Trends are always afoot in the kitchen renovation industry, and timeless classics with staying power remain popular as well. When you walk into someone’s kitchen, it’s not normally the ceiling or drawer pulls that get your attention. It’s the cupboards and counters for having the largest vertical and horizontal surfaces.


One of the most stunning upgrades to a kitchen, without gutting it and spending the same as a 2019 Ford Expedition, is refinishing the cabinets. It can take any kitchen from mediocre to amazing. “Like most 30-somethings, I spend way too much time perusing Pinterest for DIY projects,” states Kristie Lea McCallum. “After pinning every Magnolia-inspired farm kitchen, I convinced myself I could transform my builder’s basic kitchen cabinets into something Joanna Gaines would be proud of. After enough research and watching a friend lose her mind putting a third coat of paint on her kitchen cabinets, I gave up on the idea. While staffing the New River Valley Magazine booth at Home Expo in Christiansburg, I noticed Morris Finishing’s booth and realized this was the mom and pop shop that could transform my kitchen.”
As soon as Kristie and her husband, Darryl, discovered they could have a brand new looking kitchen for under $3,000 and add value back into the home, they signed on the dotted line. “The process was short and sweet,” she explains. “Our kitchen was out of commission for three days, and I returned to a handwritten note, bouquet of flowers and a Pinterest worthy kitchen of my dreams. Chuck and Susan Morris and the team are honest, good people who take pride in their work, and I am once again proud of my 1100-square-foot starter home.”
One concern with cabinet refinishing is often the kitchen around the structure which holds the doors and drawers. “We take cupboard doors and drawers to our shop for applying a high grade finishing material,” Susan Morris explains. “Then we set up a portable paint spray tent in the kitchen to spray the permanent structure and protect everything else – counters, floors, appliances, sink, faucet – it’s all completely guarded. The doors and drawers are returned and put back in place with existing or new hardware, and it’s like a new kitchen.” Morris Finishing can also have brand new doors and drawers crafted which fit the existing structure.
Wood delivers on the craving for natural materials in our homes with oak still topping the list. New finishes include cerused and driftwood which accentuate wood grain. Medium-Density Fiberboard or MDF is an engineered blend of wood fiber, resin and wax. It can be used for just the doors with full wood cabinet structures, and its lack of grain creates a perfectly smooth finish in any color under the sun. “Another benefit is that MDF does not expand or contract like solid wood,” states Kristi Dickson of Ewing Cabinet Company. “It does not have joints in the doors that could separate.”
Transitional styling incorporates more than one material, color or style. Contemporary cupboards can sport vintage hardware, and painted cabinets are modernized with sleek horizontal hardware. Minimalist styles have hidden indentations to open, eliminating hardware altogether.
Dickson, Ewing’s designer for all interior projects, says that open shelving is very popular. “We tell homeowners that the open shelf concept is ideal for decorative pieces, a stack of cookbooks or everyday dishware that gets used and washed often. We do both accent shelves and entire kitchens with open shelving above the counters. Lower cabinets and drawers keep the pots and pans, utensils and some pantry items and baking needs out of sight.”


Most of the action occurs on these horizontal surfaces. Countertops are front and center of almost every kitchen task, so being tough and durable goes hand-in-hand with being aesthetically attractive. Granite breezed into kitchens at least a decade ago and captured the desire for a natural look with the strength of rock.
Walter and Diane Hearn recently contracted with Shelter Alternatives on a kitchen renovation. “They set us up with Ideal Cabinets, who showed us granite samples and served as liaison with Stone Dynamics where we chose our granite slabs. They were very helpful with guiding us to procure an accurate quote and making sure everything went smoothly. There are many variations in the slabs for the same style, so it’s important to go to the granite supplier and select the exact piece.” The Hearns selected a lovely soft tan, gray and white version of Fantasy Brown.
“Cost-effective porcelain tile counter tops have their niche and we’ve seen demand increase recently,” states Joe Cole, president of DEHART Tile. “Larger tiles in the 24 to 36-inch size with very fine, sealed, grout lines allow for a more solid work surface than smaller tiles associated with countertops of the past.” He goes on to explain that porcelain tiles share the heat resistant benefit of granite and quartz, but are less porous than natural stone. “There is a nearly unlimited color palette in styles ranging from farmhouse to contemporary,” he adds. DEHART Tile may be strongly associated with flooring, but their 55 years in business is a tribute to excellence in all kinds of tile projects, including countertops.
Concrete has moved from sidewalks and cinder blocks into kitchens. It is nearly indestructible, though being porous like granite, it should be sealed occasionally. “We love that we can put hot pans on it without worry, and it has a nice smooth surface,” says Harry Behl, “but there is a downside here.” There are two ways to install concrete: Pour on site or make in a mold like most other counters, transport it and lay it on the lower cupboards. “Ours was poured on site,” Harry’s wife Joan explains, “so we can never change out the cupboards under it, without completely removing and replacing it. We’d love wood, but it wouldn’t look right to install only new wood upper cabinets.”
“Quartz is the most popular countertop material now that there is such great variety and diversity in both appearance and price,” Dickson relates. “Textures are also in demand. A suede or honed finish delivers a smooth, unpolished look, while a leathered process results in a slightly textured finish, like leather.”
Whatever your cabinet and counter preferences, you can find it. Matte or gloss, heavily veined or not, brown or gray tones, wood or paint, textured, eclectic, bold or not. The kitchen world is full of wonderful options for every budget and home style in function, decor and marvelous, long-lasting materials.


Text by Joanne M. Anderson