2010 Nov 27th

What Makes a Hoboken Kitchen High-End: Part II

Stoves & Ranges – What you may want to know.

The other week I wrote about cabinets.  Today let’s take a look at stoves.  Like just about everything in a kitchen, there is no upper limit on what one can spend on cooking appliances.  There are companies like Aga, Viking, Dacor, Jenn-Air, Bosch, and Thermador that specialize in very high end stoves and ranges.  These appliances start in the thousands and have a multitude of special features.  You can spend months analyzing the differences among them and arguing about which is best.  I’m going to focus here on the more common type appliances that one typically finds in a Hoboken condo. The GE Profile, Frigidaire, Whirlpool, LG, Kenmore and similar brands.

Even among the more pedestrian stoves and ranges there are a multitude of different models and features available today.  Here is a quick rundown of what you might look for in a range whether you are replacing an old one or buying a condo with a supposed “chef’s kitchen”.

Wall oven & cooktop, freestanding or slide-in?

If you have a huge kitchen you may have the luxury of having separate wall ovens and a counter cooktop.  Most Hoboken apartments have a single unit that is both an oven and a cooktop – called a range.  While a range can be as large as a 48″, 6 burner again, most Hoboken kitchens are small and a 30″ range is pretty typical.

Slide-in models don’t have a raised piece along the back of the stove.  They fit in with your countertop more seamlessly but you will need a backsplash of some sort.

Gas, Electric or Dual Fuel?stove

Most cooks prefer gas for the greater control over the heat level.  Gas stoves also use less energy than electric ones.  The better electric ranges now have induction heating elements which require special cookware but offer much better control over cooking temperatures.  Some electric ranges will have a mix of induction and regular electric stove elements.

Most city apartments have 30″ stoves and most of those have only 4 burners.  The better 30″ gas stoves have 5 burners – a low simmer burner; a super-burner to boil water quickly; two normal burners; and a center burner, preferably oval shaped, that can accommodate a built-in griddle.

Dual fuel ranges offers the best of both worlds – a gas cooktop and an electric, convection oven.  Normal ovens have two elements – one on top and one below.  Convection ovens have a fan which circulates the air inside the oven as it cooks to avoid hot and cool spots.  Baking & broiling takes less time and can be done at a lower temperature and the results are even regardless of which rack you choose.  There is a difference between true convection and regular convection.  A true convection oven has a third heating element along with the fan so the air that is blown is hot.  Of course, the various companies have come up with their own names for their convection ovens so it can be even more confusing to compare.

Continuous grates – the better gas stoves have a grate that allows you to slide your pans around without tipping and spilling.  They are made of separate grate pieces that fit together to make a continuous top.

Sealed burners – these are burners that don’t allow spills to go inside the burner mechanism making it easier to keep your stove clean.

Self cleaning – this is a no brainer.  Even Viking now makes self-cleaning ovens.  No one likes scrubbing an oven with toxic cleansers.  The new self-cleaning ovens have a “light clean” feature that lets you run it for less than the full 5 or 6 hour cycle.

Removable stainless knobs – not only do the look nicer than plastic knobs, they remove for easy cleaning and they are more durable than plastic.

Double ovens – many of the top-of-the-line ranges offer twin ovens although it’s hard to find any for under $1,200.  These are great on Thanksgiving when you need to cook the main course and various side dishes at the same time.

Warming drawers – these can keep the dishes that are ready sooner warm while you finish preparing the rest of your meal.

Black, white, stainless or a color? This is more of a personal preference choice but some manufacturers claim that true stainless is easier to keep clean.  The trend is definitely for stainless everything yet I see way too many properties with stainless appliances and fingerprints and food smudges all over them.  Clean is best.

What about the exhaust?

Keep in mind that stoves require hoods to exhaust the cooking fumes.  Most apartments do not have vented hoods as there is no access to the outdoors.  The little charcoal filter under the microhood is barely adequate.  If you have a high-power professional-style cooktop you need are going to need a powerful, professional exhaust fan.

When buying a range, comparison shopping is crucial and most of it can be done online.  It does help, once you’ve narrowed it down, to go see the appliance in a store.  Prices vary as do special sales.  Don’t be too hung up on brand names.  All of them are made by the same 4 manufacturers (Whirlpool, GE, Frigidaire & Amana) and marketed under many different labels.  If you are a diligent shopper, you can find, for example, a gas, 5 sealed burner, continuous grate, self cleaning, stainless range with a convection oven, a griddle included and a warming drawer and stainless knobs for under $700.  You may have to pay for installation but delivery and haul-away are usually free.  It’s not the cost, it’s the features that matter.  Hopefully you will now have a better idea of what to look for when evaluating that “chef’s kitchen”.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently 12 Comments »

2010 Nov 1st

If A Kitchen is the Heart of a Home in Hoboken, How do You Know if it’s Healthy?

Chef’s Kitchen, Gourmet Kitchen, Upgraded Kitchen – What Does It Mean?

These phrases are tossed around frequently in the real estate world.  I was out with some buyers this weekend looking at Hoboken condos and something they said made me realize how little many first time Hoboken home buyers know about what makes a truly upgraded or luxury.  Having just completed my 4th kitchen renovation, (which turned out beautifully by the way) I thought I would share with you some of the features buyers should be looking for when examining Hoboken condo kitchens because simply saying in the listing description that it’s a “chef’s kitchen” does not always make it so.

Today let’s talk about cabinets –

These come in three basic flavors.  Are the ones you’re seeing fully custom like Plain & Fancy or Rutt,  partially custom like Kraftmaid or American Woodmode, or no-name builder basic stock cabinets?

The basic differences are that in a fully custom kitchen the entire cabinet box, door and trim is manufactured just for one specific kitchen site.  Every inch of space can be useful – important in Hoboken’s small kitchens.  The dead giveaway that cabinets are custom is when you see what are called fully inset doors.  These doors have external hinges and the doors are flush with the face of the frame of the cabinet box.    If you look at the photo you can see the face of the drawers are flush with the cabinet around the drawers.  The hinges of the doors can be seen on the outside of the doors, too.  inlaid cabinets

Semi-custom cabinets come in a variety of sizes, widths usually increasing in 3″ increments.  After a kitchen is measures a plan is drawn and the cabinets selected are ordered.  There will most likely need to be some filler to make ends meet and that means wasted space and sometimes unsightly blank spaces, depending on who and how talented your kitchen designer may be.

Stock cabinets are pre-assembled and in stock at the big box stores and the kitchen discount houses you see along Tonnelle Ave. and Route 22.  They offer few options and come in limited sizes.  Much of the lower end new construction or gut renovations use these.

What Should You Look For?

Here is a checklist of some other cabinet features to look for:

The more special features a kitchen has, the more it is worth.  It also makes your life easier and more efficient if you like to cook.  Next time we can take a look at appliances, finishes and floors.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently 6 Comments »

2007 Dec 1st

Secrets You Can Learn From Kitchen Cabinets in New Hoboken Condos

All new condo construction in Hoboken is billed as “luxury” – it’s interesting to take a closer look what “luxury” means. A quick look at the kitchens and bathrooms in the model units of these new condos show that luxury means different things to different people. What is considered luxury in new Manhattan condos is not the same as in Hoboken condos.

I love to cook but have a tiny kitchen in my home. So storage and multiple use cabinets are of major importance to me. Cabinet makers today offer an amazing array of special purpose cabinetry. You can choose from pot draws, cutlery trays, pull-out pantries, spice storage, lazy susans, wine storage and more. These special features are essential in small kitchens and helpful in larger ones too.

dinnerware storage drawer

Then there are the draws themselves. If they are truly high-end, they should be fully extendable draws (so you can get at what is in the very back) and some have soft closing mechanisms so they don’t slam shut. Under-counter lighting is essential. They should be xenon lights – not the cheap hockey-pucks. If you have high ceilings you should have extra-tall cabinets or double rows of cabinets. I can’t tell you how many new condo units I see in Hoboken where the builder slapped some cabinets onto the walls leaving a useless gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling.

Almost none one of the “luxury” projects, not Maxwell Place or Harborside Lofts, not the Upper Grand or the Skyclub offer truly upscale features in their kitchens. There’s not a fully-inlaid door in sight. No special purpose inserts either. Very little under-cabinet lighting. One or two developments have Viking, Miele or Bosch appliances. Most offer GE Profile which is fine but nothing special any more. Appliances, unlike cabinetry, are easy to upgrade should a buyer so choose. To install better cabinets after the kitchen has been built usually requires a full demolition since they are attached to the wall, each other, and the countertops.

Of course, when a buyer walks in and sees the stainless steel appliances and granite counters they are “wowed” by the surface appearance of the kitchen. Once they move in and start unpacking or acquiring all those Williams & Sonoma and Sur La Table must-haves they will soon realize what is lacking in their new kitchens. Even if the doors have brushed chrome handles and maybe, maybe, maybe there is a pull-down faucet for the undermount sink so many other features are missing. It only takes one or two nights of trying to wash a pot or two in those little undermount sinks before you will start yearning for a nice, big farmhouse style sink.Farmhouse Sink

While there was a time when a homeowner would have to purchase custom cabinets from a company like Smallbone or Rutt to get these great design features, now even Ikea includes them in practically every cabinet line. Why don’t the developers include any of these very standard amenities in their kitchens? That’s easy – they cost more than a plain vanilla box. If the buyers of these units don’t start demanding more, the builders will not provide more. So speak up, buyers, while the market is working in your favor. Here is a list of some of the features you should ask for:

Then, of course, there is the bathroom.

Does a brushed stainless faucet and Home Depot tumbled marble really make for a luxurious bathroom? Some fussy buyers would have a list that includes many of the following:

There is one new project, the Garden Street Lofts, that is getting it right. They’re offering Valcucine Italian Kitchens and some other nice features. At an appropriate price, of course.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently No Comments »

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