Case Study: Kitchen Remodeling Project During Pandemic

I’ve got 3 Terrific Kitchen Remodeling Tips to help you! 

But first, a question: Why is kitchen remodeling a mystery for most homeowners? There are two logical reasons:

    • Millions of print and online magazines show kitchen remodeling results. But few articles outline how professional designers helped their clients.
    • Kitchen designers use the rules and guidelines we’ve learned. Unfortunately, they’re a boring list of items about Function and Safety for homeowners. But not for us!

The National Kitchen & Bath Association 31 Kitchen Guidelines is essential information for designers. But, is it necessary for you to know? No, especially if you’ve hired a kitchen designer.

Surrounded By Too Much Information

You’re living with pandemic challenges every day. Are you tired of reading and hearing about them — not because you don’t care. Do you feel helpless when the media overwhelms you with sobering statistics?

There’s nothing we can do about product and labor shortages, either. We see pictures of loaded container ships waiting to dock and unload their cargo. Reporters talk about how much more we’re paying for everything compared to 2019. Often, they end the report about how bad it’s going to get in the next year. On and on.

We get it! Until these issues affect us personally, it’s easy to think that the media examples are somewhere else, happening to someone else. So I’ve decided to share what’s happened with a recent client, how the pandemic affects her kitchen remodeling project, and what we’re doing about it.

Terrific Kitchen Remodeling Tips

As you read Mary’s case history, keep these tips in mind:

Tip #1. Plan ahead. Wa-a-a-y ahead. The days of immediate gratification may never return. Answer the following questions:

        • When do you want your kitchen remodeling finished?
        • What are your specific goals?
        • How much do you want to invest?
        • What products do you want to use?
        • What tradeoffs are you willing to make?

Tip #2. Plan and do what’s needed — NOW! :

        • Get your total investment ready;
        • Hire a kitchen design professional and a contractor (or a design-build firm);
        • Make decisions about everything ASAP;
        • Order all products and store them until your contractor is ready for them.

Tip #3. Handle setbacks and challenges with grace and compassion. Remember that we’re all in this pandemic together. Avoid the “blame game,” if possible.

Pandemic Case History

Mary has been living in the same home for 25 years. Before they bought the house, they knew that the 190-square foot kitchen needed remodeling. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the money to update the kitchen immediately.

Instead of moaning and groaning about the circumstances, Mary decided to update the kitchen:

      • First, she painted the dark-brown kitchen cabinets a soft off-white and replaced the old “belly-button” knobs with new pulls.
      • Then she covered the laminate countertops with tile that looked like a professional did the job.
      • Finally, as they could afford it, Mary and her husband bought white appliances.

Original Builder Created 5 Major Problems

Her D-I-Y kitchen began showing its age three years ago. She knew that the original builder created function and safety problems that no one could resolve without completely remodeling the kitchen:

  1. Base corner cabinets that need her to get on her hands and knees to find what she vaguely remembers storing months before;
  2. Wall cabinets adjacent to the windows that have the same problem as #1 above;
  3. Only 3″ of countertop space between her ovens and cooktop (wide enough for a tasting spoon);
  4. Painted wall cabinets on both sides of the 30″ cooktop are scorched and peeling from exposure to heat and moisture because the builder only allowed room for a 30″ wide hood;
  5. Nothing but air between the top of the wall cabinets and the ceiling;
  6. One incandescent fixture in the center of the kitchen;

Do these problems sound familiar? In the 1970s, builders didn’t understand the importance of kitchen function and storage! They didn’t have access to the 31 Guidelines (and if they did, they wouldn’t use them anyway).

Every Kitchen Remodeling Problem Has At Least One Great Solution!

Here are specific solutions for each of the problems listed above:

  1. New base corner cabinets will have accessible swing-out lazy susan units.
  2. Angled wall corner cabinets will make storage and accessibility much more effortless.
  3. The oven cabinet will move towards the patio door, allowing generous room for a pull-out base pantry with a new wall cabinet above. Mary will have about 15″ of usable countertop space between the cooktop and ovens.
  4. A new 36″ wide hood will protect the new wall cabinets.
  5. New wall cabinets and tall cabinets will close the gap and give Mary more usable storage (even if it’s for items used only once a year).
  6. Mary’s new kitchen will have dimmable recessed LED fixtures for general lighting. In addition, there will be dimmable LED strip lighting under the wall cabinets for task and mood lighting.
  7. BONUS! Moving the oven cabinet required the elimination of a bookcase that Mary uses frequently. I’m happy that we came up with a great alternative: install a built-in bookcase in a wall adjacent to the eating area. There’s still room for a narrow phone counter on the side of the oven cabinet!

Quest For A New Kitchen

Mary embarked on her quest for a new kitchen in May 2021, hoping for completion when her son will be visiting for Christmas. He loves to cook and bake and asked to be involved in the kitchen redesign.

She knew that a complete kitchen remodeling would address all the function and safety challenges. But she couldn’t decide between the aesthetic options available:

Should she get a new range and install a microwave-convection oven – OR –
     Get a gas cooktop and install a double oven with a microwave-convection oven at the top?
Should she stay with off-white cabinets and white appliances -OR –
     Opt for wood cabinets and stainless steel appliances?
How would white appliances look with wood cabinets – OR –
     Would stainless steel appliances look better with off-white cabinets?

She visited and saved pictures to a project folder. But none of the photos showed the options she needed and wanted to see. Time slipped by. So after she hired me, I created photorealistic renderings of how her kitchen would look with the different options. Here are the options I showed her:

Virtual Reality Renderings showing options

Photorealistic Renderings: White cabinets with varying options of appliances

Photorealistic Renderings of wood cabinets and appliance options

Photorealistic Renderings: Wood cabinets with different options of appliances

Move Ahead, Then Stop. And Wait.

Mary made decisions so we could plan for construction that her contractor scheduled to start in mid-October. But we ran into the snag that the media has been reporting: product delays. The appliances may be available, but freight and delivery charges will be a budget-buster. Cabinets won’t be ready for delivery until the second week of December at the earliest.

Last week, I suggested that she put off starting her kitchen remodel until early 2022. She was disappointed but understood that working in her old kitchen with her son would be better than having everything in total disarray during his visit. So Mary gets gold stars for following Rule #3!

Case Study how homeowner used 3 Terrific Kitchen Remodeling Tips to help

Homeowner is excited about how her remodeled kitchen will function and look!

Collaboration About Function, Safety, And Your Style

The pandemic has forced us to shift our priorities and rethink our lives. The NKBA 31 Guidelines remain the foundation for Function and safety, essential parts of every kitchen. But there’s nothing in the Guidelines about kitchen appearance. That’s when our collaboration gets the results you want, how you want your kitchen to look. When we start with the best kitchen function and safety possible, you can have any style you desire! I’m delighted to use both hemispheres of my brain to help you like I’ve helped Mary and hundreds of other homeowners. 

You’ve read about Mary’s Case Study that’s ongoing. Now read a Case Study about one of my favorite finished projects.

Do you recognize familiar problems that you’re having with your kitchen? Do you have other kitchen remodeling problems? Call me, and let’s chat about the things that are bugging you! In 37 years, I’ve discovered that most challenges have multiple solutions. It’s a matter of finding the right solution for your needs, your budget, and your unique lifestyle.