How to Reimagine Your Kitchen
It’s known as the heart of the home. The contemporary kitchen is the epicenter of domestic activity, a place for cooking, eating and entertaining.
Tim and Perri Blake of Tulsa, Oklahoma, remodeled their kitchen in 2018. Kitchen Ideas, a Tulsa kitchen design firm, helped them to reimagine the footprint and design of the space. The remodel allows the Blakes the environment they need to host friends and family. Photo by Laura Araujo
Much has changed in the purpose and design of the kitchen since pre-electricity days in rural Oklahoma when dimly lit, smoke-filled spaces were the norm. Now, oversized islands, open-concept floor plans, and high-tech conveniences help create beautiful and functional spaces where family and friends can gather.
“Today’s kitchen is an all-inclusive space, not just a place for cooking,” says Elle H-Millard, industry relations manager for the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “It has become an entertainment zone as well as a place for homework and office work.”
As a result, people are investing in their kitchens. And with good reason—a kitchen remodel offers homeowners the opportunity to customize the space to their lifestyle needs and tastes. Plus, updates to the kitchen can provide a great return on investment. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), a renovated kitchen is top priority for potential homebuyers.
At Kitchen Ideas, a Tulsa-based kitchen design firm, more than 70% of the company’s business comes from kitchen remodels.
“Remodel seems to be more active than new construction, especially over the last several years,” says Michael Thorp, Kitchen Ideas manager and designer.
For a homeowner considering a few cosmetic upgrades or a complete kitchen overhaul, this guide offers expertise to bring revival to the heart of the home.
Phase #1 - Planning
When considering a kitchen update, one of the first decisions a homeowner should make is whether to hire a designer. If a homeowner is looking to do cosmetic upgrades, a designer might not be required. In the case of a more extensive remodel, one that involves moving walls, plumbing, HVAC or a change to the kitchen’s footprint, Thorp advises using a certified designer.
“The benefit of using a designer is that they will help you think through the function and flow of the space,” Thorp says. “Hiring a designer can help to minimize the need for re-work because a good designer will identify problem areas up front. This has the potential to save the homeowner money by not having to redo projects.”
Thorp explains that designers are problem solvers. They will interview their client to learn how they live in the space. Does the homeowner cook often? If so, what type of cooking do they do—quick meals utilizing the microwave or more gourmet meals necessitating upgraded kitchen appliances? What about baking? Does the homeowner entertain often? How much storage space is needed for kitchen equipment? What are the unique needs of the people who will utilize the kitchen? Are there young children for whom safety features are a priority? Are there special needs the homeowner can foresee 10 or 15 years in the future?
With the baby-boom generation coming into retirement, Thorp says a good designer can help a homeowner think through a design that will help them to enjoy their space longer. A designer will consider the dimensions of pathways to allow for mobility aids, can customize the heights of appliances for accessibility, and will ensure the design includes ample lighting.
If a homeowner chooses a DIY (do-it-yourself) project, they will take on the role of the designer throughout the remodel. This means the homeowner should think through their lifestyle needs and how an upgrade or remodel will best accommodate them.
Photo by Laura Araujo
Next, the homeowner should create a budget. H-Millard says that as a general rule, a complete kitchen remodel will cost twice as much as the car in the homeowner’s driveway. A cosmetic upgrade will be less expensive. She also recommends that a 20% contingency fund be included in the overall budget. A designer, if used, will help their client to prioritize their projects within their budget.
“I often see homeowners try to cut corners in order to focus on aesthetic elements,” she says. “Problems hidden behind walls need to be solved before covering them up.”
Finally, it is important for the homeowner to become knowledgeable about the entire remodel process before starting a renovation.
“Whether using a designer or not, don’t rush the planning phase,” Thorp says. “It’s free while it’s on paper, but the minute you start working, you start spending.”
Phase #2 - Preconstruction
Once plans and budgets are in place, the preconstruction phase can begin. The homeowner or designer will create a timeline for the project. They will begin to acquire materials, especially those with long lead times like cabinets.
At this point, professionals can be contracted. If a homeowner has chosen to work with a designer, the designer will likely have relationships with remodel professionals. If not, the homeowner will obtain quotes from contractors, as needed. Estimates should be thorough, in order to avoid additional costs being tacked on later.
Phase #3 - Demolition
The actual work begins with the demolition of the existing kitchen and a rough-in of the new space. Materials will arrive on site, changes to the framing will take place, and utilities will be moved. This is when things get messy.
“A kitchen remodel is painful no matter what. With a bathroom remodel, most people have a second bathroom, but almost everyone only has one kitchen, and living without a kitchen is stressful,” Thorp says.
To help make the remodel easier he advises his clients to set up a “camp zone.” This area could include a microwave, a coffee pot, paper plates and plastic utensils.
“Think about a place where you can keep some of your comforts so you’re not eating out every meal or eating a thousand ham and cheese sandwiches,” he says.
Phase #4 - Construction
Once demolition is complete, the longest phase of the process begins. Remodel professionals—or the homeowner, in the case of a DIY project—will start to put the kitchen back together. Countertops, cabinets, flooring, appliances and fixtures are installed.
The designer will ensure materials arrive and that work stays on schedule. If a designer is not utilized, the homeowner must be prepared to fill this role. The designer will also oversee the progress to make sure work is being completed as specified.
At the conclusion of the remodel, the designer and/or homeowner will walk through the kitchen one final time and note any adjustments needed.
At this point, the homeowner’s vision has become a reality. There’s only one thing left to do—invite friends and family over and enjoy a good meal in the heart of the home.