Design a kitchen that's cookin'
By Noreen Seebacher for The Journal News (Westchester Edition), Real Estate section, September 2, 2001

Every homeowner wants a gourmet kitchen- even those who consider cooking the art of reheating food purchased at a take-out counter.

          But designing a perfect kitchen can be an overwhelming task. Denise Roberts Hurlin and her husband Nathan said it’s best to expect the unexpected. “We thought our cabinets would be delivered in January.  Instead, they arrived in March,” she said.

          The Hurlins, however, are fortunate. The Mount Vernon couple ended up with a kitchen close to their dreams. The new kitchen, which includes additional space captured from an adjacent room, has solid granite countertops, a butcher-block island, and all new professional grade appliance.

          It both looks and functions as intended, and if they had to do the job, over, they said they’d make only minor changes.


It’s About Functionality

          Not all kitchen projects end up as well. Many contractors, architects and kitchen designers concede inexperienced homeowners tend to put too much emphasis on appearance and too little on practical matters.

          “All too often, our kitchens make us bend, stoop, retrace our steps and work in poor light at counters that are too high or too low,” said Jane K. Langmuir, a designer and former adjunct associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI.

          In 1998, Langmuir concluded a five-year study on kitchen design. She found, not surprisingly, that the best way to conserve time and motion in the kitchen is to have everything you need for food preparation and cleanup within easy reach.


Lots of Time, Money

Kitchen remodeling takes both time and money. A major remodeling with top-of-the-line appliances and cabinets can easily run more than $100,000, said Sylvain Côté, president of Absolute Remodeling in Yorktown Heights, the company that renovated the Hurlin’s home.

          As for time, allow at least four months for a remodeling job; more realistically, six to eight months.  It takes about two months alone for custom cabinet orders, more time for planning, order processing, shipping, demolition, installation, moving back into your kitchen and re-organization.

          The bottom line: You don’t have the time or money to make mistakes. While it’s tempting to get started as quickly as possible once you decide to remodel, it’s better to catch your breath, do your homework and think through all  your plans.

          Kingsley Van Wagner, a certified kitchen designer at South Mountain Woodworking Corp. in Pomona, said he spends from 3 to 18 months with each of his clients, mapping out every possibility. As a result, he said: My clients don’t make mistakes. We plan every possible thing, so the process is trouble-free and pleasant.

          If you plan to undertake kitchen remodeling, start with the basics.  Once you know what you want, what you want to spend and what you’d like the finished project to provide, you can shop for professionals’ best suited to your needs.

·        Identify goals and objectives. List the features you like most in your present kitchen, ones you want to change and any other you’d like to have.  Consider the floor, the cabinets, the style of the kitchen and the number of cabinets and amount of counter space.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association suggest a minimum of 13 linear feet of wall cabinets and a minimum of 11 linear feet of open countertop space.

·        Decide what you’d like to accomplish in the kitchen.  While some homeowners see the kitchen simply as a place for cooking, others may want to set up space for homework, a computer, entertainment or a television.

·        Keep a portfolio. Collect pictures of kitchens and products you like so you can refer to them during the design process.

·        Set a budget. What you want and what you can afford may be different things. If your dream plan is too expensive, you can eliminate some of the less important features you consider or investigate less expensive materials or appliances.

·        Be realistic about your family. If more than one person routinely does the cooking, adding a second sink can be essential.  If someone is unusually tall, unusually short or has any other special need, take that into consideration while you plan the project.

·        Don’t forget the importance of the work triangle- the lines which invisibly link the sink, refrigerator and cook top. Efficiency increases if the most used centers of activity are close together. Use the three centers of activities as the corners of a triangle. Now measure the distance on the three triangle legs.  The sum should be equal to or less than 26 feet, no matter how large the kitchen.

Make sure none of the legs of the triangle cross other pathways, for example, the connecting route between the back door and the family room.  Otherwise, you invite collisions between someone working in the kitchen and someone passing through.

·        Get ideas from professionals. The range of options for kitchen remodeling jobs runs from economy to elaborate. Compare proposals from several architects and designers to find a good fit. -



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