If you've ever tried to cook in a badly designed kitchen, you know how important it is to get the arrangement right.
There are several steps to getting a good design -- before you even think about buying the first appliance or cabinet.
One independent kitchen designer, who works in both old and new houses in the Baltimore region, suggested that anyone who is thinking about a new kitchen should:
*Research the subject. Check the library for design books, read all the latest magazines. Not only will it give you a good sense of what you like, it will also let you know what's new and what's available. "It makes people literate," the designer said, whether they're taking their ideas to a consultant like her or heading for a lumberyard.
*Set your budget, even if it's just a rough estimate. Kitchen renovation costs can range from fairly low (for new cabinet doors and paint, or a wall of cabinets, for instance) to something stratospheric for custom carpentry and exotic finishes. You'll save everyone time (and yourself anguish) by being practical about your limits.
*Don't rush out and buy something large -- like a huge refrigerator -- or something specific -- like a left-
hinged refrigerator that can't be changed to the right -- and expect to design the kitchen around it. It may work, but more likely it will be a huge impediment in the design process. Wait until you know exactly what you need and where it's going to go.
*Assess how you use the space. "Are there kids and dogs in this room," the designer asks, "or is this a couple who both work and come home and microwave every night? How many cooks are there, what kinds of things do they cook?" Those are the things that have an impact on design.
C7 Once you've done some background research, you can
begin formulating a plan. You may want to hire a kitchen designer. Some designers work as consultants, on a per-hour basis, and are flexible enough to work with any budget. Home-improvement centers and stores that sell the equipment often have experts on staff who can help you work out a plan (though the assistance may be tied to purchase).
Good measurements are critical to a successful design -- first because almost all cabinets are constructed in basic dimensions, generally with 3-inch increments. A mistake as small as a fraction of an inch can throw the whole room out of whack. The designer noted that wall spaces should be measured from trim edge to the next trim edge or corner. (Architectural plans may measure only the opening, not what's around it.)
If you've ever been burdened with a tiny kitchen, you may think bigger is better. That's not necessarily so, says Lori Markey, a kitchen designer and sales representative with National Lumber Co. in Baltimore. A huge kitchen can mean a lot of unnecessary steps.
"Overly large kitchens are like having kitchens in two different rooms of your house," Ms. Markey says.
The first designer suggested walking around the space, imagining where things will be and testing the arrangement. You can use tape to mark off items on the floor. If you want a center island, she suggests putting a box in the center of the room -- to see if you want to walk around it "for the next 10 years." If you draw your own plan, this designer cautioned, it's still a good idea to get someone in the field to look at it for potential problems.
*Next: Avoiding kitchen design pitfalls.
Mr. Johnson is construction manager of Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore. Ms. Menzie is Home Editor of The Sun.
*If you have questions, comments, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.