I've Got Steam Heat: Replacing Radiators In Philadelphia Kitchens.

Many homes in Philadelphia feature radiators. These cast iron behemoths are usually a kitchen designer’s worst enemy. They’re bulky, attract dust, and are typically located in front of windows (just where you wanted the sink to go!) Like most homeowners, you are probably focused on new countertops, high-tech appliances, or beautiful new cabinets, but don't overlook the basics. If your home uses radiators then they will be an important detail of how your new kitchen looks and works.

This new radiator was sourced to match older existing ones.

This new radiator was sourced to match older existing ones.

When replacing or adding radiators you have many options. Old-style cast iron radiators, which look best in older homes, are still being made and come in both ornate and plain styles, large and small.  Chances are good that our kitchen designers can find a model that nearly matches the radiators you already have.

Don’t let the current placement of your radiators limit your ideas. Radiators can be moved but this will involve getting under the floor to move pipes. While best done in the summer this work is not difficult especially if you are already planning to pull up and replace your flooring. If you're keeping the floor, pipes can be accessed through the ceiling of the room below. If that room is an unfinished basement, you're in luck!

This modern wall mounted radiator is sleek and easy to clean around.

This modern wall mounted radiator is sleek and easy to clean around.

Thanks to the large market for radiators in Europe there are plenty of contemporary radiators available including some which are positively gorgeous. These include low profile baseboard radiators, wall panel radiators, and radiators that practically double as sculpture. You don’t have to sacrifice your dream kitchen’s sleek, modern look because of radiator heat. However, installing european style radiators may cost more and it's important to note whether they use steam or hot water for heat.

Why use a radiator in the bathroom when you can have a towel warmer?

Why use a radiator in the bathroom when you can have a towel warmer?

Bathrooms are the spot for that elegant alternative to a radiator: a towel rack. These home luxuries are heated by the water from your boiler and will warm your bathroom and your towels.  Like radiators, these come in both traditional and sharply contemporary styles. 

Determining the size and number of radiators for a space requires some complicated math and an understanding of the thermodynamics of the room.  You can find tutorials and calculators for this on the internet, but most of these calculations are best left to an HVAC professional.

Electric radiators can be great for small rooms.

Electric radiators can be great for small rooms.

Even small radiators can get very hot and may deliver too much heat to a tiny room. For a very small space, like a powder room, consider a wall-mounted electric radiator with a thermostat. There are many models available for cheap but these often perform poorly and have only an on/off switch. Higher quality units offer convenient features like child lock-out and they typically look sleeker too.

When in doubt, paint it black and put some marble on it.

When in doubt, paint it black and put some marble on it.

While your old radiators are disconnected during the project you may want to consider having them renewed.  A build-up of old paint on the outside and sludge on the inside can decrease a radiator’s efficiency thereby increasing your heating bills.  The outside of a radiator can be sandblasted and the inside can be flushed out.

For those homeowners who don't want to move their radiators, consider installing a shelf,  towel rack, or even shoe rack above them. Why not use this powerful heat source to your advantage and dry those winter boots? If your radiator is an eyesore consider having Airy Kitchens design a custom radiator cover to match your cabinetry. Remember, radiators are not simply heating elements but can be an opportunity to add a special touch to your new kitchen or bathroom.

Brass, Bronze, Chrome and Stainless. Everything You Need To Know About Cabinet Hardware.

Cabinet hardware is available in countless finishes, but looks can be deceiving. Why is one cabinet knob thirty dollars and another three dollars? Here are the basics: Most hardware is made from inexpensive zinc or more expensive copper and brass. Often these base metals have a finish, or plating of a different color adhered to them. Stainless steel and bronze can be plated over these metals, but they can also be solid. Chrome and nickel are always plated over another metal, never solid. Confused yet?  Well, most hardware is actually pretty durable and a cheap price does not always mean it's poorly crafted. Lets look at some of our favorite cabinet hardware finishes to compare the pros and cons of each material. 

Polished Brass looks shiny and golden. It pairs great with painted cabinets.

Pros: Polished Brass is sealed with a lacquer coating, so it will not age or tarnish. This common finish is easy to match between brands.

Cons: Polished brass, like most shiny finishes, will show fingerprints and the lacquer can dull over time. 

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Unlacquered Brass is a living finish, meaning it will change with time and use.

Pros: You don't have to worry about fingerprints here, unlacquered brass shows wear over time and the spots you touch will stay shiny. This raw brass has a warm, rosy color and you can always polish it back to a shine with brass cleaner.

Cons: If you want a uniform look, unlacquered brass will take more maintenance. We prefer the worn patina on rounded, amorphous shapes. It can look dirty in an edgy, contemporary style kitchen.

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Antique Brass offers a patina without the maintenance.

Pros: Antique brass is aged with chemicals and sealed with a low luster finish. This gives you a worn, antique look that will never change or need polishing.

Cons: Chemically aging something never looks the same as a natural patina and the color here is not as warm as unlacquered brass.

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Bronze is highly durable and offers many finishes.

Pros: Bronze is corrosion resistant and recommended for use in coastal homes with salty air. Many finishes and colors are available in bronze including the popular 'antique bronze', which looks black with copper highlights.

Cons: Bronze is more porous than brass and can develop shrinkage cavities over time. 

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Stainless Steel is the best choice for outdoor kitchens, but make sure it's solid. See more of our outdoor kitchens.

Pros: A stainless steel finish is easy to match and will look at home next to your stainless appliances. Solid stainless is corrosion resistant and our recommendation for all outdoor kitchens. Stainless hardware is typically not sealed, so the finish can be polished or even lightly sanded to remove surface scratches

Cons: Solid stainless is more expensive than other options. Plated stainless pieces are a good option indoors, but will not hold up outdoors. Make sure you know what you're buying when dealing with stainless.

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Chrome hardware adds drama and reflects light in this bathroom.

Pros: Chrome gives a highly polished and reflective finish that you won't find in other metals. Chrome is corrosion resistant and looks great in polished bathrooms.

Cons: While it won't rust, chrome will dull and develop pits over time. This shiny finish will also show fingerprints and water spots.

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Nickel looks soft, but also feels modern with a brushed finish. Check out the rest of this mediterranean kitchen.

Pros: Nickel is available in brushed and polished finishes. It's color looks close to sterling silver and is warmer and richer than chrome. Polished nickel is easy to match between brands.

Cons: Nickel is pricier than chrome. Unless it is lacquer sealed, this finish will tarnish and need maintaining. 

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Matte Black hardware is contemporary, but we think it's a classic. There’s more black hardware in this colorful kitchen.

Pros: Matte black is usually created by powder coating another metal. This process results in a very durable finish that won't show fingerprints. Similar to hand forged iron, we think this  finish works great in older homes.

Cons: Matte black hardware can look dramatic, especially against white cabinets. Use it sparingly and try to mix it with other metal finishes..


Philadelphia Real Estate Pros Talk Kitchens

We asked two of the best Philadelphia real estate agents about what buyers are looking for in todays kitchen designs. Here is what they had to say:

Real estate pros Ife Foy and Eric Gerchberg

Real estate pros Ife Foy and Eric Gerchberg

Are buyers in different neighborhoods expecting different styles? 

While a simple, clean and functional kitchen is important to most buyers, Eric Gerchberg from OCF Realty says yes. "The neighborhoods really demand different design styles and choices. If you're in Fishtown, you expect to see more of a rustic, artsy type of kitchen, Old City has more industrial modern style. In Point breeze everything is getting rehabbed, so buyers expect to see shaker style cabinets and quartz counters, something that looks nice, but not a specific design style." The takeaway? It's okay to customize your design, but if your taste is different from the neighborhood norm, try to keep it neutral. 

Is everyone still into granite counters, or have we moved on?

Fifteen years ago, granite was hot, but now you see it in every kitchen. Is it a passing fad? Ife Foy from Keller Williams Realty thinks not. "We're still into Granite and Quartz. My buyers really appreciate the look and feel of them and they're durable. Everyone seems to like the grey and white granite and quartz the most." It's true that granite is extremely durable and it's actually inexpensive compared with other stone options. Learn more about countertop selections in our previous post: How to choose a kitchen counter, eight beautiful and durable options.

Appliances are important and buyers want brand names.

Appliances are important and buyers want brand names.

Do high end appliances make a difference? 

Commercial style stoves are popular, but vary widely in price. Are buyers after the look, or is the brand more important? Eric says "the brand speaks more to (buyers) than the look. If you show someone a Samsung versus a wolf, they're going to go for the Wolf, but they don't know why. What I find is more brand loyalty than function of the appliance." So, if you are renovating your forever home, buy what you like, but if you plan to sell in five years, it may be worth the extra money to buy the well known brand. Both Eric and Ife say that mid - low range Philadelphia buyers like Samsung appliances and high end buyers like Viking and Wolf stoves.

What are buyers of an $800k home expecting that buyers of a $300k home are not?

Sure, appliances may be different in a high end home, but what else are these buyers expecting? Ife says "ample space for cooking." Having a large kitchen with lots of counterspace is important for high end homes and opening up the space is popular too. Eric notes that higher end homes have nicer backsplashes and high end buyers are not into the thin glass tiles you see at big box hardware stores. Also, "wine storage is a big thing. It's funny because often buyers don't know that they want it until they see it, and then they have to have it." If you are looking to remodel and want to attract a high end buyer, it may be wise to remove walls and add wine storage. 

Attract high end buyers with wine storage.

Attract high end buyers with wine storage.

What DIY fixes can Philadelphia home sellers do to get higher offers on their homes?

Most kitchen renovation projects should be left to a contractor, but what can thrifty homeowners do themselves? Eric says "If you can take a tile workshop class at Home Depot, putting in a subway tile backsplash in your kitchen is always good." Otherwise, "throw a fresh coat of paint up, it's so easy to do and it goes miles for people looking at your home." While quick projects like this can make a big difference, Ife warns sellers about bigger renovations: "statistics actually show that the money you put into your home on a large renovation will pretty much break even. You're not going to make a profit (on the cost of your renovation), but you will probably sell your house faster." 

What are some kitchen and bath trends that buyers hate?

When it comes to cool, trendy materials, many buyers hesitate that the trend will go out of style. Eric mentioned the patterned concrete tiles that we are seeing more of, especially in bathrooms. "They look awesome, I love them personally, but in ten years will I love it?" he thinks not. Ife mentioned one of our favorite points, "Folks really don't want a small concrete backyard. Folks want a little bit of green space." May we suggest adding an outdoor kitchen next to those planters?

Outdoor space is a sought after amenity in Philadelphia.

Outdoor space is a sought after amenity in Philadelphia.

What kitchen and bath trends are buyers loving?

If buyers are searching it out, then these trends are probably going to stay popular. Ife says "buyers really love waterfall shower heads, spacious showers, large en suite bathrooms, and kitchens that are spacious and highly functional."  What is a cool trend that isn't going anywhere? Eric says "Exposed brick. That is the easiest thing to find in Philadelphia, we are a city of brick" and "honestly, I don't see that one going anywhere for a while." We agree, when your space is designed to highlight the character and structure of your home, it will always look timeless.

Thanks to these amazing Philadelphia real estate agents for taking the time to educate us and our readers on the best ways to design and remodel our homes. If you are interested in buying or selling, please see their contact info below.  

ife foy realtor headshot 2018.jpg

Ife Foy   ifefoy.kwrealty.com   215.380.9595

Eric Gerchberg

Eric Gershberg   eric@ocfrealty.com   914.393.3335

If you would like to speak with an Airy Kitchens designer about renovating your home, call us at 215 853 6060 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation.

Hidden in Plain Sight

For a clean and calm look in your kitchen, consider these five tricks for hiding appliances and trash. Whether you are looking to design a sleek and modern kitchen, or a simple and traditional kitchen, hiding trash and appliances will make your space look and feel cleaner. Most homeowners get used to seeing the toaster or coffee maker on the counter and don't think twice, but when you see a kitchen that really does have clean, open countertops, you will notice! These tricks will change the way you think about kitchen design, and how to organize your space.

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1) Move Small Appliances To a Counter Top Pantry.

Most homeowners keep small appliances on the counter because they use them daily, or because they don't have a convenient storage area for them. A countertop pantry cabinet provides extra storage and allows you to keep your coffee maker, toaster, or mixer easily accessible. After breakfast, close the cabinet doors, and you have a neat and tidy kitchen with a clean countertop. Consider including glass panels in the top of the pantry doors for a traditional hutch look. 

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2) Instal Panel Ready Appliances.

We love stainless steel appliances, but using a stainless stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, and oven hood in a small kitchen can start to look overwhelming. With that much stainless steel, the room can look like a commercial kitchen. If you need to locate the dishwasher right next to the range, seeing two similar sized stainless appliances side by side can look funny. if you can't brake up a run of appliances with cabinetry, we suggest using a panel ready dishwasher or refrigerator. These appliances are made to be used with a panel that matches your cabinetry. Panel refrigerators are more expensive than panel dishwashers, but hiding a bulky fridge and making it look like cabinetry can be a big payoff. 

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3) Keep Trash, Recycling and Compost In the Drawer.

Trash and recycling bins are an eyesore and take up kitchen floor space. Countertop compost bins get smelly and take up counter space. Even if it means losing some cabinet storage, we think pull-out trash drawers are well worth it. Cabinet fronts and hardware match your kitchen for a seamless look and smells are contained.  The pull-out trash drawer shown above holds two bins, but many configurations are available, including a single bin with storage and a single bin with stainless compost bucket. Don't be afraid to instal multiple trash drawers, recycling is bulky, and larger bins mean less trips to the curb.

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4) Use Cabinetry Instead of Closets.

Many Philadelphia families would love to relocate their washers and dryers from the basement, but don't know where to put them. Other homeowners want to use square footage from a laundry room to increase their kitchen size. Building a closet or small room involves thick walls and door frames, but cabinetry can be made thiner and looks seamless in your kitchen. Pantry cabinets can be sound insulated, fitted for electric, plumbing, and venting to hold pretty much anything. With electric available, even the microwave, wine fridge, or standing mixer can be stored and used in the pantry. If your home has the space, consider adding a laundry sink or drying rack behind pantry doors too. 

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5) Hide Your Kitchen Behind Barn Doors.

For small kitchens, like this poolside outdoor kitchen, closing the whole kitchen off with sliding doors may be the best way to get a tidy look. Closing off the entire kitchen is another way to keep your home looking tidy without having to worry about dishes in the sink or stuff on the counters. When designing your kitchen, or working with an Airy Kitchens Designer, think about how you use your kitchen and your habits. Most of the tips we listed will force even the messiest people to keep a neater kitchen, and when all else fails, just cover it with a barn door! 

Are you interested in designing a new kitchen in Philadelphia or the Main Line? Fill out our Contact Form today!