Now that I had the house drawn up. It was time to start thinking about the re-design. A good place to start was the kitchen because it’s my favorite room in the house. I happen to be an avid amateur chef, and before I started this remodeling project, I was the food King. Meaning that I did all of the menu planning, all of the food shopping, and all of the cooking. And I’ll probably want to pick it back up afterwards because I’m going to have a great kitchen to work in! These culinary experiences and interests give me a particular viewpoint on how a kitchen should be designed. I had some concepts and constraints in mind when I approached the kitchen design. In addition to having a good physical and experience-based idea of what I wanted as a cook, I also wanted to have things easy to clean, easy to access, durable, attractive, and inexpensive. There were many features of my current kitchen which I really liked, and in the end, I kept the same basic design. Yes, I tweaked some things, and yes, I came to the conclusion that I would have to re-do the cabinets and the island, which gave me the opportunity to put my woodworking skills and tools to good use, and incorporate some additional features. Let’s face it. Every dedicated DIY fanatic ALWAYS is in search of the next “project”, so here was yet another opportunity. And in continuing my research, I found that the original design was actually a better design than I thought. One of the things that I noticed about most of the model homes we visited during our “Love It Or List It” period was the fact that most kitchen designs suck. I mean really. Most of them look great if you just want to hang out and eat, but cook? Refrigerators across the room from the ovens. Islands too far from the other countertops. Backsplashes made of expensive material that looks nice but will be a bitch to keep clean. Storage that’s clumsily arranged and hard to get to. No concept of workflow (storage to preparation to cooking to cleaning). And my pet peeve: a microwave over the stove. So I started with that, and then went down the list of things that I didn’t like, but keep the stuff I did.
- Get rid of the microwave over the stove. These things have almost zero fan power and don’t extend far enough over the stove top to trap the oils and particulate that are a part of your cooking. So all of that junk gets embedded in the wood of your cabinets and the ceiling above. Impossible to clean. Plus, the heat from the stovetop kills the plastic and fries the electronics. And the house gets all stunk up when you’re creating yet another culinary masterpiece that you will decide is too hard to ever do again. (Why do I keep doing that?) Replace it with a good vent hood that is designed for the purpose.
- Resize the island to make it closer to the sink so I could easily step back and forth, and farther from the refrigerator so people could go in and out of the kitchen with the refrigerator door open. Relocate the microwave to the island. Having the microwave in the island is a universal design concept that allows easy access to somebody who can’t reach high, but is convenient for everyone.
- Make pullouts for all of the shelves in the base cabinets, island and pantry. Another universal design feature. As you age, it’s more difficult to get on your hands and knees and look in the way-back for this pot or that bag of flour. Come to think of it, it’s a Pain-In-The-Ass (PITA) at any age. (If I didn’t spell it out, you would have thought I was talking about some kind of bread.)
- Redesign the island countertop for 2 levels. One at 36” for standing work, and one at 30” for seated work. Another universal design feature.
- Make the inner carcass of the cabinets around the dishwasher and sink out of pressure treated plywood. The current particleboard is coming apart.
- Integrate beverage storage/liquor cabinet into the island design.
- Lower the “spice rack”. My current island has an area between the work surfaces and the “bar” where I keep all of my baking and cooking essentials (spices, flour, sugar, oils, seasonings, baking power etc.) When you’re in the midst of cooking, this arrangement is extremely helpful in streamlining your workflow because you’re not constantly going in and out of the pantry to get the next ingredient. The only downers are (a) the tops of the containers tend to accumulate detritus — hopefully solved with the vent hood, and (b) it was placed too high to conveniently see the football games being played in the den. The new design corrects this problem.
- Provide a place for all of my cookbooks so I would have to ferret around for them (too much, anyway).
- Have a pull out cart for the mixer (a king size kitchen aid) that also serves as a supplemental work surface. More universal design.
- Provide increased task lighting and general lighting (universal design).
- Make the backsplash out of white porcelain tile with a decorative glass inset. Looks nice, easy to keep clean, and inexpensive.
- Have a white quartz countertop on the upper top of the island. The purpose is to be have a place to roll out pastries and cookies without having to lug out a slab of marble (which isn’t big enough anyway).
- All other countertops will be white Formica with a decorative oak rub rail. I did this on the first remodel of this kitchen about 12 years ago, and it still looks pretty good. Yes, it needs a refresh, but these tops aren’t that hard to make and they aren’t very expensive either so occasional replacement is no big deal. I guess I’m not a big fan of these stone/granite/marble/glass composite/concrete countertops. I mostly don’t like the look because it’s distracting when you’re trying to cook because it’s not a clean background, they’re hard surfaces so stuff breaks on them when you drop something, and they’re so dang expensive. They seem to be pretty popular, but I wonder if any of the designers/builders/owners of these are actually serious cooks. One question: Have you ever seen granite countertops in a restaurant kitchen? I think I prove my point. AND, I have the best restaurant in town. If you’re lucky, I’ll have you over for one of my dinner parties!
- Laminate wood flooring. I know what you’re saying – this stuff has a funny sound and is not as warm and inviting as real wood (or engineered wood). Here’s the deal: It’s inexpensive, has good traction (universal design), durable, and EASY TO KEEP CLEAN. Did I mention that it was easy to keep clean? Hey a bucket of water, a greenie, and a squeegee and you’re good to go. No fancy waxes, dirt in the grout lines, peeling varnish or gouges (like linoleum). I installed it in my last kitchen remodel 12 years ago and the only defect is when my King size kitchen aid mixer fell off the counter while kneading an extra large bread dough recipe and made a divot. It has filled up with dirt over the years so I’m GTG.
Here is a rendering of what the kitchen will look like.
Here is a SketchUp model of the island. If you know about Dynamic Components, check out the microwave, the drawers and doors, and the cart pull-out.
You’ll have to download a free copy of SketchUp to see it. Why resist?
This program is extremely powerful. And fun I might add. It has probably 90% of what you get in the pro version, and if your aim is to model, or do some small scale projects, this might be the ticket. BUT… if you want to DIY like a pro, well, you need to consider the pro version. More on that later.