I love the “high/low” comparisons produced by Style at Home (Canadian magazine – see www.styleathome.com) – they are a testament to how it is possible to achieve a high-end look at a much lower price.
When it comes to renovations in your home and you’re faced with the almost impossible task of trying to achieve your desired look without dangerously exceeding your budget, here are some suggestions on where to splurge vs. where to save when it comes to plumbing fixtures.
I believe, as with almost everything, you get what you pay for (I say almost because there are items / products out there where you get a lot of value for the price being asked).
Plumbing fixtures provide a very basic – but critical – function in our home. Yes there are fixtures that also provide a lot of bells and whistles, but leaving the body jet-spraying shower etc. fixtures aside, make sure you have quality fixtures in these key areas:
• Kitchen sink: enamel on cast iron, porcelain and granite sinks take you into a completely different price point, so let’s just talk stainless here: there are varying grades of stainless steel (“SS”), so if you are installing a SS sink, don’t buy the cheapest on the market.
Research the brand (find out the nickel content) and ask the retailer how the sink will stand up to scratches and staining. Nothing looks worse in the family and social ‘hub’ of your home than a SS sink that looks scratched to (you know what) and is uneven in colour tone (or faded looking).
The best brands of course are Kohler, Franke and Blanco. But you don’t have to break the banco with one of their sinks – yes, it is possible to, but you can select one on the lower end of their price spectrums.
• Kitchen faucet: ditto. The range in pricing in plumbing fixtures in general is huge – you can buy a faucet for less than $100 or buy one for more than $1,000.
But don’t spend less than $250-300 on your kitchen faucet – the money you save initially will be spent later in frustration and then eventual repairs and/or replacement.
Delta and Moen make beautiful fixtures in a ‘mid-price point range’, as does Kohler. Friends of mine spent $100 on a new kitchen faucet – the kind where you can pull the sprayer out of the tap and put it back in. They had to wrestle to get it back in from the get-go, and after 2 years, it won’t go back in at all and now hangs unattractively from the tap 24/7.
I spent $300 on the Delta Allora which has magnetic strips to keep the sprayer tightly snuggled in the faucet – it’s easy to take out, a snap to put back, and after 2 years, it looks as good as the day it went in.
So – where to save in the kitchen then? Cabinetry is a good place to start. Ikea and other cabinet makers using mdf can make great looking cabinets that do stand up to wear and tear relatively, for the price point. And with your sparkling stainless steel sink and beautiful faucet(s), it will look very much like a high-end kitchen.
• Powder room: I find pedestal sinks in a main bathroom unpractical (although gorgeous), but they are perfect for a powder room where its function is to simply wash up after using the lavatory.
If you want to install a pedestal sink in a powder room, just make sure that the scale of the sink is in keeping both with the room size and the general ‘stature’ of the house.
Examples: American Standard makes some attractively-shaped pedestal sinks at very reasonable prices, and given the right room / situation, I would consider installing one of them – perhaps in a basement bathroom in an older home, if the bathroom was small and maybe even lower ceiling height.
I say that because the scale of the American Standard pedestal sinks is small. It wouldn’t look right or ‘do justice’, for example, in a powder room on a main living level where architectural enhancements such as mouldings and a higher ceiling command a more ‘substantial’-looking sink.
Yes, a Kohler pedestal sink is almost 4-5x the price of an American Standard one, but don’t save here if your room/architectural details command more – choose less expensive floor tiles instead and install them in a more creative pattern (eg. diagonally or accents in the pattern).
You can also save on the mirror and lighting in this example, because those are items you’ll be able to get good bang for your buck on – and, they’ll look even better when installed with your fabulous, correctly-scaled and appropriately-‘statured’ pedestal sink.