Kitchen Renovation-Need some advice please.....
So my wife and I have decided to totally renovate the house, and we are in the beginning stages of planning our dream kitchen. As part of our wish list, we are going the route of a large open concept kitchen, complete with a centre island, breakfast nook and seating area...it should be nice. The only problem is that we aren't extremely knowledgeable about the high-end appliances that we are looking at. To put it in perspective, we're replacing the glass top Frigidaire range, and basic white GE fridge and dishwasher.
The only things that we have decided on for sure are the 36" Miele refigerator and Miele dishwasher.
The rest of the appliances are up in the air. We are looking for a duel-fuel 36" range (5 or 6 burners), a second wall mounted oven (obviously matching the range), ventilation hood, and dual-zone wine fridge to be located in the centre island. I'm sure that I can pick out the microwave :)
If anybody could kindly try and answer these questions:
1) We have narrowed the range/oven down to Wolf, Viking or Dacor. We have heard/read good things about the Wolf brand. The Viking ranges seem to have more reliability problems from what I understand. Dacor--they look good, but I'm not familiar with them. Opinions?
2) Should the hood match the range (as in the company). How many CFMs should I be looking for to handle the heat and cooking ventilation. Are chimney-style hoods less or more efficient, or is it just an esthetic difference.
3) Our sales associate was saying that a Kitchen-aid or Avant Garde wine fridge was just as good as the Sub-Zero or Miele, but at significantly less cost.
Buying these appliances can come out to the same price as buying an automobile, so I'm trying to do as much research as possible. What better place to look than the Chow boards that is full of people that love to cook and eat!!!!
Thanks in advance for any advice.
There were studies done about maximizing kitchens. They are available through the extension office in your local county. I've seen kitchens designed using those principles and they're awesome for working in.
Decide how much work you want to go through to maintain and clean your kitchen appliances. Then pick ones you're willing to clean. Some appliances look wonderful and are deadly to the soul to clean unless you have a person paid to do it. When picking sinks decide what you will be washing in it before you pick. I needed to clean smoker grates so I love my huge single stainless sink for soaking them in. I don't like how long my new high end oven takes to pre-heat--2o minutes! I also don't like how quiet the signal is. My husband is hard of hearing and we have to use additional timer because he can't hear the oven.
Try to find someone using the appliances you're thinking about and ask them the pros and cons for them.
You couldn't pry me away from my specific microwave--that sucker is awesome!!
I've had a lot of children around the kitchen. I sit them on the counter and turn on a burner and take their hand close to show them HOT. Because if you don't they don't have the slightest clue and HOT and other admonishments are meaningless. You have to train the child or they will visit other homes and other places and be in danger! Teach them never to open drawers and cabinets without permission. It is easy to do when they are toddlers. Crackle that diaper with a dainty swat. About twice usually does the job because the first time they aren't sure you're serious. It doesn't do any good to put knives in a drawer to keep children safe and then have a small child pull it open, over their eye level, and then feel around in it with their tiny fingers.
I loved my old cabinets but couldn't find anyone willing to even give me a bid on refinishing them. I found some fabulous stuff on-line to use myself. We also lined them with light colored wood veneer. For spices, we had a metal guy custom bend a four foot long self that was installed in the back. It will accommodate squared cans of spices, fat jars, and even some specialty things like egg slicers. It works very well. But my favorite thing is the dimmable under-the-cabinet lights. (IN my sister's kitchen I like the electric plug-in strips mounted on the wall up under the upper cabinets so she's never away from an outlet!) My kitchen came out lovely looking and for less than a couple thousand so far. All I need to do now is new drawer rollers. The drawers are so well made they only needed refinishing too. I can get a meal out in less than 30 minutes and cook for a harvest crew regularly.Good luck and happy fortune building a kitchen. A kitchen is the hub of your family's life.
Hopefully this is allowed on here and if not, I apologize ahead of time. :)
I thought I'd mention that we have a Wolf 60" Dual Fuel Range and a Sub Zero Pro 48 Refrigerator/Freezer for sale! They were installed in the house for 3-4 months but divorce caused the house to be sold and now the appliances. they both have 2-3 years of parts warranty left. We are asking $9500 each or if you purchase both we'll do a pkg price of $17,500. Obviously well below retail on both. We just want to end this chapter of our lives. They can be shipped locally or across the country. Email me for additional info or you can check out the listing we just put on the Minneapolis, MN craigslist. These are both in BRAND NEW condition and are currently displayed in a friends appliance showroom (he has them listed in the showroom for $12,500 each). We can send photos or if you are in the MN area you can stop by the showroom to see them.
Ok, so after a lot of research and a little bit of shopping, we have got a good idea on the appliances we are getting...
Definitely on the list:
1) Wolf 6-Burner rangetop-This is the most important item for myself. I like the fact that all of the burners have seperate gas lines. There is a true simmer function that is constantly lit with the burners, and doesn't come on intermittently. We are also going with non-sealed burners because the cleanup would be simpler.
2) Miele 36" Refrigerator-Lots of space. Excellent lighting system and easily adjustable shelving. Dual compressors and sturdy hinges. We also just like the look and handles of the fridge.
3) Miele Diamante+ dishwasher with concealed control buttons. Once again, we love the design, and the whisper quiet operation. Also, our son won't be tempted to push buttons that he can't see.
4) Some kind of microwave-probably a large Panasonic with Inverter technology
Leaning towards, but still up for options:
1) LG Stainless Steel double wall oven-We're not professional bakers. We wanted something that performs well, and is reliable, but it doesn't have to be top-end equipment. We like the fact that the LG ovens are large, pre-heat quickly, and have multiple features of some more expensive ovens.
2) Vent-a-Hood wall mounted range hood-I don't know too much about this company, but they have been in business for 75 years. The noise from the hood isn't extremely loud, and the filter clean-up seems quite easy. We are possibly looking at a 42" with 900 CFM power.
3)Wine fridge-Still up in the air. But we were interested in the products by Liebherr and Marvel
Did I miss anything? Would appreciate any thoughts.
If you don't already you should know about this renovation site. http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/kitch...
There's a wealth of information there about materials, design and appliances. When I was doing my kitchen many of them were serious cooks. In any case, there's a lot of experience and innovation there to consider.
I have a Viking range that is ten years old. I'm very pleased with it. I think you need to consider if you want a self cleaning oven and if you want open burners or sealed burners. Those choices will help you narrow the field. You can save a fair amount by skipping the DF and going AG. A lot of marketing goes into the DF but unless you are baking away every day its not really worth the $ and you lose your gas broiler. Don't forget with DF you will need dual hook ups (220 + gas) in your kitchen.
Do you need a commercial style range? No of course not but it sure is nice.
The hood does not need to match but many want them to. I have a matching Viking hood.
No one can offer you any meaningful advice about hood CFM in the internet other than to say it should vent to the out side of your home if at all possible. How far the run of exhaust vent is and how many turns it will take will determine the CFM needed. This advice should come directly from the person who will do the install and not an appliance sales person. 600 + CFM is normal.
As far as wine fridges go if you have a basement or some place where you can put a free standing wine fridge I think that's a much wiser choice than a built in. If it fails in the future you may never find another unit exactly the same size to put in the opening.
Costco carries them at a fair price.
Hope this is and no matter what you get enjoy your new kitchen!
I agree about not trying to "match" appliances in Brand.
My cook top is separate from the oven and I prefer it that way. I have an older Dacor 6 burner gas cook top and love it. It has been working reliably for over 13 years. I had to have the pop up vent fixed once as it was "sticking" a bit as I have it box vented out the side of my house so I don't have a hood. I recently ordered a grill top and put it over the middle burners...works terrific. I like that Dacor can instantly send me new items for such an old appliance with no hassle. I don't have experience with the Dacor oven.
I have a newer, top of the line, Jenn Air convection wall oven and really like the many programmable features for proofing, drying, delayed cook, probe, etc. I do use most of the "fancy features" regularly. The JennAir oven needed a new seal around it in the first year of use- the repair guy said that it is a flaw on my model. Otherwise, they are reliable in his experience. This was 2008.
Above the wall oven I went with a GE Profile microwave (also convection) oven. That was a good purchase!
I also bought a Maytag fridge and have "so-so" feelings about that one. If I had it to do over again, I would have went with a much higher end fridge. Research your fridge and really understand how you use it. Mine "looked" like it would accommodate the many condiment jars in the side, but doesn't. I got the one with shelves that slide in and out and crank up or down- but not far enough to accommodate a wine bottle! Seriously..... take a tape measure.
I hear a lot of people like their Dacor cooktops. At this point I have no need or desire to replace the Viking, but when the inevitable happens (as it always does with appliances), I'd look at the Dacor. One thing I noticed about the models next to the Dacor ovens is that at least some of the Dacor have heavy-duty, 13"-grates. I only use all my burners at once for holiday dinners, etc., but for someone who does more frequently, those large grates would be very nice, I'd think.
I never really considered getting a separate cooktop and oven. I've always had a range.
Do people with the separate cooktops find it difficult to clean around the knobs when they are top-mounted? It seems like they can be subject to a fair amount of splatter in the areas where they are located.
When my parents built their new kitchen, they also originally planned for a range. I know my mother, and the things she yells for my dad to help her with, and mimicked her trying to life a 40 lb turkey out of the floor oven. After my pantomime, she changed the plan to a wall oven. The best placement for me is having the door open at my hip-height. This provides the most leverage for me to be able to lift the heavy items out of the oven. Since you are building your own, this may be something you'd want to consider. Ask your wife (sorry, this is sexist, so don't flame me) to put a beach ball under her shirt and lift a turkey-pound dumbbell from the floor.
Also, try and get over the idea of planning for the next 25 years. The sad truth is, the house could be destroyed, you could be transfered, you may need to make it disability-friendly.... and on and on.
Which is why I am going to again advocate that the most important part of your new kitchen is not the appliances, but the floorplan.
PS - Just take a damp rag to the knobs after making french fries and the grease comes right off. Also, ours is dishwasher friendly.
I totally agree that the floorplan will be the most important element of the kitchen design. There is no use having a well-equipped kitchen if there is no natural 'flow' that allows it to be used properly. The appliances are the next big items to consider...I'm just trying to get an idea of what we want to give the designer an initial concept to work with.
The 25 year thing....I'm just trying to get the point across that we're building this kitchen (and the whole house for that matter) for us and our family. We're not thinking of future resale, I'm self-employed and won't have to worry about transferring jobs, and we're in the neighborhood where I grew up. Of couse things (and appliances) will change over the years, but my point is that we're rooted here.
Thanks for your opinions though, they are very helpful in giving me direction where I have initially been a little lost. :)
Your tact in addressing my opinions is beautiful!
The best fridge we ever had was a GE from 1972. It lasted for 30 years until the above renovation. Of course, it was brown (to complement the harvest gold walls) but it worked like nothing else. The GE that replaced it was only so so, and the most recent fridge, a Whirlpool, lasted 4 months. The motherboard has been replaced twice. The most recent break was last Thursday, which necessitated an emergency trip to HD to buy a small temporary fridge.
Have you checked out Smeg? I think you need to be a little avent garde to like them, though. They...uh...do NOT blend in. :)
I agree with sedimental; they aren't difficult to clean around or under. I don't know about other manufacturers, but with the Viking, the knobs can be moved up and down on the shaft. So you can lift them up to wipe around them for your "everyday" cleanings. They also come off the shaft, so I run mine through the dishwasher every so often. But that's an excellent point you raise, so I'd check for that feature with any range, rangetop or cooktop you consider.
Wow, thanks for all of the opinions so far. I knew that posting on this board would generate a lot of discussion from many different points of view, but that is exactly what I need...a devil's advocate as well as reviews from people 'in the know.'
As far as why I chose to go high-end:
-We are not master chefs but my wife and I both enjoy cooking at home, and also enjoy entertaining quite a bit. We had to slow down the entertaining a bit with the arrival of our first child, but are hoping to ramp that up again as he gets older.
-We decided to renovate the entire house at one time...moving out for a year and gutting the place. We wanted to do this before our son goes to school, and we don't want to live through multiple smaller renovations throughout the years.
-As with most people, the kitchen is the main "social" area in the entire house. That is where we spend the most time...eating, drinking, cooking, laughing, reading the paper etc...it's a meeting place for family and friends. We want this place to fit our lifestyle and provide the "atmosphere" that we desire for the most used room in the house.
-With that in mind, I want to get the work done properly, with items that I won't be looking at in five years (or less) and saying to myself "I should have....." That is inevitably going to happen, but I want to minimize the possibility.
-My wife isn't as excited about what appliances we get, she just wants it to be functional. I am the picky one here. I want functional as well as performance and good looks. It's kind of like buying a sports car. Some people actually use them on a track and race them occasionally, but the majority of buyers will never test out the true peak performance. (Heck, I have never even come close to pushing our Mazda family car to the limit). It's all about being happy with what you're driving (or cooking on).
-We are planning on staying in this house for the rest of our lives...if not at least the next 25 years...we're doing it our way
-My wife did like the big red knobs on the Wolf range.
- fauchon: the Miele fridges are actually assembled by Liebherr, but to Miele specs. We liked the layout and lighting and use of space. Also two of the architects we interviewed and even the appliance sales associate said to consider the Miele if we were going to look into Sub-Zero. They all said it has had excellent reliability and performance, and beats out the Sub-Zero at a lower price point.
-I have a lot of research to do still. Please keep the suggestions coming. Thanks for all the help so far everybody.
If you are expecting children then get a glass door refrigerator. Otherwise, be prepared to be spend a good portion of your life yelling, "Close the refrigerator door!"
Other kid-friendly considerations are essential, such as the placement of stovetop knobs.
The most important part of a kitchen is its floorplan. Get that right, and you won't have any regrets. All the appliances can be changed.
Amen to the idea of a good, workable floor plan.
Since I did my kitchen design myself, I laid everything out in masking tape on the floor and counters. I used one color for appliances (with the swing of the doors) and another for cabinets (also with the swing of the doors). Then I walked around in it and ran scenarios where I was doing my cooking in the new configuration as I was actually doing it in the kitchen I was replacing. I didn't have a single expensive mistake or unexpected surprise. And I suspect if I'd relied on abstract blueprints I could have allowed several to sneak through.
It's also important not to be seduced by the apparent size of a gutted kitchen. You'll feel like you could have anything and everything but the space closes in very quickly when cabinets are installed.
Also, I have a galley kitchen so everything is in my work triangle. But if you're doing the big kitchen with an island, consider how much you'll want to move *around* the island and locate it for free movement. Think of where your primary work space will be and make things accessible to that. Then think task-oriented spaces. For example, I have all my veggie prep in one area that has access to the sink, trash, composting and the knives, peelers, and cutting boards I need. I have meat prep near the cooktop and fridge with the cutting boards, knives and pots I use for that purpose. Baking is in a separate area that has a lower counter for kneading and rolling. There is a small sink and a separate wall oven so I can finish the job without a lot of moving around. Consider the whole job. If I'd had more space I might have put a fridge drawer in the baking area but, if I had, I would have had to consider how to rotate butter, eggs and milk around so that things didn't get old in the less frequently used baking area.
good planning advice from Rainey. Also consider "specialty" drawers and cabinets. I knew I didn't want my knives taking up counter space or hanging from magnetic strips, so I planned for a couple shallow drawers that would hold in-drawer knife holders. I have two. Also, for corner cabinets I used lazy susan type storage cabinets. We had an island prior to our remodel and found that it took up too much space. Getting rid of the island and opening up the kitchen helped a lot, since my wife and I often cook together.
I have knife drawers, too. The reason I wanted them is not a pleasant story, but since E_M mentioned the child-safety issue, I'm going to relay it since tugnutty and his wife are planning to have children.
My mother kept her knives in a knife block on the counter. When I was about four, I was "helping" her cook and was standing on a stepstool next to the counter. I got inquisitive, pulled one of the knives out to examine it, slipped off the stool and ended up jabbing myself in the eye with the knife. I was extremely fortunate; no permanent damage. But I did injure my eye and I can remember wearing a patch for a long time. My mother felt physically sick her whole life whenever that incident came up.
E_M's right. Even though some accidents, like mine, are so unlikely and so freakish, where toddlers and pre-school children, and even medium-sized-to-large dogs (for pet lovers) are involved, when something piques (peaks?) children's and dogs' curiosity, they WILL find a way to get to it. You have to outsmart them, by taking preventive action, in the smallest details.
We don't even have small children. But I have stepchildren who are getting married now, and they plan to give us grandchildren, who I expect will be visiting. And we have Retrievers who are always scoping out the counters. Additionally, I *always* think about resale. Young families will want as many safety features as possible.
So, a resounding "Yes!" to the knive drawers. Probably everybody else's kids are smarter than I was that day...but you never know, LOL.
LOL re the kids and the refrigerator. The only way I know around that besides the glass door is to hook the fridge up to a bicyle-powered generator and tell them, "An hour peddling for every time you open the door just to browse." :-) But I'm like DGresh. I could NEVER keep it neat enough.
So true, re the floorplan. Like anybody, I think there are a few things I would do differently if I were building another house (heaven forbid). But one thing I got right, and I'm grateful for it everyday, is the floorplan in the kitchen, and especially the workspace. So efficient. But Rainey's right. If you have an island (which I do), don't let it be a barrier to cupboards or appliances you have to get to a lot in the course of making a meal. The island's supposed to be a convenience, a workhorse, not a nuisance. My appliances, the sink and the cupboards where I store all the cookware and dishes are on one side of it, the fridge is at one end that's not in the major traffic pattern. That gives me a landing space on the island for groceries, so I don't have to walk much to put them away. There's a door (that closes) across from the dining room, so we have directly access to put main course dishes on the island for clean up before dessert, and we can close the door to the DR so we don't have to look at the mess during dessert.
Anybody building or planning a major redesign just has to sit quietly and visualize what his/her particular routine is, or how s/he would like to improve it, for cooking, storage, shopping and entertaining. Make notes of things you must have and would like to have and then check that checklist against floorplans. Then re-check them, about a gazillion times.
One of the things I'm *most* happy about is the special spice cabinet I put in. The kitchen designer was trying to sell me on these little drawer inserts that all the spice bottles lie on all neat and organized. But my spices don't all come in the same size bottle! So I have this whole spice "area". The top cabinet has a swing out thing so that I have three sets of shallow shelves instead of one set of deep shelves. It is terrific. Everything is accessible and there are places for tall spice jars. Then below on the counter I have one of those carrosels of my most-used 40 or so. Then in the drawers below I have two dedicated to the bags of stuff I get from Penzeys. I love it.
We were actually considering getting the spice racks that are basically narrow pantry-like shelves that slide out beside the range. It can accomodate various size spice bottles. The only problem that I can think of is that getting some of the bottles may require a little bit of bending down.
Narrow shelves for spices are so smart, D. My ex-SIL and -BIL had--well, not the swing-out type, but simply two shallow spice cabinets. They were only a few inches deep, just deep enough to accommodate, say, a large Old Bay tin or a large Dean & DeLuca round tin, as well as the typical McCormick bottle.
I forgot to do that, and I will say my spice situation confounds and frustrates me. I keep most of them in the door shelves in the freezer and it's generally a mess. I take out bottles to use for dinner, the rest fall down. I used to keep the envelopes from The Spice House in one of the bins meant to be used on those shelves, but that took up too much space. I'd like to keep them in the freezer, and I thought maybe I could get one of those tiered shelf inserts, but I'd have to set it on one of the freezer shelves, and my freezer is always PACKED. I have shelf space I could use between the oven and the cooktop, but it does get hot and steamy over there. Then I read, despite the fact that I've seen several reputable spice purveyors recommend the freezer, that the condensation from taking them in and out of the freezer can damage them as much as steam from the cooktop. I'm looking around cooking equipment vendors for a solution, but I haven't found one yet. Mostly because like you, I don't have spice containers all of a uniform size or shape. You were very smart to solve that problem before it became one. It's not the end of the world, I know, but it is something that annoys me at some point almost every day.
I like what I have. It's a pullout that's deep enough for CD cases and another inch for labeling the shelves. Each shelf holds 2 CD cases that hold 9 spice jars each. In front of each shelf is a label that indicates the alphabetical range of the spices in the CD case. That way I have 54 spices on 3 shelves. A fourth shelf holds taller and assorted things.
My point is, that if you have narrow shelves, you're not going to get much stored.
Here are links to some pix of my arrangement:
I don't know there's one really good solution for spice storage, unless you want to get all Martha Stewart and buy a set of permanent containers that you refill with new spices as you use them up.
Actually, I was being a little mocky there, but I like the idea more as I think about it.
My sister has her spices in a cabinet by the range. Convenient, but they really do lose flavor when they're that near the heat often. I think I'm going to stay with a dedicated rack in the pantry.
The range should be so insulated that a child could bump into it and not be burned. Those are the manufacturers' specs and, given the liability, I'm pretty confident that it's something we can count on.
I investigated the issue of heat before I had my pullouts installed. I was prepared to put some of the extra soapstone in as an additional insulating layer but it was unnecessary.
Well, tugnutty, as you can see, appliances comprise a topic on which you'll get many diverse opinions. It can be a controversial subject. I'm not sure how much specific help I can give you, but one thing I'd like to advise, after 1) having custom-built our house on what I'd say was not a modest budget, but was certainly no more than "moderate", four years ago, and 2) having to replace two appliances already (wall oven and microwave) is this: I agree that it's good to get the opinions of people like us as you consider your options--people who actually USE the stuff everyday (versus salespeople). However, as you travel around the Internet and either talk to or merely read the opinions of people like us, consider what we have to say, but hold firmly first to YOUR OWN priorities.
People (including me, LOL!) will offer their viewpoints based on what THEY think is important in an appliance. Those factors may or may not match what matters most to you and your spouse. You two are the only ones who count, ultimately, in this decision.
So sit down together, if you haven't done this already, and try to rank in order of importance, what qualifications matter most to YOU in selecting equipment. Do you care most about initial cost, cost to operate, ease of operation, cleanabilty, space requirements or kitchen configuration, quality of construction, bells and whistles, usable features, looks and decor, reliability, prestige brand name, place of manufacture (i.e., "made in the USA", European, etc.), capacity, fuel source, green and conservation issues, and so on? Don't let anybody tell you that ANY of these factors is silly or inconsequential if some of them matter to you. This is YOUR dream kitchen, nobody else's. You're footing the bill, and, more importantly, you and your spouse are the ones who are going to live with this kitchen and work in it everyday. So if you like Wolf's red knobs, that's okay. If you want something basic and don't care if it would never find it's way into an Architectural Digest layout, that's fine. If you refuse to buy anything that was assembled in China, that's your business. You get my point.
Now, some specifics, for what they're worth, and I don't know how much this info will help you, but here goes. Re your questions, not in order:
1) I went with an electric wall oven and Viking gas cooktop. My fundamental reason was simple: physical comfort, to spare my back. It's easier for me to work with heavy braises, big roasts and turkeys, heavy pots and pans, using a wall oven, rather than bending down a lot with a range height oven.
It doesn't sound to me as though you're interested in a cooktop, but I'm not sure, so I'll discuss mine briefly. I got a 36" Viking professional cooktop, with sealed burners and cast iron grates. I love it. The burners are in general powerful. I have mostly heavy-duty, good quality cookware, and between the two items, I *rarely* have to turn the burners up past low or medium low. The cookware has been key there, though. I had a lot of lighter weight stuff, starting out, and it got too hot on these burners. So that's been a bit of an additional investment over the four years, to upgrade the cookware, but it's been done gradually and it's been worth it to me. I love cooking on this cooktop. It has a real simmer capability, which not all high-BTU cooktops do. (Many do now, but not all, so look for that.) The cast iron grates are continuous, and because it's near the oven, that gives me an additional durable landing area, in addition to the counter space near the oven, for removing big, hot things from the oven. One thing about the Viking cooktop that I have noticed and others have posted about here is a tendency for the electric ignition to click for a while after you clean the burners. You have to put the burner tops in just right, plus I think sometimes it clicks because it might be burning off any moisture, etc., left over from the cleaning. But it goes away after a few minutes and doesn't affect operation. Just a quirk of the Viking, I think, and it doesn't bother me, since in thirty years of cooking daily, I've found that all appliances have their quirks. Btw, I choose a cooktop instead of a rangetop because with a cooktop, the knobs are up on the counter, not on its front, and therefore are away from little, curious hands.
2) Wall oven--I started out with a GE, nothing fancy, not it's cheapest, but basic. It died in less than four years. The mother board fried. Another poster here pointed out to me that that may be due to power situations in my town or area, surges in the infrastructure, etc., and what she explained certainly sounds like a logical possiblity to me. However, I had the GE oven die plus TWO GE microwaves, whereas nothing like that has happened to the refrigerator, the hood, the dishwasher. So, JMO, and not necessarily the right one for you, my husband and I decided that we would not get another GE oven when we went to replace it.
Yesterday, our new oven was installed. Like you, we looked at Viking, Wolf and Dacor, and Bosch as well after talking here with a poster who really liked his/her Bosch. In the end, we decided upon the Dacor. Now, obviously, I've used it now for only one dinner. So I'm not exactly qualified to tell you about it's reliability or cooking abilities (although I will say in our one test run, it produced about the moistest meat loaf I've ever made, and I've made a lot of them through the years). But stay turned on reports about the Dacor.
What I can do is tell you *why* we decided to take the plunge and choose it. It comes in at a price level that's between the standard "nonprofessional" brands and the Vikings-Wolfs-BlueStars of the world. The configuration of the venting inside the oven made sense to us, in terms of how it surrounds the food. While the oven capacity is listed as being lower than some of the other high end ovens, in truth some of those ovens, if you look inside them, have a lot of unusable cubic feet (e.g., a big chunk of space falls below the bottom rack, etc., and you can't actually put a pan in it). The construction of the Dacor feels very substantial; it felt more solid to us than the Wolf, and almost as substantial as the Viking. I also liked what looked like easy-to-use digital controls, and it's quite streamlined, too, which to me means, "ease of cleaning". I also liked that Dacor itself is still family owned. I made up excuses to call Dacor three times before we made our final decision and was pleased with the treatment I received from three different departments. Finally, this made me think--we went to two places that only sell higher end line. We didn't tell them what our budget was. We asked to see ovens. Both places showed up two or three different manufacturers, but neither one took us to the Vikings, though both had them right on the floor. Both liked the Dacor. I asked them both later, independently, why they didn't show us the Viking. They each said they thought the Dacor was a much better value and better made, for the money. ?????? I selected the Dacor from the place we went with, then waffled briefly and called my sales rep back and said I might want to revisit the Viking. He said, "I'll sell you whatever you want, of course, but there's a reason I didn't even take you and your husband over to the Viking when you came in. I don't think it's worth the money. I don't recommend it." ????? I don't know, tugnutty. Like I said, I've used the Dacor for exactly one meal, and I've never used a Viking oven, so I can't vouch for anything, for sure. But two salesmen had the chance to sell me a more expensive Viking, and didn't. ????
One poster here has already weighed in on his (her? sorry, previous poster) evident dislike of Dacor. I don't think s/he is alone. As you read around the net, you'll see there's a lot of controversy about them. People seem to either love or hate their Dacors. Funny, though, you'll find exactly the same thing as you read user comments about their Vikings and Wolfs. That's why I say--sit down with your spouse. Make a very detailed list of what you want from an oven/range, and choose according to what *YOU* need and want.
2) There's no reason the hood needs to match the range in manufacturer. You just need to make sure you get sufficient POWER for the range you ultimately select. So you'll need to work out the CFMs with a knowledgable sales rep. Everyone I know recommends against a downdraft. So far as I can tell, the difference is NOT aesthetic. A hood is more power-efficient and venting-efficient. We got a Best by Broan hood over the cooktop and have been very happy with it. NO problems thus far. Fairly easy to clean; I can stick the filters in the dishwasher, and the halogen lamps on it make the cooktop useful as a warming station, to rest the meat, etc. The hood's noisy, though. It doesn't bother me, because I expected to be, but I don't know how that compares to other manufacturers.
3) We have a mid-level KitchenAid refrigerator, and again, I'm very happy with it, for a starter refrigerator for this house. We probably will upgrade in some way when the time comes to replace it, but I would definitely consider the KA again. It keeps temps very well and offered many of the features more expensive manufacturers showed,but at a considerably lower price for the KA. The only reason I'd think about an upgrade is that it's a little small for the kitchen, but that's because that's the one *I* chose in order to put more building budget into the cabinetry, etc.
4) You didn't ask, but just in case...when building the house, I decided to save a few bucks on the dishwasher--again, figuring that was one of the less expensive items that we could more easily upgrade later. I chose a discontinued Whirlpool model. I think it cost me $300 four years ago. I love the thing. It has a sanitizing temp, high-temp dry, delay cycles...nothing fancy, but enough. So my point is, in addition to prioritizing what you want in your range, also prioritize in order where you want to put your appliance money.
Best wishes to you. Can't want to hear what your final choices are!
We did ours 2 years ago and I can now say that I'm extremely happy with my picks.
We got the 36" Wolf dual fuel -- if I were making that choice again I'd investigate the French Top. Not saying I'd pay a lot more for it but I'd be sure to check it out before I made a decision. The best thing about the Wolf is the simmer. It's worth the whole price. I've gone out and realized I've left things on simmer for 3 or 4 HOURS and come back to food I was still happy to serve. I also love the piston-governed drop of the oven door. When you've got both hands full of a heavy roasting pan, knowing the door will practically open itself is fantastic. The dual convection fans are also great for baking. They virtually eliminate hot spots. The heavy, secure cast iron grates are wonderful to use and to clean.
Thought I should tell you the downside of the Wolf while I'm at it. The timer and the temperature controls on it are very dopey. They move up or down in 1 minute or 1 degree increments for 5 min/degrees and then they move (rather swiftly) at 5 min/degrees. Catching the target time/temp is a *skill*. Why they didn't just go with digital input I can not imagine. I got myself a $10 timer and I've gotten better at hitting the temp the first time but I still find them dopey. I'd still buy another Wolf but I want to be clear on the upside and downside. I also wish the single smaller burner was located in the front but that's because I'm particularly short and don't like having to reach back for it when I have two other large burners in the front.
I got a Miele exhaust fan because mine is hanging out in the middle of a peninsula in the middle of the room and I wanted something really minimal that would "disappear". I've been very happy with it but I think with an exhaust fan, one size up is a more important consideration than top of the line. The appliance dealer will steer you to the "right" CFMs but, really, consider the one designed for the 48" range. If I were doing it again, I'd definitely do that.
For our fridge, second wall oven, microwave and dishwasher I went lower price point to reserve cash for Wolfie and the fan. I have a friend who swears that food keeps better in her Sub-Zero fridge but I've been perfectly happy with my entirely serviceable KitchenAid appliances that permitted me to direct resources where I thought they made a difference.
For your dishwasher, consider locating it where you can have it raised up so you can load and unload it without bending over. That probably means some distance from the sink. In my case it would have been quite a distance and that made the plumbing problematical. But in another kitchen it could have been the way to go.
The other appliance that made a difference for me was one of those cheap roasters that open from the top. This is the time of year they'll start stocking them at Costco and Target and they're under $50. This thing will enable you to have a homecooked meal when your kitchen is torn apart. And after weeks of microwave, take out and restaurant meals, a home cooked mac & cheese will be like manna from the gods.
Good luck and I hope you really enjoy your new kitchen!
ADDING: At the time I did my kitchen Bosch was working on dishwasher technology that vaporized water without heat so that all the plastic stuff would actually DRY in the dishwasher. And you didn't need to waste electricity on the dry cycle to accomplish that. It may be available now. I'd look for it. Eventually, I expect to replace my dishwasher with it.
I had a Dacor oven & cooktop and hated them. The oven took forever to come to temp, the insulation was inadequate & the kitchen sometimes seemed almost as hot at the oven. The cooktop was just plain wimpy.
I was so pleased with my Miele dw, clothes washer & dryer that I replaced the oven & cooktop with Miele & have been very happy. The oven comes to temp quickly & the insulation seems superior as the heat tends to stay INSIDE the oven while everything from roasts to bread & muffins cook evenly & well. The cooktop is excellent as well...flame adjustment easy & responsive. Nothing on either of these seems the least bit cheap or junky.
I didn't even know Miele makes refrigeration. What do you like about it? I must say I've been very pleased with my Sub-Zero...but it's an older one. My nephew has a new one & he & his wife like it very much.
Sorry, have no extensive experience with Wolf or Viking so can't say but my nephew recently redid their kitchen. He has a Viking oven & (I'm pretty sure) cooktop. I've used the cooktop & think it's very good--flame easily adjustable, nothing junky feeling about it. Haven't used their oven but I've heard no complaints & as far as I knew they're happy with it.
I so concur with what has been said so far. While those appliance brands you have mentioned are very expensive, they produce an inordinate amount of heat (and require an industrial hood ventilation). Even if you are Le Cordon Bleu you don't need them if you don't cook all day for hundreds of people. That's what those appliances are intended for, and why they are in old mansions--people then had servants and a chef, and had dinner parties, balls, etc.
Having said that, if you do cook often, you may find it useful to have both a gas and convention oven and a built-in marble pastry board. Sans appliances, the other way to get a high-end (or at least expensive) kitchen is to buy copper pots and pay for an artisan to build the cabinets and do extraordinary mosaic work with the tiles.
I can share my experience with the stove and the hood. We bought a wolf manual 4-burner stove when we remodeled because we wanted the flexibility of both high heat and very low heat (which I find just as useful as high heat, if not more). You'll need a good hood not only because of the burners, but because of the oven. Our oven gives off a lot of heat, particularly in the back vents. Our hood is called Zephyr, I'm not sure about the specs, but it seems to do the job reasonably well.
I have no experience with other brands to compare it with, but I don't regret buying the Wolf (also my wife really wanted it and the red knobs look cool, so there you go). No repair calls necessary after fours years so far. Our stove does not have a self-cleaning oven and I know there are models that have more advanced electronics, but to me, that's just something else that can go wrong.
I've recently been in a similar boat, but with more limited funds. Warning: strong opinions ahead.
I did a ton of research, and decided almost all of the high-end stuff is absolutely not for me in any way. "High end" kitchen design has become a parody of itself, with people who don't really cook driving up demand for "restaurant-style" appliances that try to bring modern conveniences to totally utilitarian devices wholly unsuited to a home cook.
Do you want your kitchen to be a Hummer, or merely a reliable car that gets you where you need to go, with the cargo you actually carry -- not a hypothetical battalion of Marines?
The main specifics I can give to your questions:
1. I'd never own any of the three -- period. Unreliable, with little experience in things like timers and probes, which the home brands have perfected over decades. For cryin' out loud -- Dacor makes ranges whose knobs melt under normal usage. This is bush-league stuff, people.
2. No -- ignore matching brands. Nobody but you will ever notice that multiple items have the same logo. You'd never expect the same company to excel equally at making fabric and bread, so why should they be able to make cooking and ventilating appliances of equal quality? My HVAC guy, who is extremely seasoned, tells me the high-CFM hoods are ridiculous and often dangerous. They can even go so far as to reverse the airflow in your fireplace, or draw gas into the house from your furnace. Building codes in some places require you to have a whole-house vent for any fan that goes over 300.
Stick with a unit that maxes at 400 -- and don't burn food. Let's be serious -- you aren't really planning on doing hours of deep-frying or rangetop grilling every day, are you? You have a home kitchen, not a fryer/flattop combo at a diner.
3. KitchenAid major appliances do very, very poorly in every reliability rating I've ever seen. Their small electrics are awesome, but I don't think they know what they're doing in 24/7 devices.
My advice: After dreaming, step back and ask yourself if you're REALLY going to use those "high-end" appliances. Not to be rude, I've come to consider them as conspicuous-consumption status symbols for most.
Years ago, my mom won a very high-dollar kitchen makeover in a recipe contest, to the point where she had to come up with extras she didn't really want in order to spend all the winnings.
When she was done, her designer told her how happy she was to finally design an expensive kitchen for someone who actually cooks. She said she usually installs $7k ranges for people who use the $150 microwave to warm up Chinese carryout (ew). The only work the Viking oven ever gets is from the caterers who work graduation parties from the house's kitchen.
A bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point.
Several years later, mom moved out of state and started over in a new kitchen. Even though money isn't really an issue now, she'd never consider one of those "pro-style" appliances again. She bought Whirlpool and Kenmore, and is far happier with appliances suited to the home. She's an extremely accomplished cook, BTW.
If you're concerned with style, you should note that the stainless-steel-dark-granite-and-cherry-cabinets look is as over as avocado and burnt orange. Those kitchens have been featured in every contractor trade pub in existence for eight or nine years now. It's time to move on.
Find your own style. Resist salespeople. You don't need the kitchen in the mainstream home-design magazines. You need a kitchen suited to how you cook.