Secrets to a Successful Kitchen Remodeling

Improve your kitchen, improve your life: Sabine H. Schoenberg, author of Kitchen Magic, shares tips to make your kitchen remodeling project a success



Bedford kitchen designed by Klaff’s

The only real measure of a kitchen remodeling success is how you feel every time you step inside. Does it make you feel happy? Does it fit your lifestyle? Chances are that if your kitchen is more than seven to 10 years old, it is probably out of step with your life today and a remodel is your opportunity to tap into your unique desires, wishes, and motivations. Your goal should be to transform “just a kitchen” into your kitchen. Here are some ideas to get you started.

kitchen photo Alisberg Parker ArchitectsKitchen created by Alisberg Parker Architects; photos by Eric Laignel

kitchen photo Alisberg Parker Architects

1. Rethinking the Work Triangle

“Life-flow” is just as important as workflow. Ask yourself how you envision yourself in your new kitchen. Do you and your spouse enjoy cooking together? Then you’d better plan compatible workspaces. Do you entertain a lot and need space near the work area for lingering and chatting? Then a multi-functional center island is a must.

The role and function of the pantry has changed dramatically over the years from just a place to store canned goods and dishes to serving as a mini kitchen. Lifestyle appliances like microwaves, coffee machines, and juicers that would clutter a kitchen with an open floor plan are easily accessible in an adjacent, but separate, butler’s pantry. In the Katonah kitchen (pictured on page 32), the architects gave the center island the look and feel of a big harvest table and it is a central focus in a larger room. The only traditional kitchen elements on display are the sink, commercial range, and microwave, with the cleanup station, refrigerator, wall oven, and built-in coffee system tucked out of sight in the pantry.

drink drawers

2. Cool New Products

Drink drawers are the latest trend in refrigeration and are a nice addition for younger children so they can reach for drinks without any help from parents. Most drink drawers are refrigerator/freezer combinations, which is handy. But be aware: Because they are new and trendy, they are expensive.

My number-one choice in every kitchen remodel is to get a water filtration system, preferably for the entire house. You don’t want to think about all the sediment on the inside walls of municipal water lines—why do you think they have to use so much chlorine? Bottled water is expensive and you have to deal with all the plastic bottles. Consider a water filtration system—if for no other reason, it will improve the taste of your coffee or tea.

wood burning pizza ovens

3. Hot New Trends

Built-in, wood-burning pizza ovens are a popular new “toy,” underscoring the social aspects of the kitchen. Making pizza is a family affair that kids, parents, and grandparents can participate in: Rolling out the dough, adding toppings, sliding the piping-hot pizza out on a long paddle, and, of course, eating it! In this kitchen, the designers chose simple surfaces like concrete and metal counters so family members could prepare foods and cook together without concerns about wear and tear. The stainless-steel counter easily tolerates the heat, while the steel-clad cubbies are perfect for storing wood and tools. Because the home was once a historic farm, traditional cabinets and stonework pay homage to the home’s traditional roots.
Restaurant-style stoves were all the rage in the 1990s and are still popular today in larger kitchens. But if you want the latest in cooking technology, an electric induction cooktop is for you. Yes, induction. While earlier-generation units didn’t regulate heat very well, the new units allow for fine temperature adjustments. They work with a magnetic connection that is only activated where pots and pans touch the surface. All other surfaces are cool—and so is the area under the heated pot the moment it leaves the cooktop—which makes it a good choice for families with small children.

4. Easy Does It

Even if you can’t afford a total remodel, it is possible to “refresh” your kitchen with small improvements. The key is to identify the shortcomings and find solutions. New hardware and a fresh coat of paint will revive tired cabinetry, a dramatic backsplash can become a welcome focal point, even a free-standing center island can add counter space, storage, and seating—along with a totally new and fresh look. You can find many more tips and guidance in my book, Kitchen Magic.

Sabine H. Schoenberg (sabineshome.com) is the author of Kitchen Magic (published in 2012), and has spent the past 15 years designing kitchens and homes all over the world for celebs and civilians alike. She has been featured on nationally syndicated TV programs and her work has made the “Top 10 Homes Around the World” list in a leading European magazine.

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