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Redoing the heart of your home without anxiety

by Cheryl Cook

If you are like me and love to cook, your kitchen is a space that is not just important to your daily routines, but to your daily happiness. A well designed, functional kitchen that also looks beautiful is a wonderful thing, and there’s no place I’d rather spend time. So, considering a renovation in this space can be anxiety-inducing to say the least. Even a small kitchen renovation is a big investment, and has the potential to impact your home’s value, so it’s important to make sure that impact is positive.

Before you begin this, or any project, take the time to sit down and do a bit of preliminary work. Use resources like Pinterest to browse kitchen styles and work out a few essential elements.

First, what style suits you, and your home, best? It’s important that you are comfortable with the style of kitchen you choose–don’t go with glossy and modern if you prefer a homier country look. Stay true to who you are, trends be damned. Don’t forget to consider your home, itself. If you have a modern home, trying to make a very traditional country kitchen work with the surroundings could be a challenge. You can always incorporate appealing elements of a look or style into a more neutral design, to give it a dash of something different.

Functional questions

Functionality is also a key element to your design plans—probably the most important piece. The kitchen is the most utilitarian space in your home, so if it fails to be functional, it fails no matter how good it looks. Some questions to consider for the function of the space:

How much cooking do you do? Daily, for a family, or occasionally?

Do you need to accommodate social space in your layout?

What are your storage needs?

Can your appliances be easily and functionally fitted to the space?

Do your electrical and/or plumbing need to be upgraded, changed or replaced?

What will your lighting needs be?

Visiting a kitchen designer or your local home improvement store will give you a chance to sit down with a professional who can go over all these needs with you, and discuss a range of options to meet your needs. As with any project, don’t be afraid to shop around a bit; not just for price comparisons but for a variety of ideas and solutions that might work for you.

Here’s a quick look at some of the current trends in kitchen elements, to get your re-modeling juices flowing.

Cabinets and Shelves

For appearance, two-tone cabinets are a hot trend right now, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid them if you want a classic look. Going with a bold or colourful choice for the lower cabinets may mean that you will want to change your choice some day in the not to distant future. Our tastes in colour tends to shift over time. But if you are the type who doesn’t mind the cost and effort of changing it up, then go with whatever your heart desires. For a more classic choice, think of a black or grey on the bottom cabinets. These colours tend to hold over time and offer a classic look. A lighter colour on the upper cabinets tends to work best, and white is always a great choice. An all-over white look, top to bottom, is classic and never really goes out of style; a great choice if you plan on selling your home down the road.

Choosing your cabinet style is something you should consider with an eye to your overall look. Make sure they fit within the style you want to achieve. A simple shaker-style door, or a basic flat font door, can work within many looks. If you want a modern look, go for high gloss. Try a matte finish for something more traditional.

Functionally, many kitchen designers are now moving to deep drawers, rather than larger base cabinets. The advantage to these is easy to see, as you can stack plates and pots in them and simply pull them out to access these items. No more kneeling down to dig these out of the back of a large cabinet.

Your storage needs are key to consider with your cabinet design. Avoid having mostly large, cavernous cabinets and go with a range of styles that have storage built in for different types of kitchen items, from bakeware to food storage. Again, this is where your home improvement store and kitchen designer can be invaluable. If you need a lot of storage, you may want to rethink those glass fronted cabinet doors that show everything you’ve got. Your look could end up being “cheerfully cluttered,” and we both know I’m being polite when I say that. If you are a kitchen pack rat (and if you are, don’t let anyone judge you for this because sometimes we just NEED that beautiful, beautiful pot) you may want to reserve glass front doors for a few cabinets where you have some of your lovelier dishes and gadgets on display.

Hardware is a great way to have some fun with current trends, while retaining the ability to change things without a major investment. If you are thinking of going for something a bit different with a gold tone or a colour, then try it out on your hardware, or other elements like taps and sinks, knowing you can change it in a few years without pulling out the whole kitchen.

countertop products come in a wide range of materials, colours, and prices

Photo Credit:BIGSTOCK/ STUDIODIN

Countertops

For durability and ease of maintenance, engineered quartz really can’t be beat. Made of a mix of about 95% quartz and 5% polymer resins, it offers a very hard, very durable surface with a beautiful, natural look in a wide range of finishes.

Granite is still a popular choice, and you no longer must settle for a heavily speckled look. You can get granite countertops in sleeker, more monochrome tones. Marble is a gorgeous and popular choice, but both it and granite come with more maintenance concerns than quartz. Butcher block is seeing a surge in popularity, and while it’s a warm, natural look, it does require a fair amount of care as it can stain and burn easily.

And all home design centres will have a variety of faux-finish countertops that look like any of the above, at a fraction of the price.

Islands

Current trends in kitchen islands follow the overall trend of kitchens being more open and less cluttered. To this end, think of a single level island that offers a large work space, with room for your friends to hang out and enjoy a cocktail while you cook. (And if you have chosen your countertop material well, you’ll never need worry about stains from the bottoms of their red wine glass!) These are also a great space for prep sinks, extra storage, and under-counter appliances, such as the microwave, which in my book, should not be seen or heard, really.

Floors

Flooring is a crucial factor in kitchen design, as there is little you can do about it once it’s down unless you want to take quite a hit in the wallet. Serious consideration needs to be given to the marriage of function and form.

Tile is a popular option, and for good reason. It’s incredibly durable and low maintenance. And you no longer need think of it in terms of white squares. You can choose anything from tiles designed to resemble wood flooring, to magnificent displays of color and/or pattern. If your overall kitchen design in fairly simple and clean in style and colour, then using a patterned tile floor can create a real show stopper of a room. Again, think of the age and style of your home when considering this.

Vinyl flooring used to be what you found in your grandma’s kitchen, but it’s come a long way, baby. The latest lines of resilient vinyl flooring are tougher than ever, and come in a stunning range of styles and colors. To use this in a kitchen, you’ll likely need to go with a higher-end product to ensure it will have the durability needed for the job. Hardwood is a classic choice, and despite its down sides of being a bit noisy and often needing refinishing from time to time, it is a choice that tends to add value to your home. If you are considering laminate as a substitute for this, make sure you buy one of good quality, and ensure it’s not too slickly finished to create a slip hazard in the space.

Lighting

I may have left this for last, but it is in no way least. Kitchen lighting is crucial, as you generally need both ambient light and task lighting, but it’s also a chance to add some real design flair to your space.

Consider your natural light. How much natural light do you get, and what will this mean for your lighting needs? If your space lacks abundant natural light, you need to ensure you replace this with good ambient light. If that is a single light in the centre of the room, choose a fixture with multiple bulbs to maximize the light available. A series of recessed lights can also provide great, overall lighting. Under-cabinet lights are perfect for task work in those areas, and if you have a sink area or island, think about the task lights needed over these spaces to make working comfortable. As with all spaces, lighting at different levels is the key to getting good coverage.

And when you are fitting your bulbs, think LED. It wasn’t long ago that these were harsh and uncomfortable to look at, but those days are gone. Energy efficient and long lasting, you can now get LED bulbs in warm white, neutral white and daylight. For kitchen use, I’d go for the neutral, cool white for sufficient task work. Some even come in smart versions that have adjustable brightness, hue and even colour.

Like other elements in your kitchen design, lighting should match your overall kitchen style, and your home’s age and look. See what is locally available, and check online for other options as well. Think of the lighting as a finishing touch on your space, and give it as much design consideration as you give other major elements like your cabinets. If you create a beautiful kitchen space and toss in a bottom-of the-line, bland light, it’s like getting dressed for the red carpet and then slapping on a baseball cap. You many have a stunning dress or tux, but the baseball cap is where everyone will be furtively looking and wondering what you were thinking.

A kitchen renovation doesn’t have to be a major source of stress. It just takes some forethought and planning before you make the investment. Finding some professional help will probably pay dividends in the end, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get a bit of guidance. And when it’s all done, invite me over for a cocktail. I love it when other people cook!

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