1. Determine a Kitchen Layout that Suits your Needs
Ever find yourself in the kitchen at a house party or during the holidays? It's safe to say the kitchen is the heart of the home and over the last 50 years the kitchen has moved from the back of the house, to the center of attention (and one of the best ways to increase your home's value see "10 tips to increase your home's value"). Once a dead end in the house, the kitchen's contemporary application is often found in a "great room" setting promoting a home's open floor plan. Although the kitchen's modern appeal has doubled it into a social gathering space, one thing has remained the same:
Most of us are probably familiar with the work-triangle. This refers to the optimal relationship between the sink, stove, and refrigerator, being spaced no more than 6 feet apart. A proper "work-triangle" is designed to reduce needless steps while cooking in the kitchen.
2. Use Quality Materials
Cabinets provide the heart and soul of the kitchen as well as help set the tone and style of your entire home. Whether you prefer a traditional look or a contemporary kitchen, the drawer fronts and cabinet doors you pick accentuate the beauty of the kitchen, while also determining much of its durability. It is essential to consider both the aesthetics, including color and style, along with the function and strength of the material. As a major portion of the kitchen budget, balancing beauty, durability and cost are vital to a successful cabinet choice.
Although there is a multitude of different cabinet materials available, solid hardwoods, wood veneers and synthetics are currently the most popular.
Common Solid hardwoods:
Alder: This solid hardwood has remained popular due to lower cost, broad range of available stain colors, and subtle grain appearance. Alder's natural nut brown undertones allow it to take stain similar to a light colored maple, a dark walnut, or even a red cherry. It is a softer wood within the hard wood category, so not that tough. Great economical choice for raised panel stained wood with a high end look in the rustic and traditional kitchen styles.
This solid hardwood maintains its popularity due to its great versatility of use coupled with a reasonable cost. The subtle grain and natural nut brown undertones opens the alder to a variety of stain options. Well stained alder can have the appearance of many other wood types including light colored maple, dark walnut, or even a red cherry. Alder is a bit softer than other hardwoods so it may not be quite as resistant to wear and tear. Overall, it makes a great economical choice for decorative raised panel, stained wood giving a high end finished look best suited to rustic and traditional kitchen styles.
Poplar: Good economical choice for painted kitchen. Difficult to stain due to natural green undertones. Softer end of the hardwood spectrum, less durable than a maple, oak, and a little softer than alder. For the white French country style kitchen, painted poplar will give you the same look as maple at a lower cost, but it will not resist nicks. Typical used for high end decorative painted trim such as white wainscoting and crown moldings in tradition and French country kitchens.
Cherry: Higher end material choice that carries good durability and a rich red undertone. Often found in formal and refined traditional kitchens. Alder is an economical substitute that will achieve the same refined look at the sacrifice of durability.
Maple A very hard wood with a mild grain pattern. This material can take a natural stain, dark stain, or hold paint with a high level of durability. Cost is higher than poplar as a paint grade alternative and alder as a stain grade alternative but the maple will hold up better over the long run.
Wood veneers - Most any wood commonly used for hardwood doors is available is in thin sheets called veneer which are applied over resin particle board or MDF (medium density fiberboard). This type of door construction accomplishes a clean look with a natural wood finish often found in contemporary kitchens. A kitchen cabinet door cannot resist warping when fabricated in a flat wide style, so a wood veneer is used to create the appearance of a solid wood door without losing stability. When selecting specific veneer wood, the hardness plays a large factor in long term durability. Maple and cherry are the toughest, while alder and poplar are the softest or least durable. Cost is often pretty comparable to a solid raised panel door of similar wood species.
Synthetics - Process is similar to the above mentioned wood veneer, with the exception that the veneer material is a PVC substance that typically possesses more durability and lower cost. Often used in commercial applications and utilitarian residential. applications such as garages and laundry rooms.
3. Decide Whether to Paint or Stain
The debate continues, to paint or to stain! I'll leave my biases out of this one (even though stain is easier to maintain, paint is often still preferred) and list the major pro's and con's:
- Colors come in variety of shades
- Repair and touch-ups are easier. Easier to keep your cabinets looking good for a long time.
- Less expensive and fewer steps.
- Distressing or glazing make the maintenance easier.
- Great choice for the Do It Yourselfer's
- Probably the most popular look amongst home owners.
- More process steps than stain and more expensive to finish.
- Touch-ups can be difficult.
- Refinished often requires professionals to match your existing colors.
- On average 10-12% more expensive than stain ($2,000 more on a $20,000 kitchen packet).
4. Choose Appropriate Colors
This might seem like the simplest of things to do in a kitchen remodel, but choosing the right colors can either bring harmony to a room, or a create a wrong impression. In basic color theory, colors have different meanings and are generally either stimulating or relaxing. Here is a list of the colors of the rainbow and their meanings:
- Red: Stimulating/Increases Appetite
- Orange: Stimulating/ Increases Appetite
- Yellow: Stimulating/ Increases Appetite
- Green: Relaxing/Balance
- Blue: Relaxing/Decreases Appetite
- Indigo: Relaxing/Decreases Appetite
- Violet: Balance/Relaxing/Decreases Appetite
The kitchen should be a combination of both relaxing and stimulating colors. It is difficult to work in a kitchen that is too relaxing but at the same time shouldn't be too stimulating that it makes you hungry.
5. Break the Horizontal Line
Stagger the height, length, and depth of wall cabinets. Horizontal lines at the top and bottom row of cabinets can make a kitchen look rigid and static. A break from the horizontal line can give your kitchen remodel an updated look.
6. Build Bridges, Not Walls. Islands and Peninsulas are the New Kitchen Walls
Over the last 30 or so years, the open floor plan has become increasingly popular and the function of a great room (containing kitchen, dining, and living space) is becoming the norm. Many remodels we've done in the past have been transforming compartmentalized floor plans into a contemporary, open floor plan by knocking down any barrier walls between kitchen and living room. Instead of walls defining the kitchen's borders, peninsulas and islands provide a better alternative. They prevent the kitchen from spilling over visually into other spaces, and also allow the cook to maintain visual and conversation contact with family members and guests.
7. Find a Creative Contractor with Expertise and Realistic Ideas
There's no one size fits all approach to kitchen remodeling (or home remodeling in general). That's why it's important to find a contractor that has access to designers capable of creating unique solutions specific to your kitchen's needs. A popular model contractors are beginning to use is the design/build model.
Traditional remodels typically involve an architect or designer, an engineer, and a general contractor. The design/build model combines all three into one convenient package. Allowing one company to oversee your kitchen remodeling project saves you money and headaches. In addition, a creative contractor will offer practical design solutions that may otherwise have been overlooked.
An example is creatively using the existing kitchen footprint which saves money on flooring, plumbing, and other minor expenses allowing money to be dispersed on larger features of the kitchen remodel.
8. Selecting the Right Kitchen Countertop
Countertops are important to your kitchen because they can help give your kitchen a particular tone that represents your lifestyle. If you have been looking around, then you are probably aware by now that there are numerous alternatives to granite or laminate.
9. Selecting the Right Kitchen Sink
Kitchen remodels are everything AND the kitchen sink. When it comes to the kitchen sink, the function will usually outweigh the looks. Sinks come in an array of styles, but it is important to consider how you plan to use your kitchen sink. It is also important to choose a sink appropriate to the size of your kitchen.
It is recommended for kitchens less than 150 sqft to use a standard 22x24-in. single bowl. For larger kitchens there are multiple bowl options and it is often recommended to consider a secondary bar sink if multiple cooks will be in the kitchen.
10. Light your Kitchen Appropriately
What good is the your perfect kitchen remodel if you can't SEE its features? If you are fortunate enough to be situated near windows, use them! Nothing beats natural lighting. But what about at night or in cases where you don't have any windows? That's when using a combination of ambient, task, and natural lighting comes in hand.
Pendant lightings are typically used as task lighting above a kitchen island or peninsula. They serve as a perfect design element that accentuates the tone of your kitchen.
Under mount lighting is a nice way to add luminosity to areas otherwise void in your kitchen. They're a great way to accent your kitchen's features such as a special tile backsplash or glassware.
Recessed lighting is by far the most popular way to light a kitchen. It has become a standard choice of lighting in contemporary homes.
Rob Pankow is the President of Pankow Construction located in the heart of Phoenix, AZ specializing in Kitchen, Bathroom, and Major Home Remodeling.