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Mar 9, 2012 10:30 AM

How many kitchen designers does it take . . .

...before a homeowner decides they've met with all they need to?

We're in the beginning stages of a kitchen renovation and I'm already starting to feel a little overwhelmed. I've met with two kitchen designers and each will be getting back to me with a rough concept for my project based on a lengthy conversation and a visit to my home to see and measure the space. Part of the challenge of this project is that I want to integrate an adjacent area that has a fireplace with my kitchen space, and I'm hoping to see a design that conveys to me that the designer really "gets" my goals. At the same time, I'm not even sure that this is within the scope of the work a kitchen designer typically does.

One of my questions is: how many kitchen designers should I be talking with at this stage? I don't want to drive myself nutzo and I don't want to waste the time of too many kitchen pros. What's the best way for me to approach and manage the project at this early stage? And, how will I know when I've found the right one for me? Thanks!

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  1. Hey Ms CindyJ!!!!!
    We've totally spoken before, so I think I've probably said (too much? LOL) on this topic but I just want to add one or two things.
    First, I think the biggest challenge between getting what you envision and getting what you get is actually articulating this to the designer. To that end, and I'm sure you've already done this, it is really, really helpful to start buying magazines and doing internet image searches to find a visual representation of what you would like. Sometimes its easier to show a picture or 500 to a designer than to try to explain what you want. This goes I think for any home reno (don't get me started on fireplace mantel design!). So my best advice is to accumulate pictures and be really specific about what you like about them.
    And the second thing is that this IS your money, and these pros are essentially bidding for your business. They cost this into their business plans and their work. Personally, I would search until you find someone who listens to you, treats you professionally, and explains things to your satisfaction. The details of the actual design are the details. The most important factor is your relationship between you and the designer. It may take 2 or 3 to find that connection, but don't feel guilty about having a few meetings and seeing what is out there. It's a business for them, and I think what you want/need IS in the scope of a kitchen designer. They should be more conversant that simply measuring aisle widths and fridge placement. They should be able to design a space. But the more prepared and specific you are with respect to the overall look and use of space, the easier the job will be for both of you.

    17 Replies
    1. re: freia

      Hi Freia-- yes, we've "chatted" -- on this and OTHER topics. :-) I've swooned over the photos of your kitchen, and I'm tremendously impressed with your kitchen design and material selection. And I can tell from reading your posts that your planning was meticulous down to the last detail.

      Part of my challenge in articulating what it is I really want to end up with is that it's as much a "feeling" as it is something tangible. Up until now, my conversations with the designers have been much more about the use of the space than the specifics of the look I desire. One of the designers I met with did, I think, understand, when, after I described what I'd like to have as an end result, she said she thought what I was asking for was a "keeping room." I wasn't familiar with that term, but now that I am, I think she's on the right track. I'll be meeting with her next week to see what she's come up with.

      As for magazine photos, I did start to collect some, and I definitely see trends in the cabinetry styles I seem to favor. But as far as layout, my present kitchen is somewhat unusual; a family room addition resulted in the kitchen being almost in the center of the house. I have two peninsulas that are opposite each other, about 5-6 feet apart. One peninsula faces the family room; the other faces the area I want to integrate with the kitchen. So, in a way, it's similar to a galley kitchen, except that the far end isn't just a "dead end" -- one side has a back door, the other side has a door to a laundry room. I know I'm doing an awful job of describing the space, but my primary point is that it's a very "untraditional" space that calls for a unique layout and creative thinking.

      Maybe I should cross each bridge as I come to it. After I meet with the two designers again, I'll have a sense of whether they've captured the "sense of place" I'm after. If not, I guess I'll keep looking.

      1. re: CindyJ

        I totally understand where you are coming from. I guess the idea of the photo can relate to how the space is layed out too, rather than the details per se. You may get a feeling from a photo/layout, and that would help your kitchen designer, for sure. I totally understand about the nontraditional layout and POV, and even just sitting down and even just plotting your immovables on a piece of paer then playing with layouts may help you get a feel for the space, too. We had similar issues -- traffic flow patterns through the kitchen with a family room at one end, a dining room at the other, a hallway to the front door, and a doorway to the basement. Jotting it down and just drawing and thinking is a great starting point.
        Photos, maybe? Post some! I'd love to visualize what you're dealing with! Maybe some CHers would have some kitchen design concepts they could throw your way for debate and consideration? :)

        1. re: freia

          Okay... get ready to be transported back to the 80s! Here are a few photos. (Sorry about the poor quality.)

          1. re: CindyJ

            This. Is. A. GREAT. Space. And I used separate sentences to indicate how much I love love LOVE your idea of your space and its use.
            Visualize, draw, think, get some pics of what makes you have that "feeling" you're looking for, and go for it.
            I'm SO excited for you!

            1. re: freia

              There are several parts of this project that have to work together in the end, and that's one of the things that makes me a little nervous. We'll be doing a "makeover" of the wood-burning fireplace in the soon-to-be keeping room, and removing the cedar paneling on that fireplace wall and replacing it with sheetrock. There's a much larger gas fireplace in the family room on the opposite side of the kitchen, so the kitchen needs to be a "transitional area" between the two spaces -- enabling the two spaces to seem like they are somehow related.

              I feel like I need a support group going into this project! :-)

              1. re: CindyJ

                I'd have the overwhelming desire to turn that wood burning fireplace into an indoor type of either pizza oven or indoor grill. You're already positioned for that, and it would make a really good use of space. I saw this in Italy, where it was an open brick pizza fireplace thing, with a grill on the bottom. The owners would light a wood fire, then let it burn out to charcoals, put the grill over top and grill meats. I loved it.
                I think the thing to also consider is this: do you need 2 sitting rooms? I only say that because we had a similar choice -- faced with an eat in kitchen right next to the dining room, did we need or want both? We deleted the eat in kitchen and went with a sit in bar, and use the dining room for our sit down dining needs.
                In your case, it might be really neat to revamp your fireplace to a pizza oven/indoor grill, convert the keeping room into the actual kitchen, and use the family room for primary sitting?
                Just thinking out aloud and outside of the box (as usual)!

                Oh, and don't be nervous. It is pretty normal for multiple projects to come together when doing a kitchen redo. A good GC and/or a kitchen designer with a good GC will do the job. On our reno, the kitchen was only part of it, but what we faced was: adding 2 ft height to the sunken family room height (necessitating an entire fireplace makeover, new patio door, exterior siding work which meant redoing the deck), extending the kitchen floor by 3 feet, and when replacing the back wall with windows, having a structural engineer come in and design a steel I bar to run under the entire back wall of the house (supported by vertical posts fixed to 2 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft footings dug 6 feet down into the ground in the middle of winter no less) as the load points weren't aligned with the joists and when the window openings were cut the entire side of that house groaned and sank 1 1/2 inches (I was there, it was scary, jackposts and temporary framing were installed until structural could take a look at the place). OH and the tile in the master bathroom upstairs meant triple joisting the floor (aka kitchen ceiling) thus dropping the height of that room by 6 inches meaning kitchen appliances and ventilation had to be reconsidered. It is normal for GCs to handle all of this. You'll be just fine!

                1. re: freia

                  I LOVE the idea of a pizza oven, and my husband and I have actually talked about the idea on several different occasions, but what I know is that after the novelty wore off, I really wouldn't use it often enough. I've got garage shelves full of great must-haves that got left by the wayside -- a bread machine, a canning pot, a rotisserie... and those were much less costly than a pizza oven. :)

                  About the "need" for two sitting areas -- well, no, there really isn't a need, per se. And, if you consider that we also have a never-used living room with plenty of seating area, the need for yet another seating space could well go *POOF*. But our reasons for wanting to keep it that way, rather than expanding the kitchen fully into there, have as much to do with the future than the present.

                  First, our home is a (relatively) small, center-hall colonial, and that space we're talking about is in the front of the house, just off the center hallway, visible when you first walk in. When I think of someday selling the house, I wonder whether having a kitchen in that location might seem too unconventional for potential buyers. I know, I know -- I should make changes based on what works for us NOW, and what OUR needs and desires are, and that's what we'll do -- but we'll do it in moderation.

                  Another thing, as we envision this sitting space, is that it's a much smaller and more intimate space than the family room is -- nice for curling up with a book, or working on a jigsaw puzzle, but not really scaled for entertaining.

                  I think, in some ways, we're trying to create the home floor plan that we WISH we had -- which is quite different than what we actually have.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    I hear you about the wishing...we took the plunge and created the floorplan that we liked, but only after we decided that a move wasn't in our foreseeable future. I hear you also about the resale, although I think that every home eventually sells (barring stubborn owners who think their home is worth far more than the market will bear), and from what I've seen, it is more about the flow of the home and how well it shows as opposed to the "nuts and bolts" per se. I mean, yes, 3 bedrooms sell better than 2 and so on, but a kitchen at the front of the house may not be too unusual. It might be worth talking to a real estate agent I think to get a feel for it, too. It just seems to me that a well thought out space is highly marketable regardless of its conventionality. And a great kitchen even if unconventional in location may be more marketable than a good kitchen in an awkward space.
                    Now, instead of the full pizza oven, you could do something like this, too
                    where you keep the fireplace as is, but integrate it as part of a fuller kitchen in that space.
                    NOW, (boy I'm chatty today), you might want to consider an Inglenook type of design. You are again set up for that and it might be a good compromise instead of keeping "full" seating in that area. Moving to an inglenook gives you seating in a compact setting, and would allow for some expansion of the kitchen into that area? If incorporated as part of the kitchen with seating, it might also serve the purpose you have in mind...
                    I know the latter isnt a "true" inglenook, but I'm wondering if one could be created by reworking the fireplace, adding 2 bench type but comfy seats facing each other, framed out by bookcases and/or pantry storage, blending into a full kitchen. Or as the photos show, incorporating the fireplace as part of the kitchen itself....
                    I'm just tossing ideas out there -- sometimes it helps to think out loud and who knows, it might spur one in a less considered path or confirm exactly why the idea in question has been rejected. Part of the planning process!

                    1. re: freia

                      I have a feeling that Designer #1 is going to come up with a concept not unlike the one pictured in that Photobucket link. Funny, I was totally unfamiliar with the word "inglenook" until just now. Yes, the "feel" I'm after is found in the definition (and images) of that term.

                      So, freia... how would you like a job as a kitchen designer? :-)

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        I love thinking and planning, even when it isn't my space LOL! Glad the inglenook concept strikes a chord - your KD should be able to figure that one out and incorporate it somehows, and dont' be afraid to ask and get the design reworked until you feel good about it!
                        Let us know how the plans come out at first! Your project is intriguing!

                      2. re: freia

                        When I think of someday selling the house, I wonder whether having a kitchen in that location might seem too unconventional for potential buyers. I know, I know -- I should make changes based on what works for us NOW, and what OUR needs and desires are, and that's what we'll do -- but we'll do it in moderation.

                        Definitely talk to a couple of real estate agents in your area. Whether it will be a problem on resale or not depends on a couple things, including your local area, the fit and finish of the kitchen and how old it is when you sell. If you feel comfortable that you're going to stay in that house for 15-20 more years, it's less important to your resale -- the kitchen will be due for a remodel anyway, and most buyers would probably accept that fact.

                        Local tastes do vary -- I work in the greater Philadelphia market, and we are among the very last market areas where buyers INSIST on having a formal dining room. So many other markets have gone to the integrated kitchen/great room/dining open floor plan. While we do have that here, especially in remodels and new construction, there's still the desire for the additional formal dining room that gets used two or three times a year.

                        1. re: lsmutko

                          With my husband nearing retirement age, it's not likely we'll be here for the next 15-20 years. That said, we have no plans to retire to a warm climate, and we really do love the area we live in (Philly's western 'burbs), so we'll live in this home for as long as it works for us.

                          I've never been one to ascribe to the formal dining room concept -- it's just plain silly to have a room that gets looked at from afar more than it gets used. Our living room is pretty much in that category, but at least it's removed enough from the rest of our "living space" that it doesn't get in the way. We have what I'd call an informal dining room -- a room adjacent to the kitchen that has full-size but casual dining room furniture that gets used for every at-home meal, every day of the week, even breakfast, and even when it's just my husband and me at home.

                          It's already clear to me that my home's existing open floor plan wouldn't sit well with some people, but it suits our lifestyle, and that's important. That said, going forward, I'm a bit reluctant to make it even less traditional.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            Especially where you are -- Main Line? I sold a fantastic 1950s ranch in Willistown, it was basically two big public rooms under a cathedral ceiling with a wall of windows along the back overlooking woods. There was a dining "nook" adjacent to the living room, but the owners had the large kitchen set up with the dining table for formal and informal dining and seating for up to 10. Four more if you included the stools at the island counter. The nook held two leather club chairs and some bookshelves. I can't tell you how many people looking at the house just couldn't get past the lack of the formal dining room, while the way the house was set up made perfect sense to me in terms of the way people really live.

                            When it sold, the new owners put a table and chairs in the nook under a (hideous) chandelier, and moved a futon and exercise bike in the large kitchen space that had held the dining table. So people will do things that I just don't understand ...

                            1. re: lsmutko

                              I'm a bit off the Main Line -- close to Longwood -- where all of the new construction (and there's a lot of it) has huge EVERYTHING -- including kitchens the size of my entire house. Do you think there's a demand for formality on the Main Line that is somewhat different from some of the outlying areas?

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                Yeah, I think the Main Line's still a little more tradition-bound, but the whole metro area still sticks with the formal dining thing. I was just showing to a young couple in the Media area. Her mother came with the wife on a couple of second showings and she insisted on the mandatory nature of both the formal living and dining spaces for them. Personally, I much prefer their elimination for my lifestyle. And also personally, I really love your space and your ideas for it. I've got a fireplace in my decidedly informal dining room (which has a built-in bench for seating and storage, on one side of the table, a couple of chairs and ottoman for just hanging out and currently, a dog crate for puppy training) and I love it. It's the old 1760s outdoor kitchen fireplace for the farmhouse. Over the centuries, a couple of additions made it an indoor fireplace. It's just off the current kitchen (which is too small for an eat-in option) and is where we spend almost all of our time, either alone during the week or with guests on weekends.

                                Thinking of resale is always important, but thinking about how you really want to live is, too. And if the kitchen is designed well, it probably won't matter where it is. In time, I think even the Philly area will catch up with the rest of the world.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              Hi CindyJ, I came upon this website and thought of your space. It seems like some of the "framed openings" could make your space seem a little more traditional. The one that caught my eye is the white with columns and paneling.


                              1. re: escondido123

                                Those framed openings are REALLY intriguing, and interestingly enough, during my initial conversation with Kitchen Designer #2, we spoke about framing an opening that's between my dining room and living room -- somewhat similar to the photo of the dining room with the white chairs and dark table. I just saved a couple of those photos to a rapidly-growing desktop folder. Thanks!

        2. as many as it takes for you to feel as if you've been married to the designer for a long time and the designer can finish your words/sentences because you think as one.

          My wife is a designer builder. After initial interviews with potential clients, she is blunt enough to say I'm not the right person for you if it's not a great fit. You need to be happy with this major job for many years. People don't just spend 30-150K and change it all in 2 years.

          So, don't be afraid to interview many designers, and also carpenters, plumbers, remodelers, etc. NOTHING says the designer is the general contractor and gets to hire the tradesman. In fact if the designer gets you the tradesman, the designer is probably getting 12% back from them as well as what you are paying for design services.

          Beware, the 'designers' in the big box store kitchen departments are NOT really designers, but make suggestions of their available goods to fit your space. Not a great idea.

          Find styles you like in photos, designers your comfortable with and if you live in a less than 100,000 person community get some recommendations for tradesmen from your local building department. They know who the reputable tradesmen are who don't take the shortcuts.

          We ahve multiple properties and have dealt with kitchens from 3k to a Clive Christian Victorian that was more than 150K. It's all about your taste and comfort level. Make lists: I want this, I NEED this, this would be nice.

          We couldn't live wihout a trash compactor, ice maker, gas cooking, etc. But we don't own an electric can opener.

          Make sure that your heating and a/c placement is correct for the new space and has enough output. Lighting is crucial. I'm a fan of huge windows and skylights, others wouldn't sacrifice wall cabinet space to huge windows.

          This all takes time, don't be rushed or bullied into making a decision, remind your hubby that it's BBQ season and you can cook outside for the next 7 months till the project is done.

          Most of all;, it will cost at least 30% more than you budget, and after you finish you will decide you need new dishes, glasses, cutlery, towels, etc to go with the new look. And that was never in the budget.

          9 Replies
          1. re: bagelman01

            This is all really helpful, bagelman, and I especially appreciate your advice about not being rushed into anything. A question for you -- let's say I was considering being my own GC, and let's assume I'm able to find good, reputable contractors to do the work -- what are some of the potential problems I should be aware of and looking out for? I've done this in the past, and it's always been a learning experience, but my biggest problems always sprang from what I didn't know I didn't know. Are there any obvious aspects of a big project like this one that are likely to trip me up?

            1. re: CindyJ

              Biggest problem is being the GC is COORDINATION. You need to be able to get the specific tradesmen in at the correct times, have the materials, permits and inspections.

              So while you're waiting for the electrical insopection, the sheetrock guys can't close in the walls, etc. A GC can have his tradesmen move from jobsite to jobsite, but if You are the GC, your individual work may not be of prime importance and one contract6opr can hold up the whole works.
              You also have the problem that each workman will blame any issues on another contractor, and you as GC are ultyimately responsible. If you hire a GC, the GC is responsible for ALL the work and you should be holding back 10% for 90 days after completion.

              I recommend you use a GC, BUT you buy the materials, not the contractors. This gives you better control over cost and quality. The proposal will always say XYZ brand or equivalent, and the equivalent never is, BUT you pay the same.

              Remenber, you are dealing with, Flooring, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrical, Sheetrocking, Tile, etc. These are not all one trade. Be particularly careful about who will tape your sheetrock. I just spent $1500 to retape and repaint a 175 sq ft room that the builder rocked and taped, but did a poor job of taping. It all showed through the $130 per gallon paint my wife had chosen. Do it right, do it once, don't cut corners, a kitchen is something you'll ive with for a long time and uses constantly.

              1. re: bagelman01

                The GC on my renovation projects was also a master carpenter and was part of the work crew every day. I was there every day so any time a decision needed to be made there wasn't time wasted waiting. He worked by the hour without a contract and it was great for both of us, but finding someone you can trust is the most difficult part. If I had to start a major project without my GC, I would focus on finding someone with incredible references--which I would check--as well as a project or two I could take a look at.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  "Do it right, do it once, don't cut corners, a kitchen is something you'll live with for a long time and uses constantly." As a kitchen designer, I 100% agree with this statement!

                  My best advice would be to find a kitchen designer who likes to cook. They will have a totally different perspective than someone who is trying to fill your space with items on which they earn commission. I would also advise using a kitchen designer, rather than having a builder or even an architect design your kitchen. Kitchen designers know when you're just shopping a design around to a million places to get the lowest price, and won't spend as much time on your project. I would definitely caution you against being your own GC. Timing is everything in this position, and you wouldn't believe the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure each element arrives at the correct time, has a place to be stored until it is needed, and scheduling the correct tradespeople to install various elements. If you are OK living without a functioning kitchen for quite a length of time, you like talking on the phone, you have large amounts of spare time, and you have a large climate-controlled space for cabinets/appliances/tile/etc., maybe it's a good idea to save a couple bucks and be your own GC. Quite often costly mistakes by homeowners acting as their own GC outweigh any savings they might have had by doing it themselves.

                  Some design advice from a 4th-generation kitchen designer who loves to cook: :)

                  - Don't get trapped in the "work triangle" theory of design. This was ideal for a time when the kitchen was a space where the wife/mother did all of the cooking and meal prep, but isn't always ideal in today's kitchens where entertaining, multiple chefs/helpers working, homework, computer use, etc. happens.

                  - If you use your kitchen quite often, think beyond the buzz words and trends like granite and stainless steel. Natural stone may be beautiful for a countertop in a powder room, but the maintenance involved with it makes it not my number 1 choice for kitchens. I love quartz countertops as well as solid surface (like Corian) because they are non-porous. I prefer integrated appliances with wood panels to match the cabinetry rather than a full stainless refrigerator and dishwasher because it is nearly impossible to keep those two stainless steel appliances looking great all the time if you cook often.

                  - If you use a lot of fresh produce, consider a refrigerator with dual compressors (like Sub-Zero), because they do not swap air back and forth from the freezer to refrigerator, which helps your food last much longer and taste better.

                  - Stick with neutral/classic colors on the more expensive items in the kitchen (cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring), and bring in color with accessories, textiles, and wall color. This will keep your kitchen from looking "SO 2012!" in 10 or 15 years.

                  - Always have the flooring installed BEFORE the cabinets and countertops. If you replace the flooring after the cabinets, or build on top of the flooring you already have, you will have serious issues when your dishwasher needs service because you won't be able to pull it out. The same goes for the refrigerator.

                  - I love large single sinks rather than double sinks. Double sinks were great when we used one side for soaking in soapy water and the other side for rinsing. Today, we wash dishes much differently. Typically we rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Have you ever tried to wash a baking sheet or a large roasting pan in a double sink and ended up soaking wet? Even for hand washing china, crystal, pots and pans, etc., I find it is still easier to work in a large single sink.

                  - If you're in the Metro Detroit area, give me a call! (We've actually done projects as far away as St. Thomas, Florida, South Carolina, Traverse City, etc.)

                  1. re: kyoules

                    I love and agree with most of your remarks, but take exception to the single vs. double sink remnarks.

                    I'm in favor of multiple sinks in the kitchen. I have a large, extra deep pot sink which is used for cleaning pots, roasting pans, etc. I also HIGHLY recommend a potfiller over the range or cooktop.

                    I find a double sink particularly useful when I'm cleaning and trimming raw pultry and meats and don't want the chicken skin and fat to get on other items in the sink. Even when I choose to put frozen items in a sink full of cold water to defrost, I like having the other side of the sink availoable to use. We also have a vegetable sink on our prep island, and a bar sink built in to the buffet server in the dining room (2 dishwasher drawers in this buffet also for silver and crystal).

                    We have twin subzeroes built into armoires that match the cabinetry, I hate the fingermarks on stainbless steel.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      Oh I absolutely favor multiple sinks in the kitchen, but if you only have the space for one sink, I feel it's better to go with a large single sink because there are so many things that just cannot be washed easily in the dinky sides of a traditional 50/50 split double sink. By all means, if you have the space (and budget) for a large, extra deep sink, vegetable/prep sink, as well as a bar sink, that's the way to go! Even the sinks that have one side a little larger than the other (not a 50/50 split) are better than having two small, very difficult-to-use sinks. I have lived in a house with a 50/50 double sink and a house with a large single sink, and I would never, ever ever, ever go back to the double sink. I can see how your use of the double sink for cleaning, trimming, and defrosting meat makes sense, (I do not cook or eat meat), but I still feel that if you only have room and budget for 1 sink/cabinet/plumbing, it would be much more of an inconvenience every time you washed a large skillet, baking sheet, jelly roll pan, dutch oven, stock pan, refrigerator crisper drawers and shelves, watermelon, etc. if you get a 50/50 double sink just for the convenience of preparing meat. I'm ok with agreeing to disagree on that one. :)

                      This does bring up another point though, that a good kitchen designer will learn your cooking habits and needs, your style preferences, and design accordingly. I have designed kitchens for young families, multi-generational households, elderly Chinese couple, Jewish families that keep Kosher, and everything in between, and every family has very different needs that necessitate very different kitchen designs. For my thesis project in design school, I studied the ways that differences in age or culture affect one's cooking habits and views of cooking and eating. Like I tell my clients, if everyone wanted the same kitchen, my job would be extremely boring!

                      By the way... I am super jealous of your twin Sub-Zeros built into armoires! :)

                      1. re: kyoules


                        My wife is a designer builder. I am an attorney, but was a kosher caterer more than 35 years ago. I love to cook, as does my wife. She bakes, I don't. The twin Sub Zeroes are a necessity (our whole house warranty from American homne shield doesn't cover referigerators or freezers that are not in the kitchen, so if a sub zero goes in the kitchewn they replace it, if one in the garage or basement goes, I pay. Last year they replaced a SubZero to the tune of $8900), one is never big enough.....................

                        We also have a second kitchen upstairs and an outdoor kitchen. I grill year round even in the snow.

                        Some may think we went overboard, the base part of our home ws built in 1804. With many additions, renovations, changes, it's now up to 19 rooms. I doubt we'll ever leave here. The main floor was totally designed to be handicapped accessible for our old age. We've had my 90 yo mother here with us, and I'm sure the MIL will live here in the not so distant future. Our daughters argue about who will take the 6 room apartment upstairs or the studio over the garage.

                        It's really a family compound and all money spent on the house, especially the kitchen is well worth it. Last big disagreement was bout the La Cornue, wife won.

                    2. re: kyoules

                      kyoules -- your post is filled with such great advice I've cut/pasted it into a separate document so I can refer to it easily.

                      (1) Find a KD who loves to cook -- of course!!!! That's so obvious, but I hadn't thought of that before.

                      (2) "I would also advise using a kitchen designer, rather than having a builder or even an architect design your kitchen. Kitchen designers know when you're just shopping a design around to a million places to get the lowest price, and won't spend as much time on your project. " Is that what you meant to say? If so, can you clarify?

                      (3) Reading freia's comments and now yours, I totally understand that trying to be my own GC would end up costing me big time in the end.

                      (4) Re. the "work triangle" -- one of the designers I've met with told me pretty much what you did regarding the work triangle. I always thought that was a fundamental element of kitchen design, but you're right and so is she -- times have changed.

                      (5) Re. countertop materials -- a good friend JUST had her condo kitchen remodeled and used a product called Cambria for the countertops. I saw her photos and it looks really nice. What's your take on Cambria?

                      (6) I am seeking a "timeless" look in cabinets and other materials. I made a mistake with my present kitchen, which SCREAMS "80's". A trendy look is so NOT what I'm after.

                      (7) Great advice regarding the flooring. Again, so obvious, but worth mentioning.

                      (8) I've had a good size (~36" wide) double sink for the past 20+ years, and it's served me well. The smaller bowl (~ 9" wide) is good for rinsing/draining veggies and also serves as a draining place for hand-washed dishes and pots & pans. My largest roasting pan fits comfortably in the larger bowl. I'm inclined to go with another double sink, assuming the new design allows for enough room.

                      (9) I sure wish I lived closer to Detroit. How do you manage kitchen projects from a distance?

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        (2) "I would also advise using a kitchen designer, rather than having a builder or even an architect design your kitchen. Kitchen designers know when you're just shopping a design around to a million places to get the lowest price, and won't spend as much time on your project. " Is that what you meant to say? If so, can you clarify?
                        Sorry, I should clarify that a bit. What I meant to say is that while you should meet with several designers until you find the perfect fit, don't just use them for their designs and then shop around their hard work to try to get the lowest price somewhere else. If I have two different clients, one has taken designs from another designer and just wants me to price price price everything, and the other is more interested in talking about design philosophy and getting my input, I will definitely spend more time and effort on the second client. Also, be very wary of surprisingly low bids. Quite often the designer has forgotten to include major elements (we've all done it before, unfortunately). Firms with a long history are better about including everything you want, so the project doesn't end up 10%, 30%, or even 50% more than originally bid.

                        (5) Re. countertop materials -- a good friend JUST had her condo kitchen remodeled and used a product called Cambria for the countertops. I saw her photos and it looks really nice. What's your take on Cambria?

                        I love Cambria! Cambria is a brand of quartz countertops and that brand is exceptionally good at developing colors that look like natural stone. Their newest colors (in the past couple years) are just stunning. I also like DuPont's Zodiaq for the fact that you can get an integrated Corian sink (undermount with no crevice that gets grimy), and the sink has DuPont's warranty. Zodiaq doesn't have the color palette that Cambria does, though, and you can get a Corian sink integrated into a Cambria top, but the sink just won't have DuPont's warranty. Cambria is also the only quartz countertops made in the US I believe.

                        (8) I've had a good size (~36" wide) double sink for the past 20+ years, and it's served me well. The smaller bowl (~ 9" wide) is good for rinsing/draining veggies and also serves as a draining place for hand-washed dishes and pots & pans. My largest roasting pan fits comfortably in the larger bowl. I'm inclined to go with another double sink, assuming the new design allows for enough room.

                        Yes, this type of double sink will work, especially if it's what you are used to and you're happy with it. When I referred to not liking double sinks, I meant the kind that have 2 bowls about 12"-15" each.

                        (9) I sure wish I lived closer to Detroit. How do you manage kitchen projects from a distance?

                        Lots and lots of emails and phone calls! :) It depends on the kitchen, but sometimes we will travel with our crew to install onsite, but that can get costly. We just finished a kitchen that was design and cabinets only, and the client's contractor did the installation. I don't feel that the installers did as good of a job as we would have on the installation, but we are used to custom cabinets and have extremely high standards. The clients are happy, and that's all that matters. There are great kitchen designers all over, you just have to find them. Good luck with your project!

              2. When I had major kitchen renovations, including putting a kitchen into a dilapidated mansion that had only ever had one in the cellar (dumb waiter for upstairs), I worked with a Spatial Design Consultant who looked at the space first and worked from there. I had my own ideas and wanted the advice of someone with great experience rather than a kitchen planner. I also didn't want to work with someone who mainly sold cabinets because I wanted kitchens that offered solutions others than cabinets whenever possible.

                1. I redid a small galley kitchen that had not been updated since the 50's. The 'hood' was a fan embedded in the ceiling with a grate over it. I wish I still had the photos, since I moved out 8 years ago and really loved the space, but I did not use a single kitchen designer. I interviewed about 6 cabinet makers because I could not find a decent style and price combo, and ended up going with the first guy I met on a second interview when he came in with new products.

                  Unless you have a huge space and want to really put in some gee-wiz appliances, the size options are not that great. You have built-in or slide in ranges and cook tops, single or double ovens, and built-in or slide in refrigerators. And unless you are redoing a lot of exterior wall, you are probably leaving your sink where it is. So that locks in your dishwasher, and the rest flows from there based on how you like to cook, where you like to prep, how much space you need.

                  I spent a lot of time wandering through design stores, but I pretty much had the full suite of appliances selected before I settled on a contractor. In the end, I went with a 5 burner Mille cook top, a Mille glass range hood, a gas double oven, a slide in fridge and I kept the old dishwasher, it was nice and has a stainless front.

                  I knew what I wanted with storage, with two huge pull outs under the cook top and slide out spice/oil set up to one side and a tray space on the other. I had the thing measured, laid out, and I knew exactly what I needed. In fact, I ended up catching a mistake by the cabinet folks who had a measurement wrong and missed a cabinet. They left the entrance to the kitchen with like an 18" squeeze, and I knew I had a lot more space than that.

                  If you must go with a pro, then go with the first one who gets what you are trying to do. You want things done on your budget and your style. No sense in talking to someone who wants to put in appliances you can't afford or keeps pointing you to concrete counter tops if you have your heart set on French Country. My bottom line though is that you can do it all yourself. It will save you some money and you get to control the project all the way through. When you are all done, then it is truly your kitchen.