Do you live in an older home? If so, chances are the original kitchen was quite small. That creates some interesting challenges when the time comes for a kitchen renovation.
Back in the 1950s (and earlier), the perception of the kitchen was much different than today. This room was supposed to be just big enough for one person to prepare meals. It wasn’t seen as a place to hang out, do work and entertain.
Kitchens of that era usually had lots of windows to bring in the light. They had lots of
doorways, too, for easy access to the dining room, basement and front and back entry. A
separate storage pantry was typically built off the back or side. A chimney was often attached, too, because old stoves ran through them.
What does all this mean if you’re renovating your small kitchen? And how can an experienced design/build remodeler like Custom help you overcome the roadblocks that inevitably arise? Read on to find out.
Dealing with Limited Options
Having a large kitchen means lots of renovation options. When renovating a small kitchen,
the options are much more limited. You also have to be much more creative in finding solutions. Custom Contracting kitchen designer Nikki DeFelice likes that.
“Small kitchens are my favorite projects because of the challenges,” she said. “You’re
up against so many things in terms of square footage, windows, door openings, chimney
chases, etc. So you have to put a lot of thought into accommodating the homeowner’s wish list. But we’ve been doing this for awhile, and we can always make it work.”
The big question with small kitchens is: How do you maximize the amount of usable space? Sometimes this means making significant changes, like relocating window or door
placements. Taking down walls to incorporate a pantry and perhaps a back hall is another
common part of our work.
The Ins and Outs of Product Selection
With so much to think about, it’s no wonder product selection is often a major challenge during kitchen renovations. And it’s only become tougher in recent years, with more products to choose from and an ever-growing universe of vendors, both in
online and brick-and-mortar forms.
Custom Contracting designer Nikki DeFelice and project coordinator Michael Daniell are the two people here most involved in product selection. We asked Nikki a few questions about what goes into this process during kitchen renovations.
What’s your approach to helping homeowners with product selection?
Nikki: First of all, I always design for my clients, not for myself. When I come to visit
you in your home, I get a very good sense of your style and how that should translate to
the products you select. As we move through the process, my role is to present options
based on what I perceive to be your style. I let you guide me. On rare occasions, a homeowner will choose, say, a color combination that doesn’t work. I’ll be honest about my reaction and let them know.
What can clients do to help you understand their style?
Nikki: When we meet for the first time, I always suggest bringing along photos of things
you like. Some people rip out pages from magazines; others point me to websites. That’s
definitely a big help.
Do you recommend clients pick one particular product first?
Nikki: For kitchens, it’s the cabinets. The rest usually flows from that, along with the
counters. I find most people are pretty good about knowing what they want for cabinets
What kinds of things do homeowners struggle with?
Nikki: Tiles. There are so many options — more than with any other product for the
kitchen. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Faucets and light fixtures are tough, too.
What’s Custom’s role in terms of managing this process?
Nikki: A big thing is factoring in lead times. Some products, like plumbing fixtures,
don’t have much of a lead time. Others, like tile for a backsplash, may take six weeks
to arrive. You have to account for this when planning out the project and keeping it on
schedule. But we’re always coordinating these things — me, the lead carpenter, Michael,
[production manager] Craig Lielasus — so that the project runs smoothly.
What other value does Custom bring to product selection?
Nikki: Going with a design/build contractor like us saves you so much money and time.
You’re not on your own when selecting the products. You get to deal with our preferred
vendors and receive the discounts that go along with it. And you don’t have to go hire
designers, decorators or any other professionals — it’s one-stop shopping.