Tag Archives: kitchen remodel

The Outdoor Heart of the Home

Whether one credits the perpetually growing interest in culinary expression spawned by reality shows and networks dedicated to all things edible or the inability to sell one’s house because of the down housing market, one thing is certain: Outdoor kitchens are trending upward.

In fact, the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects’ “Home Design Trends Survey” for second quarter 2010 highlighted outdoor-living spaces as a bright spot in an otherwise economically bleak report. The survey noted a scaling back in other special renovation project categories. Residential architects, however, expressed excitement and opportunity in outdoor-living-space projects in the survey, saying it rivaled only home offices in levels of popularity among home renovators.

As 2012 begins stronger economically than the past several years, it reasons that outdoor-living projects will spark even further interest within the home renovation industry. And, because kitchens are considered the heart of the home, most homeowners seem to look here first when wanting to replicate an aspect of their house in an open-air setting.

As with a more traditional interior kitchen, having a basic understanding of how the space for an outdoor kitchen will be used is integral to successfully approaching its design.

Typically, the design might flow around a cooking unit of some kind. While gas grills alone can run the gamut from inexpensive to luxurious, more considerations become possible all the time. Wood-fired pizza ovens are the latest craze, and some manufacturers are now making convection ovens and wood-burning rotisserie grills with features that make them suitable for outdoor use. In addition, identifying a theme—whether Tiki bar, palatial stone or wooded rustic—will help unite the overall direction of the project.

Of course, with an exterior space, bigger factors also must be considered. In what kind of climate is the home located? Location is not necessarily a limiting factor; outdoor kitchens can be created and utilized from Maine to California. However, understanding weather patterns for the area and what the owner expects from the space is critical to determining the appropriate construction and amenities. Incorporating a separate heating element may be desired to help extend the practicality of the space. Additions, like wood-paneled roofs, may be necessary to protect the area from precipitation and shade it in summer heat.

Landscaping is another factor not considered in the typical interior kitchen renovation, but critical to the exterior one. An outdoor kitchen should sustain harmony between the interior and exterior, perhaps through inclusion of elements of the structural exterior as well as the natural environs. Conferring with a landscaper in this regard may prove valuable to the overall process.

Depending on the space and budget, even more amenities can be added to provide the convenience of inside to an alfresco setting. Outdoor refrigerators, sinks and cabinets prevent the hassle of running back and forth for supplies or ingredients. Weather-resistant couches, lounge chairs and even televisions can create an entertainment venue. Adding an exterior sound system also cultivates a unique mood as does exterior lighting, like lanterns, spotlights or pagoda lighting, which should be chosen to match the developed theme.

Choose materials that are durable, low-maintenance and virtually impervious to weather. Concrete, marble, stainless steel, and solid-surface or acrylic-based materials are good choices. Now is a great time to be in the market for such items because more companies are identifying the outdoor-living trend and expanding their product lines to cater to this growing niche.

No matter what direction an outdoor kitchen project follows, opportunities abound to recreate the heart of the home—and enjoy outdoor living—virtually year-round.

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Planning Your Kitchen So You Get the Right Fit

Like tailoring for a fitted jacket, a fitted kitchen is planned, built, and/or fixed to properly fill or cover a specific space and shape. To achieve a pleasing, functional, and affordable design it is important to find the appropriate measure of planning, creative foresight, and implementation techniques to ensure success with your project.

Creative foresight means selecting countertops, wood finishes, cabinets, flooring and even door handles in the right colors and textures to pull off that picture-perfect new kitchen.

Kitchen Blueprint

The first critical step to building your kitchen design plan is having precise dimensions and understanding the layout of the space you are ultimately looking to build or to fit.

Like our human body, we can’t change the shape without major reconstruction, so if knocking and rebuilding walls is not in the cards for your new kitchen, expect to work with the existing shape. The most common spaces are classified as L-Shape, Galley, U-Shape, and G-Shape.

• L-Shape: As the name suggests, your kitchen layout is in the shape of an L with cupboards and worktops on two sides and a corner. Use of a carousel in the corner is important to minimize loss of functional space.

• Galley: A galley kitchen layout means two parallel counter surfaces usually running the length of the kitchen.

• U-Shape: Again, as the name suggest, this layout is in the shape of a U and typically combines the L-Shape and Galley. The U Shape has cupboards and workspace on three adjoining sides.

• G-Shape: With space usually at a premium, a G Shape layout has work surfaces on two walls and a third coming off at an angle.

In addition to the shape or layout, it’s important to understand the special relationship between the three classic kitchen workflows. Sometimes referred to as the kitchen triangle, the three points of the workflow or action are 1) sink, 2) stove/oven, and 3) refrigerator. A well designed kitchen will permit the cook to move unimpeded between these three points within a short distance.

Shape and layout needs to be accompanied with precision dimensions. Knowing the size of appliances is only a small portion of completing your kitchen’s blueprint. Measuring a room incorrectly is the most common cause for fitting problems. Quality fitted kitchens will utilize every inch within the kitchen and like a good recipe, plans for the right ingredients.

• Measure twice, cut once – When in doubt, leave it to the experts to get the final measurements but start with an outline and know the boundaries of your kitchen space. Remember to include height along with length and depth. Just as your walls are most likely not straight, plumb, or square, neither is your ceiling likely to be level.

• Windows – If you are lucky to have one or many, do they open in or out, slide up or down? Make sure the window is not obstructed by a faucet or competes with the height of an appliance.

• Furniture and Free-Standing Islands – Like the built-in portion of your kitchen, if you have space to include movable items like table and chairs, or free-standing work islands, know these dimensions so they can also be incorporated into your kitchen blueprint.

• Taps & Outlets – It’s so much easier to plan this right the first time, rather than to refit a mistake. Like planning the placement of your appliances, account for the measurements and spacing of water taps, waste disposal, electrical sockets, ventilation, fuse boxes, and gas inlet valves, just to name a few.

Like so many things in life, there may not be a right way or wrong way to implement your complete fitted kitchen. Know your strengths and be conscious of your limits. Let the costly mistakes be minimized, hire professionals to help you execute your dream space, rather than find yourself ‘fit to be tied!’

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Decorating with Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are one great option for adding color and style to your home.  The variety of styles and types give them greater versatility for all kinds of applications.

Ceramic tiles are among the most durable flooring options available.  A ceramic tile is a mixture of natural clays that have been molded and fired at high temperature.  Tiles are also now made from such recycle materials as auto windshields, fluorescent bulbs and ground glass.

Tile offers advantages over other flooring options such as marble and wood, including durability, resistance to fire and moisture, resistance to tread wear and abrasion, easy maintenance, slip resistance, thermal shock and color permanence. They are easy to clean and provide an upscale look to your living space.

Ceramic wall tiles are considered an ideal choice for counter top and wall applications.  These are glazed with a matte or semi-gloss surface.  They are available in designer styles, featuring luster painting, transfer painting and carving.  Sometimes they are inlaid with white pipe clay or mosaic in diverse patterns including seashells, leaves, flowers and even Asian mythological figurines.

They arrive in myriad sizes, shapes and colors.  The biggest challenge you may face will be whittling down the number of choices to a manageable few.  Take time to consider not just  the style that appeals most to you, but determine which are the easiest to clean and maintain.

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Value-Added Remodeling Projects

Before you undertake a home remodeling project, there are a few things to consider.

How long do you plan to remain in your home?  How will your remodeling project affect the resale value if you plan to move within the next few years?  The remodeling project that seems wonderful to you may not be considered a value-added project for potential buyers.

Keep within the bounds of your neighborhood.  For example, a $50,000 home theatre is neat to have, but if you live in a $100K-$200K neighborhood, this will not add much to your resale value, as you are outpacing and outpricing the area in which you live.

Similarly, game rooms, saunas, pool and bars generally have much lower resale values, since these aren’t every homeowner’s cup of tea.  If you plan to remain in your home for years to come and want to enjoy such amenities, they can be a great add-on.  If, however, you anticipate moving within two or three years or your career might easily take you to another city, these won’t be great investments.

Home offices, screened porches and refurbished basements are somewhat better choices, but experts advise using caution when undertaking projects such as these.  The return on investment is higher; some of these are partially tax deductible, and trends indicate a greater appeal for these items.  However, the general rule is to stick with the traditional; check with local furniture stores or even local realtors before adding something avant garde or unique.

Decks, fences and bathrooms are better value-added remodeling projects, increasing your home’s appeal and averaging an 80-90% return on investment.  Some of these are costlier undertakings, but compensate by increasing a property’s functionality.

Kitchens and bathrooms are considered the absolute top-of-the-line upgrades, with a return on investment somewhere around the 100-110% level.  Though again, analysts recommend caution.  Don’t outprice your home by installing appliances or high-end materials that far outstrip other homes in the area if there’s a good chance you won’t be staying there long enough to take full advantage of them.

Bottom line, of course, is to go with what your heart desires and what your pocketbook can tolerate.  But it’s always a good idea to proceed with caution and only after having done some careful research.

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Ways to Modernize Your Home

Modern design, with clean lines and a good connection to the outdoors is the leading housing trend these days.  Homebuyers are responding more to simple spaces that are light, soothing and uncluttered with the clean lines of a modern house.

A minimalist interior is the first step toward the modern style. Smaller spaces can be overwhelmed with stuff. Fewer things are easier to display and keep the focus on the architecture. Mid century modern furniture, with clean lines and functional design, is very popular. It is a perfect combination with a light, open interior. Sparse décor, hard surface floors, white walls, and lots of glass give a cleaner, simpler look.

Space for Living & Working

The downturn in the economy and the trend toward green living has led to more efficient use of space in homes. There is an interest in livability, rather than showiness. Bathrooms are smaller and more sensible, but closets are still generous. Formal living, media, or exercise rooms that are unconnected to other core areas tend to not be used. These spaces may be converted to studios or home offices. Buyers who work on line are growing in number, and they need work space at home.

New Countertops

In the recent past, to upgrade a house was to “granitize” it. Today, granite is moving aside in favor of new choices. Recycled glass and engineered stones are growing in popularity, in line with the green trend. Soapstone, long used in labs, is in demand. The organic look of limestone, concrete, and marble have a following. Stainless steel is a good fit with modern styles.

Retro Is Back

Updated mid-century modern homes are very much in demand. Geometric patterns and big flower designs from the 1950’s and 60’s are in. Older traditional homes can be updated with sleek finishes, such as industrial light fixtures, flat cabinet doors, hard surface floors, and exposed windows. Open shelving in kitchens are a good fit. Today’s flat screens fit in easily, and the trend is to have more of them in places like kitchens or baths. Modern design with a retro feel will be the leading edge in the next five years.

Grey is the new Neutral

Red and gold are out. Thick texture on walls is out. Heavy faux is out. White and off whites are in. Pastels are in. Taupe and grey are combined with white for a sophisticated look. Add a splash of deep color – turquoise, chocolate brown, plum – and you have today’s look. A soft organic pallet, such as cream, sisal, and raw wool is in. On wood, both the natural bare look and dark stains are used.

Hard Surface Floors

Hard surface floors are a part of the green trend. Carpets hold dirt, dust mites and other allergens. Concrete, stone, cork, natural linoleum, bamboo, and wood are popular floors today. Bamboo, which grows a foot per day, is attractive and sustainable. Ceramic tile continues to be a good fit for baths, and is being explored for kitchen counters. Large ceramic pieces set tightly together offers a new look with lots of new colors.

Outside is In

More than ever, buyers want to experience the outdoors. Large, sliding glass doors and screened porches have made a comeback. On tight urban lots, glass walls open the interior to a private yard. Backyard gardens, covered patios with outdoor kitchens, and pools are all desirable to today’s buyers.

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Your Complete Kitchen Planning Guide

The kitchen is the heart of your home and is more than just a place to prepare, cook, serve, and eat meals. Modern designer kitchens should be the ultimate representation of your lifestyle yet provide compete functionality.

When we say ‘lifestyle’, we really mean how will the kitchen be used and by whom? How much time do you typically spend preparing meals, what type of meals…gourmet or fast food? How are your meals prepared…made from scratch or pulled from the freezer and placed into a microwave? Are your meals eaten in the kitchen, a formal dining room, or in front of the television? Do you have pets to be considered in your new kitchen design? Do you have hobbies which also are done in the kitchen?

The best kitchen designs are laid out with work zones in mind. Using what’s called “the work triangle,” kitchen designers place everything from ovens and cooktops to sinks and refrigerators — as well as the cabinets themselves — within various zones. Space planning or work zones should be driven by your needs to maximize storage, accessibility and comfort in your kitchen.

• Storage Space – Is there enough? Storage should be accessible to people of all ages and it should accommodate work needs and storage preferences. Don’t overlook the important needs of handling your refuse, garbage, and recycling bins. Well designed storage spaces provide enhanced functionality for your kitchen.

• Work Zones – The basic work stations in your kitchen include a) storage for refrigerated and non-refrigerated items, b) cooking and/or heating, and c) meal preparation. Each work station must complement the other and the distance between each station should be as short as possible and without impediments.

• Open Floor Plans – Reflecting today’s more informal living; open floor plans are very popular in new and remodeled kitchens.  Open floor plans create new design opportunities and can help you eliminate bottlenecks, improve traffic flow, and even create a perception of more overall space within your home.

Your Kitchen – From Floor to Ceiling

• Cabinets – There are literally thousands of options to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets. Your task can be made easier by narrowing your options using these five things – Price, Material, Type, Color, and Style.

• Counter Tops have an enormous importance on the look and feel of your kitchen. The many choices available offer varying aesthetics, cost, weight, durability, and upkeep.

• Sinks – Material for your sink should blend with your décor; options include stainless steel, composite granite, cast acrylic, cast iron, and copper. The size of your countertop may limit your options for size and number of bowls within your sink. Drop-in or dual-mount sinks work well with existing countertops while undermount sinks offer a clean and stylish look with replacement countertops.

• Appliances are the workhorses in your kitchen. Appliances should be attractive, powerful, quiet, easy to clean, and safe. If buying new, look for super-high energy efficiency ratings to guide your choice.

• Flooring – The best time to lay a new floor is immediately after your old kitchen has been stripped out and your plumbing and electrical work has been completed. New flooring should cover the entire area, as the additional cost is negligible compared to the time it takes to cut around cabinets. Like your countertops, kitchen flooring should be durable, stain resistance, and complimentary to your overall décor.

• Lighting – Given the plethora of functions your kitchen performs, sufficient ambient and task lighting is critical. You need to have the correct lighting at all the conceivable spaces for whatever task may be done at that spot. The type of surface, which is being lit, will also have an impact to the lighting choices you need to make. Colors also play an important role in your lighting selections.

Your Kitchen – Delivery and Installation

Consult skilled experts in a variety of fields, especially if you plan your kitchen remodel as a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ project. Since a complete kitchen makeover can be a fairly expensive undertaking, it is recommended that you seek and use skilled professionals with design and installation expertise. If you do not select a full service company with this capability as your source, you must be prepared to serve as your own ‘scheduling contractor’ and perhaps, even purchasing agent. Consider these final tips to get the most value from your investment:

1. Put your plan to paper – draw a plan and make a list to help you determine costs.

2. Hire a reputable contractor experienced in complete kitchens. Get references and a timeframe in writing. Labor costs can be estimated at approximately 30% of the total remodeling job.

3. Do it yourself – coordinate with your contractor for the pieces of work which make sense based on your skill and experience in remodeling. Unless you are licensed, hire reputable plumbers and electricians.

4. Keep at least 10% of your budget for unexpected costs. Who knows what lies beneath those old walls or floors?

Buying a new kitchen is not something you do every day; plan wisely to ensure getting the most for your investment. Remember that fitted kitchen products and services are not ‘off the shelf’ items so make sure your plan also includes the delivery of items so installation is not stalled. A ‘build your plan’ and ‘follow your plan’ approach will ultimately save you money and provide you with the kitchen of your dreams.

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The Art of Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Doors

One of the more prominent features in a kitchen is the look of the kitchen cabinets.  As much or more than the appliances and the countertops, the doors on your cabinets define the character of the room and, by extension, the character of the family that lives and cooks there.

Glass in cabinet doors creates a more casual, open feeling, lending either a traditional or “retro” air to the room.  On a functional level, it enables both resident and guest alike to know at a glance where everything in your cupboards is located.

If standard glass seems boring or run-of-the-mill to you, you can add texture and color with leaded or stained glass.

There are multiple choices available in simple wooden door cabinets, as well.  You can opt for a recessed panel, raised or curved, beadboard or slab.  If you want an airier kitchen with a more relaxed feel, lighter-colored woods such as ash, birch, oak or elm will better suit your needs.  For a more austere and solemn feeling opt for a darker wood, such as maple or cherrywood.  Additionally, teak, mahogany and rosewood provide a nice variety in textures and hues.

Some woods take lighter stains better and can accent the grain of the wood to great effect.  Though polyester paint is a lesser-considered choice, it provides a glossy, shiny finish that lends a distinctive appearance to the kitchen’s look and feel.

A visit to a local home design shop or home improvement center can yield a wealth of ideas for cabinetry.  The choices are far-ranging, each bringing a unique look and feel to the room that is at the heart of your household.

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Soapstone Counters – A Popular Alternative

Soapstone counter tops are becoming a popular alternative to granite or quartz.  They require very little maintenance and blend well with many design themes.

Soapstone counter tops are durable, and heat- and stain-resistant, like granite.  They are simple  to install and nearly indestructible.  A unique feature is the ability to integrate a soapstone sink into the design, as well.

Also called steatite or soap rock, it is a metamorphic rock composted mostly of talc, and has been used for carving in many cultures for thousands of years.  Soapstone counter tops are smooth, but feel somewhat “soapy” when touched.  They are commonly used in chemistry labs and industrial kitchens since the material resists acid and does not stain or absorb liquids.

Soapstone is available in a limited color range, and the colors differ depending on where it  was quarried.  Untreated soapstone normally has a solid light green or gray color to it, but applying a coat of mineral oil can darken it to a shiny black.

It is easy to work with; virtually any custom size or shaped sink can be created.  Because it is chemical- and heat-resistant, regular household cleaners can be used without worry, but care should be taken when cutting or chopping, since nicks and scratches can occur.  Blemishes can be easily buffed out with sandpaper and mineral oil, however.

installing a new countertop, soapstone is a viable option with a lot of advantages.  You’ll enjoy its beauty and resiliency throughout years of use.

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Home Improvement Projects That Provide the Best Return On Investment

home-improvementWhen you give some thought to doing home renovation and other “touch-up” projects, it’s beneficial to consider both your own immediate needs and desires and also the improvements that will give added appeal to your house when the time comes to list it for sale. Here are some of the best ROI (“return on investment”) renovations you can make to your property:

1. Major Kitchen Remodels (75-85% ROI) .

Buyers want to envision themselves in a gorgeous newly renovated kitchen where they can actually see themselves preparing meals for their friends and family, where the kids nestle into a cozy banquette doing their homework, or where guests mingle around that gorgeous island.

A major kitchen remodel may need to include a new floor plan to improve on a poorly designed work triangle. Replacing cabinetry, appliances, lighting, flooring, finishes and fixtures and perhaps adding new French doors and windows are ways to grab a buyer’s attention. Kitchens and baths tend to be the costliest rooms to renovate, so this can be a particularly appealing selling point.

2. Family Room Additions (75% ROI)

The family room is the second most popular space in the home after the kitchen; most homes already have one, but if yours doesn’t, you can consider transforming an existing room (den, dining room, sewing room) into one. If space and your wallet permit, you can also consider putting an addition on your property. If you have a family room already, you might want to consider brightening it with renovations as French doors, floor to ceiling windows, or even a skylight. Perhaps it’s even possible to add a deck just outside the French doors? And speaking of decks…

3. Deck Addition (72-95% ROI)

Deck additions are quite possibly the best investments these days. They naturally transition the interior to the exterior, expanding your living space. The design can be as simple or elaborate as the home it’s attached to: Multi-leveled or single, built-in seating or casual seating areas, hot tubs, and outdoor kitchens. Decks are more popular than pools and relatively easy to build. Design it to complement the character of your home’s exterior architecture; it should be proportionate to the size of your yard. Be sure to incorporate energy efficient solar or LED lighting.

4. Main Floor Master Bedroom Addition (73% ROI)

Adding a 400 sq.ft. master bedroom suite and spa-like bath provides a private retreat and appeals to many home buyers. The trend is toward first-floor master bedrooms; empty nesters and others who no longer want to tackle stairs prefer to have their bedroom and bath retreat on the main floor level of the home. Immediate access to a gorgeous deck or patio outdoors also adds to the return.

P.S. Creating Home Office Space

There is a marked trend towards creating home offices, space that enables people not just to conduct “office work” at home, but also a sanctuary of sorts, a place free of distraction to pay bills or even to operate their own home-based business. Oftentimes, the least-used room in a house—the den, the spare room—can easily be transformed into a pleasant and productive workspace with a minimum of effort. Increasingly, buyers are drawn towards property that offers this option.

So while investing the time, effort and finances necessary to complete a few home improvement projects, do these with an eye towards what will add appeal to your house, not just for you and your family, but for potential buyers when the time comes for you to move to your next dream home.

Planning Your Kitchen Remodel

kitchen-remodelWhether you’re doing a major kitchen renovation or a moderate upgrade, planning a kitchen remodel can create an extremely stressful and challenging environment for everyone in the household. So before you hire the contractor or pick up a hammer, consider these valuable insider tips to help you make the best choices when tackling your kitchen re-design and avoid costly mistakes.

Do Your Research. – Do your due diligence and educate yourself on what’s out there in the design world and marketplace. There are an endless array of cabinetry, countertops, backsplash, appliances and flooring materials on the market – so get to know what works best for you. – Grab some kitchen design magazines, and focus on the styles of kitchens and interiors you’re drawn to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a window style, a cabinet detail, or a paint color you’re in love with. Just tear out the pages and make notes indicating what you specifically love about it. Is it the 6-burner stainless steel stove, those gorgeous French doors, or the overall kitchen layout? – Create an inspiration file and use this as your starting point. Once you know what you like, you will be more decisive in the planning stage and that will save you time and money.

Resist The Latest Fads. – Fads in products and interior design don’t have the longevity of an established style – or even a new trend – which could have a long-term influence. – For example: the glossy photo of the turquoise French Oven that you fell madly in love should stay on the pages of the magazine. Ask yourself: Will you still love that range in 10 years? A color like that will instantly date your kitchen – so opt for more timeless neutral colors and finishes. – Keep all the big-ticket items such as cabinetry, appliances and countertops more elegant and timeless – but dress up the backsplash for punch. If it’s that green “appletini” color you’re craving, paint out a wall or two and install some accent pendant lamps over the island to give your kitchen the color infusion you need.

Efficiency Is Key. – Design your kitchen for the way you really live and don’t sacrifice function for design. Of course your new kitchen should look spectacular but not at the expense of overall efficiency. Make it a working kitchen. Your kitchen layout should be top of your list of priorities and should be designed with precision planning and great attention to detail, making every inch count.

Don’t Do It Yourself. – The reality is that DIY projects typically take 3 to 4 times longer than a highly trained contractor to do the job, and eventually 20% of ambitious home remodelers will need to call for some professional back up – not just to complete the work, but repair the damage that the homeowners themselves have caused. If your kitchen renovation is more than staining, re-facing or painting your existing cabinets (and you’re not that handy) then hire a professional to do the job.

Remember: Careful planning and a little research before you jump into a major remodeling job will yield better, more satisfactory results, and a kitchen that you—and the next owner of your home—will find both beautiful and efficient.