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The Kitchen Conundrum


Tackling a kitchen renovation is a daunting task for any homeowner. Even if you’ve started a magazine file, pin boards, or created online scrapbooks of your style favorites, pulling it all together can still be a mystery.


BEFORE, an inefficient storage closet took up valuable space.

AFTER, an attractive spot for entertaining provides storage, too.

Getting Started

It is important to assess your goals, your architecture and your budget. Asking and answering some critical questions will lead your renovation in the right direction. Do you plan to stay in the home for the foreseeable future? Do you consider the kitchen renovation a short-term or a long-term investment? Are you planning to do this remodel to help property value for selling in the future, or give your house a well-deserved facelift? Do the existing size of the kitchen and appliances meet your needs for meal preparation, dining, and entertaining? Are you going to need to include homework or media space? And, of course, what is the budget allocated for the project?

The Plan

BEFORE: Custom cabinets of paint grade poplar and stain grade walnut are installed in a newly constructed addition to an old house.

Every project begins with a plan, and the kitchen is no exception. Even if you have a newer home, the kitchen plan may need improvement. Believe it or not, there is actually a “work triangle” in your kitchen. It links the refrigerator, sink, and stove. In a perfect world, that triangle is not interrupted by the flow of traffic. The relationship of those three key workstations allows for counter space. The right balance of counter space and space in the kitchen is the ideal goal. Additionally, allowances for door direction, door swing, and, of course, room for the cook (s) must be taken into consideration.

The Project Needs

AFTER: The walnut island is topped with a marine varnished wood counter. The painted cabinetry incorporates two built in refrigerators. The exterior stone of the original part of the house is exposed as backsplash for the cooktop, and focal point of the kitchen. Photo By Jim Graham

The next consideration for the kitchen plan is the list of specific requirements for the individual project. Are you going to want dining in the kitchen? If so, how many are you planning to seat? Single or double oven? Gas cooktop or electric? Designing a kitchen for a caterer may be different than for a baker, or for heat-and-serve preparation. Opening up the kitchen to an adjoining area may be a factor, or modifying the size or quantity of windows, to increase light and view, and add storage space. Entertaining is often a project need and may require a separate counter and beverage center.

The Project Wants

The fun part of the project plan is incorporating the wants. The scrapbook of coveted dream kitchens takes life at this stage, and this is where the budget drives the selection. There are variable price options in every selection area, so this is where the save or splurge choices are made. Cabinetry is available as stock, semi-custom, or custom with variables in wood species and finish. Granite and quartz, the most popular counter material choices, may range from stock stone to unique and rare. Appliances and the finish on them can be the wow feature in the kitchen, or subtly blend into the overall look. The floor may blend with the wood throughout the house, or perhaps new stone or tile is in order. The backsplash offers another option for expression, by blending with the counter, or becoming a focal point of stone, metal or glass.

The key is to strategically achieve the project goals with respect for the project budget.

The Professional

BEFORE (Top): The sink was awkwardly placed and there was no counter space next to the stove. BELOW (After): The semi-custom cabinets form a new work triangle with ample granite counters. Locating a larger sink under the window is more user-friendly.

The planning professional is capable of applying your “before” project answers to a functional “after” plan that incorporates your needs and your wants, within your budget. You may choose to work with an independent designer, or a showroom designer. A qualified independent designer will gather the best resources from the entire market for your project and is equipped to address all resign objectives in related areas. A kitchen showroom professional will offer the best options for your kitchen project from within their best kitchen collections.

The planning professional will address your objectives, but will also embrace the architectural elements and value of the home. This ensures that the new kitchen enhances both. Regardless of which planning route you take, a qualified professional fits together all of the pieces of the kitchen puzzle, and the result will be your happily ever “after” kitchen.

Camille Gracie, ASID, is certified by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification and holds professional status in the American Society of Interior Designers.  

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