Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Kitchen, Two Kitchen, Old Kitchen, New Kitchen.

My blogger friend Sarah, at Sarah's Place, has been posting some beautiful kitchen design photos as she gets inspired to remodel her kitchen.  I found myself writing in her comment section a lengthy response of personal advice about kitchen remodeling and decided it might make a good blog post for those of you who might be considering the same venture.  I am always eager for others to share their wisdom with me if it means it might save me time, money, and/or hassles.  I hope my tips here will help you in the same way.

I had the fortune (or misfortune depending on your perspective) of doing a full kitchen remodel a few years ago and felt overwhelmed by the process.  I had had a few years to think about what I wanted, but it wasn't until I was really pressed for time that I was able to put together something I could enjoy for years to come.  Whether you are doing the project yourself or not here are some tips that helped me personally work through the maze of creating a new kitchen.

1. Keep a folder and notebook nearby so you can keep track of inspirational photos and jot down notes as ideas come to you about everything from what colors you like to where you wish you had an electrical outlet.

2. Talk to every person you know about their kitchen remodel (because nearly everyone has done it, or so it seems) and ask them what their favorite thing is about their new kitchen and if they had to do it over what would they change.  I got VERY valuable tips and learned from other people's oversights without having to learn from my own. :)

3. Don't be afraid to consult with local independent carpenters who do custom kitchens.  I thought this would be so far out of my price range that I didn't even investigate it at first.  I  got quotes for (custom) cabinets from local kitchen design stores and lumbar yards that I assumed would be more reasonable but were all much more expensive than I expected.  In the end I got a quote from Paul Morrison at The WoodCycle in Oregon, WI.  He was surprisingly more affordable and I ended up with the most beautiful, well made, well designed, unique, custom cabinets, all made with re-purposed local wood to boot!  He even used some wood from our own yard.  That's another story for another time but Paul helped make one of my dreams a reality.  He is an artist, craftsman, land steward, and all around good guy.

4. Be more mindful when you're in your kitchen.  Pay attention to how you use your space now and how you'd like to use it in the future.  What gets in your way, what changes might improve your efficiency and work flow (like electrical outlets and where the sink is in relation to the fridge & stove), and where does the flow of household energy get congested (like where the mail or your belongings tend to pile up)?  How do you use your appliances?  Do you need more space for containers or tall bottles in your fridge? Are there noises you hear (a really loud fan or dishwasher) or movements you make to reach for something or put something away that drive you crazy every time? These things may seem superficial but these are the little details that will add up to a lot when you are using a room day in and day out.  Jot these things down in your notebook (which I mentioned above) so that when it comes time to create a design and buy new appliances you will be able to pull it together pretty easily. Put asterisks by the things that are really important to you.  When you're sitting at a table with a design consultant or your cabinet builder you may forget what really mattered.  Your journal of ideas and reminders will become your design guide.  Be sure to reference it frequently during the process.

5. Go to every appliance store and kitchen design center you can.  Walk through them slowly taking it all in and be sure to touch everything and move around in the spaces as if they were yours.  I had my heart set on a gorgeous Dacor gas range with double ovens (a little kitchen porn just for fun).  I really wanted wall ovens but didn't think I had room in my design for them.  When I went to the store, however, to see one, I started "using" it and realized I really did not want to be bending and stooping to get in and out of my ovens all the time.  We ended up creatively reworking our design to make room for a single wall oven that I decided was more of a priority than two ovens on the floor.  If I hadn't gone to the store to actually "use" that range I would have spent a lot of money on something that I would have regretted buying for years to come.

6.  Lastly, and this tip applies to every home improvement project, spend the money to do it right the first time.  These projects can cost a lot of money and in the midst of the sticker shock you will be tempted to make compromises and settle for less than what you really want in order to save a little money.  Be reasonable.  You have to have a budget and know that you can afford your project but in the grand scheme of things the extra money you spend to do things right the first time and get what you want will make a lasting impression on how you love your new space.  The money will eventually become an afterthought but you will be stuck with your choices for a long time.

I'm sure much of this seems like common sense and largely it is, but sometimes we all have to be reminded.  Especially when we're faced with the enormous task of restructuring our home.  Hopefully there is something in here that will help you on your journey.  I spend a lot of time in my kitchen and  remodeling it was very stressful for me.  The space desperately needed improvement but I was almost paralyzed by fear that I wouldn't do it in a smart and cost effective way.  I wanted it to be my perfect space, and thankfully that's exactly how it turned out.

I love "before" and "after" photos and have never had a place to share mine.  So here they are.

(messier than usual as we had already started the packing up process)


No walls were moved but the space felt like it doubled in size

I especially love my repurposed window shutter pot rack

The cat ledge was put in specifically to keep the cats off the works! Much of the Hickory, particularly that seen here in the box-car siding was from a tree we had to remove from our front yard a couple years prior.

I couldn't be more proud of the amazing work done my husband and Paul and his crew. 

I love nearly everything about my new kitchen but if you were to ask me to identify my two most favorite things I would have to say my Kitchen Aid "garage" and my recycling center.  The appliance garage is a cabinet with an elevator shelf and interior electrical outlet that houses my very heavy Kitchen Aid mixer.  When I want to use it I open the cabinet door and lift the elevator shelf with my mixer on it.  The shelf locks in to place and because I leave it plugged in inside the cabinet (I know, not very "green" of me) it is ready to use in an instant.  When I'm finished the shelf gets lowered and tuck easily back in to place.  I had to sacrifice an entire cabinet for this purpose but for me that was a wonderful use of space.

One of my biggest issues with energy congestion was the piling up of mail on the counter.  To remedy this I designed a recycling station in an area that was convenient to where we go through our mail. It is a pull out drawer ala the pull out trash drawers, but this drawer has a bin for recycling paper and a second "bin" that has a paper shredder in it.  Another plus for working with a local independent carpenter...this isn't the only cabinet that he made uber-custom for me.  I put an electrical outlet in the cabinet for the shredder so it is completely self contained. I am happy to say that after 4 years of living in my new kitchen there is still nothing I would have done differently.  I owe much of that blessing to the tips I've shared above.

I'd love to hear about your kitchen remodel stories.  What tips do you share with others who are considering taking on such a project?  What are your favorite things about your new space?  If you had to do it over again what would you do differently?

1 comment:

  1. How will I ever thank you for all of this wonderful advice? You have no idea how much I appreciate this!! Thank you SO very much for taking the time to put this together and posting it. I feel much less overwhelmed than I did 25 minutes ago when I started reading your post. I was taking notes, but printed it out instead, and posted it next to my computer in my office. Brilliant advice, and a road map for the project - one that makes me feel like I CAN handle actually doing this, instead of just thinking about what to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm sending gobs of virtual hugs your way right now :)

    AND, I LOVE your kitchen! The before/after photos are great. I just love your blue plates and of course the Kitchen Aid garage :) And the colors make it all feel so nice and homey. Yep, definitely a place I could create some fabulous food.

    Thank you, again, so much for this! I hope you have a great started mine off on the right foot, that's for sure!