I saw your invitation to ask questions on the web so here goes.
We have done things backwards when it comes to kitchen renovating. Our 1989 2500 sq. ft. home had sheet vinyl we replaced in 2002, and in 2004 we upgraded the white formica with dark green silestone and new knobs and pulls to the builder grade oak recessed panel cabinets I spruced up with sand paper and polyurethane. We also had a two toned green and beige tile backsplash installed with stainless appliances. I now hate the cabinets and they are showing their age. My husband is handy and has made a few pull out storage drawers in some cabinets to keep me happy.
We are locked in by the floor plan since the new wood floors butt up against the cabinets, as well as the Silestone.
Our compromise is to paint the frames of the cabinets and purchase new doors in a off white/beige glazed finish.
We are also locked in to the floor plan as we do not want added square footage and we have an antique oak table and hutch in the adjoining eat in part of the kitchen. There is an adjoining family I hope to tie in with the same paint color.
Any suggestions on how to best handle this remodel, particularly the paint on the cabinet frames? I know I need to use a filler for the pores in the oak if I want it to be smooth. The slider, computer armoire are also staying. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I want under cabinet lighting, a few pendants over the peninsula and one over the sink. A few cabinets in their entirety can be replaced like the upper ones to the right of the sink and maybe by the fridge.
Well Francine, this is a tall order. The images you sent show a really cheap set of kitchen cabinets. Your instincts are right: to paint them. But your layout is really outdated for living in the 21st Century.
We discovered long ago that a compact U-shaped kitchen was great for a single cook with no helpers - Very efficient in its day, but it doesn't work at all for the way we live and cook today.
My advice to you is this: Because your layout is outdated, you will not long be content with painting your cabinets to save your countertops and flooring investments.
Your hardwood floors can easily be patched and nobody will ever know the difference between old and new. You can even reuse your Silestone countertops if the color is still available. If not, at least part of your countertops could be redone with the old Silestone. It can be seamed together in a new configuration by any good solid surface fabricator.
I suggest you reconfigure your new kitchen in an L shape with an island. Choose a new counter surface for the island that complements your existing Silestone and you're all set. With a little hardwood patching, some good countertop fabrication, nice new quality made cabinets in your choice of finish, and your new lighting; I'm very sure that you will have a kitchen that will last you as long as you're in your home and give you years of joy.
Heck. You already have your knobs and pulls. And those old cabinets would go great in the garage or basement. And, lucky you, the craftspeople you need to do this work are just panting for it (unlike a few years ago).
If your husband is truly handy, he can even do the installation and save big bucks.
Think about it.
Kitschy Kitchens is a blog where I critique the worst of the worst in kitchens. Poor design, an assault on the eyes, wrong colors, wrong materials; they all can be found there. Take an amusing detour to discover what you DON'T want in a kitchen.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I recently received an email from the editor of the blog for Purcell Murray, a distributor of premium kitchen and bath products, located here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She wanted me to answer the following question for their blog, where other area designers commented as well:
I'd love to get just a few bullet points from you. What are things that people tend to overlook or underestimate when they're planning a kitchen remodel? For example, choosing trends over practicality, choosing to DIY when they should be hiring qualified professionals, etc.
Here was my response:
Sufficient planning time:
Many consumers think planning a kitchen is no more complex than refurnishing a family room. Big mistake if you have a deadline like a baby on the way.
Allocate at least three to six months to plan your kitchen and get everything ordered before your start date.
Consumers planning their own kitchen remodel, without professional help, are usually clueless when it comes to the electrical and lighting requirements for a remodelled kitchen today. If they don't have upgraded service, they often must sink thousands of dollars into new service to handle the additional load. That means a new or auxiliary electrical box with enough free circuits to provide a dedicated circuit for each appliance (yes. that includes the microwave and disposal), two plug circuits and lighting circuits. Typically this is seven to nine free circuits dedicated to the new kitchen alone.
The requirements of California's Title 24 Energy Code mean that at least 1/2 of the wattage dedicated to kitchen lighting must be high efficacy. That means fluorescent or LED lighting. Incandescent and halogen lighting are now dinosaurs and on their way to extinction. It is difficult for us pros to keep up with the constantly changing codes and new products in lighting these days. Consumers are totally in the dark.
Adequate negative space:
Everyone seems to want an island these days, and with good reason. Islands are convenient and separate the cook or cooks from traffic passing by the work areas. They also make great places for bar stools and a quick snack. An island really needs 42-48" aisles around it to be functional and let people pass behind those who are working at the island and at counters across from the island. It's also the right amount of space to be able to open appliance doors without endangering anyone walking by, or blocking the passage. With islands in high demand, we designers are often pressed to fit one into a room that really doesn't have enough space. An expert can squeeze things down to 36" aisles if appliances are placed so they won't interfere with each other when open. Imagine not being able to get into the fridge on Thanksgiving because your husband is removing the turkey from the oven.
Recognize when you are in over your head:
Many kitchens are easy for their owners to plan. Plenty of space for adequate counters, storage, passageways and your chosen appliances. It's really hard to make a huge mistake going to a Big Box store with your floorplan with a kitchen like that. Other kitchens are not so easy: too many doors and traffic patterns going through. Not enough room for counterspace and storage, let alone your desired appliances. This is the moment when consumers need to realize that a professional can wring far more out of an inadequate and antiquated space than they themselves or any novice can do. They will also be delighted to find that such professional help is not really unaffordable at all. In fact, pros save their clients far more than they cost.
Shopping for the contractor with the lowest bid:
Low-balling contractors often "find" problems that reputable contractors will call out up front. Better to find a contractor you trust and negotiate to bring your project in at a price you can afford. Contractors are not the enemy. They are glad to work with homeowners as a team on the project if given half a chance.
Because a remodeling contractor does this kind of work day in and day out they can very often suggest ways to save money by doing things a little differently. This is why it pays to select your contractor early, and keep him/her involved in the process while you are planning your kitchen remodel. If the contractor you want comes in with a price you can't afford, ask what can be changed to bring it within your budget. Better to create a team than work with a low-baller and be surprised by change-orders that make your project unaffordable while you are doing it.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
I discovered your helpful website through a Google search. My husband and I are in the process of purchasing our first home in Diamond Heights, San Francisco. The house was built in the early 70's and currently has an outdated kitchen with tile counters (with some cracks) and painted white cabinets.
We are hoping to remodel but are pretty clueless about the whole process and feeling overwhelmed by it. It looks like you work on pretty upscale kitchens, so not sure if we'd be the right type of clients for you.
We think our max budget would be $25K for everything (cabinets, counters, appliances, etc). We are looking for help on how to lay out the workspace, who to use as a contractor, where to source our materials and appliances, etc.
The layout/space seems to be functional as it is now, but we would like a professional to give us options, like adding an island, pantry space, etc. We have considered Ikea/Home Depot, since they are the budget option, but have read bad reviews.
Thank you for any insight you may have!
Thanks for your question Maya.
Interesting that you would think that I do only high-end projects. For decades my clientele has been the middle class (Though I must admit, the middle class went kind of hog wild in the last decade or so. Remodeling on their equity).
Things are quite different nowadays. Many people like you are longing to have a new kitchen on a shoestring budget. And $25K is really a shoestring budget if you need everything new AND plan to hire a contractor to do all the work.
We did lots of $25K kitchens back in the '80s with no difficulty, so let's break it down and see what you would get for your $25K investment:
Cabinets (Oak): $9,000.
Countertops (Laminate): $1,000.
Flooring Vinyl): $2,000.
Electrical & Lighting: $1,000. (This can turn into a big budget item)
Sink & Faucet: $300.
Plumbing: 0. (You like your layout)
Contractor: $9,000. (If you can find one who will do it for that)
You are very fortunate that your layout seems to be functional. Many homeowners in the Bay Area are not so lucky.
You notice there's nothing in there for paying a designer. Typically, if I consult with you and then draw up your plans, you will pay me somewhere between $3-5K. On a higher-budget project the client can expect me to save them as much or more than they pay me. When a budget is pared to the bone, as yours is, there is no fat to cut (and no room for a designer on the payroll).
Back when my (then) husband and I bought our first house, in 1969 ($10,000 with $100 per month payments - ha-ha - You can imagine how bad that house was), I too wanted to remodel my kitchen (and bathroom, put in a patio, landscape, re-side the garage, finish the basement, etc, etc.).
Because we couldn't afford the cost of hiring Sears to do the remodel, we learned to do-it-ourselves. Everything took a lot longer, but we did a great job. If I remember correctly, the kitchen cost us about $6K. I built all the cabinets and bought everything on sale; and we did all our own work. We ended up with a pretty high-end looking kitchen, and I was launched on a career with that kitchen remodel.
That was then and this is now. So I ask you: Is this your "forever house"? If so, I think you will want to invest more in your new kitchen than $25K.
Most of my middle class clients are cooks. So they want high-end appliances that will serve their needs and last a long time. They want cabinetry that won't fall apart in a few years and require replacing. They want hardwood flooring and stone or solid surface countertops. They want beautiful lighting, not a fluorescent box on the ceiling.
If it's not your forever house you still may find yourselves living there for ten years or so (time flies). It would be a shame to see your original investment wasted and in need of replacement by the time you want to move up. Or worse yet: sooner.
I suggest that you may want to save up for a few years and do your kitchen right. Either that or become do-it-yourselfers.
A more realistic budget to create a kitchen that will last is around $60K:
Electrical & Lighting: $2,500.
Sink & Faucet: $1,500.
Please let us know how it goes Maya.
Here's Maya's response to my post.
Good for you Maya!
Thanks so much for taking the time to put together this thoughtful response. It certainly gives us a lot to think about.
This house may not be our "forever" house, but we plan to be there for at least the next 7 to 10 years and gradually work on the house ourselves to make it the way we want. We are lucky to have a functional layout and also the hardwood floors already installed.
For now we may just paint the cabinet interiors and get a new fridge and dishwasher. We'll have a better idea of our budget early in the new year.
Thanks for your advice.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Just read an interesting article from the London Telegraph.
Apparently all of Europe will begin tomorrow with its plan to ban incandescent lightbulbs:
"From tomorrow a Europe-wide ban on traditional incandescent bulbs will begin to be rolled out, with a ban on 100W bulbs and old-style frosted or pearled bulbs."
The article details problems with the light level of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) labeled as equivalent to the incandescents they are about to replace in European homes. Testing reveals that even the better CFLs achieve only about 2/3 the light intensity of 60W incandescents. That means Europeans are going to need to buy 100W equivalent CFLs to get similar light output they got from their 60W incandescent lightbulbs. Obviously, if they want 100W of light intensity to replace a 100W bulb, they will have to buy 150W equivalent CFLs.
I have been specifying 100% fluorescent lighting in kitchens for many years now (as long as my clients would go along, and most have). I experimented early-on with the amount of light I needed to achieve to get adequate illumination of the space, with the cooperation of some treasured contractors who put up with my futzing.
Because I try very hard to design fluorescent lighting schemes that bounce the light from hidden coves and the tops of cabinets, I early-on realized that the intensity needed to be higher to achieve the desired results. Direct lighting is automatically more intense than indirect lighting. Also, hiding the fixtures, as I prefer to do, means there are only so many places in most kitchens that offer the opportunity to hide a light. And sometimes not enough.
I found if I planned a double row of T12 (the big ones) tubes on top of cabinets in a typical kitchen layout, that would be enough. Later we were able to swap for T8s and then T5s. I put each row on a separate switch, so there is a "high" and "low" for those lights. This scheme provides a pleasant "fill light" in the room. It's called "general lighting" by lighting designers. The great thing about this kind of bounced light is that it picks up the color of the ceiling as it bounces. Consequently we don't have to deal with yucky fluorescent light color. Of course I do also specify that the fluorescent tubes be the best color my clients can afford, or at least minimum warm white.
Then I turn my attention to "task lighting". This is the light that must fall on countertops, where the work of creating a meal happens. Where there are upper cabinets, I use undercabinet lights. In the early days they were Alcko "little inch lights". Fluorescent undercabinet lights that fit neatly in the recess at the bottom of wall cabinets, or behind a light baffle trim. Nowadays I also consider LED undercabinet lights if the budget can tolerate the strain.
In areas where there are no upper cabinets, such as over the sink or an island, I use recessed can lights to light the work surfaces. Early-on they were incandescent downlights, then CFLs. Now I like to use LED downlights like the CREE LR6, which has great color rendering (so tomatoes look red and my skin looks pink).
Beyond general and task lighting, for those kitchens where we are trying to make a statement, I introduce some "accent lighting". Perhaps highlighting a painting or hood with some special sparkle. Others would use halogen here, but I have avoided halogen because of the danger of fire associated with the heat generated by halogen. I prefer LED lighting here as well, and (thank goodness) the inventors have recently obliged with sparkly LED that is very focused. I have also used backlighting behind glass block, edge lighting on a glass or lucite panel, all kinds of playful ways to introduce light as a design element.
So, lighting doesn't have to be just utilitarian...A bare bulb or fluorescent box on the ceiling. Lighting can be a way to make a mundane space really special, a special space spectacular. All it takes is a little extra attention. It's called "design".
Posted by Peggy Deras, CKD, CID at 7:31 PM