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Sep 21, 2009 09:56 PM

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 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.

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dmd_kc

      Well said, Bravo!

      If children are a concern around a cook top, have you looked into induction cooktops?

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.