Considering a Kitchen Renovation? 3 Designer Tips to get you Started

I get the comment sometimes from people where they wonder if I mentally re-decorate people’s houses whenever I visit and scrutinize their home for ways I would do things differently. Honestly, for the most part, I have to say that no, I don't do that!  BUT. What I DO do is look at homes for sale online…a pure flight of fancy…and THEN I scrutinize and think about how I would have changed things…especially in kitchens! I don’t do this to make people feel judged, but more as mental exercises to think about what could have been done differently that would have made their space more functional and timeless. A kitchen renovation is a big deal and doing it right the first time will make all the pain and sacrifice a worthy effort!  So did a bit of research and decided to write a post on things to consider before starting a kitchen renovation and talk about things from a designer’s perspective.

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I could chat all day about poor kitchen layouts that I have seen…that you can tell have been recently done too! Finish choices that are dated, trendy, or just don’t suit the house at all; stoves that have very little counter space beside them, and fridges that are in adjacent rooms. **Cringe** How non-functional is that?  I think to myself...who gave them the advice to do THIS? Did a professional suggest this layout? Or did they come up with it on their own?

Just as each family is unique with it’s needs and wants, kitchens come in all shapes and sizes—and with that, have some common challenges:

Sometimes the layout is really cut and dry: there is only one place to put things—especially the appliances-- and you work with that.

Sometimes you have options, but because of doorways or low windows or the size of the room you have to make sacrifices and don’t really get the long expanse of counter you want or end up with an appliance that is out of the way.

Sometimes layout is perfect, but the choices of finishes just make the space look dated or trendy and within five years you are wanting to change things all over again! Unless you are a lover of the renovating process--and some people are--you generally don't want to go through the kitchen renovation process again so soon.

Check out this recent listing I saw (photo below). Because the back door is in the middle of the room, the sink is on one end, and the stove and fridge (facing the stove) are on the complete opposite sides of the room! Insanely NOT practical. These homeowners did the best they could considering the circumstances--the kitchen overall is well done...but if perhaps they had considered changing out the window on the right side of this photo to the door, and putting a window where the door is now their layout would be perfectly workable. A bit of extra work to do...but the results would have well been worth it!

Kitchen Renovation

When I look at a house (especially one I would consider buying), it is usually the kitchen that makes or breaks the whole house design and determines whether it is something I’d consider purchasing…or not. The fact that the kitchen in our house was workable, was a huge selling feature—we had walked away from many that had similar layouts with no dishwasher. But this kitchen had good bones and a floor that I could live with and because of that I was willing to go for it! To read about the crazy adventure we had purchasing this house check out this blog post!

Here is a before and after of my kitchen:

Kitchen Renovation
Kitchen Renovation

The kitchen is not only the heart of the home but can add to your home’s value exponentially, so I would think that it would be of great importance to get the best design options in place to make your kitchen renovation work for a long time.   When I approach a kitchen design, it is not only the finishes that make it “good” or “bad”, it is the layout as well. Is there enough counter space to work? Where are the major appliances placed and are they convenient? Where is the sink and is there enough space around it to actually do the dishes? Is there a pantry? Sufficient drawers and storage options? There are many, many elements that can make or break a kitchen design, and its important to get them right for the kitchen not only to be visually pleasing, but also hardworking and functional for everyday use.

I recently did an online “survey” of sorts, just to gather some information about what people’s process would be if they were to consider a kitchen renovation. Would they look on Pinterest or Instagram? Would they hire a professional? Who would the professional be? A contractor or Interior Designer? Would they work with a big box store, a family friend, a specialty kitchen designer? Or just tackle the whole design themselves? Or a combination of things? I asked on my business page, on a business-owner Facebook group and a community Facebook group as well. Overall, I received 57 comments on my question and I thought I’d share it with a you all!

Here are the results!

  1. Friends of Family 24%
  2. Big box store 16%
  3. Kitchen Design Center 10%
  4. Contractor 22%
  5. Interior Designer 34.5%
  6. Personal choices 34.5%
  7. Online Inspiration--like Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz 47%

Overall, 47% of those that commented said they would use several of these sources to come up with the final design for the kitchen renovation. Almost everyone said they would start online and look for inspiration there, and from that go to a designer, contractor or big box store to complete their designs. Some people said they would choose someone based on a referral from a friend or colleague; some would go to magazines for ideas, and some would visit model homes for inspiration as well. The participants also said that it all boiled down to what THEY wanted—it had to suit them and their tastes.

In truth, a good kitchen design would probably utilize all the options above to get the best results possible. Not everyone has the time to put into this, but if you do your research well, you will get the best results and a kitchen that works and meets your needs as a family. Here are my 3 Designer tips to consider before renovating your kitchen.

Home Renovation

1. Get inspiration & Do your Research

Go to the big box stores, kitchen showrooms, model homes and websites of choice to gather ideas about the finishes you like, but also layout ideas, customization options, door styles, color combinations that appeal to you the most. etc. And take notes! You may like many different things, but there is usually a common element that brings it all together and should guide your final choices. At this point, you can ask your friends and family their thoughts, as sometimes they can see things that you don’t and can help refine the options you have available.

Also asking people that have gone through a reno what their experience was like can be gold. It can give you a more realistic expectation and also advise you on pitfalls to avoid and ways to make things work during the process. If you like the finished look of their kitchen, ask for referrals of where they purchased certain items or who they worked with…word of mouth is the BEST way to connect with someone new.

2. Hire a Professional…or Two!

Whether you choose to go with a specialized kitchen designer or a family friend that owns their own business, CHOOSE WISELY. Yes, I am saying that loudly and emphatically! The trust factor is huge in a renovation and you want to be confident that when you are not there, whoever is in charge is looking out for your interests, and not cutting corners or doing a sloppy job. It’s you that must live with this so getting the job done properly and to code is of the utmost importance!

I would also suggest that if you hire a General Contractor, that you also consider an Interior Designer as well (yup…gotta toot my own horn a bit!). Some companies offer this service included in their package, others do not; but if you can afford it, (even for a consultation on a smaller job) it can make or break your final kitchen design.

In my humble opinion, it isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity.

Some designers offer shopping services where they will take a day and meet with you to iron out your finishes, so your space is all you dreamed it would be and you have their keen eye and design experience to help you get it all just right without having them oversee the entire job.

And I want to add one more thing…a contractor is not a designer. They can offer tips and ideas that can make the space functional, but he/she likely doesn’t have the same level of training that an Interior Designer has regarding finishes, durability, and how to create the inviting atmosphere crucial to the design of the home. Please remember that!

3. Think Long Term

Families grow and change, and with that so do the needs of the most hard-working room in your home. When planning, think ahead 5 or 10 years and make decisions that will work best for the future. Even if you know that you may not be living there for too much longer, consider what would be best for resale value.

The finishes make a HUGE impact on the room, so consider carefully what works with your home overall, the style you like best, and what works practically for your lifestyle. Shop around and consider all your options for cabinetry, counters, backsplashes, flooring, appliances and lighting. These are such key defining elements in a kitchen and when one of them doesn’t work well, it can throw off the entire design! No one wants to work in an under-lit kitchen or have a backsplash that stains the first time you make tomato sauce. Some people love the patina that marble counters offer, others would be bothered every single time they see that mark or stain.

No matter what happens, eventually a kitchen design will become worn and dated; but with the right choices in the cabinetry door style and counters, a more cosmetic update will be much easier than having to start all over…again. These are all important details to consider before a kitchen renovation so don’t be overwhelmed!  Just like my survey showed, ultimately, it is YOUR home and the kitchen should reflect you and the needs of your family—now and for many years in the future!

Turth be told, we are actually just in the baby stages of considering a kitchen renovation of our own and are trying to decide whether we go full tilt and put on an addition, or just keep things as they are and live with it. Do we plan to be here for another five years, or will we invest now and make this space work better for our family for 10+ years? Next blog post I will share with you my design plans and all the options we are considering, so stay tuned and don’t miss a post! (Another shameless plug to sign up to receive every blog post and special offer in your email…just click on the link on the bottom of this page!)

Just for fun I included some inspiration images....just incase your are in the "baby" stages just like me! 🙂

Photo Sources: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7

Header Image by Vanessa Jeakins Photography

Kitchen RenoKitchen RenovationKitchen Renovation
Kitchen Renovation

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