Rooms For Improvement

08 October 2009
Written by 
Published in Home & Garden
Kitchens and bathrooms can make or break a home — so it’s no wonder they’re the first to be remodeled. Local specialists share the hottest trends in kitchen and bathroom design today.

Bathrooms can become luxurious sanctuaries with added inspiration from design experts. For the ultimate in pampering inside and out, steam showers are the way to go, according to Nancy Frankowski, owner of Luv My Bathroom (661 Broadway Ave., Crystal Lake, 815-444-1900,

“Steam baths not only relax you and renew your energy, but regular use of a steam room can possibly improve your health and appearance,” she said. “Both sauna and steam baths are therapeutic, but high moisture content in a steam room is especially good for respiratory problems.”

Homeowners can also do something healthy for the environment during their next renovation. Today’s green vanities are made with sustainable, eco-friendly wood species. “They come in beautiful, classic and modern designs that are awe inspiring,” Frankowski said.

Many of today’s glass tiles are made from recycled glass. “Some tile products consist of up to 85 percent recycled content,” she said. “Recycled glass is cleaned and crushed, and becomes the raw material used in producing glass tiles.”

Glass isn’t the only tile material being recycled and used in today’s bathrooms. Leather tiles are made from leather scraps collected from furniture, shoe and other factories that are ground into shreds and mixed with water and natural binding products.

Ecodomo, available at Exceed Flooring and Surfaces (5186 Northwest Hwy., Crystal Lake, 815-459-3113,, is a brand that offers these “beautiful tiles that come in a full range of colors,” said Hawley Haleblian, a senior designer.

Paint is another product that has joined the green movement. Sherwin Williams’ Harmony Interior Latex line is a zero-VOC, low-odor paint that is available in a complete interior line, from primer to topcoat, in flat, eg-shel, and semi-gloss finishes.

Even green toilets are available to clients. “Our TOTO toilet features a Dual Max flushing system, allowing users to choose the appropriate level of waterage per flush (1.6 gallons or 0.9 gallons),” Frankowski said. “This system conserves water without compromising flush performance.”

Safety can be another concern in the bathroom. To that end, Luv My Bathroom offers walk-in bathtubs by Safety Tubs, which offer a safer, healthier and more comfortable bathing experience. “These walk-in bathtubs are great for active seniors, elderly people, disabled people, people with limited mobility or anyone looking for a safer and more comfortable bathing experience,” Frankowski said. “The tubs also come with a full assemblage of deluxe massage systems and other spa-like options, such as chromatherapy and aromatherapy.”

From a luxury standpoint, heated floors consist of an electric floor warming system that brings soothing warmth to tile, stone, laminate and engineered wood floors. “Thin heating wires are evenly spaced and embedded between two layers of durable fabric,” she explained. “A floor warming system radiates even heat with no cold spots.”

Maida Korte, owner of Designs by Maida (105 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock, 815-337-2046, said her firm recently completed two extraordinary bathroom projects, including “a large bathroom suite that is opulent and has a huge shower with body sprays — all in custom tiles — a claw-foot tub, and double vanities with custom cabinetry and heated floors, plus large his and her closet areas,” she said.
“The second project is a small bathroom that is also elegant, but masculine and doable in a small space,” she added.

Design and function are important when choosing the right cabinetry and countertops, but return on investment is also a consideration, according to Ron Toepper, owner and design specialist at Home Accent Carpet & Flooring (440 Virginia St., Crystal Lake, 815-459-1480).

“Granite, Silestone and quartz are all popular countertop options that also increase in value if and when a homeowner decides to sell,” Toepper said. Quartz has become increasingly popular due to its many advantages. “The nice thing about quartz is that it’s man-made versus harvested in a quarry like granite,” said Ken Kohley, general manager of Blue Ribbon Millwork (1475 S. Randall Rd., Algonquin, 847-658-9998; 1401 S. Eastwood/Rt. 47, Woodstock,  815-338-8900,

“It’s a harder product and consistent looking. It’s also safer — quartz isn’t porous, so  bacteria  [can’t  permeate  the  surface],” he said.

Using green elements whenever possible is a positive trend in cabinets, he added, and Blue Ribbon carries Holiday Kitchens’ RWH collection, which is known for sharing the eco-friendly principles of its namesake, interior designer Robin Wilson.

“There is a green movement to harvest wood close to home and to eliminate the use of formaldehyde glue in plywood,” Kohley said. “The finishes on cabinets are moving toward a natural linseed oil look verses polyurethane.”
Wood butcher-block islands are also green elements that are gaining popularity, he said.

The trend in cabinet design has moved away from the once-popular honey oak finishes to distressed cabinets, which display well-worn edges and layered finishes that artificially ages the wood and gives it an aged look. Glazed kitchen cabinets are another trend in kitchen cabinetry, Toepper said.

The glazed look is similar to certain aspects of the distressed style, but it does not require any wear and tear on the wood. Maple, cherry wood and darker finishes with black highlights are also popular, Kohley said. “Two-tone color kitchens are making their way back again,” he said.

For solid cabinets that are the best quality for the price, Toepper recommends Shiloh Cabinetry products. From a price standpoint, Alder wood cabinets stained to look like cherry cabinetry have grown in popularity “because it costs less [and] its grain is remarkably similar to cherry wood,” said Susan  Sylvester, kitchen designer at Alexander Lumber Co. (201 Virginia Rd.,  Crystal  Lake,  815-459-1050,

“A lot of people of also choosing maple wood with darker glazed finishes and contrasting cream colored glazed islands,” she added.

In addition, what used to be an upgrade in cabinetry is becoming standard, she explained. “Soft closing, full-extension drawer glides are becoming standard because so many people prefer it,” she said. “Roll-out trays, large, deep drawers, hide-away message centers and broom storage, toe kick area drawers for storage at the bottom of the cabinets, pot and pan storage, and wastebasket  pull-outs are very popular storage solutions.”

Today’s kitchen appliance options are not only user friendly, they are earth friendly — and totally customized to suit the home gourmet’s needs. Gulgren’s  Appliance  Inc. (424 W. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake, 815-459-4380, offers a variety of state-of-the-art kitchen appliances, from ovens to refrigerators.

Mike Gulgren, co-owner and sales manager, said for those remodeling or building a new kitchen, built-in gas cook tops with electric built-in ovens bake cooler and are more efficient than gas.

Refrigerators with French doors and a bottom freezer drawer are becoming more common as they make more sense ergonomically, he said. “They’re easier to open — people like that,” he said.

A lot of homeowners upgrading or building a new kitchen are adding a wine fridge or small refrigerator for beverages, bottled water or groceries, he added.

“The technology advancements in appliances are fantastic,” added Dennis Frankowski IDS, owner of DF Design Inc. (3610 Smoke Tree Ln., Crystal Lake, 815-479-0047, “Innovations in appliances, fixtures and faucets are changing the whole industry,” he said.

An 18-year vet in the interior design industry, Frankowski cites warming ovens and temperature-controlled beverage refrigerators as exciting trends in kitchen appliances.

Floors set the tone of the room, but beyond appearance, the ultimate decision on which flooring material to install should be based on how a room is used, according to For example, a room that has heavy foot traffic, such as a kitchen, requires a hardwearing floor.

Today’s bathroom floor trends include porcelain and natural stone tiles, and hardwood continues to be the standard for kitchens, according to Toepper. “People are getting into the distressed, hand-scraped look in hardwood flooring,” he said. Hand scraping is done to add texture, richness and uniqueness.

When it comes to finding the right tiles, backsplashes, countertops and flooring for the bathroom, natural stones, such as limestone, are gaining popularity, according to Haleblian. “Many new materials, including hardwoods, stone and porcelain, are coming in as grayer versions of the colors we were seeing in the past few years,” she said.

“They are fresher and edgier than their former colors. Some of the porcelain tiles are doing a grand job of mimicking limestone or travertine. We’ve received onyx porcelain that is just stunning — we’ve done some kitchens and master bathrooms in this onyx that look so pretty.”

“Tile jewelry,” including medallions, murals and borders are still popular, Haleblian said, adding that colorful, brighter paints and wallpaper are making a comeback.

DF Design Inc.’s Frankowski has seen his share of outdated home designs come alive with the help of a renovation project led by his firm and the contractors he works with. Today, he said, many homeowners in the county are trading in their outdated wallpapered kitchens for more timeless designs.

“There is a big movement toward the Tuscan look, inspired by country kitchens of Italy,” he said. “This theme incorporates bronzes and very curvy lines. Tuscan design is very prominent right now in the Crystal Lake and Barrington homes we’ve done.”

While kitchen renovations are generally the most time-consuming rooms from concept to completion, Frankowski said what differentiates his design firm is that it thinks holistically, considering each room of a house as part of a bigger whole.

“I’m a general interior designer,” he said. “For homebuilders, I act as the assistant taking care of all of the aesthetics. I fill in the blanks like faucets, countertops, cabinets, crown molding, paint color and fabrics. I look at the whole entire house as one. I understand how every room in the house is related and how even a simple coat of paint can freshen up a whole space.”

Visit DF Design Inc. at