The fully customizable Plato Woodwork line of cabinets, available at Benson Stone Co., in Rockford, builds in many hidden features and small nooks for storage. Today’s designers often build kitchen islands in a different color than the main cabinets, frequently with a white-and-gray color palette. (Tim Nehotte photo)

Create a Luxury Kitchen That Makes a Statement

Designing a luxurious kitchen doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Learn how some simple touches and quality purchases can make any kitchen look like a million bucks.

The fully customizable Plato Woodwork line of cabinets, available at Benson Stone Co., in Rockford, builds in many hidden features and small nooks for storage. Today’s designers often build kitchen islands in a different color than the main cabinets, frequently with a white-and-gray color palette. (Tim Nehotte photo)
The fully customizable Plato Woodwork line of cabinets, available at Benson Stone Co., in Rockford, builds in many hidden features and small nooks for storage. Today’s designers often build kitchen islands in a different color than the main cabinets, frequently with a white-and-gray color palette. (Tim Nehotte photo)

A beautiful kitchen can easily look like it cost $1 million – but it doesn’t have to carry that price tag. Quality finishes and appliances are within easy reach around our region, where many locally owned design centers and retailers are ready to make your dream kitchen a reality.
But designing a luxurious kitchen isn’t only about satisfying your dreams. If you’re looking to sell your home soon, a top-notch kitchen may hold a powerful attraction for potential buyers.
So what makes a kitchen luxurious today? It begins with quality and aesthetics, and it continues with excellent function.

The Best Brands for the Best Results

If you turn left after walking into Al Grace Appliance & TV, 811 W. Riverside Blvd., you’ll notice a gleaming selection of dependable stainless-steel kitchen appliances. But as Brad Born, the store’s vice president, points out, not all refrigerator doors are what they appear.
“Something really trending these days is a cabinet look, where you integrate a panel insert in the refrigerator door that matches the cabinets,” Born says. He opens what initially appears to be a cabinet door, but is actually the front of a Sub-Zero IT-36CIID refrigerator. “Hiding appliances, or making them seem more integrated into the kitchen, is a nice, quality look.”
More important than aesthetics, functionality of appliances is important to remember when remodeling kitchens, says Born, because cooking is a daily activity. Performance matters to the active chef, and the Sub-Zero and Wolf brands carry a powerful reputation for quality and consistency.
“Sub-Zero uses two cooling systems that work independently from one another, one for the freezer and one for the fresh-food section,” Born says. “Pretty much all other refrigerators use just one cooling system, so Sub-Zero gives you more accurate, consistent temperatures. Since food preservation is all about temperature and humidity control, this is much more efficient than a conventional product.”
Born walks over to a Wolf oven, pointing out its large, multi-shelf interior and a built-in stovetop griddle. “When it comes to cooking, you’re only as good as the equipment you use, and Wolf has a wide variety of cooking options,” Born says. “There’s the conventional radiant heat, but then you can cook with convection heat, which is fan-forced air, or you can cook with the use of steam, or moist heat. You can’t get that variety out of a conventional product, so it’s great for cooking enthusiasts.”
Born gestures toward the left side of the store. “These products last many years, and that’s not common in the appliance world anymore,” he says.

Cabinets that Capture Attention

As he flips through photos of past projects, it’s apparent that high-end cabinetry is all in a day’s work for John Kruschke, owner of Premier Woodwork Inc., 1522 Seventh St., Rockford.
“Nothing says luxury like custom-built cabinets,” Kruschke says. “We make everything ourselves, so there’s nothing we can’t do.”
He nods at a photo of a kitchen with a curved island that has a gloss lacquer finish.
“That was a pretty high-end project,” Kruschke says. “We often complete challenging curve work.”
Premier Woodwork specializes in cabinetry built from scratch, so customers can request anything in their imagination. One time, a client requested a built-in dog kennel in a laundry room.
The transition from vision to reality is not only possible, but also enjoyable for Kruschke and his team.
“It’s fun to see people get excited about the finished product,” Kruschke says. “If you can dream it, we can build it. And if you’re remodeling, you should get exactly what you dream.”
Kruschke has noticed that customers often inquire if island counters can be a slightly different color than the rest of the cabinetry. White cabinets with a darker-stained island are particularly popular.
“The darker island gives the room an accent,” Kruschke says. “I think it’s a really nice, high-end look.”
Cabinets can even have an exotic aesthetic, with emulations of popular European touches like rounded corners.
“It’s the great thing about a custom cabinet shop,” Kruschke says. “Sometimes, store-bought cabinets only offer a couple of colors, whereas we can do any color or stain you might want. And we’ll style your cabinets to fit any size space.”

Anything Your Heart Desires

The key to a luxurious kitchen lies in the little features, says Kayla Hauch, a designer with Benson Stone Co., 1100 11th St., Rockford.
“Small detailing really makes a difference,” Hauch says, as she leads the way through the store’s four floors of products. “With Plato Woodwork, our higher end custom cabinetry line, you really have the option to design anything you desire.”
With Plato Woodwork, customers receive cabinets constructed to any specifications.
“You have the option to select everything from the cabinet doorframe, the edge shape, the panels that go into it and, of course, the aesthetics of it all,” Hauch says. “Their finishes are really unparalleled to most of the cabinet makers out there.”
Hauch opens a floor-model Plato Woodwork cabinet and pulls out an attached spice cabinet.
“This is just one way to be more organized,” Hauch says. “With Plato, you can ask for more niches to store things.”
She continues to open apothecary drawers, pull out towel racks, point out the small details in the cabinet door fronts that Plato Woodwork customized.
“If you have an idea – even if it’s a sketch on a napkin, we can design it and Plato can execute it,” Hauch says. “Plato cabinetry is really built to last.”
In addition to cabinetry, Benson Stone’s designers can fully remodel kitchens. Company president Andy Benson considers the store to be a one-stop-shop.
“To further expand on that theme, we’re opening a lighting department this fall,” Benson says.
The new showroom will contain 4,000 square feet of chandeliers, pendant lights, wall sconces, floor lamps, outdoor wall fixtures and more.
“We’re excited to offer customers the full gamut of lighting,” Benson says.

Fancy Features for Your Kitchen

The team at River Valley Kitchens & Baths, 5261 Swanson Road, Roscoe, Ill., shares the philosophy that the little details make a big difference.
“The kitchen is a room you spend a lot of time in, so it’s my job to make it more enjoyable,” says designer Lisa Simpson.
She walks around the store and demonstrates that nearly everything in the kitchen can be available at the push of a button.
“For function, the touch features are something truly high-end,” Simpson says. “No one wants a mixing bowl sitting around on the countertop, but no one wants to keep it where it’s difficult to get out, either. So why not just simply touch your cabinet and have it pop up to reveal your mixer on the counter?”
Simpson presses the cabinet front, which rises to reveal a red mixer that’s ready for use. She continues throughout the store, pointing out drawers and cabinets that reveal hidden appliances and utensils, many of which are illuminated by LED lighting – a compact solution to dark cabinet interiors.
“That’s something else we’re starting to see more of: lighting inside the cabinets and drawers,” Simpson says. “It’s easier to find stuff. Also, drawers are often deeper and pull out all the way so that everything is much easier to find.”
As for aesthetics, Simpson recommends more decorative characteristics. She points out Cambria quartz countertops, emphasizing the brand’s use of exotic colors. She also draws attention to many decorative posts underneath countertops.
“Basically, anything that makes your kitchen look more like a furniture piece is really high-end,” Simpson says. “Something trending lately is a more rustic, yet modern look.”
Not only can extra decor make a kitchen appear luxurious, but it also makes the kitchen more enjoyable, Simpson says. “It’s important that the kitchen is a space you want to be in, and that’s our end goal at River Valley Kitchens & Baths.”

Loyal Customers for Luxury Designs

Diane Feuillerat has been designing luxury kitchens for more than 30 years. As a result, the designer and owner of Kitchens by Diane, 6346 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., often receives calls from previous clients who desire her expertise once again.
But Feuillerat isn’t just a kitchen designer. She can also design bathrooms, libraries, family rooms and other parts of the home. Customers sometimes ask her to design extravagant bookcases that leave space for TVs, and living rooms with large built-in hutch areas.
“People come back to make their homes more beautiful,” Feuillerat says. She points out a thick edge on a Cambria countertop and custom moldings on Grabill cabinets. “These are some features that make a kitchen more unique.”
Feuillerat incorporated these brands in a recent project that involved redesigning a kitchen, pantry, laundry room and bathroom into two separate kitchens: one for cooking and another for entertaining.
“That client returned to me after I designed their kitchen 14 years ago,” Feuillerat says, showing a picture of a 15-foot island counter. “This island in the main kitchen was one of the largest islands I have ever designed.”
Feuillerat flips through photos of other recent projects.
“Recently, I designed a very custom room divider,” Feuillerat says. “It incorporates glass cabinets at each countertop end with 12 wide, deep drawers for maximum storage. It was the most unique design I’ve ever done.”
Feuillerat appreciates seeing clients who trust so much in her execution of their vision.
“I have one client right now who has come back for a fifth project.” Feuillerat says. “There’s even another client down in Byron whose kitchen I did 20 years ago, and now she’s back to complete an entire house renovation project. She said she wouldn’t have anyone else, and I think it’s all due to our customer service and many years of experience in high-end projects.”

Stone That Makes a Statement

It’s hard to miss the beautiful slab of Lumen granite when you walk into Lonnie’s Stonecrafters, 3291 S. Alpine Road, Rockford.
“I want to do an outdoor kitchen with this at my own house,” says Mark Presson, company vice president. He points out the wisps of white that permeate the pale blue stone. “The more inconsistent the pattern, the more movement a stone has. Your higher-end stones will have a lot of movement in them.”
When it comes to kitchen remodeling, Presson thinks granite countertops are the best way to make a statement.
“If you really want to give your kitchen a facelift, granite countertops are the way to start a conversation,” Presson says. “You don’t need to redo everything in your kitchen to make it look luxurious. New granite alone will dress up your kitchen’s appearance.”
Presson leads the way to a slab of Blue Flower, one of his favorite stones.
“I love how the blues blend with the gold,” Presson says, pointing out the vibrant colors throughout the brown-and-white slab. “Higher-end stones tend to have these more exotic colors in them.”
Buying stone that’s a higher grade is only marginally more expensive than buying a more basic stone with less movement. “It’s not a huge, thousand-dollar difference to get that nice, high-end stone,” he says. “Since most folks only buy granite once, I think it’s worth it to get exactly what you want.”
And the best way to discover what you want is with a walk through a granite showroom. Whereas some showrooms will share tiny samples of a similar stone, Lonnie’s displays the actual slabs that customers can purchase.
“It’s important that your countertop is a focal point in your kitchen,” Presson says. “The easiest way is to walk through the store and see what jumps out at you.”