The Kitchen Remodel Low-down

Ahhh, the kitchen. Possibly one of the hardest places to remodel in your entire home. It comes with its challenges but when done right, can be a complete game changer for the way you live. Peppered in this remodel journal are some guiding tips we hope will inspire you to create the kitchen you desire, without the headache.

We had the privilege of working closely with our clients, who dreamt of free flowing space for their remodeled abode. Early on we established the kitchen as the power place of hearth and home. And we all know in most homes the kitchen coincidentally happens to be where the organic alchemy takes place, where guests gather in gang-like numbers, so why not ensure that it's an open and joyful place to gather?

The layout of this dwelling offered up the kitchen as the focal point to their home, featuring a fireplace backed behind the stove. But originally, the kitchen was barricaded behind unnecessary walls. This caused breaks in the flow of her space, creating a dungeon-like separation between her kitchen and the rest of the home.

But, before tearing down walls, be especially aware of the structural integrity of your home. While it might be fun to dive into the design, get a structural engineer to review the space and work closely with your general contractor. These two professionals are aware of integral structures, i.e., the foundation and roof-line and can inform one another about how changes can be made sensibly and safely.

In this remodel, we took back the walls separating the living room from the dining room, and removed the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, extending the breathtaking view of the canyon from the kitchen. We considered taking the left wall back to align with the fireplace, but that vertical structure was a load- bearing wall, so we designed the rest of the kitchen around this, by cutting it back to the counter- height.

It may behoove you to hire a project manager. You'll find it's imperative to have someone fully engaged with every step of your remodel if multiple tradesmen/women are involved. When someone else other than you is responsible for keeping every schedule in order, it saves you time, energy, money, and helps you avoid stressful scenarios. Trust us, while it may seem like a hefty investment up front, it will serve you in the long run!

If and when you decide to order cabinetry, be sure to have someone there when they arrive. As our project manager Catrina can attest to, there's nothing worse than realizing too late in the game that a cabinet is missing, so make sure your floor plan and checklist are handy as soon as the shipment arrives. When something seemingly minute as a cabinet has to be re-ordered it

could delay the installation of your counter-tops, back-splashes and tiles.

Looking for sustainable custom cabinetry? We've got you covered! Berkeley Mills is high-end and high quality if you're not on a budget. Next in price and preference are the craftsmen at Wood Shanti. For mid-range, Greendepot is a fine and respectable place to venture. They offer Crystal Cabinetry and a variety of brands to help you decide on products not found in Home Depot or IKEA.

Also keep in mind the measurements (and swings) of your doors, drawers, cabinets, and other accessories when installing your stove, dishwasher, and sinks. Many times the mechanisms for opening, closing and sliding cabinetry don't always get factored in the measurements and may cause setbacks in your project and a less than ideal solution once installed. If you're looking for fun and interesting corner solutions that will blow your lazy susan out the water, check out Häfele.

Okay, so now you're well versed on the tough parts. But what about the arrangement of light fixtures, tiles, ventilation hoods, dining room tables and accessories? Paige notes, after plenty of experience, that consistency with alignment is key.

Dealing with multiple zones and centerlines are hard, so stick with where you want the centerline of your kitchen to be. With these Fireclay tiles, the tile setter worked hand-in-hand with the designer to create this custom batik wall pattern featuring the amazing Dacor stove. Unlike some tile installations, the contractor started from

the centerline directly above the stove, moving out towards to the end walls. When designing your tile lay out, don't forget about extra space for your bullnose pieces. One advantage to Fireclay is that every side can be bull-nosed, eliminating the need to add extra pieces (which are often different lengths and widths to the 'field' tile).

A final thought on tile, be sure that the designer is onsite, to lay out the tile with the setter. Left open to interpretation, tile can be installed very differently than intended. When grout lines don't line up it's a missed opportunity and frustrating for the OCD'ers in the house. Another finishing touch that you may not have thought about is the electrical wallplates. We ordered custom color Lutron plate covers, but as of this shoot, they hadn't arrived yet. :(... They are expensive, but they make an enormous difference by putting a final touch on a beautiful space.

Well, there you have it. The down-low on how to sidestep problems using our handy solutions (we hope they help!), and what you should do in order to stay away from major avoidable stressors. For what to cook in your newly remodeled kitchen, on the other hand, you're on your own (wink).

Update: This project was such a success that we were honored to find this remodel featured in California Home + Design in addition to winning the 2013 Reader's Choice Room of the Year Award! Too, click here to see the entire portfolio for Cindy and Paul's Diamond Heights remodel in San Francisco.