Harmony Definition /ˈhɑːməni/
agreement of ideas, feelings, or actions, or a pleasing combination of different parts:
For the past 1500 years, Venetian glass production has been concentrated on the island of Murano in Italy. Today, Murano is known for its art glass, but it has a long history of innovations in glassmaking. At our Italian kitchen company, Valcucine, we are staying true to this heritage by embracing the use of glass in various ways.
For the past 5 years, Valcucine forms part of the Italian Creation Group. This company operates in the architecture and interior design field through the acquisition of exquisite high-quality Italian brands. Thanks to Italian creativity and superb manufacturing standards, the group embraces a luxurious lifestyle through 4 different brands: Valcucine, Driade, Fontana Arte and Toscoquattro.
“Art-of-living” refers to your capability to lead a quality life. This ties in perfectly/harmoniously with Valucine’s value of wellbeing. The forms of art are portrayed by our constant refinement of ergonomics, quality materials, health and non-toxicity, the feeling of freedom, and by being in harmony with the environment.
One of the hardest decision you have to make when designing your kitchen is the material selection for your kitchen worktop. Undoubtedly there are so many choices available. Furthermore, each material potentially has a range of commercial or even company names. Clearly, this has created a lot of confusion in the market.
We have, therefore created eight categories for materials that can be used for worktops:
- Acrylic resin-mineral composite
- Quartz composite
- Natural marble
- Natural granite
- Ceramic or sintered surface
Which is the best material for a kitchen worktop?
Each material used for a high-end kitchen worktop has its various advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it must be noted that no material can be considered the absolute best.
We have examined the main characteristics of various materials and graded them for you. The grading ranges from very poor to excellent.
We hope this will help you make the right choice.
We often hear of “scratch-resistant surfaces”.
Truth is, there is no such thing as an entirely scratch-resistant surface. Any material can be scratched by an element that is harder than it.
At Valcucine, we tested all of the above eight categories. And what is apparent is that many perceptions and convictions are disproved by objective data.
To find the most resistant material for your kitchen worktop, we performed a scratch test on all eight categories, using the sharp edge of different materials of increased hardness.
Scratch resistance test results
- Steel: Very poor to fairly good
- Acrylic resin-mineral composite: Very poor
- Quartz composite: Excellent
- Glass: Fairly good to good
- Natural marble: Fairly good to good
- Natural granite: Excellent
- Ceramic: Excellent
Scratch resistance test comments
- Steel, usually considered to be a hard material scratches really easily. If you want a kitchen worktop that remains unscathed by scratches, steel is not the right choice.
- The visibility of scratches was less visible on textured surfaces compared to polished surfaces.
- Scratches were less visible on a light colour kitchen worktop versus a dark colour worktop.
- If you want a kitchen worktop that doesn’t show up scratches, a streaked worktop is preferable over an evenly-coloured worktop.
Repairing your kitchen worktop
The ability to repair any kitchen worktop surface is theoretically possible (except for laminate). However, consideration must be given to the complexity and the cost of repair. Therefore acrylic resin-mineral composite tops are actually the only feasible ones that can be repaired because they are soft enough to be easily sanded.
Join us next week to read about stain, corrosion resistance, and cleaning of your worktops.
Valcucine South Africa is part of The Excellence Group. Read more about our companies here.
Looking for more kitchen design inspiration, read about:
A quality imported luxury kitchen will account, on average, for about 57% of your building or renovating kitchen budget. This makes buying a quality imported kitchen a luxury and an investment. Therefore when one invests, you make sure the investment meets your goals and objectives. So why should it be different when you spend on a luxury kitchen?
When we buy an imported luxury car, we take it for a test drive, we read technical reports in car magazines, spec safety features and seek advice from car journalists. This information allows us the opportunity to understand the differences between makes and models and helps us choose the best quality for our budget and our specific needs.
Why shouldn’t it be the same for quality imported kitchens?
The furniture industry and decor magazines produce very little detailed information on the quality of imported kitchens in South Africa. Therefore there are no comparisons between what is available in the market to help homeowners make an informed choice.
Designing, buying and installing a new imported kitchen is a big event for the whole family. Catalogues with captivating glossy images and technical descriptions often impact decisions made. So it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of a new purchase, the appeal of a luxury kitchen design and the dreams of moments spent with family and friends in the kitchen.
However, to be in a position to make an informed purchase, more time should be spent studying features and facts that assist you in making an informed choice.
Quality marks for imported kitchens
A product that bears a quality or certification mark meets an accepted standard of excellence as dictated by a national or international regulatory body. A quality or certification mark is awarded to kitchens after stringent tests have been carried out. Certification is especially important for electrical appliances used in kitchens. In Italy, for example, many people die annually because of problems caused by electrical appliances.
Therefore the challenge today is the wide variety of certificates at hand for a kitchen. There is a large amount of information available, and this can often lead to confusion or errors in judgement when choosing kitchens based on their certification.
To assist you, we’ve grouped quality marks into these various categories:
1. Process quality mark
2. Product quality mark
3. Self-certification mark
5. Environmental protection marks
Process quality mark
A kitchen awarded a process quality mark means that the manufacturer follows a standardised production system and endeavours to improve it. These are, therefore, important for suppliers as these standards ensure excellent product reliability and consistency. However, for the manufacturer, it allows them to optimise their production system. This mark, however, provides no guarantee for the end user though.
An example of a process quality mark is ISO9001.
Product quality mark
A product quality mark guarantees that the kitchen manufactured corresponds to the quality and safety level fixed by technical standards established by the quality mark itself. For example to obtain a quality mark for a piece of furniture it must pass a set of safety tests (e.g. stability, safety of electric systems, absence of dangerous sharp corners, respect of regulations and limits concerning toxic emissions) and a whole array of quality tests (e.g. strength and durability of hinges, capacity of drawer runners).
This mark certifies the real quality of the kitchen, which is why it is a crucial mark you as a customer should look for when researching imported kitchens.
An example of a product mark quality for kitchens is ICILA. Globally recognised, they provide accredited management certification systems in fields such as wood processing, furnishing and paper.
The manufacturer applies the self-certification mark directly to the kitchen it produces. Therefore the validity of this self-certification mark depends on the honesty of the manufacturer. Furthermore, there is no certifying body and consumers only receive a partial guarantee from the manufacturer.
Trademarks are created and promoted by manufacturing companies who have a common interest. They, therefore, join together to reach their aims and increase the visibility of the trademark.
Environmental standards and certifications
ISO14001 is the international standard from which one of the most critical environmental certifications derive. Therefore, it guarantees that a company:
- Will respect all environmental requirements regarding sound, toxic discharge, dust and water pollution;
- has a controlled, registered waste disposal system;
- is committed to reducing energy consumptions and draws up and implements projects with this aim in mind;
- participates in environmental projects.
Independent certification bodies issue it after inspection of the company.
The FSC® CERTIFICATION: CERTIFIED WOOD is an example thereof. Valcucine obtained this certification in 2008 guaranteeing that the wood used, comes from forests managed responsibly.
Quality: tested and guaranteed
Good design isn’t the only thing that guarantees the quality and safety of your kitchen unit. So it is essential that all your kitchen parts and materials undergo stringent, uncompromising testing. Therefore it is vital to check that the written certifications back the claims made.
Seals of approval awarded to Valcucine kitchens
- FSC® Certification for solid maple parts (drawer interiors). Valcucine kitchens use only FSC® labelled chipboard, which guarantees that the wood comes from responsibly-managed forests.
- Valcucine’s consistent dedication to eco-friendly production ensured that they were the first Italy kitchen cabinet maker to obtain UNI EN ISO14001 certification.
- The BIOFOREST label was first created by Valcucine to show their commitment and action towards reforesting. BIOFOREST in now an independent NGO with recognition from the Italian Ministry of the Environment and is open to manufacturers committed to restoring the balance between carbon dioxide they produce. And the carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees they plant for manufacturing.
Now that you selected a luxury kitchen manufacturing based on their quality marks, here are some practical tips to help you design your high-end kitchen.
Need some ideas on how to light your new high-end kitchen, read here.
A luxury kitchen in a showroom is easy to fall in love with because that is where the kitchen has been set up to show its best features. But move that kitchen unit into your house, and it may not have the same feel. Here are some practical tips to help you design your ideal kitchen.
So, before you buy a luxury kitchen, make sure you have spent time planning how to use the space most effectively. A luxury kitchen is an investment, instead of endless comparisons of prices based on standard solutions, work with an architect, kitchen designer or interior designer you trust.
Architects and designers are professionals; their work is delicate and thought through. They understand how best to find the right balance that will make your kitchen both functional and beautiful.
What should I choose?
Modular luxury kitchen units
With luxury kitchens, a modular kitchen unit is more versatile than a kitchen with a continuous worktop. When designing your kitchen, take into consideration that modular kitchens can be moved around in different combinations and are easier to handle if you move. But, with modular units, there are more places for seepage that can lead to warping, mould and dirt, compared to a continuous worktop.
Valcucine, for example, applies water-tight seals around their sinks and hobs to stop seepage.
Continuous worktops in luxury kitchens
Designing a luxury kitchen with continuous worktops offer a more linear style with unbroken surfaces and cleaner aesthetics. This design confines spillage to the sides of the worktops.
Plinths, wall-hung or feet units?
Luxury kitchen units with plinths
Any dirt that accumulates under the kitchen is out of view. This kitchen design also allows you to exploit all the space apart from a few centimetres above the floor. It is easy to integrate the dishwater into a kitchen unit with plinths.
Just because you can’t see the dirt, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It is not easy to clean under the kitchen.
Cleaning under a wall-hung unit is trouble-free. Kitchen units raised from the floor create matchless elegance and a feeling of utter lightness and luxury. If you wish to add underfloor heating, this option allows better efficiency.
By raising the kitchen unit, you reduce your storage space, and there are a limited number of dishwasher options that work with this luxury kitchen design.
Luxury kitchen units with feet
Checking and cleaning under kitchen units with feet is straightforward, ensuring better hygiene. Kitchen units with feet also look lighter and more graceful. Space created by the feet below the kitchen units also allows for more effective underfloor heating.
As with the wall-hung units, there are limited dishwasher options that work with this type of kitchen design.
Customisation, the ability to design your luxury kitchen around your needs
At Valcucine, we believe that buying a luxury kitchen is a long-term investment, and it needs to adapt to your needs, taste and the space available. Don’t buy a kitchen unit based on the latest trends and fads, but buy on a kitchen’s technical quality (and demand quality marks) and the ability to customise it to suit your taste in terms of high-quality colours, finishes, sizes and materials.
The kitchen is often the meeting place, the “take 5 mins to read a message” place, the place we prepare our families meals and try out cooking new recipes for friends. Yet this multi-functional space is often the last place one thinks about installing proper lighting. But for your high-end kitchen, one needs to think about the right light, from general lighting to task lighting and of course accent lighting.
What is task lighting in a luxury kitchen?
In interior design, task lighting refers to increasing the light in an area to help accomplish a specific activity. Therefore one needs to take into consideration visibility and contrast to help improve visibility in your high-end kitchen.
What is accent lighting?
Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular area or object for example a piece of art. This means that the brighter the light, the more visual interest it can create in your high-end kitchen.
What is general lighting?
General lighting falls in between task and accent lighting. It refers to the general illumination of an area. For example, indoors, it could be the use of a lamp on a table or a fixture on the wall.
Contrasts and colours in your high-end kitchen
Having the right light is not only practical, but it can make a big difference in the way your high-end kitchen looks and feels. Much of the warm, homey atmosphere in your luxury kitchen comes from the way light, and shadows fall. When a room is too bright, it flattens shapes and subdues features. Too much contrast is also hard on your vision. When designing your high-end kitchen, use several light sources to highlight details that create an atmosphere and a softer scattered light that doesn’t tire the eye.
Need some kitchen inspiration, here are five design tips to help you light your high-end kitchen:
Kitchen design tip 1:
Plan task lighting first, this makes sure you focus light where you need it most. Then think about your accent lighting, where do you want to create visual interest? Then fill in the rest of the kitchen with general lighting.
Kitchen design tip 2:
Combine your three layers of lighting with beautiful light fixtures and dimmers.
Kitchen design tip 3:
Fit a light strip below the wall unit above your worktop. This will give you excellent visibility on your worktop, without shining onto your eyes or creating a shadow.
Kitchen design tip 4:
Don’t forget to put a light under the sink. It can come on automatically when you open the cupboard, making the contents easier to see.
Kitchen design tip 5:
If you opt for glass or steel wire shelves in wall units. Put a light at the top of the cupboard. It will illuminate the whole cabinet, making items easier to find and see.
Also, check that the electrical systems are certified by quality marks and preferably use low-energy consumption systems.
Looking for some more kitchen inspiration for designing your luxury kitchen?
Read about what marks the best quality kitchens have here.
Or do you want to apply the science of ergonomics to high-end kitchens, click here.
Valcucine South Africa is part of The Excellence Group. Read more about our group of companies here.