Our friends Gerilyn and Mark have just started a down-to-the-studs kitchen remodel at their rancher in San Leandro, Calif.

For a couple of months they’ve been running around to various stores and clicking through the Web, looking at appliances, cabinets, countertops and flooring. They are careful shoppers, blessed with good taste. They want their new kitchen to be functional, simple and elegant. But they don’t want to refinance the national debt.

The last time Bill visited them, the staging area formerly known as Gerilyn and Mark’s garage was filling up with mid- to high-end kitchen stuff, all bought for less than retail, including a screaming deal on a huge refrigerator, found at the Sears outlet. “Just a little ding on the side and that will be covered up by the cabinets,” Gerilyn says.

They have decided to go with stainless steel appliances and sink, clear-finished maple cabinets, granite countertops and, for practicality’s sake, a Linoleum floor. Safe, but excellent, choices. Their new kitchen will look great and stay in style for many years.

Nonetheless, we wonder what would have happened if Gerilyn had been able to accompany Bill and Kevin to the Pacific Coast Builders trade show, which they attend each year in San Francisco. We think one of two outcomes likely – she either would have blown her budget sky high or she would have contracted a terminal case of kitchen envy.

This home-building and remodeling candy store managed to entice us for the better part of a week. Not only are the latest and greatest appliances, windows, doors, floors – you name it – there for ogling and touching, but there are always two or three eager company reps around to tell you why their product is the latest and greatest. (It helps when you’re wearing a badge that says “press” in big gold letters.)

So, will Gerilyn and Mark have a cutting-edge kitchen in about a month when the job is finished? Or will it be status quo?

Stainless steel is still huge, but it may be reaching the peak of its popularity. Granite and other types of stone countertops will probably be hot sellers for years to come. And maple and cherry remain top cabinet choices.

The best place to get the scoop was at the Purcell Murray booth. This company deals only in the highest of the high-end. While many appliances from Gaggenau, Franke and Bosch were still clad in stainless steel, the latest trend – straight from the continent – is bead-blasted aluminum, which gives the surfaces a muted, burnished look that hides fingerprints.

Other companies are powder-coating the steel surfaces of their stoves and refrigerators with a slightly rough, gunmetal-colored material. Patio furniture is the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s really quite nice and also resistant to fingerprints.

For countertops, granite slabs are still king, but manufactured quartz products such as Silestone, Zodiac and Cambria are gaining ground. By the way, if you’re having trouble deciding on which brand to choose, go by color and price. The quality is pretty much the same.

Folks who want to make a statement with their countertops can travel to the Brisbane, Calif., showroom of Purcell Murray.

For around triple the square-foot cost of the finest granite, the company will make templates of your countertops, then ship them to the Normandy region of France. Craftsmen there will jacket the countertops with hand-hammered pewter and ship them back in about six weeks.

Just the thing for Gerilyn and Mark’s next kitchen remodel.


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