When you’re dreaming of a beautiful kitchen, and know that buying new cabinets is more than your budget will allow, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover that includes new countertops. If your cabinets are in good condition and the the space plan works well for you this might be your perfect solution!
There was a time, in my old EXPO Design Center days, when I was known as the Queen of Countertop Remodels because I helped so many clients with them. And because of that, I learned exactly what to do, so that stress was kept to a minimum.
Let’s take a look at my list of Designer do’s and don’ts that will help you with your own countertop remodel.
Do: One of your first decisions to make is what material do you want to use, because you have a few options. There are natural stone products (granite, marble, quartzite) and there are quartz composite products (Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.)
Do: Know what “look” you want to achieve in the space. The material you choose will help you get there.
Do: Decide if you want a lot of movement (veining) in your countertop material.
Quartzite Mont Blanc
Don’t buy a slab that has a lot of movement and imperfections if you think it will drive you crazy. Stone is a gift of nature, and definitely not perfect. Also, if you need to have a seam because of a large area to be covered, the veins will not match. If that is a problem for you, then choose a slab/pattern that has less movement and a quiet pattern.
Do: Decide on your fabricator (the person who will template, cut and install). They often display granite, marble, and quartzite slabs in their warehouse. But sometimes they’ll send you to look at a larger showroom that has more to offer. These showrooms typically do not sell directly to you, the consumer. So this means they won’t be able to quote you a price. They’ll give the price to your fabricator who will then factor in the additional labor costs before giving you a quote.
Granite Colonial White
Don’t visit a granite showroom without a designer, contractor, or fabricator name. They can call ahead to let the showroom know you’re coming, or they can go with you to help you select. Sometimes a showroom will recommend a fabricator if you don’t know who to use. A few showrooms/warehouses will let consumers come in to look without an appointment. Your fabricator will contact them for pricing.
Do: Find out your fabricator’s price levels before you visit a granite showroom. Since most of them don’t sell directly to the consumer, they won’t give you a price. But they can point you to the slabs that will be in your approximate price point. Many large fabrication companies have enough space to have countertop slabs on display. In that instance, they’ll be able to give you a quote.
Don’t: Assume that the initial quote is the final one. Your fabricator will send someone to make a template, and that will determine the final cost. But before they schedule you, they will need a countertop plan with the shape of all your counters, and the dimensions.
Do: Make sure that you have your sink, and sometimes faucet, when they come to make your template. They will take it with them back to their shop.
Do: Know that some fabricators require you to purchase an entire slab, and some will only charge you for what you use. Be sure to check this out in advance. Quartz composite products seem to require purchase of an entire slab. But this is also at the discretion of the fabricator.
Don’t: Ordering less than 25 square feet is not acceptable to most fabricators. Sometimes they have a scrap yard to choose those pieces. If they do, it’s your luck day!!!
Don’t: Order countertops when you’re in a rush to have it installed. From the time they make the template, until the time it is installed could take anywhere from 5-15 business days.
Don’t: Have your heart set on a slab too early in the process unless you’re prepared to make a deposit so they will hold it. Also, make sure that your fabricator is going to hold onto the unused part of your slab. I have had slab “scraps” sold before projects were installed, only to be upset when they made a mistake cutting. Time was lost while they waited to find another slab to match.
Don’t hang on to a sample that you love and expect it to look the same in 6 months. The look of natural stone is determined by where it’s mined in a mountain. Even though it has the same color name, it can look completely different in pattern and color.
Granite sells quickly in certain markets and new shipments aren’t always cut from the same area of a mountain. Always inspect your slab before purchasing! If you need more than one slab for your countertop, make sure that there are more in the stack. Sometimes they’ll be labeled by the order they’ve been cut.
Do: Know that there are options to choose from for your countertop edges. Standard edges are included in your quote. Non-standard edges are sold by the linear foot.
There are a lot of things to think about when making your countertop selection. And it probably seems like a lot to remember. But Do’s and Don’ts are meant to guide us in the right direction and keep us from making painful or costly mistakes.
If you’re still confused and unsure of what to do next, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at Randi@RandiDestefano.com with your questions. I’m here to help!
Have you ever hosted a party at your home and everyone wants to hang out in the kitchen? There’s laughing and talking and everyone is having a wonderful time! Even with an open floor plan, and lots of subtle hints to move to the great room, they all want to stay in the kitchen. The downside to this, if you’re the hostess, is that guests are in your way as you try to get the food ready. It’s hard to move around them to grab to what you need, and you end up getting a little stressed. At that point, you might start wishing that your kitchen had a better layout. So how can you create an amazing kitchen design that works for YOU and your family?
One of the first things we do in a kitchen consultation is talk about what you want and what you need in your new space. And almost always my clients’ first response is “I want our kitchen to be more functional with lots of counter space and storage.” Sound familiar? Everyone has their own idea of how they want to work in their space. You want a functional kitchen design that’s been customized just for you and way you want to work and entertain.
To make this happen, always start with a plan. Would you ever go on a trip without knowing how to get to your destination ? I know I always check it out on WAZE. The same thing applies to designing a kitchen that works for YOU. When you have a vision for the end result, all the steps along the way fall into place.
Begin with making a list of everything you need in your kitchen. This would include things like all the appliances you need (ex. refrigerator, cooktop, oven, dishwasher, etc.). Then move on to lighting, flooring, and countertops.
Next is your dream list of wants. On this specific list add things like a 48” refrigerator, a double oven, roll out trays in every cabinet, drawers instead of cabinets. Don’t forget all the bells and whistles that go into a cabinet, the accessories. Specialty cabinets like trash drawers, tray dividers, spice pullouts are always convenient things to have in a functional kitchen.
What are the specific reasons why you want each item. For example, you want drawers because you don’t want the extra step of opening cabinet doors. Or you prefer cabinets because you can’t stack things and find them in drawers. Remember that this is YOUR kitchen, and it needs to be designed for the way you want to work in your space.
A place in the pantry to store serving platters in plain view.
My friend,Jane, designed this utensil drawer for her island
Jane’s island tray divider drawer
The last thing to consider during this planning phase is what items need to be next to or near each other. The obvious is the sink next to the dishwasher. But what other products do you need to be grouped together? Do you like having your trays and cookie sheets next to the oven or closer to your work area? This exercise might take a little longer. But once you have it, your space planning will be much easier.
Dish drawers directly across from the dishwasher for easy unloading.
Spice pullouts next to the range.
Keep in mind that having each and every one of your “wants” isn’t always going to work, even if they do fit into your budget. So be willing to compromise on the amount of products and even the locations of certain things. In the end, the goal is to help you create an amazing kitchen design that’s not only beautiful, but it’s functional.
Our kitchen was designed by me, with my hubby’s input, eight years ago when we were building our new house on the lake. Back then I wasn’t cooking as much as I did when our family was bigger. But we had high hopes of changing that with our new Lake Lifestyle. We poured through magazines, visited model homes and studied the kitchens of all our friends to come up with the perfect design for us. And when we moved it, we loved it, and still do today!
Fast forward to this time of Stay at Home when restaurants are closed, trips to the grocery store are limited, and stock-piling of toilet paper is the new normal. Lifestyles have changed, and life in the kitchen has become very active!!! We’re spending most of our time there working, home schooling, and cooking. If it wasn’t before, the kitchen has definitely become the Heart of the Home.
With all this extra at-home time on my hands, it’s been perfect to reflect on what’s really important. And what is not. I started out doing what most people are doing….de-cluttering and purging! The donation pile is getting bigger every day. I even found some strange things in my drawers and have no idea what they are or why I bought them! Can you relate?
The biggest surprise of all is how small, and unorganized the refrigerator and pantry seem with so much extra food and supplies. No, we aren’t hoarding toilet paper! And so with that Ah Ha moment, I created my list of What I Love About My Kitchen…and what I wish was different. Have you started making your own list of things to change? Let me share mine:
7 Things I love about my kitchen:
- The steam oven! It’s become the workhorse of the kitchen. We use it daily to reheat food, bake, thaw food, sous vide meat, etc.
- Our big island is perfect for spreading out to prep food.
- The walk-in pantry is the first one we’ve ever had!
- Dish drawers
- Spice pullouts
- Coffee/tea station
- The warming drawer is a lifesaver for dinner parties when everyone brings something hot.
What I wish was different…
- An organized space for vitamins and supplements
- A space for my ever growing essential oil collection
- Really good food preservation/refrigeration
- A larger pantry for more food and all the party platters
- More space for storing paper products
- Square containers for flours, sugar, and grains that fit better in the cabinets
- Less “stuff” on the counters
After 60 days of Stay-At-Home (but who’s counting), this is what I’ve discovered. We are blessed to be healthy, blessed to have Zoom to connect, and blessed to live in a home that we love. This time of reflection has made me realize that it’s time to press the reset button and get back to what’s truly important to each of us.
…….. have you been having your own Ah Ha’s about what needs to change in your kitchen? Maybe your dream kitchen changes are different from mine, and maybe they’re the same. I would love to hear how this Stay-at-Home time has impacted the way you look at your home today. Is it serving you or NOT? Please comment below and tell me what you love about your kitchen and what you would love to change. I promise….NO judging and NO commitments!
I want you imagine, just for a moment…that your kitchen is not just a place where meals are made and dishes are washed. It’s a place where memories are made.
What would it be like…if instead of running to close the door to your kitchen when friends stopped by, you couldn’t wait to show them the best room in your house? A room that’s the heart of your home, where people WANT to congregate. A room where everyone is always laughing and happy. A room where you’re proud to entertain family and friends. Does this sound like the kitchen you have right now?
Everyone who’s ever hosted a gathering in their home can tell you, that no matter the size or shape, your kitchen is ALWAYS going to be the place to hang out. And in some kitchens it can become pretty crowded…and warm! So what allows one kitchen to pull off the perfect gathering while others just don’t work as well? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about creating a kitchen that is truly the heart of the home, the “center of everything”.
A Heart of the Home Kitchen might have:
1.An open flow into the family room or dining room
2. Island for prepping and serving food, especially during a party
3. Stools at the island
4. Enough walk space between cabinets and/or island (36”-48”)
5. Homework space for the kids
6. A place to sit and have a conversation
7. Uncluttered spaces: a place for everything
8. A message center for charging devices and message taking
9. A place to feed pets
10. Medicine storage
11. Table space for eating, talking, or playing games
12. A prep sink so others can help with meals
13. A desk for paying bills, searching for recipes, collecting purses and keys
Your Design Homework:
- Using the list above, check off the items that you already have in place in your kitchen.
- Of the items you don’t have, ask yourself if they’re really important to you.
- If they are, make a plan to include them in your next home makeover project. Remember that some items on the list can serve more than one purpose…a table can serve you for eating meals, doing homework, having coffee with friends, etc.
Though some items on the list might require a higher budget than others, remember that you can start from where you are with the little things. When you’re happy and excited to entertain family and friends, and your home reflects your personality, your enthusiasm will carry over and memories will be made.
Have you noticed that kitchens are not just for cooking meals or washing dishes these days? They’ve become the heart of the home, command central, and the place where everyone wants to hang out.
For those of us in the Sandwich Generation, with grandchildren, adult children and elderly parents visiting on a regular basis, a one-size-fits-all type of kitchen doesn’t always serve everyone. When that happens, it’s time to take a look at the details that can make life a little easier for everyone.
Whether you’re planning a kitchen remodel or a simple kitchen make over, the details make all the difference in how comfortable you and your guests will be while you’re cooking, playing, or working.
- Room to easily move around. In the kitchen above, the space between the sink cabinet and the island is 42”. The National Kitchen and Bath Association has set 36”-48” as the standard distance to use when planning your kitchen. I like to think of a 36” space as a “one butt” kitchen…only one person can pass at a time. At 42”, two people can work comfortably, but 45” would be better. Now think about your family. Is someone using a walker or a wheelchair? Even if it’s temporary, they’ll need a little extra space to maneuver.
- Rugs. I love to soften the look in my kitchen by adding accent rugs at the sink and cooktop. But, unfortunately, they can become an accident waiting to happen. Be sure to use a rug pad to keep them from sliding…or don’t use them at all.
- Think of the little ones. If your grandchildren are like mine, they love to help out in the kitchen. A little detail that I’ve discovered to make everyone happy is a step stool. They can easily do it themselves (which is a HUGE thing to a 2 year old), and they now feel like they’re part of the cooking crew. Another little detail with big safety features are cabinet locks to keep the toddlers away from cleaning supplies and things that can hurt them.
- Lots of good lighting. This includes all the natural light you can get from windows. After that, I like to make sure that there is at least one recessed can at every work station for direct task lighting. Next, is the ambient lighting provided by island pendants. And last is the light provided by under cabinet lighting. Be sure to either put them on dimmers or have separate switches for different areas.
- Use levers instead of knobs. Levers aren’t just for our arthritic hands. Think mom-holding-a-toddler or yourself trying to open the pantry with an arm full of groceries. What would make life easier? A door lever that we can operate with our elbows.
- Bye-Bye stationary shelves. Adding roll-out shelves to your base cabinets and tall pantry cabinets will make your life SO MUCH EASIER!!!
- Faucets. Single handle faucets with pull-down sprays have been around for a while. But the latest faucet technology includes motion sensors so you can work hands-free.
- Heights matter. When making plans for your dream kitchen remodel or make over take the time to consider the heights of your major appliances, especially the microwave. When it’s too high, remember that for some people, it could be a problem. Have you ever tried to pull a bowl out of the microwave and forgotten that the bowl might be hot? You drop it, or even worse, spill the contents…and you get burned. Think about this happening to a child or your elderly mother. My least favorite location for a microwave is over the cooktop. I realize that many of you may have this configuration in your own home (we had it in our townhouse). But when you finally get to plan your dream kitchen, try to avoid this. Maybe select a microwave drawer.
- Other important dimensions to make life easier.
- Your Design Homework for this week:Compare these dimensions with your own kitchen.
- From the list above, make a list of the little details you can add to your own kitchen that will make life a little easier for everyone you love.
Being an interior designer means more than helping clients with the pretty stuff. It also means staying current on technology and trends. This week, to stay current with my design certification, a class on kitchen lighting was in order. Even though I know the basics, it’s always a good idea to have a refresher now and then to learn something new. And, of course, I love to share it with you!
The most important take-away for the class, that I can’t stress enough, is the need to plan. We plan our vacations, our road trips, and even our days. In a remodel, we plan our cabinet layout and our appliances. But how many of us don’t even think about planning the best type of lighting we need in the kitchen? We know that we need overhead lighting. And if you’re “lucky enough” to have a fluorescent box on your ceiling, you know that you want to get rid of it! But what should you replace it with? Let’s take a look at the three essential layers of lighting that are important in every kitchen.
Layer 1 – Ambient Lighting is the general lighting that brightens our kitchen and is the foundation for all the other lighting in the room. The goal with ambient lighting is to have even distribution throughout the space so we don’t have dark pockets that make it hard to see.
In the past, builders and re-modelers turned to the flush mount light fixture, or the lovely fluorescent box centered in the work space. The trend today is to use recessed can lights. And then we always have the questions…How many cans should we use? How should they be spaced? The answer to this is based on the ceiling height, the colors in the room and how they reflect, and…your age. Yes, our eyesight gets worse as we age, and some of us feel more confident with more overhead lights.
Layer 2 – Accent Lighting
Most of us love this layer because it’s the “jewelry” for the kitchen. A few ideas of where to place them are:
- Pendants over an island or table
- Over the cabinets, tucked away behind the crown molding
- Inside cabinets with glass fronts to show off what’s inside
- Lighting in a tray or cove ceiling
- Under counters
- On floating shelves which are popular today
- Toe kicks…especially good for late night visits to the kitchen so you can find your way!
Layer 3 – Task Lighting is especially needed to help us see better when we’re working around the kitchen. Things like reading the buttons on the coffee maker or dicing vegetables are all made easier with task lighting.
We all want to have our counter work space illuminated so that we can see better and avoid dark spots. That’s why it’s so important to install under cabinet lighting in your home.
To get the best coverage and light up your whole counter, the lights need to be installed to the front of the cabinets. LED tape strips offer the best opportunity for this. And the length of the light strip needs to correspond to the width of the cabinet. A big no-no would be to try to save money and install a 12” light strip on a 36” cabinet. Doing that would create shadow pockets on your counter, and make seeing difficult.
Unfortunately, on tight budget projects, this is often the first thing to get deleted off the want/need list. And it’s the one thing that clients regret not including. I can’t stress how important it is to find other ways to stay within your budget.
We plan everything else in our kitchens, so why not take the time to plan our lighting. Remember before you run out and buy the pretty fixtures, put some thought into where you want the lights, where you plan to do the most work, and then where you want that WOW factor of beautiful pendants.