Countertops AMETHYST Semiprecious stone is the latest option for countertops. Amethyst is translucentit glows when backlitand hard, so it's both scratch- and heat-resistant (from $1,500 a sq ft from Terrazzo & Marble Supply Co.; 877-TMSLABS).
Backsplash ONYX Polished white onyx is opalescent, which gives it an ethereal quality. When it's installed under dark-wood cabinets, it brightens the room because it reflects light well (from $125 a sq ft from Stone Design; 800-424-1332).
Flooring LIMESTONE Hautelyre limestone, which is cream-colored with minimal graining, wears beautifully (from $8 a sq ft from Rossi USA; 708-386-0183). An extra-luxurious touch: radiant heat under the stone ($3,000 for an 11-by-24-foot kitchen from Nuheat; 800-778-9276).
Cabinets WENGÉ Exotic woods with unusual grains are a popular choice for high-end cabinets. Espresso-colored wengé from West Africa has a striking, coarse texture (from $1,000 a linear ft from Poliform's Varenna line; 212-421-1800).
Cooktop COMPONENT SYSTEM Gaggenau's new 400 series allows for extensive customization. Choices include gas burners ($1,200 a pair), a fryer ($1,500), an induction cooktopgreat for stir-frying, as it evenly heats the sides of a wok ($3,300)and a teppanyaki, a Japanese griddle ($1,800; 800-828-9165).
Microwave CONVECTION MICROWAVE Wolf's oven lets you use the microwave alone or combined with convection to quietly cook and brown food ($595; 800-793-0093). Miele's Microwave Lift Door, which hides the appliance behind a stainless steel panel, is a modern alternative to cabinet doors ($830; 888-346-4353).
Refrigerators TASK-ORIENTED DESIGN To create different work stations, place the main Sub-Zero refrigerator near the cooktop ($4,750 for 700TC) and drawer fridges for produce in the prep area (from $2,920 a pair for 700BC; 800-532-7820).
Faucet SINGLE LEVER Dornbracht's Meta.02 Profi series has a single lever, so cooks can adjust water temperature with one hand; there's a separate pot sprayer as well. This model has clean lines, and the valves are very reliable ($2,560; 800-774-1181).
Dishwasher ADJUSTABLE MODEL The top rack on Bosch's Integra Vision model can be raised or lowered even when it's full. Plus, Consumer Reports has given Bosch dishwashers its top rating for dependability ($1,700; 800-921-9622).
Sink CUSTOM COMBINATION Instead of a double sink, install two single bowls side by side, so you can customize the sizes. A popular combination: Franke's 16-inch-wide GNX-110-16 and 20-inch-wide GNX-110-20, both of which drain from the basin's corner, to prevent flatware from falling in ($565 and $650; 800-626-5771).
Countertops CARDOSA A muted gray stone with faint white graining, honed cardosa has the look of soapstone, but it's much more durable and usually costs less (from $70 a sq ft from Stone Design; 800-424-1332).
Backsplash GLASS PANELS Large pieces of glass are cheaper to install and easier to clean than tile. Sandblasting makes the glass less reflective, and painting the wall white highlights the glass's subtle greenish tone (from $25 a sq ft from local mirror and glass suppliers).
Flooring ENGINEERED HARDWOOD A less costly alternative to solid hardwood, Durawood has a plywood base covered with a veneer such as Brazilian cherry. One drawback: It can be refinished only once or twice ($2.85 a sq ft from Lumber Liquidators; 800-FLOORING).
Cabinets MADE IN CHINA Newly imported to the United States, sleek and modern Fotile cabinets from China are half the cost of their European counterparts(from $500 a linear ft for the Midnight Fragrance line, from Loft Tech Kitchens; 513-755-7989).
Stove PROFESSIONAL FEATURES Buying a stove (a cooktop and oven) costs less than buying the components separately. GE's JGBP80SEHSS stainless steel freestanding 30-inch gas range has a dedicated burner for simmering and a self-cleaning oven with an extra-large capacity ($1,050; 800-626-2000).
Microwave COMBINATION MACHINE Two-in-one appliances can free up much-needed counter space in a small kitchen. LG has introduced a line of microwaves that have either a coffeemaker with a timerit can brew as you wake up ($180)or a double-slotted toaster (from $110; 800-243-0000).
Refrigerator WIDE-SHELVED MODEL The three-door configuration of Jenn-Air's French Door model has shelves wide enough to hold large trays. The stainless steel finish provides a touch of high-end style when an integrated, custom front isn't an option ($2,400; 800-JENNAIR).
Faucet PULL-DOWN HEAD For a budget kitchen, skip the separate pot sprayer and go for American Standard's Culinaire; its faucet head pulls down to double as a sprayer. It also has a far sleeker look than most models with this design ($440; 800-899-2614).
Dishwasher STAINLESS INTERIOR Regardless of your budget, it's worth spending extra on a machine with a stainless steel tub because it's more durable. Maytag's Jetclean II includes a third rack to accommodate baking dishes and frying pans ($988; 800-688-9900).
Sink DOUBLE BOWL One double sink costs about 20 percent less than two separate basins. With the savings, splurge on extra features such as durable stainless steel and an undermounted style, which make the sink easier to clean. The BlancoSupreme #510-887 incorporates both features (from $715; 800-451-5782).