4 Incredibly Functional Compact Kitchen Islands

Article by: Mitchell Parker 

1. Little Black Box

Designer: Frankie Castro of Square Footage 
Location: Ajax, Ontario
Size: 160 square feet (15 square meters); 16 by 10 feet

Homeowners’ request. Bring a 120-year-old kitchen into the 21st century while honoring original details like the cove ceiling, wood flooring, chandelier and molding details. 

Island. 2 by 4 feet, painted black, with a wood top and stainless steel shelves. “It married all the features in this kitchen together,” says designer Frankie Castro, who gained ideas and inspiration by browsing photos on Houzz along with her clients. 


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Other special features. Backsplash of white and gray hexagonal mosaic tile. Reclaimed-wood open shelves. Black base cabinets. Quartz countertops. 

Designer secret. “The trick is to keep the vintage feeling and details,” Castro says. “In this kitchen we only went up to the molding line, which featured the cove ceiling prominently. We also kept with the plaster walls and were very careful when cutting or replacing the walls.”

Wall paint: Distant Gray, Benjamin Moore

2. Slim Style

Designer: Becky Corringham of Wysteria Design
Location: Stratham, New Hampshire
Size: 220 square feet (20 square meters); 11 by 20 feet

Homeowners’ request. Remove and replace existing dark cherry cabinets, black countertops and a black painted island. The owners found designer Becky Corringham through Houzz’s directory, and they used the site to collaborate on an ideabook of inspirational photos, through which they also bought products like the floating maple shelves and chandelier

Island. 5 feet, 2 inches by 1½ feet with a maple wood base painted blue (Denim by Sherwin-Williams) and a solid butcher-block top. “The homeowners use their island for storing large items like their crockpot, blender, coffee grinder and indoor grill,” Corringham says. “The drawers of the island are used for small miscellaneous utilitarian items, such as pens, paper, scissors and tools.”

“In the design phase of this project we thought about adding a peninsula instead of an island, because the space in that area is very narrow. The width of the kitchen is about 9½ feet, and the traffic flows past the island leading into the first-floor half bath and laundry room, so we didn’t want to impede the walk space too much. We really liked the idea of keeping the custom bench seating, so that is what ultimately determined the need for an island over a peninsula.”

Other special features. Quartz perimeter countertops and backsplash with a Calacatta marble look. Light blue ceiling (Honest Blue by Sherwin-Williams).

3. Sweet Station

Designer: Rachel Eve Logue of Rachel Eve Design
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Size: 140 square feet (13 square meters); 14 by 10 feet

Homeowners’ request. Update a basic, traditional kitchen to reflect a more midcentury modern style within the existing footprint. 

Island. 2 by 4 feet with a rift-cut oak veneer base and 2-inch-thick white quartz countertop. “We made the countertop on the island thicker than the perimeter to give the island more emphasis so it didn’t look so puny,” designer Rachel Eve Logue says. The island has two small top drawers and two deep bottom drawers — plenty of space to store utensils for baking, which the homeowners love to do. 

A 2-by-2-½-foot island existed in the same space before, but because the floor tile didn’t go underneath it, and because the homeowners didn’t want to hassle with replacing the flooring, they decided to keep an island in that spot and increase its size. 

Other special features. Aqua hexagonal tile backsplash and aqua floating shelves. Peninsula with white quartz waterfall-edge detail. Paneled refrigerator and tall pantry. The homeowners had originally thought they wanted all-white cabinets, but when Logue looked through their Houzz ideabook of inspiration photos they had gathered, she noticed that they had saved a lot of kitchens with dark base cabinets and white upper cabinets. She suggested they go that route and include white countertops, to lighten the kitchen but still have that dark wood, midcentury modern vibe. 

Designer secret. The previous backsplash was composed of glass blocks that matched the transom above the range. The glass let in light, but the view to the neighbors’ hedge wasn’t something the owners wanted to hang on to. To get a stylish backsplash, Logue drywalled directly over the glass blocks (they are still visible from the exterior) and covered the drywall with the statement tile. “If we had left the blocks, we just wouldn’t have gotten the same impact in this kitchen,” she says. 


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4. Neat and Narrow

Designer: Cliff Deetjen of Peregrine Design Build
Location: Richmond, Vermont
Size: 250 square feet (23 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. A more light-filled kitchen with new custom cabinets and a better connection to the surrounding areas. 

Island. About 2 by 5 feet with a hard maple countertop and painted gray base (Smoke Gray by Benjamin Moore), a color choice that designer Cliff Deetjen says is smart for an active family. “The clients were intent on repurposing their rolling butcher-block island,” Deetjen says. “We convinced them that it was worth the investment to have a custom island built. Not only was it aesthetically appealing, it also offered them additional storage and an efficient place to organize their day. Cookbooks and favorite recipes are stored on the lower shelves. Pots and pans are tucked away on the stove side, and the surface functions as a place to put anything that needs to be grabbed on the way out.”

Other special features. 3-by-9-inch glass tile backsplash. Jet Mist granite countertops. Custom wine fridge. Hidden phone and computer charger in drawer. 

Designer secret. “We were excited to use mixed finishes in this project,” Deetjen says. “The island butcher-block counter plays off of the wood in the open shelving and wood counter at the eat-in dining area. Industrial touches are complemented by the warm cherry floors, and even the client’s rustic pottery collection is at home on the dark granite counters.”

Cabinet paint: White Wisp, Benjamin Moore; project photos: Susan Teare

5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

By: Moorea Hoffman 

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


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How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel yourself or with a kitchen designer, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


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1. Daily Use vs. Special Events

This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


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2. Cost vs. Value

As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


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One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


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3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite. 

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


4. Speed vs. Patience

Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one. 


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5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.


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Wood and White Brighten This Kitchen

Article by: Monica Banks

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with two children
Location: Rosemont neighborhood of Montreal
Size: 210 square feet (19.5 square meters)

After living in their 1945 home for a few years, the owners decided it was time to expand their 155-square-foot kitchen, which lacked sufficient storage and felt cluttered. Originally, the home was designed in the typical Montreal fashion, with one corridor that has separate rooms branching off from the axis. The homeowners wanted not only to have more space, but also to give that space an open-concept feel.


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Before. In this snapshot taken before the remodel, the existing kitchen had an eclectic look; the homeowners wanted to give it a cleaner, more minimalist design style.


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Before. The kitchen also felt a bit closed in, thanks to the side walls surrounding the entry opening into the space.


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Kitchen (After)

Layout. Removing those side walls and opening up the kitchen to the adjacent dining area created more breathing room and brought in more light. The right side of the room is composed of wall cabinetry that gives the family plenty of storage space. The kitchen is now 210 square feet. 

Style. Though the kitchen has a simple palette of primarily wood and white, the space feels dynamic thanks to variation in the textures and shapes — from the subway backsplash and the hexagon floor tiles to the beadwork on the upper cabinets and even the horizontal lines marked by the open shelving.

Floor. The homeowners kept the existing cherry floor but had it sanded and refinished.


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This photo shows the left side of the kitchen (when viewed from the dining room). On the floor in front of the sink, the homeowners added a strip of hexagon tile for visual interest. 


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Backsplash. Simple white ceramic subway tile gives the room subtle detailing that supports the kitchen’s clean, modern look. 


Island. The island countertop is covered with multiple tile pieces (see first photo in this story) that echo the subway tile pattern. 

Cabinets. A two-tone cabinet scheme contributes to the kitchen’s contemporary feel. The majority of the cabinetry and hardware is from Ikea, but the wood doors were handmade by a local artisan. 


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Niche. The cabinetry wall on the right side of the kitchen is broken up by a central nook that the designers finished in herringbone tile. 

8 Elements of Classic Kitchen Style

By: Rebekah Zaveloff

Many people are at a loss when it comes to defining their style. Some people know what they like but are afraid of getting the terms wrong, or they’re afraid of being pigeon-holed into one style when they feel like they’re in between a few different ones. The truth is, most spaces have elements of different styles and aren’t all one way. 

To sort all this out, join me on a tour of kitchen styles and sub-styles, from Classic to Modern, Industrial to Cottage, and lots in between. Today we’ll start with the most approachable of styles, classic style. 


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Classic kitchens are timeless and flexible. This comes with other givens, such as neutral color palettes and simple, unfussy details. Sure, a classic kitchen can be deemed too safe for the individualist and too ornate for the purist, but for me it’s like jeans and a white t-shirt: add a beaded necklace and heels or tennis shoes and black blazer and you can make the look your own. (And so can the next homeowner if you’re concerned about resale value.) 

1. White or cream cabinetry. Classic kitchens are timeless yet fresh. This is a style that almost everyone feels comfortable in, even some the modernists among us. White kitchens define this style.

2. Simple architectural details. You may see legs on islands, feet or furniture-style toekicks, crown molding and even a paneled hood, but these details are often restrained in a classic kitchen rather than being over the top and ornate.

3. Honed black countertops. Classic kitchens often go the timeless route with blacks or whites, whether it’s honed absolute black granite, soapstone, or cast quartz material.


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4. White marble countertops.Cararra marble and Calacatta marble are the two that really stand out in classic kitchens. In fact, marble countertops are often the focal point of a classic kitchen. Even though many homeowners know there are maintenance issues with marble, they can’t resist its beauty. 

5. White subway tile. It really doesn’t matter what size, though the classic is 3×6. It can be glossy, crackle, beveled or square edged, handmade or machine made, or even in white marble. If you’re looking for a twist on the classic, try a 2×6 or 2×8 or 2×4 — the proportions can really change the look of your kitchen, as can the grout color. 

6. Simple door styles, not too modern, not too ornate. Another aspect that defines this look is the cabinet door style — often either a simple shaker door or a shaker door with a bead moulding. You don’t see a lot of raised panel doors (of the sort often found in traditional kitchens) or flat-panel doors typically seen in modern kitchens.


7. Neutral palettes: Classic kitchens don’t have to be all white. This kitchen mixes stained and painted cabinetry, and even though the “white” cabinets have a glaze, the simple door style (shaker with a bead moulding) keeps it from going too traditional. The subway tile here has a bit more color than the classic white that’s so popular, but it’s still a classic.


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Black and white is about as timeless and classic as it gets. This kitchen with the shaker doors goes a bit more contemporary with the black island and dark subway tile with white grout, but its bones are still grounded in the classics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative palettes like brown and white or black and white also find their way into classic kitchen design. Here, walnut cabinets, white marble and classic door style have all the elements of a classic kitchen.


8. Flexibility: What I love about classic kitchens is that they’re chameleons: You can take the same kitchen and completely change its look by mixing in modern bar stools or lighting … or industrial bar stools and lighting … or traditional — you get the idea. Classic can become eclectic by adding modern tile and mixing it with a vintage-style table and chairs and industrial-style pendant lights.


Classic can go more traditional when mixing it with an ornate hood, traditional chandelierand turned island legs.


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Classic white shaker doors can go more modern by adding a modern light fixture and terrific Saarinen table to the mix. This kitchen even has a bit of farmhouse modern because of the ceiling, but it’s still classic.


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Sometimes it’s the architecture alone that influences a classic kitchen in one direction or another. Here, classic goes country-modern with exposed beams and voluminous space. As you can see, classic-style kitchens are limited only by your imagination — or the imagination of thousands of designers. 

Post-KonMari: How to Organize Your Pantry

By: Laura Gaskil

So you’ve tossed the old, unloved and expired food and spices. What’s next? After decluttering the pantry, it’s time to get organized. But with so many organizing products to choose from, it can be hard to know which are worth buying and which will end up gathering dust (or worse: making your pantry even more cluttered). 

To help you bring order to this hardworking part of your kitchen, we’ll divide your things into three categories: stuff you reach for every day, meal building blocks and staples, and occasionally called-for ingredients.


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Stuff You Reach for Every Day

A tray or platter beside the stove. Your true everyday essentials (think olive oil, salt and pepper) should live within arm’s reach of where you use them. A tray, platter or slab gives these items a defined space to prevent straying, and is easy to move and wipe down. 

Check your own cupboards to see if there’s a platter or tray you can use for this purpose. You may not need to buy anything!


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A dedicated shelf (or two) for essentials. Beyond salt and pepper, you can probably think of a handful of other ingredients you reach for nearly every day. These items would take up too much room on the counter, so aim for a shelf or cupboard near the stove, or above the counter where you like to chop vegetables. If your pantry is already near the cooking zone, dedicate an eye-level shelf to your essentials. 

 

Add one or more of these tools to make ingredients easy to spot at a glance:

  • Lazy Susan. A small turntable lets you circulate bottles of oil with ease.
  • Risers for spices. See what’s in the back row without having to rummage.
  • Clear bins. Corral little packets of this and that.


Meal Building Blocks and Staples

Clear, airtight containers for bulk goods. Buying grains, flours and other items from the bulk bins in the grocery store is economical and reduces packaging waste. Once you get home, transferring these items into a good set of canisters will help them stay fresh longer and keep critters out.

Tip: If you like to change up your ingredients frequently, use wipeable chalkboard labels. Then, when you fill the container with something new, you can simply wipe off the old info and write what’s in it now.


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Risers for cans and jars. Slightly larger than spice risers, these stairstep-like organizers are especially helpful if you have deep pantry shelves and lots of canned goods (or jars filled with homemade goodies). 

DIY: To create your own risers, borrow a few wooden blocks from a child’s set (or get them from the hardware store) and stack in the back of a cupboard to give cans a lift. If the cans are sliding around, top the blocks with a layer of anti-slip tape (available at hardware stores or online).


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Baskets for potatoes and onions. If you have a walk-in pantry that stays cool and dark, this can be a great place to store potatoes, onions and other produce that doesn’t require refrigeration, such as apples and squash. Pick baskets that will allow air to flow around the produce, and store each type in its own basket. 

Tip: Keep apples in a different section of the pantry since they produce ethylene gas, which can speed spoiling of nearby veggies.


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Occasionally Called-For Ingredients

“Project cooking” baskets or bins. Project cooking is the kind of cooking you may sometimes love to do, but it’s certainly not part of your everyday get-dinner-on-the-table cooking life. In other words, it’s a project. Think baking birthday cakes, decorating Christmas cookies, making homemade pasta or canning your own jam. 

Instead of mixing the special tools and ingredients required for these projects in with the rest of your pantry items, gather them in a project basket. The size of the basket or bin will depend on how much stuff you need to store, so gather the ingredients together before you go basket shopping!

Tip: Project cooking bins can certainly live on high shelves. Just be sure to label them clearly, and keep a stepladder nearby, if needed, to reach them.


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Bulk supply bin or crate. If you like to stock up on certain supplies or ingredients, you’ll want to find a convenient yet out-of-the-way spot in which to keep them. The shelves from waist to shoulder height are best reserved for more frequently used items, so use the floor or a high shelf to store your extra goods. 

Bulky but light items (like paper towels) can go on a high shelf, while big and heavy stuff (like bags of dog food) should go on the floor. One or two large bins or crates can keep everything contained.

Smart Investments in Kitchen Cabinetry — a Realtor’s Advice

By Tiffany Carboni

The kitchen is the most expensive room in the house to build. The national average cost of a kitchen remodel is $50,000, though the real cost can vary widely, depending on where you live, the scope of the project and the materials you choose. New cabinetry can take up much of that expense. Make the most of this big purchase by treating your new cabinets as an investment. 

Realtor Victoria Gangi offers insider tips on how to get the best return on your cabinet investment, even if you’re not moving in the foreseeable future.


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Create an optimal layout. Long before a kitchen starts to take actual shape, there needs to be a well-crafted plan for how the kitchen will be laid out to offer maximum benefits to the homeowners and their guests. 

“Layout is the number-one feature home buyers are looking at in a kitchen,” says Gangi. “You will lose your audience if cabinets aren’t designed in a functional way with good flow.”


A kitchen or cabinet designer can help you get started. Don’t make any rushed decisions in the planning process. 

One way to help visualize a designer’s plan is to tape out the dimensions of the new cabinet configurations on the floor and walls. Granted, you’re going to need a really good imagination for this to work, but it will give you an opportunity to literally walk through the measurements to see if things feel well spaced.


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Invest in quality cabinetry. Once you’ve got a plan for where everything’s going to go, decide on a style and quality that will age well and withstand trends and changing tastes.

Quality cabinets are one of the smartest investments in a kitchen remodel, says Karl Keul, owner of Cameo Kitchens. “The lesser grades of cabinets tend not to age gracefully and often need more upkeep,” he notes.

The quality to choose will depend on your long-term plans. “Midrange cabinets are generally a good bet,” Gangi says. “If you intend to sell your home, these cabinets will look attractive to buyers, and you’ll likely see a return on your investment.”

She adds, “Even if you plan on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, this is still a safe option, because they’ll last. Choose top-of-the-line cabinets only if you have the money to create the kitchen of your dreams without any worries of recouping the money.”


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Integrate the door style. Choose a door style and color that integrate well with the rest of your home, especially rooms that look directly into the kitchen. If the rest of your house is traditional, you’d be better off steering toward a more traditional or transitional door style than going completely modern, and vice versa. 


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“Don’t choose a style that’s too ornate or too modern,” Gangi advises. “Modern is good; people like clean lines and clean finishes. But ultramodern or any style that’s too out of the norm isn’t what buyers tend to want.”


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In general the best kitchen designs are those that work in harmony with the rest of the home’s architecture rather than try to fight it. A harmonious house is easier for potential buyers to understand and, in turn, to want to outbid each other for. 

A savvy designer can help navigate you toward the best cabinet options that will work for your home and budget.

 

 

 

 


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Choose light colors. Lighter-colored cabinetry will appeal to more buyers. “Dark kitchens are out,” notes Gangi. “People prefer light and bright.”


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To integrate the appliances or not? Integrated appliances significantly increase the cost of a kitchen, not only because of the added cabinetry door fronts, but also because the appliances needed to facilitate this option are more expensive.

While this feature may look attractive to some home buyers, especially in a price range where integrated appliances are an expectation rather than an exception, your may not see the return on this high-priced detail in a midrange-price house.


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According to Gangi, your cabinet investment can be safe even if you don’t integrate the appliances. “Stainless steel appliances are still very popular and well accepted by buyers,” she says.


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Choose cabinet details that matter. What’s inside the cabinet is just as important as what’s on its outside. “Buyers are on the lookout for rollout and quiet-close drawers,” notes Gangi. “This is where that choice of midrange versus low-range cabinet quality becomes important. Spending the extra money it takes to get good-quality slide rails and quiet-close features will come back to you.”

 

 

 

 


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Opt for clean-lined hardware. “Buyers prefer drawer pulls and handles to be just as clean lined as the cabinetry,” says Gangi.


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If you like ornate hardware, go for it. However, should you sell your home, expect to replace those fancy pulls with a more streamlined set that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. The good news is that your fancy hardware can move with you.

Reclaimed Siding and Red Accents Personalize a White Kitchen

By Camille LeFevre


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Photos by Brandon Stengel

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with two teenagers
Location: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Size: About 450 square feet (41.8 square meters)
Designers: Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro of Bluestem Construction

In a busy household with two teenagers, the former kitchen was a natural gathering spot for family and friends, but it was feeling cramped. To make more space, designers Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro removed the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent breakfast room. Access to the backyard was also important, so a new doorway off the eating area leads to the patio and grilling area.


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The homeowners already had the red dining chairs, and they requested a neutral color palette to make the red stand out. “The mother is a seasonal decorator, and the red really works throughout the seasons, as she decorates for all of the holidays,” Miller says. The custom cabinets are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. The countertops are a mix of two Caesarstone products: white for the island, and black for the outer countertops and built-in desk. The wood flooring is new and is narrow-strip red oak. A farmhouse sink and stainless drawer pulls complete the look.


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“They wanted the feeling of an open kitchen but with character,” Ferraro says. “So we created the dark accents by utilizing some of the house’s old shiplap sheathing for the island, computer nook and mudroom wall.” 

The salvaged sheathing had served as insulation under the home’s previous exterior siding. When the exterior received new siding and insulation, some of the sheathing was saved to be used in the kitchen. The recycled wood was treated with a four-step stain process: deep purple, then a dry brush of warm gray, followed by a dry brush of soft white and ending with a final dry brush.

To free up counter space, the new island features a built-in microwave. The industrial-style pendants above the island and the light fixture above the dining table complement the reclaimed wood.


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By adding a built-in desk in the kitchen, the parents can monitor their teens’ computer use and searches without hovering over their shoulders. “This was our way of bringing the computer out of the kids’ bedrooms and into a public space,” Ferraro says. The built-in desk is counter height, and the same industrial-style stools were chosen for the island and the desk.


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The newly remodeled mudroom adjacent to the kitchen features the same reclaimed shiplap sheathing as in the kitchen. It covers the back wall of the custom built-in bench with coat hooks.

New Kitchen: 7 Questions You Didn’t Know You’d Ask

Some of the questions you ask when planning a new kitchen are obvious, such as, “Do I want white cabinets or wood?” and “Do I want stainless steel appliances?”

But there are many design decisions that you might not even know to consider until the project is well underway. To help you avoid surprises and unfortunate mistakes, here are seven questions you should ask yourself before you begin your kitchen design.


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1. What are the rules? I’m not talking about design rules for what colors will match or what wood goes with what stone. I’m talking about the actual rules that are laid out by your local building code, which can affect many decisions or none at all, depending on your area and project conditions.

For example, many building codes dictate what type of hood fan you must use to ensure proper ventilation. These rules are especially important to know during a major renovation or new construction, as a surprise inspection that finds violations will leave you with a serious headache.

2. How should my cabinet drawers and doors open? Designers often point out that changing out the knobs on existing cabinets can make a kitchen look new in a snap. Putting knobs and hardware on new cabinets for the first time, however, can take a surprising amount of thought to get right.

One of the trickiest parts of designing a kitchen well is making the cabinet door and drawer fronts look elegant and consistent while the cabinets themselves serve different practical functions in a variety of shapes.

You might find a single handle that works for all your cabinets, but you may need two or even three coordinating styles to address all your different sizes of fronts.

Once you’ve chosen hardware, you should give careful consideration to where to install it to best achieve a sense of visual consistency. Free software can be found online to model your kitchen in 3-D, and you can adjust details such as the directions that doors swing until the hardware lines up in a pleasing way.

Or you can skip the issue altogether and use knob-free touch-latch cabinets.

3. What profile should I use for my countertops? The shape of the edge of the countertop may seem like a mundane detail, but it can make a world of difference to the look and function of your counters, and the kitchen as a whole.

This kitchen shows an “eased edge” stone counter (essentially a crisp rectangle with slightly softened corners) on the left and a cove edge wood counter on the right.

An eased edge is currently a popular choice for contemporary kitchens because it gives a simple, modern appeal. More ornate profiles usually carry a traditional air and a sense of warmth and personality.


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One of the most popular choices for a counter profile is the “bullnose” or “demi-bullnose” option, which means essentially a half circle or quarter circle. The look is less “sharp” than a minimalist eased edge, but so is the experience of bumping into it by accident. Ultimately it’s a decision that comes down to personal priorties.

It should be noted, however, that a very rounded edge like this is not always the best choice for laminates: The edge tends to give away that the material is fake because the curves look unnatural and the pattern does not align at the seam.

To simulate the look of a true stone when using a laminate, look to a simple rectangular profile in a dark color so the seams and edges appear natural and subtle.

4. What finish should my fixtures be? Selecting the material for your kitchen fixtures isn’t all about trends and pretty color palettes. Metals come in various finishes, and there can be major practical considerations as well. Try mixing stainless steel with brushed brass for a subtle contrast, as shown here.

For instance, brushed finishes tend to hide fingerprints and light water spotting much better than polished ones. Brass and gold-tone finishes tend to be warmer and more dramatic, while stainless steel and silvery-tone finishes tend to blend into the color palette more but add more sparkle.

There are lots of details to consider, so it’s best to research the pros and cons of a style that you like.

It can also become even trickier when trying to coordinate multiple metal elements.

It’s usually recommended to choose appliances from the same manufacturer, if possible, especially if they’re situated very close together, because differing product lines can have subtly different finishes that become more apparent once paired together.

Tip: Take one sample of a handle you’re considering (or other metallic element) to an appliance showroom to get an idea for how the different finishes will interact. If the pairing seems off, you can exchange the handle for a different finish.


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5. How will I mount my sink? Choosing an undermount sink or a drop-in model, as shown here, affects more than just the look of the sink itself, so it’s a decision that should be thought through early.

Undermount sinks, like the one pictured, are generally easier for keeping the surrounding countertop area clean because the neater edge of the counter allows you to sweep crumbs and debris directly into the sink without getting caught on a high lip. However, undermounts can’t always be installed in a laminate counter because the counter cutout would leave a raw unfinished edge in the core material.

Knowing what style of sink you prefer will affect what materials are available to you, so it’s best to answer this question as soon as possible and then research from there.

6. What finish should my stone be? Besides choosing what material you want for your counters, backsplash and flooring, you also need to decide the finish of the material itself.

Popular stone materials such as granite and quartz can take on a polished finish, like the one shown here, which gives a hard face and an almost reflective look. A honed finish appears much more soft and organic.

A honed finish, as seen here, also has the advantage of hiding scratches that can stick out in a gleaming polished stone. However, they can be more easily stained if not well-sealed, as the material tends to be more receptive to absorbing oils. Each has its advantages, so you should research your choice and not make a snap decision when meeting with the supplier.

When looking at stone samples, be sure to ask what finishes are available and look at each individually, as the finish can greatly affect the appearance, even radically changing the apparent color. Applying sealant can also darken the appearance to a degree, so you should ask to see a sealed sample — it may be extra work for the supplier, but it will save you a potential surprise on installation day.


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7. What material should my toe kicks be? You might assume your toe kick has to match the material of your cabinets. But what if your cabinets aren’t one consistent color? Or what if you’ve used a sparkling white cabinet, but you don’t want the toe kick to get dirty every time it gets, well, kicked?

If your island is a different material from the rest of the cabinets, you can let its toe kick differ from the main cabinets. Another option is to use a third material that ties all the cabinets together: Stainless steel makes a great toe kick if you have stainless appliances or handles, tying the whole palette together.