Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

The Kitchen is Served:
The Cook's Final Tips
Last Part of the
FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel

by Kate Heyhoe


So do you love my new kitchen...or do you hate it? Photos on the "Before-and-After" page show the main kitchen, the butler's pantry and the porch room. Let me know what you think—and if you have personal "remodeling blooper" stories or other remodelers' tips, I'd love to hear them. (Note that computer monitors may not accurately reflect actual colors in the kitchen photos.)

Perhaps you might have done something completely different with the space—a less expansive floor plan, cabinets with more curves, or a traditional low-tech motif. The point is that if you embark on a kitchen remodel, make it work for you. You'll get plenty of well-intended advice from designers, salespersons, contractors, buddies and writers like me, but ultimately you're the expert who needs to be pleased first.


Part of the finished kitchen...

My goal in this series has been to present a case study with practical kitchen remodeling tips from a cook's perspective—from a home cook's perspective. Kitchen tips from professional chefs, designers and builders can be valuable or inspiring, yet most of my readers, like myself, either can't afford or don't need walk-in refrigerators or SUV-sized professional ranges. As a food writer and editor, my job requires creating and preparing recipes in the same way that most of you do, which means tools, cookware and appliances that are both commonly found and affordable. and because my kitchen is also my professional workspace, it needs to be durable—but no more durable than that of an active, large family.


Tips to Make a Kitchen More Functional

It all gets down to space. Think of your remodeling area three-dimensionally, in terms of cubic feet. Don't just look at the floor plan, but envision how every cubic foot can be used, including the areas you can't reach.

Look Up: For instance, ceilings are obvious vehicles for recessed, pendant or track lights, but they can also support a hanging pot rack. Sometimes it makes sense to fill up a space, as I did with a soffit over the tall cabinets in the butler's pantry—doing so created a clean, uncluttered built-in look. But in the main kitchen, a soffit would have made the room seem small, distorting the wonderful height of the pitched ceiling. The empty space from cabinets to ceiling is functional in its own way, because it balances out the weight of the cabinets and opens up the room.

The Zen of Emptiness: Ask yourself: what would make a particular space more functional? One design feature cost me nothing, but is the most functional area of the kitchen: the empty space below the counter, where I can prep and socialize while sitting on a stool, and store the stool there as well. This feature has made me both more comfortable and more efficient in the kitchen, because of its location. Not setting a cabinet there meant less storage area, but this nontraditional use of space is now uniquely multi-tasking.

Location, Location, Location: The placement of working features is equally as critical. For instance, the empty under-counter space would be less functional if it were located elsewhere. Or rather, if some of the other functional pieces I bought were placed elsewhere, such as the pull-out wastebasket drawer or the gas cooktop which are immediately adjacent to the open undercounter area.

Dance the Two-Step: Can a floor plan be too large? Yes. When standing in the center of my main kitchen, I can reach every area in just two steps or less—including the range, cooktop, dishwasher and kitchen sink. If the center floor plan were any larger, I'd be less efficient. Yet, the main kitchen's central floor space (roughly 7 feet on each side) does not feel cramped, even with several people in it. of course, the butler's pantry is adjacent to the main kitchen and requires more steps, but I don't traffic into it as frequently while I'm cooking.

Spread Out: Flat, uncluttered work space may be a kitchen's most valuable feature—a feature that doesn't "do" anything, but let's you do everything, so budget for it wisely. I splurged on countertops in three ways: length, depth, and height. In both the butler's pantry and the main kitchen, I have nearly 28 feet of countertop. I dropped the height of the butler's pantry counter by 2 inches, making it more comfortable while I'm rolling pastries and kneading dough. The main kitchen level of the peninsula is deeper by 4 inches than standard countertops, so I can push things out of my way and never feel cramped or cluttered. Plus, an additional 11 feet of bar-height countertop functions not just for entertaining and dining, but it's also handy whenever I need a large space to spread out on, such as when choosing photos, comparing cookbooks or doing my taxes.


Most Functional Features of Kate's New Kitchen

In summary, I consider these the best assets of my new kitchen, and details on each can be found throughout this series:

Dual-level custom peninsula
Under counter open space
Extra deep countertop and ample counter work space
Lowered countertop height in butler's pantry
State-of-the art appliances and refrigerator that keeps food fresher longer
Pull-out wastebaskets under prep area
Corner cabinets with bi-fold doors, and base cabinets with lazy susans
Wall of tall cabinets in butler's pantry
Roll-out shelves and pots 'n' pans drawers
Low-maintenance materials, including vinyl flooring, undermounted sink and solid surface countertops
Wide passageways
Electrical outlets in tall cabinets
Ample lighting, both artificial and natural


Final Kitchen Specs and Budget Tips

You know the definition of the low bid contractor? He's the guy who's trying to figure out what he left out. Contractor rates vary, so get several bids. We threw out the highest and lowest bids, and settled on a mid-range rate that seemed reasonable. Make friends with your contractor; reaching a level of mutual respect makes for good communication. Visit the site every day to answer (and to ask) questions, thus making sure you're all on the same page. Finally, know that add-on requests can skyrocket the price of the initial bid, and may shock you into cardiac arrest when the final bill comes in. Instead of asking "Can you do this?" be more specific and ask "What would it cost to...?"

Kitchen materials and installation rates also vary, but for comparison purposes, here's approximately what kitchen remodel cost:

Cabinets: Thomasville—available only in Home Depot stores. Style: Bayshore in Sandalwood Maple. Cost: $15,000, plus installation (our contractor included this as part of his whole house bid.)

Flooring: Armstrong—Solarian Starstep Sheet Vinyl with ToughGuard, in Textelle pattern. Approx. Cost for main kitchen and butler's pantry only: $1200, plus about $400 installation. (Same material was used in the adjacent porch room and hallways, not included in these costs.)

Kitchen Countertops and Sink: Swanstone Solid Surface—Color: Tahiti Evergreen. Approx. Cost Materials: $4000; Custom Fabrication: $3000

Appliances: Maytag - Except for the white washer/dryer set, these prices are for black and stainless or chrome models (figure slightly less for white); these are the manufacturer's suggested retail prices, but you can likely find them for less, especially if buying them all from the same dealer. Prices do not include delivery or installation. ClimateZone Refrigerator $1819. Accellis 2X Range $1388. Neptune Washer $1399, Neptune Gas Dryer $869. Jetclean Dishwasher $849. Gas Cooktop $329.

Additional costs of about $14,000 included the contractor and subcontractor labor and materials, permits, paint, lighting, sink fixture, water purifier and new barstools.


Recommended Books and Resources

For inspiration or do-it-yourself guides, I found the following resources to be immensely valuable in planning my kitchen remodel. They're also good to use as springboards to compare your tastes with that of your mate and other family members. Photos and videos also help show your designer or contractor exactly what you have in mind. You can find TV listings and schedules on each show's website.


TV Series:

HGTV Network—I glued myself to this entire channel for about 3 months. Everything from kitchen makeovers to gardens to coverage of design trade shows.

Hometime—I think this is the best of the DIY (do it yourself) shows, although there are other valuable ones as well. Even if you're not a DIY'er, seeing the nuts and bolts behind the process of installing counters, cabinets, and other remodeling tasks gives you a better understanding of limitations and costs.

Ultimate Kitchens—(TVFN) Host Tori Ritchie covers innovative ideas in kitchens ranging from simple country styles to elaborate chef's designs. Very inspirational, and she's a refreshing, savvy host, one that pleasantly avoids gooeyness or gushiness.


Books and Magazines:

Great Kitchens: At Home with America's Top Chefs, by Ellen Whitaker, Colleen Mahoney, Wendy A. Jordan (Taunton, 1999)—Home kitchens of celebrity chefs' complete with detailed photos and innovative ideas. I grew a callus on my thumb by flipping through this book for weeks on end. Photos show just how varied even the pro's' kitchens can be.
Buy the Book!

Kitchens: California Design Library, by Deborah Dorrans Sacks (Chronicle, 1997). Packed with handy advice from kitchen designers, architects, chefs, and foodies with unique kitchens. Includes tips, photos and inspirational ideas.
Buy the Book!

Kitchens for Cooks: Planning Your Perfect Kitchen, by Deborah Krasner (Viking Studio Books, 1994)—Loaded with truly practical tips, an explanation of hot-cold-wet-and-dry zones for kitchen organization, and case studies of foodie kitchens. Will get you thinking about the logic behind kitchen design.
Buy the Book!

Special-Issue Magazines: Check the racks at home centers and supermarkets. House Beautiful, Better Homes and Gardens and others publish special interest issues, usually every quarter. They're great practical guides and feature the latest products. Titles are usually something like "Kitchen Planning Guide," or "Kitchen and Bath Planner."

Other handy or inspirational books:

Country and Modern: Contemporary Interiors for Rural Settings, by Dinah Hall (Soma Books, 1998)
Buy the Book!

Home and Garden Television's Complete Fix-It (Time -Life Books, 2000)
Buy the Book!

Mediterranean Style, by Catherine Haig (Abbeville Press, 1997)
Buy the Book!

Recycled Spaces: Converting Buildings into Homes, by Vinny Lee (Soma Books, 2000)
Buy the Book!

The Tile Book: Decorating with Fired Earth, by Elizabeth Hilliard (Soma Books, 1999)
Buy the Book!

The Time-Life Guide to Lighting (2000)
Buy the Book!

Working with the Professionals to Create the Home You Want (Time-Life Books, 2000)
Buy the Book!


Kate Heyhoe


FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel Series
(with Survival Recipes)


Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page created March 2001