Research key when tackling kitchen design

Ask The Builder

October 21, 2007|By Tim Carter | Tim Carter,Tribune Media Services

I need some help with the kitchen design for my home. I'm pretty sure I know what I want, but kitchen designs are as varied as faces in a crowd. How will I know what is the best design for this kitchen-remodel job? What is the best way to approach a fresh kitchen-design project?

Kitchen design is very important, but it is sometimes confused with kitchen planning. Both planning and design are critical, and ignoring either one can lead to a disaster and heartbreak. Let's make sure we are on the same page with respect to what you need.

Kitchen design, in my opinion, speaks to the overall look of the kitchen once it is completed. A designer can use different materials, cabinets, finishes, lighting and so forth to achieve a sleek, modern look, or to make a kitchen feel as if it were transported in a time machine from a quaint Irish cottage. The variety of kitchen designs is infinite.

Kitchen planning, on the other hand, has to do with the functionality of the space. When you plan a kitchen, you have to think about how to lay out the sink, appliances, cabinets and countertops. The best analogy I can think of is this: Kitchen planning is like the structural steel of a skyscraper; kitchen design is the outside appearance of that same building.

There is no simple answer to your main question. You could ask 100 top kitchen designers what they would do with your new kitchen, and you would likely end up with 100 different designs. I recommend that you immerse yourself in research. Look at as many different designs as you can, and see which few really put your head on a swivel.

Your research will undoubtedly take you across the vast tundra of the Internet, into numerous kitchen-cabinet showrooms, and possibly to design centers built by large remodeling contractors who specialize in kitchen remodeling. You should also look at some of the many excellent kitchen design books and magazines available, which have hundreds of gorgeous color photos of kitchens large and small, expensive and affordable. If you really want to be on the cutting edge, look at kitchen designs in European countries. European kitchen designers often produce stunning results in small spaces.

Be sure to look beyond just cabinets and countertops. Every surface in the kitchen is a design element. The floor, ceiling and doors, the backsplash space between the countertops and the underside of the wall cabinets, the wall spaces above and around the cabinets - all should contribute to the overall design theme. Don't forget lighting - it's an important design element. Unfortunately, lighting is often overlooked in many kitchen designs that I see.

If you are on a tight budget, take heart: There are less expensive ways to remodel. For example, you may decide to paint your existing floor and incorporate a design of some type into the paint. Painted floors hold up very well when they are coated with high-quality clear urethane.

I urge you to consider interviewing several professional kitchen designers. They may be able to offer you great advice about how to maximize your design dollars. The fee you spend for a kitchen designer might be less than what you otherwise would waste on rookie design mistakes.

Expert home builder and remodeling contractor Tim Carter has 20 years of hands-on experience in the home industry. He is a licensed master plumber, master carpenter, master roof cutter and real estate broker. If you have a question, go to and click on "Ask Tim."

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