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Affordable Luxury

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    Sometimes, a kitchen calls for more than recessed cans or track lighting. In spaces with an island or peninsula a pendant fixture is the ideal choice. Subaran uses the Luceplan Agave pendant (about $900) when the budget permits. “We love the Agave pendant and used it in last year’s Washington, D.C., Design House kitchen,” the designer says. “Each blade is clear Lucite and is removable for easy cleaning.”
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    Subaran also turns to West Elm for its Globe pendant ($99), which she calls “a great affordable option.”
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    A countertop has to be durable and low maintenance, but it also has to be handsome. Subaran achieves these goals with White Princess quartzite ($120 to $150 per square foot), “an exotic stone species with color options that look very similar to white/light marbles, but with the same durability of granite.”
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    Quartzite is pricey, so Subaran keeps the budget in check with Waverton quartz surfacing from Cambria ($82 to $92 per square foot). The product features subtle whites and light grays, just like real stone but at a lower cost.”[It’s] a great engineered stone option that is considerably less expensive,” she says.
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    The refrigerator is perhaps the most important purchase in the kitchen for a couple of reasons: It has to keep food fresh, and it also must be energy efficient because it runs 24 hours a day. For her high-budget projects, Subaran often specifies units from Sub-Zero, particularly the company’s BI-36 bottom-mount, built-ins (about $8,500).
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    When the budget doesn’t permit, the designer turns to 36-inch units ($5,000 and up) from KitchenAid, “a wonderful, less expensive alternative especially where the extra depth doesn’t obstruct flow,” she says.
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    A striking faucet can add a dramatic touch to a kitchen. The problem, of course, is that a lot of eye-catching faucets cost serious money. Subaran is a fan of the Modern Architectural Side Lever Pro pull-down unit (about $1,699) from Rohl. “The Rohl is a fabulous industrial looking and functioning faucet,” the designer says. “You need lots of head room for it to fit at approximately 22 inches high.” When the budget is an issue (and space is a concern) the designer opts for Franke Luxury Products Group’s FF2500 faucet (about $600 and up), a contemporary-style confection housed in a classic silhouette. “The faucet is a good quality, more affordable version that still gives you the sleek and clean lines,” Subaran says. “[It’s] much less industrial looking and not as large.”
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    When the budget is an issue (and space is a concern) the Subaran opts for Franke Luxury Products Group’s FF2500 faucet (about $600 and up), a contemporary-style confection housed in a classic silhouette. “The faucet is a good quality, more affordable version that still gives you the sleek and clean lines,” Subaran says. “[It’s] much less industrial looking and not as large.”
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    In most cases, cabinets are the most expensive part of a kitchen. If it’s a custom job, why not use something truly beautiful? Subaran likes Wood-Mode’s new walnut veneer, which is part of the company’s Design Group 84. The product “is beautifully rich in texture and color,” she says. “With the option for walnut drawers and interior accessories you can really have a furniture feel in your custom kitchen.”
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    Subaran says the company’s Brookhaven I is also good for when money is tight: “Brookhaven’s new walnut laminate is a wonderful option for a sleek and modern [look] for a fraction of the cost—approximately 40 percent to 50 percent less expensive.”

In a down economy, builders, architects, designers, and home buyers are all forced to make tough decisions about costs. The usual show-stopping products—the high-end shiny baubles that get home buyers excited—may wreak havoc on the bottom line in many projects. And most design professionals will tell you that even well-heeled buyers have priorities and budgets. So they make choices. Do they blow the budget on the gourmet range from France or do they get the custom kitchen cabinets that cost as much as a luxury car? When the budget starts ballooning, a design professional is forced to get creative.

Despite working in an affluent area of Maryland, founding principal Nadia Subaran of Bethesda, Md.–based Aidan Design is no stranger to curtailed budgets. The designer has honed her skills for specifying luxury products that meet budgetary constraints but still make her projects look good and her clients happy. Here are five examples that worked.