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Making Your Kitchen Work Better For You

Originally Posted: December 17, 2008

Cindy Lee Bergersen

  |   1 Comment · Print Article

Finding the right flow and surfaces is part of designing the perfect kitchen. Photo courtesy of Madley Handler Interior Design


If all you make for dinner is reservations, or if feeling energetic, you boil water for something pre-packaged, you probably don't need to give this room a lot of thought.

Otherwise, there often comes a time in a homeowner's life when denial hits a wall and your dysfunctional relationship with your kitchen needs to be addressed - it's just plain hard to function in there, for a lot of reasons. What if you want to be able to cook the turkey, not just serve it from a deli container with pre-made stuffing?

However, if you decide now is the time for an upgrade, don't think all will be well with a minimum of effort on your part and the rest taken care of by your local contractor. Remodeling either a kitchen (or a bath for that matter) has more potential for problems and a true blow-out of your budget than you want to imagine. Even if you plan to hire a kitchen designer to help you, your best bet is to outline the project in advance. This will help you communicate your ideas effectively to ensure the result will be your dream kitchen and not an expensive nightmare.

What works about your kitchen now and what do you hate? Would a bigger refrigerator make you happy? Do you get depressed looking at those old cabinets? Take a mental walk-through and see yourself doing the usual tasks. Do you have everything you need and where you need it for convenience and efficiency?

For example, it's great to have counter space near the fridge to set down grocery bags. How about counter space near the wall oven too? You have to put the turkey somewhere when you take it out of the oven.

Pick up magazines and books on kitchen design basics and options. They will provide a lot of good ideas to mull over to see if they will be good options for you. For example, how about roll-out under-counter containers for sorting the recyclables? Or, if the cupboards are deep, fit them with pull-out shelves so it's easier to reach the stuff in the back of the cabinet.

Lighting and the right cabinet features make all the difference.
Photo courtesy of La Moda Ceramic

How about lighting stripes installed under the upper cabinets and operated with a separate switch? This provides not only useful task lighting but is a lovely option for lighting at night rather than turning on the overhead light upon entering the kitchen.

Speaking of upper cabinets, you have options here too. One of the easiest upgrades is to simply replace the doors with newer ones that are more stylish and/or higher quality than the originals. If you are not shy about the general state of order in your cupboards, glass inserts in the front panels are a great look and give the illusion of a bigger cabinet area because of the newfound visual depth.

If you really want to open up the wall space, another thing to consider is whether you need the upper cabinets at all. Can everything be stored in the cabinets underneath, or in a nearby kitchen armoire? Will simple shelves serve your needs? If more cabinet and storage areas would be a great idea, don't just guess how much more you need - actually measure the items that need a new home.

Start collecting pictures from magazines too, so you are clear what style you are most comfortable with. This is also the time to carefully consider how much care and upkeep is acceptable to you. Stone and granite counters typically need sealers that should be re-applied yearly. Even then, wine or oil spills must be wiped up immediately. Would you be happier with Silestone or Ceasar Stone? These materials have the look and feel of stone, but are man-made from crushed quartz. They are very dense and uniform in pattern and color and are the most stain resistant of potential counter surfaces. They are also less expensive than other synthetics like Corian.

What's your budget, really? Add 20 percent and probably another 20 percent in addition. By the way, it always takes longer than estimated.
Start collecting samples - tile, counter material ideas, ads for appliances of interest etc., and haunt kitchen resource stores. Talk to the staff designers. See what's out there in person. Get a good sense of the cost of appliances, and materials so you will more easily be able to edit and prioritize your selections intelligently.

Make your selections according to what's most important to you and what most fits your needs. There's a lot to be said for developing an understanding of quality and value in relationship to cost. Settle on a level of quality most appropriate to your lifestyle and budget. Then prioritize what's most important - more money on the tile or less money on the refrigerator?

A word to the wise - there is an advantage to consulting with a professional kitchen designer. The designer will be able to point out potential pit falls, as well as supply good ideas that would never have occurred to you. And when it comes to remodels, the designer has access to more resources and frequently reps entire kitchen supply lines. You could be offered much better pricing than you would get on your own - if you even had access to these companies to begin with.

Some Resources:

 • La Moda Ceramic, Corp., 50 Old Riverhead Road, Westhampton Beach, 631-288-8114, www.lamodaceramic.com

 • Madley Handler Interior Design, 34 Head of Pond Road, Water Mill, 631-726-7300, www.mableyhandler.com


Guest (Bob Wolfram CKD) from Perimeters Kitchen Showroom - East Hampton says::
Great article and very sage advice about the advantages of consulting with a professional kitchen designer!
Dec 28, 2008 7:06 am

 

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