Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kitchen Remodel: The Design Session

We had collected some catalogs and brochures of different cabinetry and counter top products to take home and discuss before our meeting with the designer. We had all agreed upon Honey Spice Maple cabinets with the Stratford Cathedral style. We needed something light, but not as light as natural, because we wanted our kitchen to look classy, not country. We're trying to get away from the cabin look. White was out of the question based upon the problems we've had with fingerprints and grease splatter. For me, it was just a matter of deciding whether we wanted Mocha highlights to bring out some contrast on the cabinets, or whether we should stick to the basic Honey Spice stain.

However, things can never be that simple. It turned out that the the cabinets we chose did not come in the sizes we needed to fully fill in the wall space in our kitchen. If the cabinet dimensions do not fit the kitchen dimensions, you just have to pick another brand of cabinets. The designer showed us our options. He pointed out that Honey Spice looks a bit plastic on the tighter grains like Maple, so we might want to consider Honey Spice on a different type of wood, such as Hickory. After he said that, I was looking at these cabinets from a different perspective. The Hickory had more variations in its grain, but the Honey Spice stain came out looking more yellow and less red on that wood. I wanted a warm hint of red, but not something as heavy as Cherry.

We picked out a different brand in Hickory, only to find out that they didn't have cabinet dimensions that fit with our kitchen dimensions too. There was one last brand of cabinets we could consider, but it didn't have the cathedral style. The closest style was an arch, which is what we have in our kitchen right now. We were hoping for something different with curves, because the boxy or rectangular grooves just seem too severe. The designer said that the cathedral style was falling out of popularity, so most brands are discontinuing it. That's my life story. My taste never seems to be in line with the rest of the teeming masses.

Our issue with curves, insets and overlays is how much dust will get caught in the grooves. When I raised this issue with the designer, he made a face of disgust. My husband explained that it doesn't matter how much cleaning we do. It's all in vain, because we live in a high wind area on a dirt road, and the dust settles quicker than we can wipe it up. So, we wanted some design on the cabinets to add character, but with a minimal number of corners, deep groves, and flat surfaces where dust can make itself at home. So, we chose an arch design with a long gradual slope to the groove.

Fortunately, Thomasville Cabinetry did have the dimensions we needed for our kitchen. They did not have a Honey Spice stain, so we needed to choose between Wheat or Cider. Cider had more red and less yellow, so we settled on that. Our designer lent us an extra door in that stain and style for us to take home. Once home we discovered that the color might be too dark for our kitchen. I was hoping the wood would match the wood in our new blinds, but the blinds are lighter. We may have to settle on the lighter, Natural color instead. Fortunately, we can change our minds as much as needed until the cabinets are actually installed. Our only time pressure is that we get $1,000 off our purchase in a special deal that ends in January of 2010. No problem there.

During the course of our design session, the man informed us that our kitchen ceiling is 3/4" lower than the standard amount, which results in the the upper cabinets having to be flush with the ceiling and being closer to the counter tops than normal. Our house was slapped together by some guy who never bothered to check for standards so that the people who lived in the house after him have to suffer through bringing everything up to code as soon as something breaks. Whether it's the plumbing, installing new appliances, or hanging a door, we always discover that nothing fits. Little jobs turn into big jobs in a hurry, because we can never just replace the one item that is the cause of the problem. We have to replace everything around it.

Other challenges we met during the design session involved making decisions about which side to place the hinges on each cabinet. Fortunately, our designer had a lot of experience and could point out the pros and cons of each side. You have to think about keeping open cabinet doors out of your way when you are unloading the dishwasher or cooking on the stove.

We also discovered that we had to relocate our trash compactor in order to get a cabinet we wanted. The designer did help us solve a big problem we've had with our current kitchen design. We have two very deep blind cabinets on the bottom corners on each side of our sink. That means you open the cabinet, and you can see what's directly in front of you, but then the cabinet stretches way out off to the side into darkness, where you can't see anything that is back there. Plus you can't reach that far back to grab things without climbing into the cabinet and without the risk of being bitten by Black Widow spiders. I suspect we own some stuff that we don't even know about, because we've been too lazy or too afraid to dig that deep.

The designer said that we couldn't avoid those deep cabinets in the corners, but we could install a shelf the swings out in order to allow two trays to roll out from the blind part of the cabinet. That way there is no reaching into darkness. You just roll the contents out into the light. Very cool.

Another big project involves the ovens. We currently have an apartment-sized wall oven, a built-in microwave above it, and a stove top on the counter top. We need a normal sized oven, and if we consolidate the oven and stove top, placing a built-in microwave above them, we would have more room for cabinets and counter tops. By taking this approach, we were able to extend our counter space to be double what it is now.

We wanted to extend the kitchen without having to hire a contractor to knock out the wall, so we decided to add cabinets on each end of the current cabinets, which means encroaching on some space in our dining area. When you consider that we have food sitting on the floor next to our dining area, we really aren't taking any space away. We are just cleaning it up and putting the food behind closed doors. However, after much debate, we decided not to add cabinets on one side, because the current cabinets go right up to the end of the wall, and an extra cabinet would stick out at an odd angle with no wall between it and the hallway. Instead, we will probably get a temporary utility cart. On the other side, we are adding rounded cabinets, so that there are no sharp edges we can hit our heads and hips on when getting up from the dining table.

Of course, in the midst of this kitchen redesign, our refrigerator has gone on the fritz. Water is pooling in the bottom of it, and I have to soak it up with paper towels every day. We have an old top-of-the-line Magic Chef that has served us well for 20-some years. We love this refrigerator, with the exception of the fact that the ice maker takes up 1/3rd of the freezer space. Cramming stuff into the freezer after a marketing has been a weekly drama. So, anything new that we purchase will require more freezer space. We all have back problems, and/or knee problems, so we do not want to have to be bending over to dig frozen foods out of a drawer on the bottom. That leaves us with the choice of getting another smaller freezer on top or a side-by-side.

We looked at refrigerators and are thinking of getting an LG side-by-side model. We need to do more research, though, so hopefully our old Magic Chef will hold out until we make up our minds. Of course, having our refrigerator bite the dust subtracts another unexpected $1,000 from our kitchen remodel budget. We already know that we have to get a new stove and microwave set. That' going to be another $1,500. Our dishwasher hasn't been cleaning very well ever since the well pipes broke. It's probably dirt in the filter, but if we can't resolve it, that will be another $1,000 for a new dishwasher. The cost of the kitchen cabinets added up to be $8,200 plus tax. Labor is expected to be around $3,500 to install the kitchen cabinets. The designer wouldn't even give us a quote for the kitchen counter top we picked out, because we were already in a panic when we found out that the cost of the cabinets didn't include installation. Now my husband is talking about installing the cabinets himself.

Regarding counter tops, we've been told that granite is no longer considerably more expensive than the granite substitutes. They have comparable prices, so you may as well get the real thing. I'm not willing to consider a tile counter top as an option, since we managed to crack most of the tiles on our old counter top. We need something tough. We have wood counter tops in our bathrooms, and they have a black gunky build up in the cracks in the grain and water damage. I suppose we were supposed to be sealing the wood all these years, but maintenance is one of those things that we don't think about, none-the-less have time for. Once we get to the point of discussing counter tops, we'll have to consider the maintenance requirements carefully. I know some of them needed to be sealed regularly while others came with a coating that lasts forever.

Then, if we decide to follow through on new cabinets, counter tops and appliances, the next step will be to save up for new floors. I wonder how many years that will take? You almost have to take out a home loan just to be able to afford to fix up your current home. The reality is that this kitchen remodel is necessary in order to put our house in sellable condition, however if we spend all that money, we won't have much left over for a down payment on a new house. So, we've got some heavy thinking to do.


fernvalley01 said...

That is why I sat on my plans for so long! when I added up the costs it scared the bajeebers out of me , I am pleased with the deal I got on my apliances though fridge stove dishwasher and a new badly needed dryer $3700. all stainless steel fridge is an LG. What I did is picked it all out then waited for a big sale at sears( I hava an in my sister works there ) Saved a bunch!

Breathe said...

Kitchen remodel is the single most expensive thing you can do to your house.

It seems like you are picking things with an eye to stay there, rather than move. With the idea of living with these things for only a year at most, would that change your spending and the items you're selecting?

Also try going directly to a cabinet maker. They are sometimes much less expensive.

photogchic said...

I would do your floor first. I had a very similar kitchen and I hated everything in it. I did the floor and then the cabinets were tolerable. But that new plan looks pretty awesome...beautiful wood.

Paint Girl said...

I hate tile for a kitchen counter, grout lines with food and everything else used in the kitchen etc, just don't mix. I love granite and will be doing that someday in my kitchen! So easy to care for and clean.
Also any kind of remodeling you do in your kitchen is going to greatly improve that space, plus if you do put your house up for sale, the kitchen is usually what sells the house!! So definitely do the remodel if you can!! It will probably be the most expensive remodel, but will totally be worth it, whether you sell or not!!

Leah Fry said...

Suggestion for the floors: when we built our place, I did a lot of work on the back end, including shopping at surplus places. I got my tile for less than $1 each. If you've seen my "En La Casa" pix, you know it's gorgeous. Often, the surplus places have contractors they'll recommend to install it. I also bought my plumbing fixtures there.

Mrs Mom said...

I like the new design- it sure opened things up for you.

Having sympathy pains along with you at the sheer size of the project/ costs/ etc!!

Callie said...

Wow, what plans. I so wish we could get to our kitchen , drives me nuts!

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Katharine Swan said...

^ You got spammed.

Kitchen remodel is one of those things we want to do to our house, too, but never seem to have the time or the money. However, if it makes you feel better, it's supposed to be one of the few remodels that you can do and get the entire cost of the remodel, if not a little extra, back out of the house when you sell it.

If it's a choice between remodeling your kitchen and not having a down payment for a new house, or not remodeling your kitchen and not being able to sell the house, I'd just go ahead and do it -- at least that way you will be stuck in a house with a nice kitchen!