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Advice for building a kitchen from scratch?

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My fiance and I bought a house here in Philadelphia and it is a real fixer upper. We are tearing down the current kichen and rebuilding it. The dimensions will be 8 1/2 ft. long by 14 ft. wide so it's not going to be big. In that we have to squeeze all of our applainces and a back door. I was hoping for advice in terms of clever ideas you would change or have used in your own kitchen to save space, make life easier, and any general advice. Not really looking for appliance ideas, I subscribe to consumer reports and recently they produced an issue on applainces which we will use as a guide. The budget isn't huge either. To give an example of something that would be helpful could be the suggestion of lighting under the cabinets. Any ideas, tips or hints would be appreciated. Thanks

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  1. My advice would be to seek out a local design store and have them do the space planning for you. Many of these stores do it for free. You won't be obligated to buy anything from them. This in itself will save you a world of sorrows, believe me. I work for an architect and I can assure you that proper planning is the key to a smooth functioning kitchen.

    When we re-did our kitchen, we did just this (didn't use my firm, they were too busy, alas, to help, what a gyp!). As it turned out, we bought our cabinets from the planner - but they were so deeply discounted through them it was worthwhile.

    Take your time, don't rush. Go to design centers and see what you like. Think about how you'll use your space, what "extras" matter to you. For instance, I wanted a lot of pull-out drawers, because I have trouble bending - very glad I did this. I also wanted glass front in some cabinets to display my collection of Fiestaware. These kinds of things make your space personal.

    Think about things which can do double-duty. We had a small odd space near our refrigerator, which is also near the entry to our garage, which we turned into extra food storage, but it looks more like a piece of furniture, because the top is set back with small knick-knack drawers and it has a granite shelf protruding from it. The drawers solved the problem of where to stuff coupons, small odds and ends, and the shelf is a place to throw down keys, small bags, etc. when walking in from that door plus the extra food storage top and bottom.

    Hope this helped :-)

    1. http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/...

      this site is specifically for people who are building/remodeling kitchens...it is a goldmine of into & experience!

      1. We did a couple of things with our very small kitchen in our 1928 built house. In the corner we have a "lazy susan" cabinet, 2 circular 'lazy susans" that hold a lot and are easy to use. One cabinet, the one we use for pans, trays, etc has 2 pull-out shelves (they are on rollers) making it easy to get to whatever pan you're after. Our microwave is on a microwave shelf below a half cabinet therefore not taking up counter space. We did 3 glass front cabinets which seem to add depth to the kitchen. Also did undercabinet lighting which reduces the need for extra overhead lighting.

        Have fun and most of all have patience, it always takes about twice as long as you plan on it taking.

        1. Our house is 68 years old. The kitchen is charming but has very little counter space to work on. We use a table as work space. On the back of the door to the hall, we have an enclosed peg board. It is like a cabinet on the back of the door. Nearly all my utensils hang there.

          Have your cabinets go all the way to the ceiling. Put the rarely used stuff up top.

          My last house had applicance garages. I loved that. The electical plugs were in the garage, and the appliance was always ready to go. But out of sight. We also had two dishwashers, and two sink areas each with a disposal. It was wonderful for entertaining.

          Get the deepest sink you can. Those crab pots need depth to wash. And when you pick out your stove hood, be sure to listen to them on high speed. You want the motor remote from the kitchen area. Vent a Hood has the quietest I have found.

          You can put a little pop out shelf in front of your sink. It could hold tuffys, Scotch brite pads, etc

          Do get a pro to help you. This is a huge investment that you will have to live with for a long time.

          good luck.

          1. Lots of custom cupboards/drawers for sheet pans, pot lids, whatever. Personally, I don't like the lazy susan corner cabinet idea -- things are always jamming/falling off. Instead, we have a jointed door that folds out, making access to the corner cabinet easy.

            If you are tall and thinking about raising your counter height, think again. We did this, and it's been a big headache with every appliance, dishwasher to stove. I suspect that if you live in New York or another big city, you can probably find contractors who can deal with this. We have not been fortunate here in our small town.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              In eight years I've never had a "jam up" with the "lazy susan" cabinet." In fact, it's a God send since we have no pantry. Our cabinets do go all the way to the ceiling complete with crown molding. Oh, the lazy susan cabinet does have a jointed door.

              We put in a Franke stainless sink, very deep, don't own a pot I can't get in it. Franke is a bit more expensive but they make the best stainless sinks you can buy.

              We did granite countertops but have have Corian and it's also outstanding.

              1. re: rtmonty

                I regret not putting in the lazy susan in my corner cabinet. I thought it wasn't a good idea at the time, thought I was losing storage space by doing it. Now, my knees are so bad and I can't bend to get into the far reaches of the cabinet as is. So, we're seriously thinking of adding the lazy susan - 4 years after the fact.

            2. You can never have too much storage or counter space. Get creative with storage. If you cook a lot, you always can use more storage.

              A closet nearby the kitchen can make a great pantry.

              Pull outs or drawers are 100% better than shelves for below-counter storage. You can utilize the entire storage area. Definitely use a lazy susan or similar feature in any corner. Rev-a-shelf below makes great ones. I've never had a problem with them and its the only way to really utilize the far reaches of the corner cabinet.

              A garbage can built into the cabinetry is extremely convenient if you can swing it. If you can line up the dishwasher, sink with disposal, and built-in garbage can all together with counterspace on top, you have a great food prep area.

              For innovative storage options, check out www.rev-a-shelf.com

              1. Is it possible for you to live with what you already have for a while to make a very complete list of what you want? If the project must be started ASAP, waste no time and look at every European kitchen design book/magazine you can find. Those countries are notorious for tiny yet very workable kitchens. Even a stroll through IKEA may yield clever solutions. Also visit the most luxurious and costly supplier in your area for more ideas - you don't have to buy there, just look look look. Keep your eyes and mind open. Think multi-use when you look at something. Lose preconceived notions about space-wasters like canisters, etc. (Store the flour & sugar elsewhere.) Canisters will clog your counters and there can NEVER be too much counter space.

                Look at all surfaces as possibilities - horizontal and vertical. If you have the wall space, pegboard can be used for utensils freeing drawer space for something else. You can hang your knives on the wall with a magnetic strip. My measuring cups and spoons are wall-mounted. I lowered my cooktop. When I'm shaking copper saute pans and peering into the stockpot on the back burner, it is the perfect height for me. (I'm not the industry standard, a 6' tall male.)

                I'm lucky enough to have a generous space, yet utilized many ideas from tiny kitchens. EX: a vertical wire pantry from Sweden that uses space that could otherwise be the broom closet (keep the broom elsewhere). It is accessible from two sides and holds an amazing amount of daily-use stuff - flour, salt, oil, vinegar, etc in a 15" wide cabinet. Spices are in a smaller version slotted beside the cooktop. Most all my plates, bowls, etc are in drawers because I like it this way - they open with one finger and there is no reaching.

                Under-cabinet lighting is great and you should know the cabinet directly above will get warm so this is not the place to store chocolate. NB: if you have full backsplashes in a shiny material such as SS or polished granite, the fixtures themselves will reflect on the backsplash when they're turned on. Good to know before you learn this the hard way.

                Read the post titled "What is the most useless gadget in your kitchen" and throw away/donate most of those things! Give houseroom to only those items you love and use often. This will make your storage requirements easier to fufill.

                My "pantry" is a wall full of four inch deep shelves located in the adjacent cookbook library. The space would be unusable for most anything else (doors open onto this wall) and is perfect for canned goods. Nothing ever gets lost because it is only one can deep and I can see what I have at one glance.

                Using standard sizes, when feasible, is less costly than custom sizes. Keep an open mind - just because the cabinet is listed in the "bathroom" section of a catalogue doesn't mean it cannot be used in the kitchen. It will likely be lower (33" VS 36") but this could be a boon for some uses. Bigger is not always better. A friend of mine learned a very expensive lesson when she decided to make all her kitchen counters 33 inches deep -- she cannot reach her upper cabinets now.

                My son and his wife are five months into their three month kitchen remodel. This is standard as there are always surprises in an old house. Have something in mind for your "temporary" kitchen. Eating out all the time gets real old quickly. A temp. refrig in the bedroom is better than no fridge at all. Good Luck!

                1. We're going to be redoing our 50s galley kitchen after Christmas. We're restricted on what we can do by the roofline and entry to the house. No space for the kitchen to expand. However, we will be relocating the adjacent laundry and creating a generous pantry. That will give us more storage and mean what counter there is will be uncluttered.

                  I am also lowering the counter height on the cabinets in the new pantry so I have a baking area at kneading height. And, since it's already plumbed for the washer, I'm going to have a small sink for water and washing up. I considered a one-drawer dishwasher but a single drawer is as expensive as the full sized one that will be steps away in the kitchen.

                  Hope you'll be able to look around and find there might be additional space even if it isn't right in the kitchen proper.

                  1. I only have one advice and it deals with appliances.

                    Most people don't realize that professional equipment is available at very good prices. There is a HUGE used restaraunt equipment industry in all major cities. You can usually get Viking or other pro ranges and equipment at huge discounts.

                    So if you are not afraid of doing a LOT of research and not afriad of buying used appliances, check it out.

                    1. Sounds like you may have a townhouse kitchen. If so, think about noise. The acoustics can be a real problem with hard surfaces - contemporary cabinets, SS appliances, granite, tile, glass, etc. - and not easy to remedy once the job is done.
                      Also flooring - tile or other hard surfaces look great but are really hard on your back, feet and legs when you stand for long periods. Look at hardwood, bamboo or other resiliant solutions. Or be prepared to use rugs or restaurant fatigue mats.

                      Offer to help your friends cook so that you can use their kitchens. Great way to learn what works and doesn't for you.

                      A lot of choices are really personal preferences:
                      My neice has an extra deep sink that makes my shoulders and back ache when prepping. She chose it for washing big pots. I have huge pots that I handle easily in my shallow sink with a sprayer hose. Same problem, different solutions.

                      You can get amazingly good semi-custom cabinets today through Lowe's, etc. that look almost identical to some of the high-end custom stuff. You just have to take the time to really go through the catalogues. The difference is 1000s of dollars. You might actually do well using them. I even know some professional renovators who have used them because they are very cost effective.
                      How long are you going to be in this house? Think about re-sale before you make it too personal or over-customize. Someone else isn't going to pay for your dream kitchen. But don't cheap out either.
                      We're doing 10 kitchens in a condo project and the designer is doing one larger breakfront-like cabinet as a focal point in each one rather than just plain vanilla kitchens. Not a lot of money but it really made a difference.
                      Do something that will make that kitchen stand out without making it weird.