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Any remodel should start with high-quality materials |

Any remodel should start with high-quality materials

Anyone who is starting a home improvement or redecorating project needs to give careful consideration to the materials they use. Materials selection is every bit as important as room design because the two choices need to complement each other in the finished product.

You should also take the time to look beyond the aesthetics of the materials you are considering to other important details, such as durability and cost.


Framing each room in your home with durable and beautiful materials creates the environment, and from there, you populate it with accessories, artwork and touches like lighting, real or artificial vegetation, media and rugs to create your own unique cocoon.

For instance, bathrooms should be both attractive and serviceable — places where you don’t mind spending time every day. Bath Planet of Chicagoland, with offices in Streamwood and Libertyville, advocates installing custom-made acrylic surfaces on the walls around tubs and showers because they do not crack, peel or chip and there are no grout lines, keeping them free of mold and mildew, said spokesman Jessie Northrop.

“We make custom acrylic panels that come in 15 different colors and patterns, including six that simulate different granites,” she stated. “I have noticed that customers today are making bolder choices. When the economy was bad, people made very neutral choices because they were worried about resale. Now that the economy is better, they are choosing what they personally like and often, that means granite patterns.”

The other trend she has noticed is that more customers are pairing their acrylic panels with white tubs and white shower bases, as well as bronze or nickel fixtures. Shower and tub seats are also a popular option, as are handheld sprayers and corner shelves. Both glass doors and shower curtain rods are available.

Those concerned about aging-in-place are opting for walk-in tubs with a little door on the side or a walk-in/roll-in, low-threshold showers.

Northrop said less than 1 percent of those renovating their baths today are opting for whirlpool tubs. They are about 20 inches high, instead of the 15 inches of a normal tub, and that dissuades them.

The Bath Planet team branched out to launch Kitchen Planet during the summer of 2017 and now they are also updating local kitchens with new cabinet faces, countertops, sinks and plumbing, she continued.

“The majority of our kitchen customers — about 80 percent — are choosing to reface their dark kitchen cabinets with white or some other light color or wood tone,” Northrop said. “This is especially true of those with small kitchens which look even smaller when the cabinets are dark.”

The process involves installing new cabinet doors, often with totally different profiles than before, and covering all of the surrounding cabinet edges with thermo-foiling to match the doors.

“No one would ever know that it hadn’t always looked like that and our crews are not ripping apart your entire kitchen,” she added.

When it comes to countertops, Kitchen Planet customers are generally choosing a marble or granite-look laminate or an actual granite, quartz or marble slab.

“We bring small samples out to our customers and eight out of ten will choose from those samples. The others will go to a granite or marble warehouse and choose their own slab. Then, we will work with that vendor, give them the measurements and pick up the countertops after they are cut and fabricated. Our crews do the installations,” she said.

Northrop said many customers choose light-colored countertop materials to go with their light-colored or white cabinets.

The final piece of the kitchen puzzle, in most cases, is the installation of a new sink and faucet. Most customers are choosing single bowl, stainless steel sinks, which don’t scratch as easily as ceramic sinks and are larger enough to handle large pans. They are generally paired with an arched faucet that comes equipped with an integral sprayer.

Living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, offices and bedrooms need a different thought process. Hardwood floors (often accented with area rugs) and wall-to-wall carpeting are generally the norm in these rooms.

And walls are generally painted wallboard or plaster. Wood paneling is out of favor, but wallpaper may be slowly crawling back into some homeowners’ hearts.

While some young people may choose ultramodern glass and metal tables, shelves and cabinets, most homeowners of all ages — both suburban and urban — opt for classic, traditional or transitional wood finishes and leather or fabric upholstery.

O’Reilly’s Furniture and Amish Gallery in Libertyville, now owned by the Michael Walsh family, carries a variety of dinettes, bedroom sets, entertainment consoles, desks, occasional tables (end tables, sofa tables and coffee tables) and seating.

The wood items are generally custom-made by Amish artisans so they can be ordered in any wood, finish, dimension, detailing or style. However, Walsh said, oak and maple with a variety of finishes are the favorites today.

When it comes to seating, England, a subsidiary of La-Z-Boy, manufactures hardwood-framed upholstered furniture. Omnia custom-makes 100 percent top-grain leather items. Walsh said Smith Brothers of Berne (Indiana) makes very high-quality leather and upholstered items that can be either reclining or stationary, and can be made using more than 1,200 leather and fabric options.

All seating is wear-tested and designed to last, according to Walsh, using easy-care fabrics and leathers that can be beautifully preserved with quick attention to spills.

“Buying furniture is a big investment, so we believe people should be able to get the highest quality they can, at an affordable price,” Walsh said.

“And our manufacturers allow so much customization by customers that those who come into the showroom are able to use their own creative flare to such an extent that it gets their minds racing,” he added.

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