How to Transform Your Kitchen into a Happy, Healthy Space
1. USE YOUR VENT You want air impurities and grease out. Use the vent proactively, especially if you have a gas range, and not just when the smoke alarm sounds. New models from Broan and Miele have intuitive sensors to flip on as needed.
2. TRY ECO-FRIENDLY FLOORS If you're taking the plunge on a new floor, cork and bamboo make planet-friendly picks. Another option: engineered wood, a natural veneer over plywood. Available in myriad species, it lasts up to 25 years.
3. CHOOSE EFFICIENT REFRIGERATORS Refrigerators can eat up a lot of electricity. At minimum, always choose an Energy Star-rated model, and clean the coils semiannually so the appliance runs efficiently. Consider French doors on top, so you can grab the milk or mayo without the whole fridge gaping open. New models boast clever features to keep the cold air in. LG's InstaView fridges have an outer door to store often-used items in a separate compartment. Samsung's Family Hub models offer integrated cameras. Peek inside while making a list without opening the door— or while at the store, to avoid buying duplicate items. That saves money and minimizes waste.
4. BRIGHTEN YOUR SPACE We love a white kitchen. Because you see the grunge faster, you clean more (bad news for germs). Also, pale hues bounce natural light, so you flip the switch less. Dark surfaces require more supplemental lighting.
5. GO FOR GADGETS These superhero small appliances might not save the world—but they'll save time and energy.
PRESTO COFFEE MAKER (left) Skip single-serve eco-guilt with a retro 6- or 12-cup percolator that brews a cup per minute, stays warm and can hide away between uses. From $44. gopresto.com
INSTANT VORTEX AIR FRYER (center) This 6-quart air fryer crisps food with minimal oil, plus it bakes, roasts and reheats, letting you avoid cranking up the oven. $99. target.com
TOWNEW WASTEBASKET (right) Steer clear of germs with a smart trash can that opens automatically, seals full bags and replaces them, too, all by itself. Magic! From $100. townew.us
6. CONSIDER SMART ASSISTANTS Forget to set timers for your lights? Program them from the road. Recipe calls for lowering the oven temperature, but you're on a video call? Do it from your phone. Industry pros have been predicting a wireless revolution in homes for years, but changing habits takes time (and money). With the widespread adoption of intuitive assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the landscape has shifted and the pace of innovation has accelerated. Sometimes you don't know how much you'll love a bell or a whistle until you're using it. "Alexa, start my coffee."
OUTLETS (left) Smart outlets make it possible to turn lights or appliances on/off via voice or app. Kasa Smart offers hard-wired plates and plug-in adapters. From $15. kasasmart.com
BULBS (center) With smart bulbs, you can program lights to flip on at certain times— in a conventional fixture. Try Philips Dimmable Connected Bulbs. From $10.philips-hue.com
INTEGRATED TECH (right) For max features, look for appliances with built-in tech. The GE Profile Smart Built-In Oven, for example, has a camera inside. $2,999. geappliances.com
7. PICK GREEN CABINETS The greenest bet for doors and drawers is refinishing your old ones. If you want new, consider locally handmade cabinetry to minimize shipping waste. And ask about low-VOC plywood backing.
8. CONSIDER COMPOSTING The EPA estimates that food waste and yard scraps make up 30 percent of our trash.
9. LOAD 'ER UP You'd have to hand-wash at a rate of 5 seconds per dish (or faster) to use less water than your dishwasher.
10. CLEAN FRUGALLY Tiles, microwaves, sinks, ovens—make them all sparkle with nontoxic, affordable baking soda and vinegar.
11. THINK ABOUT INDUCTION Homeowners have been slow in warming up to induction ranges, even though they're safer and more efficient. How come? Let's bust a few myths.
I WON'T KNOW HOW TO COOK ON IT Induction technology uses electromagnets to warm the pan. Take the pot off the burner, and the surface is cool. It's different—even a little weird—but the learning curve is short. The payoffs: Low energy consumption. An easy-clean glass surface. No residual heat for accidental burns. None of gas's air contaminant concerns. Precise controls. And speed: Boil water in four minutes.
I'LL NEED SPECIAL PANS Maybe not. True, copper, ceramic or aluminum pots won't conduct the heat, but most stainless-steel pans and all cast-irons will—and those are the most common cookware materials. Test your cookware with a magnet. If it sticks, you're golden.
I CAN'T AFFORD IT No, induction is not a budget choice. But costs have come down, so if you're shopping for a mid-priced gas range, entry-level induction might be doable. One we like: Frigidaire's Freestanding Induction Range, with air-fry and convection modes. $1,599. frigidaire.com
12. BE SURFACE AWARE Whether you're considering a minor kitchen facelift or a (counter)top-to-bottom reno, these products and materials should top your wish list.
LESS-PAIN PAINT For fewer fumes, choose zero-VOC. The Natura line from Benjamin Moore is certified allergy- and asthma-friendly. SherwinWilliams' Harmony paints are formulated to counteract odors and ward off mold and mildew. 1 Alabaster; 12 Sleepy Hollow. sherwin-williams.com 3 Hunter Green. benjaminmoore.com
TOUGH TEXTILES Upholster seat cushions with performance and outdoor fabrics. They're fade-, mildew- and mold-resistant, and can hold up to hardy cleaning, even if you use bleach. 2 Untitled in Shell, price upon request. perennialsfabrics.com 4 Equal, in Graphite; and 14 Expand, in Dove, $26 per yard. sunbrella.com
WILD TILES Think outside the subway tile with bright colors and novel shapes. 5 Savoy Prints, Insho Circles in White, from $40 per square foot; 7 Figurati, Hex in Denim, from $30 per square foot; and 9 Profile Mosaics, Segmented Hex in Pacific, from $62 per square foot. annsacks.com 13 Stacy Garcia Maddox Deco in Mineral Green, from $8 per square foot. tilebar.com
TOUCH-FREE TECH Avoid food smears on the tap with a hands-free faucet. Some models are even voice activated to dispense precise amounts or temperatures of water. 8 Delta Trinsic with Touch20, in Matte Black. $745. deltafaucet.com
13. ACCENT ACCESS Major props to Illinois-based Elkay. The company's farmhouse-style Dart Canyon Sink is a first-of-its-kind kitchen sink that complies with ADA guidelines—and looks stylish at the same time. Optional accessories like a cutting board slide along the dual-depth stainless-steel sink ledge, making it easier for wheelchair users to independently prep meals and wash up. From $1,145. elkay.com
14. REMEMBER THE LITTLE THINGS Give your back a rest. Save a baggie from the landfill. And never fear chemicals in your nonstick pans again.
STASHER BAGS 1 Dishwasher- and microwave-safe silicone pouches for snacks and sandwiches. $87 for a seven-bag starter kit. stasherbag.com
NAMA KITCHEN MAT 2 These thick, wipeable pads support your feet and back and encourage better posture. In five sizes and 10 colors, including Lapis. From $89. little-nomad.com
DOT AND ARMY SCRUBBERS 3 A throwback alternative to steel wool, these machine-washable cuties are made of tough nylon. $32 for five. food52.com
CARAWAY COOKWARE SET 4 If you prefer to cook on nonstick, these pans have Teflon-free ceramic coating and come with a sleek magnetic rack and a canvas lid holder. In five colors, including Navy. $495. carawayhome.com
15. TAP INTO THE FUTURE We're all for filter pitchers and countertop carbonators, but check out these built-in alternatives.
I WANT CLEAN WATER AND A BASIC FAUCET For an impressively affordable price, Aquasana sells reliable under-sink filtration systems that come with their own faucets, available in three finishes. From $99, if you sign up for a filter replacement program. aquasana.com
I WANT MORE STYLE OPTIONS Retrofit any faucet (even a bathroom sink) to dispense great-tasting water with Pentair's Freshpoint Easy Flow undercounter filtration system. No drilling or special tools required. From $139. pentair.com
I WANT IT ALL — WITH BUBBLES Prepare to be dazzled. With the touch of a button or twist of a knob, the sleek Grohe Blue Chilled and Sparkling 2.0 Faucet series can dispense filtered chilled water, sparkling water (in two levels of carbonation), or unfiltered tap water. Smart tech lets you monitor usage and filter status from your phone. From $2,379. grohe.us