The most-often remodeled room — and the most expensive — in any home is the kitchen. This room gets used every day, so it continually reminds homeowners of the updates, patches and repairs it needs. Problems can surface when the vision for a remodel to fix these problems exceeds the budget; we find that most budgets begin at $40,000, can easily hit $75,000, and go up from there. Thankfully, there are design tricks to employ without breaking the budget.
The ceiling. Many homes built in the 1970s and ’80s have lowered ceilings with fluorescent light boxes. In some cases, this creates a sleek, modern look and provides good light, but in most cases it makes the ceiling feel oppressive, and the space feel small. Attempts to lighten up the space with lighter colors are good, but nothing makes as big a difference as removing that old ceiling and restoring it to structural ceiling level, which usually is a foot higher. If you can’t completely remove it for mechanical or structural reasons, you usually can remove all but what appears to be a decorative box or “furr down” around the edge of the space.
Traffic flow. In an attempt to create a good work triangle, many older kitchens are closed in with walls or base cabinets on all sides creating a “choke point” for traffic coming into and out of the space. Today’s kitchen needs an open space with an oversized island and open circulation. Families cook together, and openness allows everyone to flow into the kitchen and around the island to prepare food or fix a plate without interrupting the cook.
Cabinetry. Base cabinets with wall-hung cabinets above them are on their way out, we believe. In this kitchen (see photo) a bank of 24-in.-deep cabinets features no countertop at all. This can hide coffee makers, mixers and similar appliances. Meanwhile, the pantry, instead of being sheetrock and wood trim, is wrapped with wood to look like part of the cabinets, creating a furniture-like quality to the entire wall of cabinetry.
This whimsical mixing of cabinet styles, colors and shapes extends to a few other elements. Often, the island and a china cabinet are painted in a contrasting color to the rest of the cabinetry, which often is stained and clear-finished. In the kitchen shown, the interior designer also painted the cabinetry that encases the vent hood with that same ebony or espresso finish. Many times we incorporate cabinet doors with glass panels; for the less bold, these panels can be seed glass, rain glass or some other translucent but not transparent glass.
Islands. Islands come in all sizes and shapes, but we typically create an eating bar that doesn’t line the family up like in an old-time diner, elbow-to-elbow. We try to create an eating area that is more like a table so people can see the person they are talking to.
Lighting. The most cost-effective change to modernize any space is to invest in good lighting. Put glass shelves in glass cabinets with LED lights inside the boxes, or if clients don’t want glass shelves use LED ribbon lighting installed vertically inside the door pointing back at the shelves. Incorporate a decorative hanging light to set apart the eating area. And, change out fluorescents for recessed cans. Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs can add heat to the kitchen, so shop for color-corrected LED bulbs instead. Add task lighting under the upper cabinets and, if your kitchen will allow, add uplighting above the uppers. QR