Kitchen remodeling is the number one home improvement project in America today. There have been countless books written on the subject of kitchen remodeling and you can find qualified help around every corner. Whether you are planning a do it yourself or a do it for me type of project, I strongly recommend doing your home work and then taking the information you acquire and finding a well qualified designer who can help you put your project together. No matter what size kitchen remodeling project you are planning you will be money ahead making use of the collaborative input of a designer that you feel comfortable describing your ideas with.
I have experienced or more correctly heard of so many people who settle for taking a simple sketch of their existing space to a designer in a big box store and receive a generic lay-out that mimics their old kitchen but with a new skin. I can tell you from years of experience that it costs very little more to think out side of the box. Start with that original sketch but find someone who can give creative input as to options of expanding the space or at least making the best use of the space.
Start by clipping photos out of magazines; buy a couple kitchen remodeling magazines to get ideas. You are going to be spending thousands of dollars here, spend a few to get it right. Visit new home open houses and see first hand the popular trends in your area. Take photos of your exiting kitchen area and adjoining rooms from all angles. Visit several kitchen design showrooms and ask general questions and show them your photo ideas to see how they respond with creative suggestions to get a feel or comfort level of the designers before committing to who will design your new kitchen.
Good kitchen design much like architecture or general interior design is more about style and function and flow than anything else. I can not stress often enough that no matter what your budget you need to have a good relationship with the person who will design one of the most used spaces in your home.
I usually cover topics like how do you use your kitchen now, is it solely for food preparation or are many family meals eaten there? Do you entertain guests while cooking or spending leisurely time there in the mornings or evenings? Do you have a nook area or dining table in your existing kitchen? This covers the old use but it is important keep an open mind and consider how you want things to improve, flow better, function better and of course look better in your new kitchen.
One great way to make use of space while creating a warm inviting kitchen is through the use of an island or peninsula design. An island will free stand typically in the middle of the kitchen while a peninsula is an extension of the cabinets out from a wall creating a bar top option. Either of these kitchen options can be designed with the tops at standard counter height (approximately 36” off the floor) or at what we call bar top height (42” off the floor or 6” above the rest of the counter tops.) We will often design a step up or bar top height counter if the island is facing another room as the raised surface helps hide the regular counter height work surface behind it. If you choose to have your eating bar height at standard counter height then you will use 24” leg bar stools or chairs, if you opt for a 42” top height you will be looking for 30” legged stools.
When it comes to space I encourage you to use these basic minimums when considering an island or peninsula. Most islands are a minimum of 24” deep since that is the standard depth for base cabinets and with a top in place figure 27” of depth. This of course can be made larger by adding a row of 12 or 24” deep cabinets to the other side so I am only listing minimum widths here. You need to plan on 25” out from the wall for the front counter top edge of your base cabinets. A good rule of thumb is to maintain at least a 36” clear walk way around all surfaces and at least 42” where you have a door opening into the walk way such as dishwasher, oven door, or refrigerator. Next you have to start planning early on what kitchen appliances you will be using since the distance out from the wall varies by model number and most kitchen designers will need this information for a good design flow. If you will have an eating area or bar space on your island or peninsula you need to allow another 12” for the top plus the same 36” of clear walk area around it.
Will your new design include a butler’s pantry as a connector to the dining room? This is an often overlooked way to add great storage as well as serving convenience. I have seen many butler’s pantry designs that include wine chillers or wine centers, beverage dispensers, storage for special occasion dinnerware, and of course a convenient serving area for larger dinners. Remember that a butler’s pantry does not have to be a connecting hallway it could be like a large closet space off either the kitchen or dining room.
Have you considered a walk in pantry for extra storage? I will often times design a walk in pantry as a closet in the corner of the main kitchen area since this is a very inexpensive way to add great space for less than the cost of a large cabinet.
Do you need a message center or small computer station? This could be a place for the cell phone chargers, keys, a family message board, homework center, or family bill center. Remember here that many things have changed in day to day life since your old kitchen was designed.
Will your cooking center need a ventilation system out of the house or will you opt for a recirculation system? With all the modern options I tell people today to design around their daily living, the days of the range needing to be on an exterior wall for venting to work are gone.
Have you considered cabinet heights? How tall is your ceiling? For a standard 8’ ceiling the rule of thumb is to use 30” tall upper cabinets which puts their tops at 84” off the floor however many people are now using a combination of 30 and 36” tall cabinets to create a staggered look with taller cabinets defining the end or prominent sections. If you have a 9’ or taller ceiling then your options expand to using up to 42” tall upper cabinets. When using taller wall cabinets remember these two important considerations; first, how accessible will the tallest sections be for practical storage and second, each progressively taller cabinet series will add a proportionate additional cost to your kitchen so in other words are you getting the most bang for your buck.
Armed with this information and a little research on your end, you should be able gather ample information to select the best designer to help create the kitchen remodel project of your dreams.
I am not going to go into any detail here on the subject of actual cabinet and counter top material selection. I cover these topics in great detail on their own pages. The same is true of structural or mechanical changes involved with a reworking of the kitchen space since those are covered in their respective areas.
What have you learned while during your kitchen remodeling planning? What questions do you have?
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