Whether you're preparing to remodel your existing kitchen or planning renovations to a home you're about to purchase, choosing appliances, selecting materials and planning the flow of your new layout can provide enjoyable challenges. You can hire a general contractor, opt for a do-it-yourself approach, or shop around for individual vendors for each part of the project. Before you start looking at paint chips, flooring samples and appliance specifications, take a methodical approach to the basics of a modern kitchen.
Designing a Layout
"Focusing on finishes rather than layout" makes Emily Scandy's list of the biggest mistakes you can make in designing a kitchen. Scandy, senior designer at homebuilding company PulteGroup, says that "Even the prettiest kitchen is worthless if you don't enjoy using the space." She warns against placing wants ahead of needs: "For example, sacrificing extra storage in order to get a fancy backsplash will hurt in the end."
Whether you want your kitchen to feature the parallel work areas of a galley design, use a large island that doubles as a serving area or combine rustic style with modern appliances, lay out your space before you focus on colors, surfaces and prices. Consider the full picture of your entertaining needs as well as your cooking and dining preferences, leaving room for an HDTV and home theater setup if you want your kitchen to double as a place for guests and family members to linger.
Distinctive materials can elevate your kitchen design. Lorelei Harloe, representative for the Brick Industry Association, points to brick as a lasting, durable material for indoor use. "Genuine clay brick (standard or thin brick) adds natural warmth and permanence that can integrate into any design through diverse options in patterns, colors and textures. Brick does not require maintenance, repainting or repapering and does not sacrifice interior space."
Scandy suggests Silestone, a bacteriostatic material made of quartz, for countertops. "These products range in appearance from natural stone to a more contemporary feel and can mimic the look of concrete, all while being more consistent in their appearance versus granite." She notes that they offer better resistance to temperature, stains and constant cleaning than natural stone.
Todd Waterman, Design Program Manager for Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, recommends wide-plank flooring as a lasting design trend. "Wide plank boards will make your kitchen feel larger by dramatically reducing seams/lines. This technique helps reduce the 'busyness' of a kitchen and simplifies the space, making it feel less cluttered."
As you choose materials and evaluate colors, look at your samples and swatches under all the types of lighting your kitchen uses, including natural as well as artificial illumination. If you plan to switch from old-fashioned incandescents to energy-efficient LED bulbs, tape and strips, you can choose from color temperatures that range from cool to warm light and even changeable colors.
Because of the functional nature of a kitchen space, your appliance choices should follow your love of food. A range with a true convection oven produces optimum baked goods and roasted meats using fan-forced heated air that circulates around food. A divided oven simultaneously accommodates two separate foods with different cooking temperatures and timing. An over-the-range microwave oven doubles as a range hood. A Wi-Fi®–enabled touch-screen refrigerator helps you search for recipes and offers apps to simplify your food inventory and create a shopping list. Flexible refrigerator designs provide individual temperature control of storage drawers and compartments that can switch from frozen to refrigerated storage.
"Be sure to measure the space and select the appliance that fits," Scandy warns. "Before buying any appliance, it's important to ensure they are well rated, function according to your needs and wants, and that they all coordinate with one another. Your appliances are not the place to mix and match colors and textures."
Today's style emphasizes a visual harmony between the look of your kitchen and the decor in the rest of your home. Waterman recommends matched flooring as a unifying element. "Using hardwood floors throughout your home's interior design is one way to create a cohesive look between adjacent rooms." Wood floors offer lasting value in a kitchen, he emphasizes: "In such a high-traffic area, it's important to pick flooring which is both durable and versatile, offering a great look for a wide range of interiors and lifestyles."
Harloe sees brick as an integrating element, especially thin brick, which can be used for walls, backsplashes, bars, fireplaces, retaining walls and outdoor as well as indoor kitchens.
Scandy recommends cohesion between your kitchen cabinets and the furniture in the rest of your home. "Keep the finishes neutral and lasting rather than trendy," she says, "and allow the paint to set the trend and complement the colors in the rest of your home." For looks as well as functionality, Scandy also recommends under-cabinet lighting. LED strips suit this application well, combining energy efficiency with the proper form factor for an unobtrusive installation.
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