Category: Kitchen

Bob Vila Radio: Stacking Cabinets

In a small kitchen where space is at a premium, consider stacking cabinets to increase your storage capacity.

No matter how big your kitchen is, you never seem to have enough cabinet space. In a small kitchen where space is at a premium, consider stacking cabinets to increase your storage capacity.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON STACKING CABINETS or read the text below:



Many kitchens are designed with cabinets that butt up against a soffit. Other kitchens leave that space open for an airy feel that also allows for storage and display on top of the cabinets. But for maximum enclosed storage, a second row of cabinets above the first one can be a great idea.

The most visually pleasing proportions for stacked cabinets are a top cabinet that’s about half the height of the one below it. To figure out what size cabinets would work for you, measure the distance from your countertop to the ceiling. Allow about 16 inches from the counter to where the cabinet’s bottom will be. Then divide the remaining space by three. That’s roughly the cabinet height of your top row.

So for example, if you have 45 inches to work with, you could have 30-inch bottom cabinets topped by 15-inch cabinets. Don’t worry if your space doesn’t divide equally by three, or if your cabinets don’t come in sizes that fit perfectly. As long as the proportions are close, it will look fine. And crown molding can hide several inches’ worth of extra space at the top.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Laminate Countertops: A Buyer’s Guide

If you're shopping around for products to use in a budget kitchen renovation, consider buying laminate countertops, now available in more style options than ever before.

Laminate Countertops

Wilsonart Smoky Topaz Laminate Countertop

When you’re remodeling a kitchen on a budget, laminate is the best affordable option for countertops.

Nowadays this tried-and-true material comes in a wider array of designs than ever before, from beautiful solid colors to interesting wood looks with embedded texture to lovely stone patterns with a variety of finish options.

Before selecting laminate as a countertop material, it’s helpful to know the plusses and minuses. We asked Kent Brasloff, principal of New York-based design firm Ask Kent and Co., and vice president of programs for the New York chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, to share his insights on buying laminate countertops. Here’s what he had to say:

What is laminate?
A combination of plastic and paper—interestingly, though, generally not recycled—and sometimes board. These materials are formed into a thin layer and colored or manufactured with naturalistic or textured designs. This layer is then laminated to particleboard or chip board.

What makes laminate a good choice for countertops?
It’s flexible and can be used in a variety of ways and in a variety of spaces: a kitchen, bath, work room or laundry room. Laminate can also be used on a shop table or as a furniture surface. Available in a multitude of colors and textures, it’s easy to work with and can be cut into any shape, including forms with sharp corner points or with a smooth radius. It’s quite durable.

Buying Laminate Countertops - WilsonartWhat is the difference between a low-cost laminate and an expensive one?
The key difference between high- and low-end laminates is generally the finish of the material. Higher-end products offer greater variety in luster or sheen and texture. They also come in a broader range of colors. The cost of the laminate will be affected by whether or not there is a built-in backsplash and how high or low the backsplash may be.

What are the maintenance requirements for laminate countertops?
To clean the surface, use a damp cloth or sponge and a mild soap or detergent. To remove difficult stains from coffee or tea, use a mild household cleaner and baking soda mixed into a paste, scrubbing with a stiff nylon bristle brush and being careful not to mar the surface finish.

Slideshow: Trending Now: Laminate Countertops

Stubborn stains may call for gently rubbing the spot with a cotton ball that has been saturated with undiluted household bleach or nail polish remover. Prolonged exposure of the laminate surface to bleach will cause discoloration, so always rinse thoroughly with warm warm water and wipe dry. Do not use steel wool and other abrasive materials or harsh chemicals, such as a rust remover. Also, avoid placing hot pots and pans on the surface, as its level of heat resistance is limited.

What are the pros for choosing laminate?
Its durability, range of color and design options, flexibility to accommodate unique shapes, and ease of installation.

Its cons?
On the downside, laminate shows scratches, which usually be cannot filled or repaired. And to some people it can look “cheap” or “papery”. It hasn’t been popular for quite some time in the US, but it is stilled used extensively in Europe, often in high-end contexts. Also, it gets brittle and chips with age.

How much does it cost?
A fair range would be between $35 and $40 per linear foot at retail. Of course cost may be affected by the intricacy of the design and whether the counter will have a “self” or “beveled” edge. Cost will also be impacted by countertops with a lot of corners, a wide radius, or a built-in backsplash. Laminates with standard finishes are more affordable than those with upgraded finishes.

What are its installation requirements?
After the contractor installs your cabinets (or support structure), the countertop area will be templated and made to fit for installation by a professional.

Old Country Farmhouse Gets City-Slick Kitchen

In Upstate New York, architect Elaine Monchak's contemporary kitchen design animates the old bones of a 1789 farmhouse.

Architect Elaine Monchak's warm yet sleek modern kitchen

Photo: Monchak A+D Design LLC

If undertaking a home improvement project can take a lot of courage, the buyer of this 1789-vintage farmhouse in Chatham, NY, must have an abundance of the right stuff.

When project architect Elaine Monchak first visited the house with her client, it was in “very, very bad shape,” she says. But the house’s location—far back from the road on several bucolic acres with lovely views in every direction—made the necessary upgrades seem worthwhile.

Before the remodelPerhaps the greatest demonstration of valor was the decision to add a contemporary sunroom to the Colonial-style spread.

“For a project like this, where you have a house with a very strong character and structure, there are really only two ways to go. You can do a building addition that fits into the same character or do something completely different,” says Monchak, principal of Monchak A+D Design LLC, in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.

The homeowner “is very sophisticated and appreciates modern architecture. The decision was made early on to preserve the traditional character of the main house and use the kitchen as a transition to the contemporary addition. The kitchen is the ‘knuckle’ that holds the two together”.

Slideshow: Old House, Modern Kitchen

The warmth of wood under a white milk-tint rubbed finish nicely bridges the centuries. Enhancing the effect is the rift-sawn oak’s consistent tones and minimal knots, which produces a less traditional look than other cuts of this wood type.

To maintain a light, airy, open feeling and make the most of the views, Monchak’s design nixed upper cabinets. Shelves in front of the windows and above the sink provide additional storage without adding bulk. The tall cabinet next to the microwave maximizes efficiency with pull-out drawers (other built-ins include a trash/recycling center installed below the windows).

This project is Monchak’s second for the homeowner; the first was a Manhattan apartment. For the Chatham house, the client was amenable to most of Monchak’s suggestions. As Monchak puts it, “She was confident in my abilities and let me do what I wanted”. But the client did have to be talked into the orange backsplash.

Exterior view of the sunroom that forms the addition

“I wanted something bright as an accent,” Monchak says. “Everything else is neutral. This color picks up the oranges in the mahogany window frames, it complements the wood.” The seamless, easy-care backsplash was created from a single sheet of back-painted glass.

The installation, however, was more complex than its gleaming simplicity may suggest. Durable tempered glass is too tough to cut to have accommodated the outlets or the shelves’ mounting hardware. So the holes had to be made before the glass was even tempered.

The range hood was another topic of debate. The client, who enjoys cooking, insisted on one. Monchak resisted at first, reluctant to install anything overhead. “I did a lot of research to find one as unobtrusive as possible,” she says. The solution: a cylindrical stainless steel unit with a sculptural look that’s at home in its modern surroundings.

Riftsawn oak cabinets with rubbed finishThe contemporary look of stainless steel is carried through in the mid-range appliances, which, chosen for looks and function, are more in scale with the modestly sized kitchen than pro-style models would be.

Other metallic touches include the sink and faucet, the cabinet hardware, the under-island cabinet and the niche above the microwave. The sunroom sconces and ceiling fan continue the theme.

The Fireslate countertop may look familiar to anyone who ever took a high school chemistry class. In fact, the manufactured slabs are so tough that they’re laboratory mainstays.

Available in a variety of colors, Fireslate won’t crack, can handle high heat, and is lighter and less expensive than natural stone. However, oil, acidic foods, wine and even water will leave their mark. Over time, the material develops a patina that yields a casual, organic, contemporary vibe that many homeowners prize.

Sliding doors—crafted of sandblasted glass and fiber-cement panels—separate the kitchen and sunroom, adding to the versatility of the space. The doors can be open for entertaining larger groups or closed to create separate intimate spaces. Even when the doors are shut, light filters through the translucent glass. Fiber-cement panels are used again on the floor; “It looks like concrete but is thinner and doesn’t crack,” says Monchak.

The flow between kitchen and sunroom continues to a stone patio perfect for al fresco relaxing, dining, and entertaining, further fulfilling the original project goals of creating an attractive and functional space to share with friends.

For some of the designer’s kitchen remodeling tips, click here.

Whether you are actively planning or merely contemplating a kitchen remodel, here are some smart design tips from architect/designer Elaine Monchak, Monchak A+D Design LLC, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY:

1. Determine how you want to use your space and what you want to get out of the remodeling project.

2. Do you want your remodeled space to blend with the rest of the house or be something different?

3. Take natural light and views into consideration, as well as mechanical necessities like outlets, ventilation, and plumbing.

4. Take time to think through suggestions from your architect or designer. An idea that surprises today may delight in the long run.

5. Think about how much maintenance different materials and products require. Certain items (pro stoves without self-cleaning ovens, stain-prone countertops, polished surfaces that show every fingerprint) may not be appropriate for a low-maintenance space.

6. A door between the kitchen and family room can be a plus while entertaining. With the door open, the host can prep food and still join in the fun; during dinner, a closed door hides dirty dishes and makes it easier to relax and put the cleanup out of mind for a while.

7. Use glass tiles as a budget-wise way to replicate the look of back-painted glass.

Engineered Stone Countertops: A Buyer’s Guide

Beautiful, hygienic, and low-maintenance, engineered stone makes an ideal eco-friendly countertop surface.

Engineered Stone Countertops

Photo: Sliestone

Many Americans nowadays care about making eco-friendly choices. And when it comes to countertops, engineered stone is one of the most environmentally sensitive choices you can make. But this type of surface offers a host of other benefits, too. It’s durable, beautiful, hygienic and easy to care for. We asked Princeton, NJ-based architect Joshua Zinder for his take on this versatile surface. Read on for his insight.

What kind of engineered stone can be used as a countertop?
Most engineered stones are fantastic for high-wear uses such as kitchen countertops. There are a variety of products on the market, including Silestone, Caesarstone, IceStone and many more. The products should be acid-resistant and non-absorptive. The size and types of materials used to make the engineered stone will determine its best uses. For example, an engineered surface with large chunks of marble will be limited in performance to the pieces of marble it contains.

What makes engineered stone good as a countertop surface?
Unlike solid surfacing or plastic laminate, which are temperature-sensitive and can catch fire, engineered stone resists heat well. And unlike some other surfaces—even natural stones—engineered ones resist stains from liquids like wine or coffee.

Engineered StoneWhat are its primary characteristics?
Strong, durable, and attractive, engineered stone is very consistent in look and pattern. It is also heat-resistant and does not accumulate bacteria or mold. The surfaces are easy to maintain, too. They can be specified with bacteria-resistant surfaces, but since they are non-absorptive and resistant to heat anyway, they should not be collecting bacteria in the first place.

What are its pros?
Pros include brute strength and heat resistance, as well as varied colors and styles. Some engineered stone products are made to look like limestone or marble, enabling you to get the look you want but with better performance. If you like using recycled materials or protecting natural resources like real marble, engineered stone counters will do the trick. The products may have natural colors or added colors with various textures. Many contractors are familiar with the products and will install them properly.

Slideshow: 12 Top Names in Engineered Stone

Its cons?
It’s hard to create curves with engineered stone, but as far as typical countertop designs go, there’s nothing you can’t do with these products that you can accomplish with conventional stone. In fact, we’ve pushed the limits with edge and corner details and other shapes in engineered stone materials.

How much does it cost?
Generally about $60-$100/square foot installed.

Why is it so expensive?
With engineered stone, you pay for good performance and a long lifetime. Some colors and patterns are more expensive than others. But some can be quite affordable (I even put one of these in my own house). So it’s expensive but no more so than many natural stone slabs and solid surface materials. It’s definitely more expensive than plastic laminates. But consider this: For years we were specifying white marble with no veins, which looks great but is very expensive. Now to get that white look, we can use engineered stones, which look exactly the same as marble side by side but don’t cost as much. There are lots of suppliers, and the product delivers a consistent look.

What are its installation requirements?
Work with people who know the material, and look for those who are recommended or certified by the material manufacturers.

To see architect Joshua Zinder’s work, click here.

Countertop Care 101

When general clean-up fails to keep your countertop shipshape, consider these material-specific solutions.

Countertop Care

Photo: Gast Architects

Perhaps never before have there been so many enticing countertop options to fit every budget, décor, and culinary need. Today’s popular

Butcher block surfaces should be rubbed with tung, linseed, or mineral oil anywhere from monthly to quarterly, depending on how much use your kitchen gets. Small burns, cuts, and scratches can be sanded out of butcher block. Remove stains by sponging on a mixture of one teaspoon of lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide per ¼ cup of water. For tough stains, use wood bleach (oxalic acid); follow package directions and rinse thoroughly.

Non-butcher block wood countertops are usually finished with marine oil, which boosts stain resistance. Brooks recommends refreshing marine-oiled countertops monthly with Weiman’s Furniture Cream.

Naturally nonporous and stain-resistant, soapstone doesn’t need sealing. But cooking oil—or even just skin contact—can tarnish the surface color. Keep the countertop color uniform with sealer or by rubbing with mineral oil. Mineral oil will darken soapstone’s natural gray hue; sealing will not.

Soapstone is relatively soft, so it will nick, scratch and chip, lending the surface a natural, organic quality. Scratches can be buffed out with fine sandpaper or left to create a patina.

This manufactured countertop material is typically nonporous and doesn’t require sealing. Depending on the brand, quartz is scratch-, stain-, and heat-resistant and stands up well to normal use. Not all brands are created equal; reading your product warranty could contain some tip-offs as to what you can expect. If scratches aren’t covered, that’s a strong hint to be extra mindful about knives and rough-bottomed cookware.

To fight stains, mix two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, a cup of flour, and enough water to make a paste. Apply to the stain, cover with plastic, and let the mixture dry for up to 24 hours; remove with warm water and a soft cloth.

Cad Kitchen Plans Stainless Steel Machine Hammered CountertopSTAINLESS STEEL
Count on stainless steel to scratch. Minor scratches can be buffed out using an abrasive pad applied in a circular motion. Whether a stainless steel countertop will dent depends on the thickness of the material and how it is installed. 14-gauge metal bonded to a waterproof core is “so solid you could park a Hummer on it,” says Brooks.

Even good-quality stainless steel can pick up rust marks from metal scouring pads, cast iron pans, and other rust-prone items. A mild abrasive cleanser or a homemade paste of lemon juice and baking soda will banish rust.

Treat stains on laminates with a paste of baking soda and water; let the paste sit for three to five minutes, then gently rinse without scrubbing. For tough stains, try rubbing for a minute or two with a cotton ball dampened with household bleach; rinse and dry.

Remove fine scratches or stubborn stains by applying a mild abrasive in small circular motions on the entire surface. These solid surfaces can acquire a plastic-y patina, which can be removed professionally.

A stainproof finish should be applied before installation by the fabricator or manufacturer; the surface cannot be retro-finished. A seasonal application of tung oil can boost the stain resistance of sealed concrete; paste wax lends a warm, slightly glossy look.

When it comes to maintenance, it’s not the tile but the grout that needs attention. Clean stained grout with a toothbrush and mildew-fighting cleaner or bleach diluted with water; rinse carefully. Sealing grout fends off stains and mildew. Tiles can also be re-caulked with mildew-resistant silicone products.

Perhaps the most important step in countertop care is accepting that every surface will eventually accumulate a few scratches and dings with regular use. “There’s a myth that there’s an indestructible countertop material that requires no maintenance,” Brooks says. “There is nothing like that.” He believes that attitude is everything. “If you look at a surface and recognize that it’s OK, then it is OK.”

materials are tough and durable, so keeping kitchen work surfaces in good shape relies more on common-sense daily use than on occasional onerous upkeep rituals.

Certain “dos and don’ts” apply to just about every readily available countertop material. Among them:

• Clean counters regularly with a sponge or soft cloth and a mild, non-abrasive cleaner such as dish soap and warm water; rinse and dry to nix smudges and water spots.

• Head off stains at the pass by wiping up spills promptly, especially notorious villains like tea, coffee, soda, red wine, oil, tomatoes, vinegar and lemon.

• No counter material appreciates puddles. Standing water can leave a film or mineral deposit; it dulls surfaces, causes grout to mildew, damages laminates’ seams, harms wood and shortens the lifespan of sealers.

• Knives and high heat are not any countertop’s best friends. Keep cutting boards and trivets (or hot pads) handy. Protect surfaces from warm appliances like toaster ovens.

• If jumbo-size canned goods drop from your overstocked pantry like bombs, or you juggle with cast iron frying pans, expect serious dent, chip, and crack issues.

• “You can damage any counter if you really try,” says Richard Brooks, owner and president of Brooks Custom, a Westchester County, New York, countertop manufacturer.

Newgreekmarble Marble CountertopGRANITE AND MARBLE
Sealing is the least understood granite- and marble-care checkpoint. Sealer makes a counter stain-resistant—not stainproof—by creating a barrier that delays how quickly the surface absorbs a spill.

There’s no hard-and-fast resealing schedule, but there is a simple test: Put a few drops of water on your counter and they should bead up. If the water is still on the surface after 10 or 15 minutes, your sealer is in good shape. But if the drops have spread and leave a dark mark on the stone after you blot off the excess, it’s time to reseal.

Most hardware stores and home centers carry countertop sealers with detailed application instructions on the packaging. The work typically consists of cleaning and drying the surface, then applying the liquid sealer with a brush or cloth. Let stand for five to 15 minutes, depending on the product, then remove the excess with a dry cloth and buff with a microfiber. Done.

To tackle oil stains on marble, try a non-abrasive liquid cleaner with bleach; mineral spirits, acetone, or ammonia are also effective, but do not mix these substances! Clean up food stains with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia.

Removing stains from granite and marble may be as simple as a trip to your pantry. For oil stains, blot up any excess oil, then sprinkle the mark with cornstarch and let it sit for 18 to 24 hours. Vacuum up the cornstarch and repeat the process if necessary.

For food and drink stains, mix five tablespoons of dish soap with a cup of flour or baking soda. Add enough water to create a paste-like consistency and pread the paste over the stain. Cover it with plastic wrap and let sit overnight. Gently remove the mixture with warm water and a sponge. Do not scrub: Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can scratch shining surfaces. For persistent stains, beef up the paste with some hydrogen peroxide (or a few drops of ammonia) and reapply.

Etching is perhaps marble’s biggest problem. It mimics rings left by glassware, but etching is actually a type of corrosion caused by chemical interactions, which eats away the surface shine. To make etching less noticeable, wet the surface, then sprinkle on marble polishing powder and rub it in with a damp cloth or a buffing pad on a low speed drill.

For more care tips on wood, soapstone, stainless, laminates and other countertop materials, click here.

Granite Countertops: A Buyer’s Guide

Are granite countertops right for you? Here is some expert advice.

Granite Countertops

Photo: Sophisticated Edge>

Granite. It’s the most popular natural countertop surface for kitchens and baths in America. And for good reason—it’s durable, easy to maintain, and beautiful. It’s also a relatively simple upgrade in an old kitchen that will add value to your home should you choose to sell it. For more insight on this appealing material, we turned to contractor Gencer Hepozden, owner of Perspective Construction in New York City. Read on for his insights on this favored product.

What is granite?
It is a natural, sturdy stone that is more durable than marble.

What makes it so popular? The fact that it is more durable than marble makes it a good choice for kitchen counters. And because granite comes in a wide range of colors, it appeals to most people. In fact, granite is the most sought-after choice of countertop material. The color choices of black pearl and absolute black are widely popular among consumers for use in the bathroom and kitchen, on floors and walls and counters as well.

Modular Granite Countertops Granite Colors What are its primary characteristics?  It comes in a wide range of colors, and a wide range of edge treatments are also available. Compared to marble, it offers a more uniform pattern is more sturdy.

What are its pros?  It is durable, acid-resistant, moisture-resistant and scratch-resistant. Also, it comes in a wide range of colors.

Its cons? It absorbs oils fast, and the lighter colors show stains more than darker ones.

Why is it so expensive? That is a common misconception. Granite is actually inexpensive compared to many other alternatives. Marble, for example, is higher in price, especially due to certain kinds (like White Thassos) not being available. Since marble prices have increased, customers have come to prefer granite. Blue granite is the most expensive.

How much does it cost? The cost of granite can range anywhere from $10 to $170 per square foot. Fabrication and installation costs vary between $40 and $100 per square foot. Elements that reflect on the price include the thickness of the slab, the type of edge treatment, whether or not a backsplash of the same material will be included, and the color of granite (blue being the most expensive).

What are its installation requirements? First the cabinets have to be installed in order for a granite countertop to be templated for a proper fit pre-installation. Once the template is made, the granite is cut to fit and should be installed by a pro to ensure it is level. After installation, granite needs to be sealed. We prefer to use Miracle sealer. The right sealer can make granite oil resistant, too.

Counter Intelligence: Choosing the Right Countertop

All kitchen countertops are not created equal. Here are the pros and cons of today's more popular choices.


Countertops pull double duty as a visual design element and a hardworking surface. Cost depends on materials, with prices ranging from $2–$250 per square foot or more. Today’s popular countertop options support a strong natural theme with stone, wood, and renewable materials. Look for surfaces that can stand up to the demands you’ll dish out, and mix them to personalize your space. For instance, put quartz or granite on the main countertops, then use a butcher block on the island to chop fruits and veggies. Here are materials to consider:

The Naturals. Durability and good looks keep granite and quartz in high demand, but other natural materials are also gaining ground. In luxe kitchens, timeless marble is coming on strong, though it’s not as durable as granite, and the more historic-looking soapstone has also become more popular. Semi-precious gem slabs, such as agate, amethyst, and rose quartz, are also gaining attention for their dazzling good looks. Limestone and sandstone are alternatives for those who want a more natural, soothing palette. As for prices, granite and soapstone begin around $40 per square foot, and low-maintenance quartz begins around $120.

Du Pont Corian Solid Surface Kitchen Countertops Cirrus White Rev Sustainable Choices. Going green is always in vogue and manufacturers now offer countertops fashioned from renewable and recyclable materials like ground glass, metal bits, bamboo, stainless steel, and concrete. Repurposed architectural salvage offers one-of-a-kind countertops. And on the budget-friendly end are laminates made with recycled-wood particle board and non-VOC adhesives.

Woods. Take a look at hardwoods like maple, mahogany, and cherry, as well as current popular choices like madrone. Not only do these time-honored materials add a warm, cozy feel to any style kitchen, but they can be refinished numerous times and will age beautifully. Cost ranges from $30–$100 per square foot.

Laminates. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly countertop or a retro look, simple laminates keep costs in line (prices begin around $5 per square foot). The material is fairly durable but not heat-resistant. Installation is relatively quick, helping to keep costs down.

Tile. Durable and affordable, tile comes in various colors, sizes, and textures and can be made of porcelain, ceramic, or stone. Prices vary, with the least expensive choices beginning at $2 per square foot. Seal any grout used between the tiles to ward off bacteria buildup.

Solid Surfaces. Made of durable, man-made acrylic, solid surface countertops are designed to withstand years of wear and can include an integrated sink with seamless installation. Solid surfaces resist stains, moisture, sunlight, and heat and can be repaired with light buffing.

Planning Guide: Kitchen Remodeling

Take the stress out of kitchen remodeling by becoming more familiar with your design, material, and budget options.

Kitchen Remodeling

Kitchen designed by Chris Novak Berry and Emily Castle, Brooksberry & Associates. Photo: Alise O

Kitchen makeovers remain popular as homeowners continue to invest to create a warm, stylish, comfortable, and efficient heart of the home. In addition to improved aesthetics and organization, kitchen remodels also hold reasonable resale value. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report, midrange minor kitchen remodels—new countertops, appliances, cabinet fronts, and hardware—have an average national cost just shy of $20,000 and get 72% return on investment. Midrange major remodels, which include new appliances, cabinets, countertops, flooring, and lighting, have a mid-range average of $57,824 and a nearly 66% return. High-end renovations can easily cost $100,000 and up.

Though aesthetics are important, the driving remodeling force is functionality. Start by doing some research and tour show houses and kitchen show rooms to see product up close and personal. Next, set a budget that reflects your main priorities for the new space and familiarize yourself with basic elements of design.

Planning Your Best Kitchen
Today’s kitchens average 200–300 square feet and are increasingly part of an open-floor plan. Other trends include a move towards simplicity, uncluttered looks, energy efficiency, and natural materials. Look to design books, magazines, and websites for ideas. And check out the helpful Kitchen Planner by the National Kitchen and Bath Assocation (NKBA), which is available as a free download.

Here are some key points to get you started:

How will you use the kitchen? Before you do anything, determine how you like to cook and entertain in your kitchen. Do you cook alone or with someone? Is your kitchen a multi-purpose room where kids do homework and friends love to gather? Keep track of what currently works well and what doesn’t. For instance, if you’re forever crawling into the back of lower cabinets to retrieve something, jot that issue down.

Stop the clutter. Now is your chance to take inventory of everything you need to store, then plan accordingly. Fortunately, cabinet makers realize storage and organization features drive sales, and they’ve responded accordingly.

G Shaped KitchenThink about efficiency. If your kitchen feels more like an obstacle course than an organized work place, consider two tried-and-true kitchen layout basics:

• The Work Triangle. This imaginary triangle features the stove, refrigerator, and sink at the points. The old “26-foot rule” dictates that the perimeter of this triangle should not exceed 26 feet and that each side should be between four and nine feet long. Make sure that the triangle doesn’t intersect an island or peninsula for more than a foot. (To see additional layouts, select Galley, L-shaped, Corridor, and G-shaped floor plans.)

• The Work Station. Create separate stations for food prep, cooking, baking, and cleaning. Each area is centered around a major appliance and needs at least 15 inches of counter space.

Stick with a Budget. In all likelihood, you’ll need to make some choices on where to save and where to splurge. “Keep your priorities front and center,” advises the NKBA Kitchen Planner. “A $500 range or a $10,000 one? A $100 sink or one that’s $3,500? A $4 polished brass knob or a $98 crystal model? What’s important to you?”

As for budget breakdown, the NKBA Kitchen Planner notes that you can expect cabinetry and hardware to run about 29% of your investment, appliances and ventilation can be 14%, countertops typically run 10%, and installation is about 17% of the total project cost. Set aside 10% or 20% of your budget for contingencies.

For more on kitchen planning, consider:

Fresh Ideas for Kitchen Flooring
Counter Intelligence: Choosing the Right Countertop
Kitchen Cabinets

Small Kitchen Design

Make the most of your space by using a smart small kitchen design.

Small Kitchen Design


The best of small kitchen design focuses on function and flow. No matter the size of the kitchen, smart appliance placement can help create a comfortable, workable environment. Good design dictates that the refrigerator be near food preparation counters, and that sinks be placed next to dishwashers for easy loading. Meanwhile, stoves want workspace and handy storage for cooking accessories, cupboards for pots and pans, and drawers for utensils.

In the food preparation area, the kitchen triangle is the usual standard. It’s actually an arithmetic formula: The sum of the distances from sink to stove to refrigerator and back again should not be less than 12 feet nor more than 22 feet. Furthermore, the kitchen triangle rule specifies that no one side of the triangle should be less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet. This rule works for almost all kitchens, with the exception of tiny galley kitchens and giant professional ones.

Another standard that can be integrated into small kitchen designs is the center island, a staple in modestly sized and large kitchen layouts. The island can function as a food preparation, dining, or homework station. Counter peninsulas also do service for baking, dining, and food preparation.

Important Details
For those who cook frequently, the option of having a counter with a drop-down surface is often appealing. Another space saver is an integrated sink, which allows fruits and vegetables to be cleaned and scraps disposed of right at the preparation center.

A food prep area might include a wood chopping block or a stainless-steel surface. Raised strips of metal set into a countertop support hot pans and protect the counter against scratches. Drainboards, too, can be integrated into the sink-side countertop for convenient cleanup.

For those interested in baking, a proper countertop is essential. That might mean installing marble or granite countertop sections that will maintain the cold for proper dough rolling. Depending on the height of the home baker, the tasks of kneading and rolling dough can be made more comfortable by lowering the countertop from the standard 36-inch counter height. Experts recommend a rolling counter that is 7 to 8 inches below the elbow for a baking and mixing countertop.

Mix It Up
Busy lifestyles mean that many families are solution-driven. The key to contemporary design is to find a way to do it all in one room. Homeowners are taking advantage of today’s innovative marketplace to create a “mix and match” approach that gives them the utility they need with the aesthetics they want.

The mix-and-match approach is actually a new rule of thumb in kitchen planning and design—“The richer the mix, the better,” says Gin Guei Ebnesajjad, manager of product styling and development, Dupont Surfaces, Corian and Zodiaq. Customers are selecting mixes of colors, textures, and surfaces to meet their individual needs.

In rethinking your colors, go for a 60-30-10 color scheme, which means 60 percent of a main color, 30 percent of a complementary color and 10 percent for an accent color like a backsplash or a trim detail.

Recommended kitchen colors often include shades of tan, peach, yellow and all the many off-whites. Keep the big-ticket items like cabinets on the neutral side and accent with easily interchangeable elements like wall paint, window treatments, and small appliances. That way, changing the look of your kitchen in another few years won’t have to be a major investment.

Get the Job Done
If you have the time and energy, designing and remodeling your kitchen can be fun and a money-saver. However, sometimes it’s better to leave the planning to a pro.

Most retailers and manufacturers of kitchen cabinets offer a free design service. Kitchen designers spend their lives planning kitchens, and they know exactly what their brand products can do. If you have decided upon purchasing cabinets from a manufacturer instead of having them custom built, it is probable that the manufacturer’s own designers can help to work out how to plan the kitchen. The only disadvantage is that these representatives work for the manufacturer and probably will not be impartial.

You might also consider hiring an independent Certified Kitchen Designer. Like their counterparts in the retail kitchen cabinet business, these professional designers work day in and day out designing kitchens and are skilled at making the most of your available space and dollars. Additionally, as industry specialists, they are often the first to hear of new innovations and cutting-edge products. Like architects, they too can do as much or as little as you wish—from simply drawing up a plan to working with the building contractor until the job is completed.

Case Studies in Kitchen Design: Smart Layouts for Family Kitchens

A trio of case studies sheds light on functional kitchen designs especially for families.

Kitchen Designs


Kitchen designs are increasingly important; these days, the kitchen is the busiest room in most houses. Even where cooking isn’t a top priority, the kitchen is usually a gathering place for after-school snacks and snatches of conversation. Guests at parties seem often to gravitate to the kitchen, whether for the drinks and hors d’oeuvres or to enjoy the warmth of the household. Yet there is no one model for a kitchen space that suits all needs.

Function and Flow
The best kitchen designs focus on function and flow. Layout works together with appliance placement to create a comfortable, workable environment. Good design dictates that the refrigerator be near work space and food preparation counters and sinks be placed next to dishwashers for easy loading. Stoves want workspace and handy storage for cooking accessories, cupboards for pots and pans, and drawers for utensils.

Floor Plan #1: The Jacobsons
The way a family cooks and lives will determine their appliance needs and finishes. Kelli Jacobson loves to cook and entertain, so her layout, appliances, and finishes all enhance how she lives in her Cape Cod-style home. “I like how everything’s open,” Jacobson says. “I love the layout because it goes right from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen.”

In Jacobson’s house, the kitchen is the cook’s domain, so her appliance choices and finishes reflect her love of cooking. “I’m really into cooking, so I chose stainless steel for a more modern, professional look,” she says of the Kenmore refrigerator, stove and dishwasher she selected.

The moveable center island opens to provide extra space for stool seating and storage. The island and counters are grey, while the cabinets are a frosted, light wood with the stainless-steel finish that pulls it all together.

Floor Plan #2: The Thompsons
The Thompsons own a Colonial home, a layout that lets family space flow while keeping public space separate from the mess of busy lives. With small children and lots of toys, it works best for their family to use the dining room as a playroom adjacent to the kitchen while the living room remains a public entry space. “I do like the fact that you have more of a welcome area — no toys — with more of a playroom off to the side,” Ann Thompson says.

She opted for clean, simple lines in the kitchen. The cupboards are maple with a warm, autumn finish. “It’s light; it brightens up the room,” Thompson says of the cabinet color. “They have clean straight lines but aren’t modern,” she says of the design.

Overall, the feeling is warm, neat and clean. The appliances are all white, from the Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator and freezer to the stove and dishwasher. This light, open feeling continues throughout the family spaces, which include the kitchen, dining room, breakfast area, and first-floor laundry. “The layout is good for entertaining,” Thompson says, and the openness gives a big, airy feel to their family space. Having the dining room separated from the living room lets this family put a playroom out of sight while putting their best face forward for company.

Floor Plan #3: The Browns
The beauty of a ranch layout is that it keeps family and public space together. Kimberly Brown, the homeowner and mother of a toddler, also likes the openness of her layout. The 440-square-foot dining room and kitchen area lets Brown keep an eye on her daughter while living and working in the house.

Her finishes are relaxed yet sophisticated, with maple beadboard cupboards and soapstone-colored laminate counters. Her black appliances complement the counters and provide an easy-to-clean, kid-friendly finish. The Kenmore refrigerator, stove and dishwasher unify the design scheme and give a sleek look to this open kitchen.

Task-Centered Thinking
All three home plans feature first-floor laundry rooms that are made modern with a Whirlpool side-by-side, heavy-duty washer-dryer combo. These energy-saving front-loaders are built to handle large loads but work in small spaces like the closeted laundry area in Brown’s ranch-style home. Putting them on the first floor, in the center of family activity, makes the whole process more efficient and family-friendly, according to all of these homeowners. “I’m really looking forward to the first-floor laundry,” says Thompson.

Family-friendly layouts, open space, and good task allocation, along with fluid kitchen designs, make these small homes work.