. Switching out a backsplash isn't too hard to do every decade or so.
Q: What's the easiest backsplash material for a DIYer to install?—Janine Vyse, Pardeeville, WI
Alison: Tin, hands down, if you like a vintage look. It's a breeze to apply: You can get large sheets that resemble antique ceiling tiles, then cut them to fit your space with tin snips (available at hardware stores) or regular crafts scissors-just wear gloves, because the edges can be sharp. Glue the tin to your wall with a construction adhesive like Liquid Nails. If tin isn't your style, give tile a try. Make sure to get tile that's mounted on mesh sheets, so instead of having to stick them to the wall one at a time, you can do multiple tiles at once. You'll also need premixed mastic (tile adhesive), grout, a trowel to apply the mastic and grout, and a tile cutter to trim any tiles that don't fit perfectly.
Q: How should I deal with that awkward space between the top of my cabinets and the ceiling?—Tana Anderson, Norton Shores, MI
Alison: If the space measures less than 12 inches tall, have a carpenter install crown molding, like in the photo below. He’ll bridge the gap with a flat piece of wood, then attach a length of thick crown molding—painted or stained to match your cabinets—on top. If the space is a foot or more, try some small upper cabinets. You can find them in a variety of heights at stores like IKEA, or from cabinet companies. They’re not cheap, but they look more polished than a row of vases or fake flowers.
Q: How do I keep my stainless steel appliances fingerprint-free?—Jennifer Szarejko, Macomb, MI
Alison: There’s not a ton you can do for dirty stainless steel other than wipe it clean. If you want to prevent future fingerprints, apply a special coating (usually in the form of a liquid or wipe) every few years. We’ve tried many on Kitchen Crashers, and the one I think works best is EnduroShield Home stainless wipes ($20, homedepot.com). There’s also faux stainless steel, which claims to be smudge-less and is easier to keep clean. My advice: Go with real stainless but know it requires maintenance.
Q: I have very little counter space. How can I get more room to prep?—Matthew Fox, Manassas, VA
Alison: I love kitchen carts. They are so versatile and can be rolled out of the way when you’re not using them. On the show, I’ve added casters to small islands to make them mobile, but you can buy a ready-made cart for less than $200. Another option that’s making a comeback: pull-out cutting boards, which are butcher-block slabs that slide out from below your counter like a drawer. A cabinet company can probably retrofit your current setup for a couple hundred dollars.
Q: What’s the best choice for kitchen flooring if I can’t afford hardwood?—Kristi Langen, Holmen, WI
Alison: I’d get laminate. It costs as little as $2 per square foot (compared with around $10 or more a square foot for hardwood), and these days it looks so ridiculously good, you can hardly tell it’s not real wood. It also holds its own against foot traffic and stains, and it’s so easy to install that many DIYers can do it themselves. In some cases, you can even put laminate right over your existing floors, especially if they’re tile. Choose something that contrasts in color with your cabinets—for example, if your cabinets are white or have a light stain, try dark, chestnut-color floors. Laminate comes in a ton of finishes, including styles that mimic reclaimed wood, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a look you like. Linon Home Decor 22"W x 22"D x 36 1/2"H bamboo and granite kitchen cart, $170, hayneedle.com