Many of my clients have, unfortunately, initiated the design of their kitchen without an understanding of the extent of what is actually involved in the process, in terms of design, budget, timeline and other issues. In these cases, our design process together, was frustrating for the client and for me. As a result, this article will clarify the process so that you will have the opportunity to become better informed before you begin your kitchen project, thereby avoiding uninformed decisions or possibly spending time and/or money needlessly.
This article is not about the specific design features of your kitchen and how to design it. There are many good resources available for that. Instead, it is about the process of designing your kitchen. It is meant to help in getting a head start and to expose anyone who is, or might be, embarking upon the design of a new or remodeled kitchen, to the first and most important step - Planning.
Designing a kitchen for a new or existing home is a big investment in time, money and energy and it is sometimes stressful and challenging. Unfortunately, some vendors and TV programs don't like to dwell on this aspect and therefore mislead the consumer regarding the actual amount of time and effort that is required. Even though creating a new kitchen is challenging, most clients say that the results are more than worth the effort. I hope that the information provided herein will be a helpful contribution toward having you well on your way to a successful project.
Before you begin the process of designing your new kitchen, you will need to set the criteria for the design. I recommend that you engage a professional kitchen designer that not only designs the cabinet layout, but designs every element of the kitchen and is involved throughout the entire project, so that the final result will be a cohesive design that reflects optimum function and style. The designer will not only help you create a beautiful, efficient, kitchen but will save you significant time and money and you will both have fun developing your joint creation. I trust that what follows will get your energy flowing and thoughts racing, in preparation for actually embarking upon your journey. And, it "is" a journey!
THE KITCHEN OF TODAY
The kitchen has traditionally been the most important room in the house because cooking and sharing food has long been central to family life. Meals will always be important, but cooking has, in some cases, significantly changed. The grocery industry has focused on replacements for home meals and hundreds of restaurants have incorporated "to-go" in their business model. Whether we cook frequently or not, kitchens remain the foundation of family life because it is where we live and gather. It is where most of us start and end our days and share the information of our day.
Today's kitchens serve more roles than ever before: entertainment center, home office, cooking and dining space. The electronics for an entertainment center may include TV, music and internet connection and the office area may have a desk, files, computer and bookshelves.
THE FIRST STEPS
Determine with your family, who uses your current kitchen and how, and discuss the conveniences you would like to have in the new version. Make a scrapbook of articles and notes on kitchens and kitchen features that interest you and photographs of kitchens you like. Evaluate how and when you cook, where you serve meals to whom and how often you entertain and how you entertain. Inventory your dishes, silverware, serving pieces, cookware, linens, and your typical grocery storage requirements so that you can be sure that the new design accommodates everything.
It seems that no matter how much time you budget for a remodeling project, it usually takes longer than you expected. For a complete remodel, the down time during construction can be at least two or three months and much longer, depending upon the size and extent of the project. Your family needs to eat in the meantime. So, before construction starts make arrangements to store, heat and clean up, enough to keep you going until the kitchen is back on-line. Many of my clients who have had the good fortune to have a bar sink in the family room, have moved in the old refrigerator and microwave near the bar sink and this combination becomes the interim kitchen during construction of the new one. The upside to this is that it provides a great rationale for eating out more often!
THE KITCHEN FOOTPRINT
Let's start with the space you have available for the kitchen. Whether you are designing for a new home, or remodeling in an existing one, you are limited by how much space you have available in which to create your dream. If the space is fairly small, you will want to consider whether or not you have the option of expanding. You may be able to accomplish this in your existing home and, in a new home, very often you still have time to alter the architectural plan, if needed. In either case, if you can eliminate or relocate a wall or walls or add to the house to create more space for the kitchen, it will improve the function and value of the room significantly.
Of course, if you don't create an addition to the house, and just remove or relocate a wall(s), you then have infringed upon a contiguous space and decreased its size, so you have to weigh which option is the best for you. Is it worth giving up the other space to increase the size of the kitchen? In my experience, if you can do without the adjoining space, it is much better to devote that extra space to the kitchen.
When you plan to remove or relocate a wall(s), the key factor to determine is, by so doing, will you encounter a load-bearing situation? This occurs when the wall(s) is part of the support system for the structure of the house. Usually a contractor can determine this. If the contractor is uncertain, you will need to have a structural engineer examine the structure to make that determination. If it is non load-bearing, when you are ready to start construction, the contractor can proceed to build out the space per the new plan. If it is a load-bearing issue, your local building authority will require that you retain a structural engineer or an architect to design a structural solution for removing or relocating the wall(s).
He or she will submit design drawings and calculations of the solution, to the building authority for approval and permit. Upon receiving the permit, when you are ready to begin construction, the contractor can then proceed to build-out the structure per the engineer's or architect's specifications. This is the process in California, based upon the state building standards, Title 24. The process in the other states is very similar.
In any case, once you have made the decision of whether or not to expand or re-configure, you will know the size and shape (footprint) of the space that you have available from a horizontal standpoint - Plan View.
You should also consider what size and shape the room will be from a vertical standpoint as well. If it is possible to increase the height of the room by raising, eliminating or altering an existing low ceiling or soffit, you should seriously consider taking advantage of this option. The additional height will provide more cabinet storage from the increased height of wall cabinets and the room will become more voluminous which is always more visually impressive and comfortable. From a construction standpoint, the load-bearing issues will apply to increasing the room height just as it applies to moving or eliminating walls.
Of course, in dealing with all of these design and construction issues and decisions that need to be made, you will not be alone. Your designer will be the pivotal person who will help you evaluate the choices you have available. He or she will produce drawings in order to visually demonstrate these options and will offer advice on which options are best and why.