Details matter when renovating a kitchen

The success of a design often resides as much in the details as in the grand vision for a space. It’s the little things, separately and in the aggregate, that give a room a look that transcends the merely tasteful.

Details matter in mainly functional spaces, such as kitchens and home offices, as well as in rooms whose primary purpose is relaxation. In fact, pleasing visual effects can help make the various at-home functions easier and certainly more pleasurable to carry out.

We’d all rather spend time in an attractive interior than in a strictly businesslike environment.

Q: The renovation we’re planning for our 20-year-old kitchen includes the installation of wood cabinetry in a cherry finish. We’re also thinking of putting in a cherry wood floor but have concerns about staining as well as the effects of ordinary wear.

What do you think of these additions?

A: I don’t think you need to worry about maintenance of a wood floor, even in a kitchen. Just apply three or more coats of polyurethane.

But I also think your remodeled kitchen may contain too much cherry wood. At least give some consideration to cabinets of a color that won’t match that of the floor. Better yet, why not choose a material other than wood for the floor?

Look around and you will find some attractive ceramic tile pavers and other easy-to-maintain, hard-surface flooring materials such as porcelain tiles. You’ll also come across a variety of colors, ranging from neutral to bright. With cherry cabinetry, I’d choose something neutral for the floor as well as for the countertops. Black, dark green and a rich brown would all be handsomely complementary.

Granite rates as my personal favorite for a countertop material. Neither wood, marble nor concrete make it onto my own list of preferences. Even when sealed, these and other materials will eventually become highly porous — and who wants a stained countertop?

You asked specifically about the cabinetry and flooring, but I hope you’ll pay just as much attention to lighting, the color of the walls and details such as hardware and backsplash.

The accompanying photo from “The New Bungalow Kitchen” offers an example of a thoughtfully chosen and transformative detail. Written by architect Peter LaBau and published by Taunton Press, this book features some wonderful kitchen designs that can be adapted to many types of homes, not only bungalows.

The ceramic tile backsplash shown here qualifies as a work of decorative art. Inspired by the American Arts and Crafts movement, it lends beauty to a functional element — and that’s a combination I’ll go with every time.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at


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