Well helloo there! Its been over 2 years since we moved into the new house (not really “new” anymore but it still kinda smells new). People always ask me...would you do it again...should I do it? My typical answer is an emphatic I think so! Not because I don't love the “new” house but the ridiculously difficult way we got here was just so RIDICULOUS and DIFFICULT. And, with the pandemic...MAN was I so happy to call this place home. So much space for the kids to do virtual school, being back in the old ‘hood with friends, and the luxury of having my own home office painted in blush pink..it was...as the kids say...pretty lit.
One good thing that happened during the pandemic (for me and other designers) is that clients looked around while stuck at home and noticed...man...my place is awful. Or “I need a new ____”. The most requested item these days from clients is a new or renovated kitchen. I love redesigning kitchens for clients (even if it’s just in Sketchup) and reimagining it from something old, sticky, (yes. Cabinets get gross and sticky) and stuck in the 70s to something that is functional, has more storage and is super clean and stylish. Some of my clients just want cabinets that have a “soft close feature”...ahhh the simple things in life.
So these days I tell people...YES! You should do it..but don’t do it the way we did it. Get the right contractor/builder AND the right designer. Pay more for the important things like gorgeous windows that your pets will love to sun themselves in and oh...and get a really good functioning gorgeous kitchen. Being an architect and interior designer, I was picky AF when it came to this house. The build came pretty close to exactly what we wanted. There were certain things I would say were a “yay! this is awesome” and then other things that whenever I walk past it I go…”ugh. Why did I do it this way?”. One thing I don't regret and (usually) have no complaints about (because, let’s be real...I can complain about anything, haha) is the kitchen.
So...after 2 years in...what would I change about my kitchen? And what things would I do over and over again?
KITCHEN MUST HAVES FOR 2021
HOW MUCH KITCHEN STORAGE DO I REALLY NEED?
"I have too much storage in my kitchen"...said no one ever. This is the number one thing that clients are requesting these days. They need storage and lots of it. I know it's a big luxury but If you're starting fresh or are doing a big renovation...I'd recommend trying to carve out a niche to make a REAL pantry. One where you can walk in and feel like you are shopping in a small store. Our little store is full of dried ramen, pet food, junk cereal and Chips Ahoy cookies. We also added an adorable sliding Barn Door that has a bit of interest and cool hardware. It stays open almost a hundred percent of the time unless of course if we have guests over and the pantry is a disaster.
Pro tip #1: get yo self an appliance garage. I can't tell you how many times I just close the self close garage style door and think that it's so nice to just hide away all those ugly cords and appliances on the counter. Now just to let you know - some cabinet manufacturers don't actually have an appliance garage in their line so if this is on your top three things of must haves - then make sure that you are getting cabinets that have this feature as a standard item. We used Ultracraft cabinets and really love them 2 years later.
APPLIANCE GARAGE...HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
A pic of our beloved Thurgood (may he Rest his adorable crazy puppy head In Peace) and Mimi the cat enjoying a small piece of the pantry for their mealtimes
WHAT SHOULD I SPLURGE ON IN MY KITCHEN?
I get asked this question often and while I'd like to say "EVERYTHING"...that doesn't make much sense for the average bear. Something that I thought was a splurge and that I would never use (and actually thought was nonsense) is the pot filler. On the days I do cook, I probably use it twice a day. Pot fillers come in all finishes, styles and price ranges but I think the most expensive part would be to get a water line behind your range. Totally worth it in my opinion.
Pro Tip #2: Splurge on the backsplash! This is where having an interior designer work with you is really important. Interior designers know what is in and more importantly on its way out as far as trends...especially kitchen tiles. Having a backsplash that fits your style and needs really makes a kitchen sing. This tile was slightly on the more expensive side but every day when I pass by and see that slight glimmer on that tile...I don't regret it one bit.
I've been recommending to clients that they take their countertop slab material (quartz, marble , granite) and apply it vertically as a backsplash. A - it has potetial of looking dramatic and clean (depending on what material you use) and...wait for it...(almost) no grout lines which means no maintenance. Win and win.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE BEST LIGHTING FOR A KITCHEN?
I keep seeing kitchens with expensive flooring or cabinets but then the lighting looks ill proportioned, too dim (useless) or like it was a total after thought and the contractor went to Home Depot the last week of the install. (Sorry Home Depot..I love you...but not for kitchen lighting!). Even just adding under cabinet lighting makes a world of difference. In our new home build, we added lighting to the underside of the cabinet as well as the open shelving. It makes me swoon every time I turn it on. We did have to get it hardwired but again totally worth it because it's dramatic and also functional.
Pro tip #3: Doing an elevation of your Island and ensuring you get the right placement of light fixtures is key. Take the extra time to do this or have a friend do it or I hire me and I can do it for you (ahem ahem) because the spacing of lighting can make or break the island. Another big no no that I see is the recessed lighting locations are a mess. There are sometimes too few or too many or in a weird pattern (this I see a lot..not exactly sure why). Getting a kitchen or interior designer that understands lighting placement is critical.
A simple elevation like this one will ensure that you get the right lighting height and spacing
3 types of lighting - recessed, pendants and under counter...all strategically placed with the right color temperature (warm, always warm).
KITCHEN OUTLETS - WHERE TO PUT THEM? WHAT KIND OF OUTLETS?
The right amount of outlets in the right location is a big deal. I remember we worked on this for hours with the electrician when we were planning the kitchen. Some contractors just do what is the least amount of work and thought. I always recommend looking at how you work in your kitchen...do you have lots of countertop appliances? Do you mozy up to the kitchen with your laptop? Do you need lots of ports for charging phones or devices? Sometimes you need to swap out a duplex to a quad...sometimes you need Smart outlets or a couple USB receptacle combos. I am also obsessed with the newer type of outlets that recess into the wall when not in use or *gasp* these round flush mount outlets that are sooo sleek and awesome. See images below...some really cool outlets that I wish I had done...sigh.
IS OPEN SHELVING A GOOD IDEA? DO DISHES REALLY GET DUSTY?
I just read this piece about the Property Brothers and how they dislike open kitchen shelving. Ummm...what?? I adore them and wholeheartedly disagree. I think open shelving is here to stay. Most of my clients and friends say they cant do it...but the trick is to just put up your most “ I love it when people showcase their personality or show off their most adorable things.
Unfortunately, dishes DO get dusty and you DO have to do some light maintenance but I dont do it bery often. TBH - I do it like, twice a year. OK - don't judge...we don't use some of the pieces...they are there for adorableness.
If you are not as organized or maybe you are still working on that cool collection of white pottery...then maybe open shelving is not for you. I sometimes recommend having at least a small part of the kitchen as open shelving. It's a great strategy for the eye to get a break from all the closed upper cabinets.
CLIENTS ASK...WHAT COLOR CABINETS SHOULD I GET? WHAT COLOR KITCHEN CABINETS NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE?
Are white cabinets and kitchens still in? It depends on who you ask. Some of my clients are only going to be in their home for the next 10 to 12 years because they dream of a beach house just like me after their kids go to college or leave their home. So what I recommend is usually something very neutral like a soft white or an off-white that we can add some gorgeous backsplash or do a fun floor tile that will not make it boring but it certainly won't make it seem dated. a lot of clients are saying they want to be able to sell the house in 10 years and not have to redo the kitchen again for the next owner. So creating a kitchen that is timely, elegant and neutral enough but not boring is the goal. I chose glossy white upper cabinets and a walnut stain base cabinet scheme and haven't regretted it. It might not be for everyone but I love the way the glossy white cabinets feel every time I open it and I think it's just modern enough mixed with the wood. Some people might say that the mixing of finishes might be on Trend or maybe even a passed trend but I don't know I still love it.
Don’t tell anyone but...I have been secretly obsessed with deep or medium hued painted cabinets like the ones you see below. sigh... maybe in the my imagination beach house. :-)
WHAT IS A FOCAL POINT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Creating a focal point or a focal wall is one of the most important things aesthetically that you can do in a kitchen. Locating that wall with a luxe range and a hood is what it's going to make or break that kitchen. There's so many ways to do a range hood these days..some are exposed but in my opinion it's been done and I'm over it. I usually recommend an enclosed range hood or one that is capped off with drywall (instead of more cabinets). Word tot he wise...a microwave is used just to microwave food. It is not used for ventilating smoke and smells from your home. I think this is what microwave manufacturers were tying to sell us on a couple decades ago...but they really dont do anything except recirculate air around. I havent seen one yet that does it well (even the ones that vent to the exterior).
ALTERNATIVES TO A DRYING RACK AND KEEPING THOSE DISHES OFF THE COUNTERTOP
In a previous blog post I wrote about creating a drying "cabinet"that hid pots and pans while they dried so that they don't have to sit on top of a countertop. Mannnn...It was so close to being a real thing. The cabinet was ordered and the pan was sized custom for drainage. But the cabinet ordered was too wide and we scrapped the idea because of time contraints. Sadness. Instead we added a second smaller 18 inch dishwasher (in addition to our old 24” dishwasher from the old house) and I have never looked back since. Most of the time the small dishwasher is just drying big pots and pans but if we ever have a big post pandemic pool party...it’s going to be great to be able to use both.
Kitchen design is a TON of work but the end result is SO SATISFYING for my clients. it's the heart of the home and where the most people gather during events. Its the place where my kids belly up to tell me about their day, homework help, oven baked smores or deconstructed sushi dinners . The options are endless these days and thinking it through to get your "must haves" is the key to your dream kitchen.