Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Designing Woman

 As we close out day three at the Money Pit, I can tell you that the walls are dry (a good thing) and that framing and some dry wall has happened at Chez Phillips.
Today I went with my designer (the first one I've ever liked and there have been a parade of them) to look at mirrors for the vanities; I think the reason I love Jane (JMJ Design, San Diego) is that when she shows me something and hears the sharp intake of my breath when she tells me the price, she says something sweet like, "or we can go with this option---it's simple and classic!"---I love it when I don't have to feel cheap just because I can't fathom spending $5,000 on a toilet.

 yes, indeed, some toilets (I'm talking to you Villeroy and Bach) can be over $5000--we opted for the Toto brand from Japan with the "whisper close seat"--I'm not kidding, it says it on the box!  When I went shopping for toilets, there was one that would open and close every time you went by it---thought that was little too weird for us!

So, as I've been looking at design elements, I had a friend e-mail me and ask if I would talk about kitchen renovations, and so that's what this post is all about.  We remodeled our kitchen about 12 years ago, and I still love it, the layout, the cabinets, the counter tops and the appliances (although some of the appliances have come and gone due to wear and tear--I tend to abuse them!)

My first piece of advice, is to be prepared for sticker shock, everything will cost more than you think.  If  you want to save a bit of money, do some of the work (that you are absolutely qualified to do) yourself--if you have never installed cabinets, or done wiring, or plumbing it's worth it to hire professionals.  If you can demo like a Transformer, then do the demo yourself, that can save you some money, although it's back breaking work.

My first bit of advice is to buy quality, but be smart about it.  All your friends may have that $10,000 range that does everything but light their cigars, but they never use it so how are you to know if it's any good or not?  Find something in your price range, and then see if it has the features you want.  Don't fixate on a brand name because chances are a lot of them are made in the same factory as 12 other brands. ( I have a kitchen designer friend who says that he designs some of the most gorgeous back drops for take out food in San Diego county!)

Over half of your budget will be spent on the cabinets; now this is where I draw the line--there are many companies making quality cabinets, and they are half the price of custom made--this doesn't mean that I'm anti-cabinetmaker, it just means that this is where you can save.  Look at the photos below and tell me which is the Ikea cabinet, and which is the custom cabinet.  (I'll let you know at the end)

Ikea is now doing design and installation in some areas, so if you are on a tight budget, the cabinets are well made, and well thought out and the price is Ikea-right!

The most important choice as far as I am concerned in a kitchen is the counter tops.  The counter tops will be there forever; you can always change the color of the cabinets, remove the appliances and replace them but the counter tops are a major job and take a while to replace, AND they are expensive.  Think long and hard about the COLOR, not the material.  All the materials there are to choose from have their pluses and minuses, but you have to love the color because you will live with it for a very long time.
Here are a few choices:

Soapstone is gorgeous, gets a worn patina and who could resist that gorgeous sink?

Granite--natural stones are gorgeous because they have so many different colors, and veins that flow throughout the piece.  Granite comes in an huge color palette.

Quartzite is relatively new, and absolutely stunning; something like this will be on the vanities in our master bath room and I am in love.  When I drove into the granite yard to look for granite, this was the first thing I saw, and I did a exorcist head turn as I was driving by--it's magnificent.

Manufactured stone--lots of choices here, the oldest is Corian, but there are many brands, such as Silestone.  These manufactured stones are actually becoming more expensive than granite due to their manufacturing costs.

Fixtures, like sinks, faucets, and soap dispensers should all cost you a bit, because you want them to last.  See if there is a life time guarantee on each one of them, so that if something does go wrong, you have some recourse.  You will get what you pay for here, so I recommend that you buy quality.  On the counter top around the sink, you will have to determine how many holes to have drilled in the stone for you faucet, spray arm (if you go that route) and whether you want soap dispensers built in--I have them and love them.    The one thing that I did do to the counter top at the edge of my sink was have lines routered out for a drain board (they can do this with any solid surface counter top) the dishes that don't go into the dishwasher drain on this and I have no need for a dish drainer to sit on or in the sink.

Appliances:  If the appliances that you have are within 5 years old, I'd probably keep them if you like them.  If you absolutely can't live without an induction cook top, then figure that into your budget.  Some times you can keep your old refrigerator and dishwasher and have cabinet fronts made to match the rest of the cabinets.  Or you could paint the refrigerator with chalkboard, or have an insert made that is chalkboard.  If your energy company is giving rebates for energy efficient and water efficient appliances, this is another good way to save some money should you choose to buy all new appliances. 

Range:   You need to decide if you want an electric cook top (I recommend that you get a glass top if you go this route, just because it's easy to clean) gas, or induction.  Induction is new, and you will need magnetic pots (meaning that the bottom will have to attract a magnet---use a magnet from your fridge to see if they are)  but to me, it's the ideal --- it is instant on like gas, but without the gas.  If you take the pot off the burner it automatically turns off---so it's energy efficient. I love the Fagor Induction burners. Don't let anyone talk you into gas, if you are used to electric, and like it---there is a lot of cachet surrounding gas with chefs insisting on it, but you aren't running a restaurant, this is your home.

For ovens, I recommend self-cleaning electric (much more accurate than gas) with convection.  Convection is great for some things, and not for others---crispy pizza crusts, and pies, and cookies, no drippings with roasts and turkeys.  I have two Dacor electric convection ovens and love them.

Refrigerators:  When I bought my last refrigerator, I was really looking for size rather than side-by-side or freezer on the bottom.  So I went with a gigantic (non-built-in) side by side.  There are lots of choices, but you have to decide what will work for you.  Get one with an ice maker, and if it has filtered water, that is a plus as well, and auto defrost is required, this girl isn't defrosting!  Built in or built in look models are a bit smaller and you have to decide if that will work for you and your family.

Dishwashers:  I have a Bosch dishwasher that will probably be in this house forever; it makes NO noise.  I love it.  It also doesn't have the heating element in the bottom so it uses a lot less energy.

You appliance choices are wide and varied; your budget and layout will determine if you decide to have a trash compacter (I wouldn't be without one) a warming drawer, wine fridge or microwave.

OK, so how to lay it out---many designers talk about the work triangle, but if you plan to stay with the original foot print of your kitchen and not knock out walls, you may have to tailor this to the space.  The triangle means that the sink, stove and fridge are all close enough that you could turn around and be there.  I like smaller rather than larger kitchens---there isn't as much walking around to get things--galley kitchens can be fun and efficient.  Do you need an island or is it just a design element that might be in your way?  Do you have a view that you want to take advantage of?  Put the sink where you can see the view, because you'll be able to see the view while you are doing a chore--not a bad thing.

To save money, try not to move the electrical or plumbing--that will ratchet up the costs.  We were able to rearrange the plumbing  by moving the sink a few feet and adding an "L" with the dishwasher without breaking the bank, since everything was still in the same line.
Corners are usually dead spaces with deep cupboards, that you can never get into to find anything--this is where you put a Lazy Susan so you can see what's on the shelves.  Roll out shelves on bottom cabinets are a must, so you can see what's there.
Many cabinets are specifically purposed, like long narrow pantries that slide out, spice cabinets and bread drawers. Other goodies are bins that tilt out to hold pantry ingredients like flour and sugar.   These can be incorporated into the design but you need to think of all the bells and whistles you want and then give them a priority.

Every magazine and home improvement series will show you the glitz and glamour of  gorgeous kitchens, and their cost estimates are sometimes laughable.  (many things are product placements, and no one pays for them)  If you feel that you aren't capable of re-designing your own kitchen, hire a designer--they can save you money, and time by giving you good advice.  (Ask your friends for a referral)  They can generally recommend licensed contractors and tradespeople.  If you don't want the designer through the entire process, you might just consider hiring them by the hour to do design and give you advice, and possibly shop with you, if you want to do the rest on your own.  My bath remodel has been so stress free because I have Jane here and she's in charge, I just give in-put, but she deals with the trades---I'm blessed.

Feel free to e-mail me through my website if you have any specific questions, and I'll be in touch.    I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe or two and some more thoughts on renovations.  Enjoy your night!
The first photo was the Ikea kitchen.

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