As an interior designer, I help busy people from Princeton to Philadelphia create stunning homes they love to live in each day. I work with them on every room imaginable, from ideal family rooms and sunrooms to sanctuary conservatories and master bedroom retreats to home office havens. When we design and touch any room, great and happy things happen. But the single room that causes the greatest delight AND angst for clients, from CEOs to “Presidents of Home” is…yes – kitchens! This heart-of-the-home room is the one that inspires knocking knees and sleepless nights for people more than any other. And it need not be so. So – here from the suburbs of Philadelphia and in the seat of the County of Bucks – are this designer’s secrets to keep you on the delight side of the scale when it comes to redoing your kitchen.
Five Shortcut Tips to a Great Kitchen Renovation
- Get yourself an excellent kitchen group. In today’s world, what “separates the women from the girls” is expertise and customer service. Let the big box DIY stores do what they do best – sell building materials and lawnmowers. Kitchens are one of the biggest return on the dollar investments you can make on your home. Be wise. Find an expert kitchen group who will bring you great value by way of their understanding of layout, planning and customer service. So should something go wrong – and in design, it can in shipping – you must find an outstanding kitchen group to watch your back in all ways. One of the reasons I always love working with Bruce and Kristen at Sycamore Kitchens is that their understanding of functional design is matched by their outstanding client service.
- Know thy budget and do not deviate. Sure you can always upgrade a corbel, a tile or a counter. There is always bigger and better. But don’t play that game. Stunning kitchens are created by the artful blend of many materials beyond just cabinetry or counters. By project’s end, nobody will know that budget required that we eliminate four glass doors if I do my job right as a designer. Your kitchen in total – for its absolutely yum factor – is the sum total of not just cabinets, counters and tile – but, also the floor, the ceiling (yes – it’s a wall!), wall treatment, light fixtures, furnishings, window treatments and accessories. A client lamented recently that her favorite cabinet pulls for her large kitchen were simply too far over budget. I told her that if anybody ever walked into the new kitchen and noticed the cabinet pulls first, then I’d be the world’s worst designer and I’d fire me myself. She smiled and ordered the lower priced cabinet pulls. (The kitchen is a stunner, by the way.) It’s the sum total of all the elements in a kitchen design plan that makes for “spectacular.” If we have to trade down in one area for budget reasons, a good designer knows how to compensate with some artful design someplace else. Budget is to be respected. Always.
- Understand and respect the order. Here’s your installation order: floors, cabinets/appliances and sinks/fixtures delivered but not installed, counter templating & electrical, hardware, installation of counters and plumbing. You cannot reverse or fight it. You cannot be templated for counters until your sinks are delivered. You can delay your backsplash as well as painting the kitchen if you are budget-pressed. You can do those a year later! Respect that there is a clear logic and process to kitchen renovation. Follow it and you will be in easy waters.
- Expect to be frustrated by the size of your kitchen at least once in the process. I smile as I write this, but it’s true. No matter the size of the home I work on, when it comes to kitchen design, everybody at some point wishes for as little as 6”-18” more space somewhere in their kitchen. So I’ll comfort you with this: there is a solution to all things (that’s why you have a great kitchen design group and interior designer!). With or without those extra inches, we will get you your fabulous kitchen. It may take a little re-jiggering on the design end, that’s all.
- Be Patient (Chew Gum). Kitchen design is not a fast process because there are many moving parts, all of which have lead times (the time it takes to fabricate things and deliver them to you)…from your cabinets to your tile to your barstools. Furthermore, once our economy got “funky” a few years ago, manufacturers began stocking less inventory. This means that chances are better than ever that your faucet of choice will be out of stock or that your entire tile order will not exist in a single warehouse. Be a good trooper and unwrap another stick of gum to chew away your frustration as you hum that happy kitchen renovation tune, “Waiting is A-OK with me.”
Kitchens equal family, home and hearth. It is here that you cook up all things good and delicious – from shared time with family and friends to making tasty plans, to cooking up pots full of the memories that make for a richly spiced life. Yes, there is an art to kitchen design, best left to the experts. But, if you understand the arc of the process, embrace the right attitude and set your expectations in order, I promise that you can enjoy the process of having your dream kitchen become a reality. Cross my back-splashed heart.
Interiors by Donna Hoffman