Ask the Architect
Paul D. Rugarber, AIA
Question: We would like to renovate our kitchen and would like to alter the layout slightly without doing a major amount of construction. Any suggestions for a kitchen remodel?
Answer: Kitchen renovations are exciting projects! This is a space that is used frequently and having a new look can really be invigorating. Let’s take a look at the three main design features that you should consider. What are your needs for the space, what type of appliances do you want to incorporate, and what materials will you consider?
Your purpose for this space is the most important question. Do you want to just cook or are you looking for an area to eat as well? Is there a desire for a desk, a breakfast bar with stools, or an eat-in table? Many new kitchen designs request a space for seats, whether for children to eat breakfast or for friends to relax when entertaining. This is best worked into an island or peninsula with base cabinets on one side and an extended, possibly arched counter on the other side. Allow at least two feet of counter space for each stool; a six-foot island will fit three stools comfortably.
Sometimes it is necessary to remove part of a wall to an adjacent room, which will open this space as well as allow room for the breakfast bar. For tight spaces, consider expanding the kitchen into the dining room and creating a large eat-in kitchen, which may be more practical if the dining room is not used frequently. If no walls are to be removed, take a look at your window locations. Can they be enlarged to create a larger feel for the space? Most clients prefer to give up some wall cabinets for this greater sense of space. Adding glass to cabinet doors is another easy way to create a more open experience. Back the refrigerator into a corner so it does not overpower the room, consider putting wall ovens below an island, and move the microwave into an upper cabinet shelf which will free up countertops for food preparation.
The types of appliances that you are going to use needs to be decided in order to begin your planning. Are you using a standard range with oven below, or would you prefer a double-wall oven and separate thirty-six-inch wide cooktop? Do you want the microwave above the cooktop to act as a hood, or would you prefer a stainless modern hood – or one that blends with the new cabinetry? (Even the refrigerator can be paneled to match cabinets!) Have you considered a small sink in the island for food prep, do you need a second dishwasher, are you using a dishwasher drawer instead of the standard units, would you like a warming drawer, refrigerator drawer? There are a multitude of options and having these selected will allow you to make informed decisions about the new layout and how everything will fit in harmony with your desires.
All of the materials options for the cabinets and countertops can be overwhelming. I suggest visiting a few kitchen showrooms to see your choices and pricing levels for each. This will help narrow your options based on your budget. A soft wood tone brings warmth to the kitchen; simple clean white cabinets add a beach-type feel and really brighten a small space; and knotty wood can add a rustic touch. Think about the look you are trying to achieve and make your selections based on that vision. When you have a cabinet look selected, you can start to consider countertop options. Standard laminates, such as Formica, have a plethora of colors, styles and edge details to choose from. Stepping up a notch, you can choose a solid composite material such as Corian or Silestone, or you can choose what every cook dreams about… a granite countertop. Granite is a gorgeous, durable surface and if it does not fit the budget everywhere, consider using it on the island only or in a raised breakfast bar to add a highlight to the room.
It is important to consider all of these items carefully and see what your budget will allow. This can be a magnificent transformation, so plan it carefully. Seek professional assistance to get the most out your space as well as your budget. As with all designs, have fun, get creative and get all family members involved to make it a memorable experience!