Design Your Dream Kitchen with Ease

Planning your dream kitchen is more than choosing cabinet styles and flooring patterns. It’s a formula of needs, wants and desires that when carefully mixed, creates the heart and soul of your household. And it’s also a lot of careful preparation.

Where to Begin
A good place to start is by critiquing what you think is right and wrong with your present kitchen. Collect you ideas and thoughts in a notebook, listing everything you like and dislike, even the smallest nuisance. Your new design can work only if you can express why your current design doesn’t.

Next, reflect on your lifestyle. When and how do you use the kitchen? Do you cook all your meals at home or just on weekends? Do you bake a lot, gourmet cook, specialty cook (canning, etc.) or entertain formally or informally? Who uses the kitchen?

"Most people take their current lifestyle for granted when it comes to designing their dream kitchen," says Doris Lacroix, a certified kitchen designer (CKD) and certified bathroom designer (CBD) with the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). "When they really start to analyze the way they work in the he kitchen, they often are surprised."

What You Want And What You Need
The next step is determining what you need versus what you want. Again, keep a list. Catalog all of your needs first - they’ll be your priorities.

For example:
• If you don’t have enough space for your groceries and your dishes, put "more cabinets" on your list.

• If you feel you do more walking than cooking when preparing a meal, make a note that you need a "better floor plan."

• If the olive green countertop you have has lost its appeal, add "blue countertop" to your list.

Your lifestyle will reflect your needs, as well. A young family with small children may want a kitchen/family room combination with a snack bar, a large capacity refrigerator and pantry space for bulk shopping. An "empty nesters" couple might want to remodel to create a compact kitchen that’s suitable for everything from cooking to growing fresh herbs to hosting dinner parties.

If you have special needs, kitchens can be designed to be accessible, appealing and functional for people of all ages and physical abilities - from children to family members on crutches or in wheelchairs, even to those with poor eyesight.

Accessories such as low-mounted wall ovens, varied-height countertops, roll-out shelves and infrared sensory faucets are among the items that can be installed for everyone’s convenience.

Start Dreaming
Then, start dreaming. This is critical to the design phase because it helps to break up any preconceived limitations you may have placed on your project. Try to visualize what you would do if you could have anything, cost no object. You may find that you can afford more than you thought - a second microwave, ceiling beams, a peninsula with bar stools, a hanging pot rack, a new European-style faucet. Your list could go on and on.

And not only is the kitchen the cooking area, but it’s also the meeting place, the entertainment center, and the spot for family gatherings. Consider what other activities might take place in your new area - perhaps space for an office/computer, sewing, laundry or ironing, even a recycling center.

"All of these questions are important to answer because it helps a designer plan the space in which the consumer will work, alone or with another," Lacroix notes.

Valuable Resources And Help
Shelter and home improvement magazines, and design books are wonderful resources for gathering all of your design preferences. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to make the numerous decisions you inevitably will face.

Make plans to attend area home and garden shows. Many designers and manufacturers attend these exhibits and can give you a first-hand look at their displays.

Friends and neighbors’ kitchens also are great resources. Many times, their styles are similar to your own.

Visit kitchen designer showrooms. Their full-scale displays will give you invaluable ideas about the style, color and setting of your new kitchen. Cabinetry, faucets, appliances and special features can start your inventory of ideas.

Setting a Budget
According to NKBA, the average price of a kitchen remodeling project was $22,100 in 1996. Broken down, consumers can expect cabinetry to take up as much as 48 percent of their budget, while installation labor can cost as much as 18percent. Countertops consume about 13 percent, while appliance cost 8 percent.

"The budget is a critical factor to designing your dream kitchen," says Lou Hall, CKD, CBD. "You must be willing to be open and honest and have a realistic budget. The design professional then can share with you the products and accessories that you can afford. Good kitchen design doesn’t have to be expensive to be a success."

Lacroix agrees.
"If not, the consumer will receive a beautiful design that may be out of their reach and contains products that they cannot afford. This is frustrating for both parties."

What You Can Expect
Once your remodeling project begins, "Be prepared to be a little confused during your preparation time," Lacroix confesses. "Most people have never done this before, so they ask advice from everyone. But it’s best to zero in on a professional that will listen carefully, put your ideas to work and design a project that fits your need to a "T."

Also, be prepared to make sound decisions. the designer is going to work closely with you to develop a design solution that meets all your needs.

Remember...remodeling and building is messy and unpleasant. Your present cabinets will be gone. The water supply to your kitchen will be turned off, and the sink will be taken away. the stove will be disconnected and wheeled off on a dolly. You may have the refrigerator in the the living room, or perhaps have to cook your dinner over a camp stove. But once the dust settles, your only thoughts should be of the new kitchen that depicts your lifestyle and dreams.

Finding a Professional
Who do you turn to for help? To make the most of your dream kitchen, consult a design firm that belongs to the NKBA, and /or work with a CKD. These specialists have the most current information about design trends and products, and have the necessary skills to make your wants and needs a reality.

The NKBA offers consumers a complete planning kit for $5.00, which has everything you’ll need to get started on your project, including a list of NKBA members and firms in you area. Call 800-401-NKBA (800-401-6522), or visit the Association’s web site at www.nkba.org.

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Last Revised: Thursday, February 18, 1999

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