A new kitchen for your home begins with the design stage. After years of looking at photos in magazines and home shows on television, you probably have plenty of ideas. Unless you can afford an architect-designed custom kitchen, you will be working with a kitchen designer at either a local remodeling firm or at a big box home store. In our recent remodel, we worked with a big box store because their new line of contemporary full-access cabinets was just what we were looking for.
The design process for our kitchen was not easy and, although we love our final kitchen, some mistakes were made. I want you to benefit from our experience by considering the four specific suggestions below.
Before you meet with a designer, make a list of your “must haves,” “would like to haves,” and any problem areas you want to address.
We did this and I was glad we did. Before your head gets turned by all kinds of fancy options, it is important to establish your main goals. We knew that our refrigerator was awkwardly located, that we wanted a wider doorway into our dining room, and we desperately needed a brand new electric range. Our “would like to have” list included an island, cabinets with glass fronts, and hidden storage for the trash and recycling cans. Our main problem was a bottleneck in traffic flow caused by a huge peninsula. Happily, our ultimate design did cover everything on our lists except a garden window, which proved too expensive.
Go into the design process with a budget range in mind and a definite plan for financing the project.
By doing some internet research, networking with friends, and visiting kitchen displays in stores, you will get ideas about costs. A complete remodel will cost $40,000 and up when all the labor, materials, plumbing, electrical work, and custom measured counter tops are added in. Obviously if you have DIY skills you can save, but few homeowners do the whole job. Also consider where you want to put your emphasis (and therefore more funds)—granite counter tops? top of the line cabinets? deluxe hardwood floors? luxury appliances? Top of the line everything will be prohibitively expensive unless your kitchen is microscopic. We kept costs down by installing vinyl plank flooring and incorporating our existing dishwasher and refrigerator into the plan. We knew we would use our home equity line of credit to pay and we expected to spend $50,000-$60,000.
Take ideas from the designer, but own the design. It is your kitchen!
Our kitchen designer never actually saw the space, but worked from measurements that she plugged into her computer software. She also had a more traditional outlook than we did, so I kept having to remind her that we really did want contemporary everything, including aluminum feet on our island. She added things that looked good in the pictures when I knew they would not work in practice, such as adding a cute overhang on the island with tall stools. This would have created too narrow a walkway.
For a month we went through at least 15 iterations of the design, using her software. In the end, it was my design. I owned every square inch of it. And this is how it should be since only you know what you need, what you like, and what you can afford. Planning your kitchen does not require a degree in interior design, so I urge you to plunge in and participate fully.
Check everything and then double-check. Before you sign on the dotted line for your kitchen plan and cabinets are ordered, be sure that everything works.
At one point I discovered by checking and re-checking the measurements that the lower cabinets we were about to order would have placed the sink off-center relative to the window above it. By increasing the width of a drawer unit from 18″ to 21,” this was readily corrected. None of the other people involved in the design found this and if we had ordered the cabinets the original way, the sink base would have been off-center forever. This also affected the alignment of the upper cabinets.
Another error was not caught in time and we are still waiting for a solution. I had requested a cabinet that has an upward-lifting door (rather than swinging doors) for above our microwave and the designer built it into the plan. When the actual cabinet arrived and was installed, it was obvious that there was not enough clearance for the door to actually open more than about halfway. Disaster! During the design stage I did not ask how much vertical clearance was needed and I wish I had. I trusted the designer and that proved to be a mistake. The installer is working on finding a different hinge that we hope will work.
When you work with a designer, you benefit from that person’s experience and you get another point of view on your project. This is all good, but in the end only you can make decisions about your kitchen renovation. And your ideas may be excellent because you are so familiar with the space and with your needs. So go with your instincts and do not sign off on a plan until you feel it is ready for prime time. Getting it “right” is always worth taking a little extra time to plan!