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Ask a Designer: Best Kitchen Layouts


Is there a best kitchen layout?

Gladys: There’s the U-shaped kitchen which is the most conducive to a cook, a single cook, because everything is … should be within reach. The L-shape allows you to have a little bit more of a flow of traffic. It incorporates the people more into the cooking area than the U-shaped. Most people that cook and don’t want people in their space will want some sort of a U-shaped kitchen. If they want people to mingle and do things with them, the perimeter with an island, which is an L-shaped, would be best. There’s a rule of a thumb based on what the function of the kitchen will be, and then it depends how large the space is. Sometimes you’ll end up with two islands.

Because you have that much space, you actually end up with … to U’s in an island or two islands and an L-shaped. Most of the kitchens I’ve been doing lately have been … from peninsula going to an island because they want to have a flow of traffic that is open to the breakfast area or just the table that they have in the kitchen. They want to be able to do … go outside to the backyard and entertain. It’s a straight shot versus the U having to go around. The idea, what they would want is a U with an island in the middle, but you don’t always have that space to put that extra island in.

Ask a Designer: Dated Colors


What colors will make my kitchen look dated?

Terry: You can use a trendy color in small amounts, perhaps in areas that are less architecturally important; maybe in tile, maybe in paint. That's something that's easy then to change over the course of time and stay current with the way things look. Classic design is a difficult thing to achieve in a lot of ways, but if you use neutral colors in your cabinetry and use paints and tiles and fabrics to help bring color into the kitchen, then you're not dealing with the trendy aspect of colors and things that are costly to change.

If you're hooked on having a red cabinet, the suggestion is to put it in a space that's like an island, a built in cabinet, or a specific decorative cabinet, almost like a piece of furniture, so that if you do tire of that color, you can easily change that as opposed to making your entire kitchen red.

The trends are pretty much painted and glazed and aged kind of cabinets. You're starting to see a trend back towards darker colored cabinets, dark stained cabinets. Things that we probably saw in the early 70's but are a little bit richer; have a little bit more depth in their color. Trendy colors would be things that are jewel tones, maybe some seashore kind of colors if you're getting into the Hamptons' kind of styling, so you see the aquas, the grays, and light blues.

Ask a Designer: Kitchen Table Alternatives


Does an eat-in kitchen need a table?

Some people are getting rid of their tables. Some people want an island that has seating in conjunction with their table. They still sit down with the family at dinner time. They don’t want to use their formal dining room if they even have one.

Sitting at an island offers a more casual atmosphere. Some islands, again depending upon the shape, are not conducive to family gatherings. Many islands, there’s only room for two or three. You’re sitting in a row like cafeteria style.

If that’s the case, I don’t recommend giving up a table in your kitchen or make sure that you have another space in the home that you’re really going to use for family sit down dinners. That’s an advantage to doing a lower surface connected to an island.

You don’t have to have walkway space on all four sides of the table area. You can have walkway space just on three and actually put chairs on three sides. That is something that we’ve done a number of times.

Ask a Designer: The Work Triangle


What is the work triangle?

The work triangle is based on three appliances. It’s the sink, the refrigerator and the cook top. If you have double ovens that it’s not part of the triangle that is out of the way, I mean, when you think about it once you pop something in the oven, you’re not checking on it all the time.

In the National Kitchen and Bath Association has some certain recommendations on what you can do or what you shouldn’t do with those triangles, like not having a traffic pattern, cross it and suppose to be a maximum of 26 ft. for all three legs, not more than 9 ft. per leg and at least 4 ft. minimum. It just means, they don’t need real escapes to … you just get some kind of weeks for a refrigerator, free milk and things like that.

Ask a Designer: Creating a Focal Point


How do you create a focal point in the kitchen?

Cheryl: Always have that, a very popular focal point with the cooking area; being the hearth of the kitchen and just giving you more the feel of a fire place in the center of a kitchen as opposed to the cooktop and the hood combination. With other layouts, that if we have maybe a nice open wall, to do a beautiful hutch. That instead of it being a traditional china hutch storage, we convert it into pantry storage. We hide microwaves inside hutches, different other appliances can be hidden in.

With traditional kitchens, it's very easy to create focal points because of the possibilities of trim moldings and with the kitchen layout. Sink areas and range areas are very popular with creating focal points. Focal points also can be created with just one small area having glass doors and a little bit more detail than the other cabinetry in the home. A focal point can be a very unique island. That if the kitchen is large enough, could create a multi-leveled island that we can do storage underneath that might have decorative detailing, building tvs into an island.


Ask a Designer: Island Pros & Cons


What are the pros and cons of a kitchen island?

Janice: An island to the kitchen offers more countertop space, more prep space. It adds design aspects. You can make it look like a piece of furniture so you can change the color of it. It adds interest to a kitchen. In some kitchens, it can have a disadvantage because you have to walk around it to get to … if you have a refrigerator on the opposite side of the room, islands can be a very good source for seating in the kitchen. People love to have their children in the kitchen with them to do their homework and they can still prepare their dinner and they can watch their kids; they’re sitting right through the island. That’s a good thing as well.

Christine: The big question that people ask is different island heights, should it be one height. I think that keeping an island at one level is nice if you’re more of a self-contained kitchen. If it opens up into a living space, it’s always nice to have the raised back because that way it blocks any mess that you have on the island. The one thing to think about is you definitely need a minimum clearance of three feet on every side. If there’s seating on the island, you’ll need more on the back side done. It’s really just the space constraints.

Ask a Designer: Keeping Costs Down


How can I keep costs down?

I would say that, again, it’s going to go into looking at the space and seeing if there’s any areas that you can eliminate cabinets. That’s going to be the biggest. A lot of times, people want to fill their entire kitchen with cabinets, and sometimes it’s best to eliminate certain areas. If you don’t want to get into that, you can look at little things, like finish. Someone can come in wanting a French country decorative glaze finish, and something like that, and maybe they need to scale back on the finish, which is going to cut costs.

Accessories, interior rollouts, kind of the fun gadgets that go into kitchen cabinetries, can eliminate those to save some cost. Then, limiting your amount of details, as far as decorative moldings or hand molding, turn post, and things like that, keeping the kitchen a little more simple, as far as the design, is going to keep your cost down.

You walk into an appliance store, and you can go up to the most expensive refrigerator, and then you can find one with not as many bells and whistles, maybe, but aesthetically that is similar, for half of the cost. with granites and stone and and Cambria and all those nice, solid surface countertops, about 10-15%, as far as the difference in cost. Almost every product is going to have a range of, “Oh, well you could start with this, and this is at this price point, and then, you know, you can upgrade and get this feature.”

It would be the same way. You get into the more, I want to say, decorative or more variation in color and speckles and everything like that; those tend to be more costly than their plain, solid colors. Laminate would be definitely a great way to go to save a lot of money. That would be the one countertop material that you would save a lot of money in, versus all the others.

Other suggestions might be to keep existing plumbing where it is, maybe keep the gas lines and electric lines where they are, as much as possible. That would mean that the professional tradespeople, like the plumbers and the electricians, may not charge you as much, because they’re actually not moving plumbing and not moving the gas lines. A lot of is just an hourly labor-type situation, where it just depends on what each individual house is constructed as.

Ask a Designer: Remodeling Costs


How much does a kitchen remodel cost?

It’s a very large range, and it really depends on what your tastes are, and some things are more important for people than others. Some people might have a real importance on appliances; those are little bit easier to price out if you go to some place. A vendor can take a look at what that budget might be for the things that you want. Cabinetry is a wide range, because there are so many selections, and I know what we tell people here in Chicago, which is that a typical kitchen remodel might be 10-20% of the value of your home.

If you need to sell your house fairly quickly, but you need it updated, then you might be on the lower end of that. If you are going to be in your house for any length of time, and you really want to use your kitchen and put some things together that you really like and you enjoy using, you might be on a little higher end of that. I’d say, on the average, most people are right in the middle.

If you’re going into your kitchen, and you’re wanting to replace countertops and appliances and keep your existing cabinetry, that can cost you 10-15,000. If you … and I’m thinking replacing it with a granite or a natural stone for your countertops and putting in some sort of stainless appliance. Then you can get into removing everything and leaving plumbing and gas lines or electric for appliances where they are and just replacing everything in your kitchen, and that, again, can be a range, I would say 20-40. That’s a wide range, but again, it’s going to depend on the specific cabinets that you choose and finish and style and things like that, as well as brand.

You can get into even most cost if you’re moving plumbing and moving a lot of electrical and maybe moving walls and putting an addition [under 00:02:04], things like that, that are going to put your kitchen anywhere from 50 to over a hundred thousand. You don’t want to have a hundred thousand dollar kitchen and a two hundred thousand dollar home. It just wouldn’t make sense. So, I would say you probably wouldn’t want to exceed 20% of the value of your home.


Ask a Designer: Small Kitchens


How can I make the best use of space in a small kitchen?

Yeah, the layout is what we start with, it’s a space [plan 00:00:14]; something that’s very important. You can have the prettiest kitchen; if it doesn’t function well, then it doesn’t really serve its purpose. If you can’t do anything to the layout, but that’s the first thing we do, is either see if we can knock down a wall, can you move things about, and to be able to gain access. Really, as far as utilizing what you having in the box, with accessories, can help a lot. Accessories and different gadgets, I would say, that [inaudible 00:00:04] in the cabinet, inside, to help organize those things. If you can’t pull it out in one swoop, it’s really not helpful; so, you have things like rollouts, so that people don’t have to bend and fight with their cabinet to get their pots and pans.

You have silverware dividers, cutlery; you have utensil dividers, so all your spatulas and everything is organized. You can … It seems like you’re actually getting less, but what you’re doing is to make sure that the space you do have is usable and user-friendly. So, you have pullouts for your spices. In the corner, we’ve always had Lazy Susans, but you have things like a magic corner that bump out, they actually pull straight forward and then out. So, you have some options with your corner pieces, if you can’t put a Lazy Susan.

I think that, again, having a small kitchen, it is nice to have as much storage as possible. So, bringing in the cabinets to the ceiling, if possible, is the best thing to do. Then … and because crown molding, you can always also add bracket details and different details that give it that furniture feeling, but to maximize the space by bringing it to the ceiling. Interior storage is always good. Putting rollouts in makes your space a little bit more efficient, because you can pull things out, and you actually know what’s inside of them; dividers within drawers. There’s lots of different inserts and dividers that can kind of help make your kitchen more functional.

Ask a Designer: Add Color to a White Kitchen


Q: What are some inexpensive ways to add color to a white kitchen?

Janice: If you have a white kitchen, there's a lot of things that you can do. Go to find some little appliances like toaster ovens and coffeemakers. You can find some great colors in things like that. I have a client who's got a red toaster on her countertop or the KitchenAid mixers, for instance. They come in array of colors.

Now, the other way is to perhaps paint if any exposed walls. Paint is one of the least expensive ways to decorate and add some color, so that's always a good option. Possibly changing a backsplash if you have the opportunity to do so.

That, again, does not have to be an expensive proposition unless you have very good taste in materials. Usually backsplash is an inexpensive way. Then just miscellaneous things like towels and different accessories like that would really help brighten up a white kitchen.