Design at Altitude: Fixed finishes make a home shine |

Design at Altitude: Fixed finishes make a home shine

Kim Toms
Design at Altitude
Rather than the typical three-pendant light setup, use one long, linear, visually interesting pendant or one or two more substantial lights. Just as colors should coordinate throughout the open concept, the lighting scheme should feel right to you and reflect your personality.
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Offseason is the perfect time to get a few home projects done, whether you’re reorganizing the garage or updating your kitchen. Fixed finishes are the cornerstone to a home update or a new build. First off, what’s a fixed finish? It’s anything that stays put in your house: tile, counter tops, faucets, appliances or lights. It’s sort of the bones of your home.


With many of us living in open-concept homes, where kitchens flow into the dining area, which melds into the living room, it’s more important than ever to make sure the finishes in one room reflect and complement the finishes in another room. When selecting your fireplace surround in the great room, for instance, it needs to incorporate the same color palette as in the adjoining kitchen. Use complementary accent pillows on the sofa to enhance the dining room.

What are a few other ways to use fixed finishes to elevate your design? It’s not hard but does require some thought and planning.


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In a kitchen, one of the best ways to enhance the look and feel of the space is through lighting. Carefully designed light fixtures, as well as paying attention to the way, and place, they are hung, can make all the difference. I like to incorporate under-cabinet lighting in any home, but it’s especially important in a small or dark kitchen. Using lighting that has a dimming switch is a bright idea (pun intended). I’ve added glass-paneled cabinets that allow the light to filter through, making the kitchen feel even brighter.

Over most islands, there are three pendant lights. I like to try to get away from the typical three-pendant light setup (once you notice this, you’ll see it everywhere!). I like to see one long, linear, visually interesting pendant or I use one or two more substantial lights. Just as colors should coordinate throughout the open concept, the lighting scheme should feel right to you and reflect your personality. You might have blown-glass pendants over the counter but choose to use an interesting oblong light in the adjacent great room.


What about the dining room? Chandeliers make the dining room — no matter the size of your space. It’s hard to find a chandelier that shines the light down instead of up. Not sure why manufacturers haven’t caught onto this, but I like to see my food at dinner. If you have a chandelier that spreads its light upward, use can lights to shed light on the situation.


Another trend I am seeing in kitchens is the use of composite counter tops — they feel more contemporary and don’t etch or scratch. If you’re set on stone, marble makes a stunning backsplash. If you want granite, I recommend “leathering,” which hides fingerprints but doesn’t make the surface uneven.


Lighting is in place and the counter tops are selected — appliances are the next step. Stainless steel still reigns in the kitchen and makes a nice, neutral backdrop. You can incorporate the faucet and kitchen sink into the design by choosing either a high-gauge stainless steel sink or even a composite sink. I try to impress upon my clients, though, to choose the sink carefully because the next time you change the sink will be when you change the counter tops, i.e., many years down the road. A high-quality sink deserves the best in faucets.

There are so many luxurious options available now, and this truly is not the place to scrimp. Get a faucet in a brushed finish to hide any fingerprints or, better yet, go touchless — they are sleek and revolutionary. You won’t regret spending the money when your faucet lasts for years.

It’s easy to spend weeks and weeks picking your fixed finishes — I know! The good news is that as long as you’re following your design aesthetic, you can’t go wrong.

Kim Toms is a senior designer at Slifer Designs, with a focus on interior architecture. On any given day, her office is filled with various samples in all shapes, sizes and textures. Toms has been in the design industry since 1993.

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