Q: We'll soon begin construction of a new home, which will have a kitchen with an electric cooktop on a large island. The problem is that the kitchen will open to a great room, and the ceiling above the island will be about 11 feet high. We'd like to minimize the visual impact of the hood, so I'm wondering if it can be made of something clear, like glass or Plexiglass. I sketched out a design and showed it to the interior designer at our local home center, but he said it might cost as much as $15,000 to custom-build! Could it really be that expensive?

— Fred, Montrose, California

A: Steve Thomas replies: That doesn't sound way out of line for a custom hood. But before you invest that kind of money in something you'd rather not see, why not use an off-the-shelf downdraft ventilator? Some versions mount into the counter immediately behind the cooktop and simply pop up when needed; others are an integral part of the top. You'll lose some cabinet space underneath to exhaust piping, and you won't capture all the steam and grease that your cooking generates, but you can't beat these units for their minimal visual impact.

For what it's worth, if it were my kitchen, I'd move the cooktop off the island and place it against a wall that could accommodate a standard overhead hood and a proper backslash — which would also keep the cooking mess out of full view. I put a cooking island in my kitchen, and I wouldn't do it again.
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