Before you get caught up looking at designer websites and magazines, risking confusion by different design styles, colors and options, there are some practical and preliminary considerations that you should be focusing on when planning for your dream kitchen:
First: realistically evaluate how you and your family use your existing kitchen. What do you think needs to change? In particular, consider what does and does not work about your CURRENT kitchen.
1. How does the layout work?
2. How is the current storage capacity?
3. How appropriate is the current space – can you comfortably accommodate your usual group of diners?
4. Are you planning to add or increase activities in your kitchen area such as more entertaining, food preserving, pastry production, recycling, etc. that change how you will use your space?
5. What is your realistic cooking style and frequency?
Next: realistically consider how you and your family PLAN to live in the remodeled kitchen.
1. Will you use the space primarily for cooking and dining?
2. Do you need a work or computer area?
3. Were you anticipating a family hang out space?
4. Homework space?
5. Do you foresee needing multiple eating spaces (breakfast bar, nook, island)?
6. Will your new kitchen open onto other rooms?
7. Have a pass through or breakfast bar or half wall?
8. Do you want an open plan kitchen that opens on a family or great room?
9. Do you prefer a traditional format eat in kitchen?
10. Do you have and use your formal dining room?
Evaluate your current kitchen floor plan and cabinet / appliance layout.
1. Are you hoping to maintain your existing kitchen parameters or make structural changes?
2. What rooms / space borders your kitchen that can offer additional kitchen space?
3. Are your current appliances located optimally for convenience and function?
4. Will you be buying new appliances?
5. Are you planning to change from electric to gas stove or vice versa?
6. What additional appliances or fixtures are you hoping to include?
7. Does the current height of your cabinets make the best use of space?
8. How’s the current flooring? Can it be maintained? Refinished? Replace it?
Discover your style - focus search to ideas & rooms that realistically fit your established needs and wants.
1. Buy at least one design magazine that you feel reflects your style – there are literally dozens of magazines out there that cater to all design styles from country to traditional to modern with sub design categories like French country, casual traditional, NY modern, Florida Coastal etc.
2. Peruse design sites such as Pinterest and Houzz (there are many! Every magazine has a corresponding website of pictures).
3. Cut out or save (in a hard copy or computer file) all pictures that “speak to you”. Of course, you are thinking kitchen, but it certain colors, rooms or objects really appeal to you, include them.
4. Take a good look at friend's and family’s kitchens- what do you like? Dislike? Ask them what they like or would’ve done differently.
5. Once you have found several pictures of kitchens you like, make a list of what it is that appeals to you in each and attach it to the picture:
- Wall and accent colors
- Cabinet colors / styles
- Counter tops / backsplashes
- Cabinet hardware
- Overall feel
- Specific items pictured
- Other things not listed
6. Look at the lists you made and compare: what things that appealed to you keep coming up on your lists? These are the things that most appeal to you and inform your style. Focus your search when seeking fixtures, items and décor for your new kitchen on these things!
7. Initially you may think that the pictures you chose are dissimilar but keep looking – there are likely simple things like colors or feel that are similar and can help begin to define your style and needs. If the pictures are not similar, then you have not yet discovered our style. Keep going until
8. You do not want to start the process of designing or changing your existing kitchen without at least a fairly clear idea of where you want to go!
What does all this tell you - Defining your kitchen style and desires tells you a lot:
1. If you found that most of the pics that appealed to you have the same or similar layout as your existing kitchen, you may want to concentrate on updating cabinetry, appliances and fixtures.
2. If you find that your existing cabinetry still appeals to you or is really similar to what is in pictures you chose, you may just need a décor change – wall and accent color, décor items, window treatments, etc.
3. If you keep being drawn primarily toward kitchen islands, you may be able to simply add one to your existing kitchen in a contracting style / color – you will need a minimum of three feet of walkway space all around your new island – do you have space? Even a small island 3 or 4 feet square or a long and at least 2 feet wide can add charm and much needed storage, prep or eating space to your kitchen.
4. Perhaps you discovered that your style has changed dramatically! There are still lots of things you can do to redesign your kitchen affordably.
5. Changing kitchen size and layout is usually more expensive than maintaining existing layout and space.
6. Refinishing, repainting or refacing your cabinetry is usually only a good idea from financial and time standpoint if it is in good shape and was of good quality to begin with.
7. It is a dicey proposition to “refinish or repaint” countertops, but it can be done. However, go for this only if you desire a truly faux finish; it is very hard to get a real granite or marble look on a work surface.
8. Sometimes changing the cabinet hardware and sink faucet makes an amazing difference!
9. If you decide to alter your room or configuration, have your cabinets painted or refinished or refinish your floors, find at least three contractors that you trust and get written estimates (these should be free) that include detailed information about schedules, budgets, materials, and guarantees. It's important that the contractors are bidding on the same specs for the project so you can compare apples to apples. Trust personal references only if you can see the work done yourself. Sites like Angie’s List are an excellent place to find realistic, unbiased references and opinions.
10. Once you have chosen your contractors, get his / her input on your desires from the start – consider them a partner!
11. When the time comes to buy cabinetry, take the time to educate yourself on how cabinets can be made, finished and installed. There are several types of carpentry joinery that truly affect how well cabinetry holds up, looks and lasts that affect price.
12. Working with stock or semi-custom cabinet lines is tremendously more cost effective that going with full custom cabinet lines. Whether a line is fully custom or not does not dictate quality. Stock cabinets are simply made in a defined range of sizes, shapes and configurations. A good, experienced kitchen designer can make stock cabinetry look custom!
13. Shop several kitchen retailers both online and in person. Consider what kitchen retailers offer over big box stores and see if that matters to you.
14. A quality cabinet retailer can offer education and guidance from design installation, customization and maintenance.
15. It is possible to buy mid-quality cabinets at a big box store, however, they offer only limited design assistance and will either sub-out your installation to a roster of people they recommend or expect you to find your own installer.
16. A designer can help you prioritize your wish list and determine what's feasible for your budget. A designer is creative and can often come up money or space saving ideas and options you may not think of!
17. Kitchen designers know how to place cabinets and appliances to maximize space and create an efficient floor plan. They are also aware of the latest innovations in efficiency, ergonomics, storage, and design.
18. With nearly endless choices for kitchen products and materials, a designer can help you weed through the trends to find the cabinets, counters, floors, appliances, and accessories that best suit your lifestyle and budget.
19. Perhaps most importantly, ensure a professional accurately measures for any new kitchen construction or cabinetry! DIYers can learn the hard way that being off by even a fraction of an inch on a cabinet order can be a pricey mistake.
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