Feature Story: Kitchen Remodel Part I

I recently remodeled a cramped, outdated kitchen to meet the needs of a multi-generational household who ranged in ages from 2 to 62. The kitchen had multiple problems including small, dark cabinets that provided very little storage space and an oven so narrow that their cookie sheets had to slide into the grooves that held the oven racks in order for it to fit. The burners on the electric stove were lopsided causing food to burn on one side and remain undercooked on the other side. The refrigerator leaked and turning on the exhaust fan meant all conversation had to cease because it was so loud. But worst of all, was the wall that separated the main kitchen from the eat-in area and cut the space off entirely from the surrounding family and dining rooms. The only part of the kitchen that seemed salvageable was the window over the sink.

During the design phase of the project, I met with the family to discuss their desires for their new kitchen. In order to maximize the budget, we developed a list of needs vs. wants. The design of the kitchen would need to be functional for the grandmother, particularly as she aged and potentially became less mobile, as well as the kids, who were avid bakers. It would also need to be durable enough to take some abuse from the younger kids.

The first thing we addressed was the layout. We tore down the wall between the kitchen and the family room and instantly transformed the two small spaces into one large area for eating and entertaining. The absent wall didn’t diminish our storage space; instead we extended the wall of cabinets to the end of the new larger kitchen and practically doubled the storage space. We also eliminated the eat-in section of the kitchen and incorporated a large island which provided additional storage and workspace as well as a place where the family could eat.

On the top of the family’s needs list was storage, a pantry, workspace, and a single bowl sink. To accommodate these needs we designed a wall dedicated to storage which included a large pantry with pull-out shelves. The pull-out shelves in the pantry are on full-extension drawer slides so they come all the way out making it much easier to look for things. The pantry is 24” deep like the base cabinets so it holds a lot more than the upper cabinets which are only 12” deep. Also on this wall is the refrigerator and ovens, both with additional cabinetry over the tops of these appliances. We incorporated large drawers to store pots, lids, plates, etc. The pot drawers are conveniently located under the cooktop. Where possible, we used fewer large cabinets rather than several smaller cabinets because you can store more in larger cabinets.

So far, so good… come back to find out how we created more storage, updated their finishes and added functional lighting. Plus, you’ll want to see the “after” picture of this transformation!

September 2, 2011 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Before You Renovate Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home. For many families, the kitchen is the most used room in the house. When the kitchen doesn’t meet the homeowners needs or doesn’t reflect their personality, it’s felt more prominently than in other rooms. Poor layout, inadequate lighting, cramped spaces, outdated fixtures and old cabinetry are frequent complaints of homeowners.

Kitchen renovations are high on the list of the most common home renovations. A renovation can be as major an undertaking as enlarging the space and replacing all cabinetry, countertops, fixtures and finishes. For smaller budgets, a kitchen renovation can mean replacing cabinet and drawer pulls and updating paint, flooring or lighting. Before you decide to go ahead with a kitchen renovation, it is important to clearly identify the features you need and want in your new kitchen. Ask yourself the following during the planning phase:

Size and design

  • Do you have adequate workspace?
  • Is an eating area in the kitchen important?
  • What are your traffic patterns?
  • Is there ample storage space?
  • Does the kitchen meet the current and future needs of everyone in the household including children or anyone with special needs?

Fixtures and appliances

  • What style and features do you want in your appliances?
  • Are your appliances Energy Star compliant?
  • What type/what finish do you want in your fixtures, cabinets and countertops?
  • What style of the cabinets and countertops fit your personality, use, and budget?
  • Is there enough storage and workspace? Structural problems
  • Are there any existing structural deficiencies in this area or nearby areas of the house? Are the walls, ceiling, floor or basement areas well-insulated and air-sealed to provide a comfortable and energy-efficient space?

Plumbing and electrical

  • Are there enough electrical outlets and circuits to carry the load for existing/new appliances?
  • Is there older plumbing and plumbing fixtures which may include lead or galvanized steel piping?

Heating, ventilation and moisture

  • Is the room comfortable and easy to heat?
  • Is there any moisture damage?
  • Is there visible mold growth on any surfaces?
  • Are there any water stains?
  • Is there blistered or peeled paint?
  • Is there an exhaust fan that is ducted to the outside?
  • Is the air fresh and clean?

Finishes (i.e. countertops, floor covering and wall finishes)

  • Do current finishes need to be replaced because of wear or styling?
  • What finishes will be durable enough for the intended use?
  • Are the intended finished designed to meet specific needs such as water resistance, durability or cleaning?
  • Are the intended finishes and adhesives low odor and low in chemical emissions such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) materials to minimize effects on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

Proper planning is extremely important and will help you anticipate many problems before they arise so you can account for them—saving time and money. Once you start a renovation, you’re committed. Your routine is uprooted until it’s complete.

Visit the blog again on Thursday for tips on how to prepare for and live through a major renovation.

August 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

15 ways to save energy (and money)

One of the best parts about saving energy is it save you money. It also reduces the demand for fossil fuels including coal, oil, and natural gas, none of which we have endless supplies so it makes sense to use it wisely. Reduced usage and burning of these fuels also means less carbon dioxide emissions which is the primary contributor to global warming and other pollutants. Saving doesn’t mean you have to go without. There are several energy efficient choices for things including appliances and light bulbs. Consumers have real choices and the power to change their energy usage.

Here are 15 things you can do to save energy:


1. Clean or replace air filters in your furnace as recommended. Clean filters let the appliance work more effectively and efficiently. Filters generally last no more than 90 days when used normally. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of the energy used.

2. Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually.

3. Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine. By reducing the temperature of your water heater by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you can save between 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. If every household turned its water heater thermostat down 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions – the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya.

4. Set your clothes washer to the warm or better yet cold water setting, instead of hot. Over 90 percent of the energy use of a washing machine comes from heating the water..

5. Use the energy-saving settings on existing major appliances and select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances. Look for the Energy Star Label. They’re up to 40% more efficient than other models. You can even find rebates online with the Energy Star rebate finder. Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs – not the biggest one available. Front loading washing machines will usually cut hot water use by 60 to 70% compared to typical machines.

6. Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most-used lights. Although they cost more initially, they cut energy costs by 75 percent saving money in the long run and last 8-12 times longer. They provide an equivalent amount of bright, light. Only 10% of the energy consumed by an incandescent light bulb generates light. The rest just makes the bulb hot. If every American household replaced one of its standard light bulbs with an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb, we would eliminate the equivalent of the emissions created by one million cars.
7. Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows. Windows that leak allow cold or hot air to escape from the house. This makes your furnace and air conditioner work harder to keep the home at the desired temperature. Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and weather stripping is under $10 per door. To test for air leaks around windows, light an incense stick and pass it over the window seams. If the smoke travels horizontally, there is a leak. Ask your utility company for a home energy audit to find out where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. This service may be provided free or at low cost. Make sure it includes a check of your furnace and air conditioning. There are also many private companies that you can schedule a more thorough home energy audit. (see x section for more information and my experience during my energy audit.
8. Properly insulate your home. You can check how much insulation you have by measuring the depth with a ruler. 7 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 6 inches of cellulose mean you have a level of R-22. If you have less than this level, it would be good to add more insulation. This can save 5 to 25% on your heating and cooling costs.
9. Don’t overheat or overcool rooms. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime, and 55 degrees at night. In the summer, keep it at 78. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees during winter saves 6 percent of heating-related CO2 emissions. If you leave the house for a prolonged period of time in the winter, turn the thermostat down more. This can save you between $10 and $30 per month on your heating bill. If you have an air-conditioning system, turn your thermostat up in summer (78 degrees when you’re home, 85 when you’re not). Install a programmable thermostat to schedule changes in temperature according to your schedule. These can save up to $115 annually on your energy bills.
10. Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and high efficiency toilets. This will of course save water, but it will also save energy in the pumping, transporting, and treating of your water.
11. Close your curtains or window shades during the night to keep in heat and open them during the day to let the sun warm your room and reduce heating needs. In the winter, opening curtains and shades in the day can let in sunshine and heat up your home. Closing curtains at night will prevent some heat from escaping and will reduce the chill from windows. In the summer, keep curtains and shades closed in the day to prevent unnecessary heat gain, especially if you are not at home.
12. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Turn off lights that you don’t need. For example, if you are sitting at a desk reading, use a desk lamp instead of the overhead light.
13. Unplug electronics and battery chargers when you are not using them. Even when these items are turned off, they still draw electricity.
14. If your heating equipment is more than 15 years old, try Energy Star furnaces, boilers, etc. New furnaces are generally 15% more efficient than older models. Getting properly sized equipment is also crucial.
15. Consider installing high efficiency windows. These windows, such as those with double panes of high performance glass, are 40% more efficient than standard windows. If your windows are operable, make sure you know how to use them properly for natural ventilation. . If you have a yard, and your windows face south, consider planting a leafy tree. During hot seasons the leaves will provide shade and help keep your house cooler. During the winter (if you live far enough north), the tree will drop its leaves and let in the light – keeping your house warmer. You might be surprised by how much money you’ll save on heating/cooling costs just by providing a little shade for your house.

February 6, 2010 at 6:46 am Leave a comment

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog.  I’ve been practicing interior design for several years now and I have really come to enjoy working with clients to improve not only the beauty of their homes, but the function as well.   I like to walk away from a project knowing that I’ve made my client happier than when I first arrived.  My goal for this blog includes sharing information on energy efficient design including ways you can save money as well as some of my client experiences with before and after photos and design tips for the DIYers.  It will also be a place to share your design dilemmas and ask questions and get news on products and events in the world of interior design.

November 14, 2009 at 7:51 am 1 comment


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