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Essentials of a Modern Kitchen: Guide to a Kitchen Remodel

Posted at 03/01/2021 10:00 AM by Pat O'Connor

modern kitchen-1

The modern kitchen is no longer “just” a kitchen. It’s a place for conversation, lounging, doing homework, watching TV and sometimes even preparing food!

This truly multi-purpose room has become the centerpiece of any comfortable home. It is typically the first room people gravitate towards, whether during a party, finishing homework or while inspecting a potential home purchase. With the dazzling array of surfaces and materials now available, an up-to-date kitchen is a must in any home.

Kelsey Nichols, a design specialist in Denver and owner of KD Project Design, specializes in residential remodeling projects. She has provided some insight on the latest trends in kitchen design and home improvement, and the latest technology and products that are "must haves" in a modern kitchen.

Q: It seems like the kitchen has become the focal point in a home. Would you agree with this and why/how did this happen?

Kelsey: Absolutely! The kitchen is the heart of the home for many reasons. It has a natural allure with its smells of cooking foods and the warmth of the stove or oven. But aside from the sensory appeal, there’s the important function of the space as well, which is directly related to how many times a day people eat and actually need to be in the space. It's no wonder a new kitchen is always near the top of a homeowner's "wish list."

Q: How has this impacted home design?

Kelsey: It has definitely had an impact. In general, formal spaces have had a decline in presence for the past couple of decades. Individuals and families lead increasingly busy lives, and especially when entertaining, are far more casual than in decades prior. Most people do not have staff to serve guests as they wait in the living room, so naturally everyone congregates in the kitchen with the host. Consequently, there’s been a trend toward more open floor plans, and larger kitchen spaces to accommodate eating in or near the kitchen. So, perhaps the biggest change we see is that kitchens are nearly double the size they were even 15 years ago.

Q: What are some of the trends in kitchen design now? Is the open floor plan with the kitchen and family room connected still the most popular design?

Kelsey: The open floor plan is still very much an important concept in home design. That said, depending upon the size of the home and the style of the home, there are varying degrees of delineation to the kitchen. Sometimes, people don't want the kitchen to be the immediate focal point of the home. This is especially true for more traditional homes, and also for larger homes, where you would not want the kitchen to be connected to the front entry foyer.

The strongest trend would be the continued inclusion of the kitchen island. The island now functions as both separation and connection to the adjacent rooms in an open floor plan. In addition to this important purpose for the layout, the island also acts as a workspace for cooking, casual daily eating area, serving area when entertaining, and it’s often the daily home office/homework station rather than having a designated home office space or in-kitchen desks of the past.

Another continuing trend is the two-tone look in the kitchen. Whether using a lighter color for upper cabinets with a contrasting tone for lower or perimeter cabinets, or a second color for the kitchen island, the mix-and-match look is still here, and is a steadfast beautiful look in either traditional or modern homes.

Q: What are the hot products are you seeing in countertop materials and flooring?

Kelsey: Quartz has largely dominated the countertop market for several years. This is due to its durability, color selection and availability for large slabs over natural stones. But we’re now seeing some new products, like Lapitec among others, that are also eco-friendly and offer the same advantages of quartz.

Hardwood floors are still king among flooring material, since having an open floor plan means having cohesion between the rooms. Second to hardwood would be tile and stone. But as I always remind clients, hardwood can be refinished, and is softer under the feet as a working surface. 

Stone tile is beautiful, but often comes with a hefty price tag, which is why people will choose ceramic or porcelain tile instead. What they often don’t think about, is that if a glass jar is dropped on it, the tile can crack and require replacement. Additionally, many ceramic and porcelain floor tiles don’t have the seamless grout lines that stone tile allows, leaving porous surfaces of the floor that inevitably look dingy over time. This is especially important to point out for anyone using the current hardwood tiles; make sure they are laid with as small a grout line as possible for a more realistic and prettier look.

Q: How about popular types of wood for cabinets?

Kelsey: Due to a trend in painted cabinet doors and more modern looks in kitchens, most frequently cabinet construction will be made of particle board, melamine, or MDF. This is largely due to the products’ ability to be finished to a perfectly smooth surface for either a paint finish or a wood veneer overlay. The additional benefit of this type construction is that it reduces wood waste. For traditional wood finished doors, a popular selection is still maple, for its tight grain and smooth finish. However, there are other eco-friendly and sustainable selections, like bamboo, that offer great options.

Q: Is stainless steel still the “go to” material for appliances/sinks? What are the other popular options, if any? Any new appliance features that need consideration?

Kelsey: Stainless steel will continue to be a classic selection, thanks to its presence in commercial kitchens. However, with the more open floor plan concept, people are integrating their appliances and sinks into the rest of the room decor. This means more streamlined and modern appliances, often faced with the cabinet material, or varying color selections to hide these utilitarian items. 

The same is true for sinks. While stainless is still a classic go-to, a current popular alternative is integrating the sink with the countertop material for both a seamless look, while also providing fantastic durability. 

As for new appliances, perhaps the most popular in recent years has been the combination wall oven, which stacks an oven with a convection microwave or steam oven. This setup offers more versatility than a traditional oven and clears space in the kitchen for more storage.  

Q: It seems many people forget about the lighting in a kitchen and overlook its importance. What are your suggestions in this area? Does LED lighting have a place in the kitchen and if so, how?

Kelsey: Lighting is incredibly important in the kitchen, both from a functional standpoint and the design aesthetic. For most people, a lighting designer may be out of the project scope. My typical suggestion to accomplish both the necessity of the task lighting, with the flexibility to set a mood in the room, is a grid of recessed 5 inch dimmable LED cans. They look much more polished than the huge 6 inch cans of the past and cost less than the 4 inch cans. Adding under cabinet perimeter LED lighting and decorative dimmable pendants over the island go a long way in making the kitchen attractive and up-to-date.

Q: If someone is embarking on remodeling a kitchen, what suggestions do you have?

Kelsey: Look at the function first and hire a professional to help, even if only for an initial consultation. It is less expensive in the long run to make sure you have a workable floor plan and long-term strategy, than to do a quick Band-Aid fix. Unfortunately, it seems all too often that people try to make inexpensive improvements based on something they may have seen on TV, only to realize later that they have not considered the larger scope of the project or house overall. A little money in the planning phase can save big expenses down the road. A good professional can give suggestions using the existing conditions as much as possible to reduce cost while coming up with creative solutions to improve the function.

"It is less expensive in the long run to make sure you have a workable floor plan and long-term strategy, than to do a quick Band-Aid fix."

Q: What is the price range of a kitchen remodel? Is there a formula that’s used?

Kelsey: The reality is, a kitchen remodel is expensive. There’s no way around it. Appliances are expensive, cabinets are expensive, and countertops are, too. With that said, it is the most evaluated room in the house when it comes to purchasing a home. So spending wisely in this space is imperative. There is no exact formula since every room is different and has different conditions, but the general expectation is that a fully gutted kitchen for a 10 x 10 space is probably going to run anywhere between $25k-40k. And those numbers may increase with size, and material and appliance selection. For a home in the $700,000 range, quite commonly those numbers will be closer to $50k-$70k or more.

elements of a modern kitchen

Q: If someone wanted to just do 1-3 things to update their kitchen, what would you recommend and why?

Kelsey:

1.) Look at the cabinet construction. If the cabinets are in decent shape, think about a fresh coat of paint. Paint and new door hardware can go a long way for an inexpensive facelift.

2.)The same is true for the kitchen faucet and lighting. Simply replacing the kitchen faucet and updating the kitchen lighting can be less expensive options than reconfiguring cabinets or appliances.

3.) Countertops are a huge visual plane in the kitchen, especially with a central kitchen island. Countertops can also be very expensive. However, a kitchen island can be addressed independently of the perimeter cabinetry. And, as a result, a “refreshed” island can give a whole new look to the entire space.

Q: What are some of the basics in good kitchen design, especially related to placement of appliances and cabinets/drawers?

Kelsey: Many people don’t realize that Julia Child was actually the first to create the working triangle concept for the kitchen. Those concepts are still applicable in current kitchen design, despite today’s increased sizes. Therefore, it is important that from a functional layout, there is direct access between sink to stove, stove to refrigerator, and refrigerator to sink. You would not want your sink to be located across the room with an island between, as it creates an obstruction in your pathway, especially when carrying a hot pot of water. Ideally, I prefer placement of the cooktop or range against a perimeter wall, with the sink in the island, if there is no adjacent perimeter wall for the sink placement. This keeps the heat and cooking splatter away from the seating space of the island. As another general rule of thumb, ideally the oven should not be placed directly adjacent to the refrigerator, as the heat generated by the oven causes the refrigerator to work overtime. However, there are situations and conditions where this cannot be avoided.

Q: Are there any new “fun” items or interesting technology that makes a kitchen more functional these days? If so, what are they and why do you like them?

Kelsey: With the increasing gas prices for large areas of the country, more and more people are moving toward electric options. Induction cooktops have offered some amazing solutions with their rapid boil technology, almost instant cooling ability to reduce the concern of their placement on kitchen islands, and they do not require an exhaust hood or vent. This has provided lots of flexibility in the traditional kitchen design and placement of appliances. And with more focus on solar energy, gas cooktops and ovens may lose some of their popularity .

"Make  choices that will ensure you’ll be happy spending time in the kitchen for years to come."

Q: Any additional comments or suggestions for a kitchen remodel?

The kitchen should be a place where you want to gather. It’s important to have an attractive kitchen, but if it does not function well, then making changes to the existing will not be beneficial in the long run. Making those changes is expensive, so think through your selections carefully. Make  choices that will ensure you’ll be happy spending time in the kitchen for years to come. 

Check out KD Project Design, LLC at https://www.houzz.com/pro/kelseyjnichols/kd-project-design-llc

Email: kelsey@kdprojectdesign.com

Phone: 303-618-6003

Recent project: https://bestinamericanliving.com/awards/2018-0451/

More on Home  Improvement Trends

Posted by Pat O'Connor

Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys hanging out with her three kids and assortment of family pets, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. As a mother to two (at one time three) competitive swimmers, her favorite fragrance is eau de chlorine. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs on Saturdays and screaming when the Packers score on Sundays. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.

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Topics: Home Improvement