|After Reno: The new kitchen offers more storage, more lighting and improved functionality through a larger island which can be used as a prep space, a dining table, and serve as an area for people to gather round and socialize.
It has long been said that the two most important spaces in a home, both for the use of the house and its resale value, are the kitchen and the bathroom. It is no wonder that people often want to renovate the kitchen.
If you track your traffic patterns you will likely discover that the kitchen is really the hub of the home. It gets used at least three times a day for meals; besides there’s also family discussions, homework, visits from friends and extended family, snacks etc. It isn’t a particularly inexpensive room to renovate as it requires all the skilled trades available (mill worker, tile setter, plumber, electrician, painter, stone worker etc) and I believe it is wise to work with a design professional to ensure you don’t miss the many details involved.
When you have made a decision about renovating the kitchen, it is useful to follow a process to make sure that you don’t end up with a space that looks fantastic but doesn’t really work well for your needs. The reality of the kitchen is that it is really a work space designed to prepare meals. The first thing to consider is the function of the kitchen which means deciding what works best given the available space.
You first want to make sure that you choose appliances that are appropriate to the kind of cooking that you like to do. If you are a bit of a gourmand then it is wise to focus a reasonable portion of the budget to the better quality units that are designed for heavy use. Most of the chefs that I have worked with prefer the use of gas cooking units, largely because you have the ability to have the heat on or off depending on what you need for that dish without having to wait for the electric elements to cool down.
If you have a larger family, you may also want to have a larger fridge with a strong ability to bring the temperature back to the level of cooling required with lots of opening and closing as often happens around making lunches and after school snacks. Once you have chosen the appropriate appliances, you want to make sure that you place them in the space so that they create a good work triangle. You ideally want to have approximately one or two steps between each one. If it is difficult to place the fridge in the triangle it is less of a concern, but the sink and stove most definitely need to be close so that the movement of hot liquids from stove to sink are safe.
Once you have solved the issues of a heat source, water and cooling, the rest of the space is really about storage of all of the tools of the trade. You want to be sure that the items you require the most, like knives, pots and pans, mixing bowls etc are close at hand. I would suggest that the pots go in pot drawers which allow you full access to the entire drawer when it is open and keeps you from having to get down on the floor to access those items in the lower cabinets.
You also want to have the knives that you use the most in a drawer close to the food preparation. Ideally you will also have the dishes closest to the location of the dishwasher so that they are easily returned after they are washed. Dried foods and canned goods can go in pantries and I would suggest that pull-out drawers are a great way to be able to access the depth of the shelf and see exactly what you have on hand.
Once you have solved the function of the kitchen then you are able to start to make decisions about the design of the cabinets, lighting and hardware.
There are a few things that are popular currently in cabinet styles. The painted cabinet is still very popular and is best created with MDF. People are often concerned that the cabinets are not “wood”. However MDF is a very stable material and less susceptible to fluctuations in moisture levels in the air. It also provides a very smooth surface for the paint finish. You can use a stained wood island for contrast and it can look very attractive.
We are also seeing stained wood cabinets but generally in a simple grained wood like maple or cherry but rarely oak. The door styles vary from shaker to raised panel or a simple pillow top door which has very little detailing at all. There are also many suppliers who providie a high gloss finish in either a “piano finish” gloss or a back painted glass. This is a style that is very popular in Europe and is widely seen here with companies like Scavolini. Classic styles in simple woods or painted surfaces seem to be the most enduring, and if you are watching your pennies this may be a good way to go.
Having chosen a style that you like, consider taking the cabinets straight up to the ceiling. The amount of storage in full height cabinets is fantastic and the highest cabinets can be used as display with glass doors. Even a tall but narrow cabinet at just six to eight inches can hold an amazing amount of glassware. You can light the interior of the cabinets as an accent, which brings us nicely to the subject of lighting.
It is wise to have the lights on dimmers so that you can alter the mood of the space, but remember that you will want to have accent, task and general lighting in the space. This is a room that will be used to host a romantic meal as well as be the “family surgery”, so to speak. You want the counter tops to be well-lit while you are preparing food and you want the entire room well lit when you are hosting a family discussion.
The counter tops and backsplash can be anything from laminate to porcelain to natural stone. There are many “man-made” surfaces like quarts that can be beautiful and very simple however I am most attracted to natural stones because of the natural movement of the stone. They are porous and have to be sealed before you use them but the process of sealing is very simple. I think the backsplash should be chosen after the counter top and this is a good place to add some detail. The backsplash is at eye level and is rarely missed when you enter the kitchen. You can choose a tile that is a little more expensive per square foot as you rarely have much square footage to cover.
If you plan the whole room well, you will be pleased with both the function and the form for a long time to come and will have placed your dollars in a wise investment of your home!
• Glen Peloso, Principal Designer of Glen Peloso Interiors Inc., designs spaces for commercial, corporate and residential clients. He is a regular host of design shows Restaurant Makeover and Take This Home & Sell It. For more information on Glen Peloso Interiors, visit www.glenpelosointeriors.com.