3 Terrific Kitchen Remodeling Tips For Today

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 houzz.com 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.


How To Create An Accessible Bathroom


Ridgefield WA accessible bathroom features Evergreen Fog



Paul is a Baby Boomer with one health issue. He knew that he wanted to transform his existing bathroom into an accessible bathroom for the future and had great ideas, but he didn’t know how to do it. He had set aside money for the project, suspecting that the remodeling project would be expensive. But was it enough money? He knew he needed help. We talked about what he wanted to achieve and his investment range during a long phone conversation. His goals included:
  • A roll-in shower with an inline drain that he’d seen online when he searched for “accessible bathrooms.”
  • An accessible toilet. Paul described the existing narrow toilet room that had a door. He wanted to remove the door to make the toilet accessible from a wheelchair or a walker.
  • Replace the existing linen closet with cabinets for better storage and accessibility.
  • Radiant heating below the bathroom and closet floors.



Paul invited me to see his home and bathroom at the end of our conversation. The help he needed is my specialty, creating accessible bathrooms.
Approaching the neighborhood, I observed that Paul lives in a new development, one of many in his area. Young trees are a giveaway. Developers mow down all established trees to make construction easier and faster. While planned communities have the advantage of new construction technology, the homes often lack accessibility for homeowners with health problems or limitations.
Bathroom Before it became an Accessible Bathroom


Paul purchased one of the few one-story homes in the development. A brief tour of his home proved the developer’s lack of knowledge about accessibility. Here are significant problems that I’m showing on the “Before” plan:
  • There was a narrow hallway next to the master bedroom, not enough space for accessibility.
  • The bedroom door was only 30 inches wide; no way to widen the door or use offset hinges.
  • A 36-inch walkway between the king-size bed and the bathroom doorway prevented clear access to the bathroom.
  • The bathroom had a 28-inch wide door, 4 inches too narrow for a wheelchair or walker.
Inside the bathroom, here’s what I observed — major use problems:
  • Although there were 50 inches between the lavatory countertop and the shower, sliding glass doors on top of a curb enclosed the shower, making it inaccessible for a wheelchair or walker.
  • The interior of the shower was 60 inches wide by 32 inches deep.
  • A narrow 28-inch door limited access to the toilet room, which was 64 inches wide by 33-3/8 inches deep.
  • There wasn’t space anywhere in the bathroom for a 5-foot turning radius required for wheelchairs.



Accessible Bathroom in Ridgefield, WAI was happy that Paul hired me to help him transform his bathroom. He asked great questions, weighed all the information, and did a lot of research. However, it took about four months for Paul to make decisions because one feature relates to all other features.
Paul asked if we could add a window in the wall between the shower and the toilet room during the design phase because he wanted more daylight in the bathroom. This wall had the existing showerhead and valve. We discussed the pros and cons, then agreed that the best location for the new showerhead and valve was at the opposite end of the shower, the wall dividing the bathroom from the bedroom. Paul’s decision made the other wall available for a tempered-glass window. But his decision increased the investment in framing and rough plumbing. He realized that the money he’d set aside wasn’t enough. He could forego the new window, or he could add money to the investment. He decided that the new window added value and personal enjoyment to the bathroom. Natural daylight is something we all need, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. 
We went shopping together for countertop material, tile, and flooring. Also, we exchanged emails about plumbing and lighting. I included all decisions in four 24″ x 36″ pages of Paul’s plans. Soon after I completed the plans, Paul interviewed several contractors and decided to hire a local company specializing in building accessible homes. It was a well-considered decision, like every other decision he made. 
Accessible Bathroom plan in Ridgefield, WA



 How did we solve the problems to create Paul’s accessible bathroom?
  • There is no door between the bedroom and the bathroom, and the doorway is wider.
  • There is no glass shower door or glass shower screen, so Paul can move safely and turn a wheelchair around freely. Now there’s enough room for accessible safety and comfort.
  • The new accessible bathroom shower floor has the same tile as the bathroom and the closet.
  • Floors in the bathroom and closet have radiant heating.
  • There is no shower curb — a requirement for accessible bathrooms.
  • There’s an inline drain against the back wall in the shower.
  • There’s a drop-down seat with an adjacent corner grab bar
  • Two corner soap+shampoo shelves are also grab bars.
  • There’s a vertical grab bar next to the shower valve, so Paul can support himself safely when he’s turning on the water.
  • There’s a multi-purpose showerhead and a personal shower. Personal showers are very important for a feeling of independence in accessible bathrooms.
  • We’ve swapped the location of the ADA-height toilet+bidet 180 degrees.
  • We removed the toilet room door and made the doorway as wide as possible for better accessibility.
  • We’ve planned a convenient shelf for personal-care items next to the toilet.
  • The toilet tissue holder is also a grab bar.
There are significant changes to the cabinets, too:
  • There’s an open knee well on the right-hand side for wheelchair and walker accessibility.
  • We’ve placed the faucets on the sides of both lavatories for easier control. NOTE: Faucets at the rear of lavatory sinks make it nearly impossible to reach when someone is sitting in a wheelchair or using a walker.
  • A new pantry cabinet replaces the linen closet. It has three drawers at the bottom and a pair of doors at the top.
  • All cabinets feature soft-close hinges and glides that are easy to operate.





Paul’s favorite color family is warm green. Here are the finishing products he selected:
Evergreen Fog Sherwin-Williams paint for accessible bathroom

After receiving a Sherwin-Williams newsletter with their color of the year, “Evergreen Fog,” I recently recommended it to Paul. I shared two virtual-reality perspectives to show him how it looks. Read more about “Evergreen Fog,” and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter where I intend to share more information about accessibility, colors, and design.

The design phase was as smooth as butter in warm weather because Paul took (and made) time to make informed decisions about everything for his remodeled accessible bathroom. I’m sure that the actual remodeling will be as smooth. Construction will begin within a month. I can’t wait to see the results!
Accessible bathrooms are an important part of total home accessibility, vital for all ages and all stages of ability. I previously wrote about important features of accessibility. But an accessible bathroom has to be visually and emotionally pleasing, too. To be successful, accessible bathrooms (and accessible kitchens) must look like they belong in your home. They should fit in with your lifestyle and personal preferences. This is why I’d love to help you!
Universal Design is a synonym for accessibility. I prefer accessibility and Universal Design to the term “Aging In Place,” don’t you? Leave a comment about your opinions!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.
Read about Diane Plesset’s design process.

Do you have specific needs for your master bathroom? I’d love to talk with you about your goals! Send me an email, or call me!

© Copyright 2022 D, P, Design – All Rights Reserved


LED Lighting = $avings!

LED Lighting $aves Our Environment While $aving You Money!

Remodeled Vancouver kitchen with LED lighting

LED Lighting in Remodeled Kitchen

LED lighting technology was in its infancy eleven years ago. It wasn’t available when I was working in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s until 2000. California passed laws to help energy conservation, but it was a heavy-handed approach. We did have incandescent filament lamps, but we were forced to use fluorescent lighting as the main source of light in kitchens and bathrooms.

Homeowners objected to this limitation, so we worked around the laws making fluorescent under-cabinet fixtures the main light source in kitchens. The fixtures were controlled by the switch closest to the kitchen door. These fluorescent lamps were small in diameter so the fixtures were short. There were varying lengths of the fluorescent lamps, but we were limited by which lengths were available in either warm white or cool white.  I made the mistake of mixing the lamps on my first project. Warm white looked reddish-orange and cool white looked blue-green. The backsplash in my clients’ kitchen looked like Christmas!

For a while, we could use halogen lamps in recessed and decorative fixtures. They were used because they could be dimmed. But the regulations got Then manufacturers produced fluorescent lamps with standard screw-type bases so they could be used with recessed and decorative fixtures. The EPA told us that CFLs would be the standard to replace incandescent lamps. Reluctantly, the construction industry and homeowners adopted this, but everyone hated the results. Fluorescent lamps were on or off. No dimming. The light was simultaneously flat and harsh.

My, how we’ve come a long way — and the future looks even brighter!

In 2005, LED lighting was available, but there were limitations:

  • Not dimmable.
  • Color was a cool blue-white.
  • Replacement bulbs (lamps) for many fixtures did not exist.
  • Strip and rope lighting was available, but it was very expensive ($40 per foot!).

LED lighting has improved!

To create the indirect lighting for the entry hall and hallway, dining room, living room, master bedroom, and kitchen in our new home in 2006, my husband had to buy 3,000 individual LEDs and wire them together on “perf” board. Then he connected the finished Light-Emitting-Diode (LED) strips to a dimmable transformer and plugged the transformer into a switched outlet that had been installed in the coffers. It was a lot of work for him, but it saved us thousands of dollars. We got the results we wanted and lit all of those areas with only 100 watts of power, which was reflected in our lowered electric bill. To achieve similar results in 2021, any Homeowner can purchase ready-made dimmable LED strip lighting for a multitude of purposes and a multitude of color ranges:

  • Indirect lighting in trayed/coffered ceilings or on crown molding
  • Task and accent lighting under wall cabinets and countertop overhangs in kitchens
  • Accent display lighting in unlimited applications
  • Safety night lighting in bathroom toekicks and stair edges
  • Increased-visibility lighting in pantries and closets

Comparison of LED lighting to other types of lighting

In addition to LED strip lighting, there’s a wide selection of bulbs available, replace discontinued incandescent and outdated CFL bulbs. The colors, brightness, and dimmability have been improved, to enhance all interior environments. The best news for all of us, though, is that the price of LED lighting has dropped like a rock as the technology has improved and the market has become more competitive. Early incandescent lamp replacements were as high as $50 each. In 2021, we can purchase better LED replacement lamps for as low as $5 each! Here is a chart from Earth Easy that graphically shows how cost-efficient LED lighting is:

Comparison chart for LED, CFL, and Incandescent lighting

There is more technical information available at Wikipedia.

LED Lighting has grown in popularity

Lighting designers understood the benefits that LED lighting would have on the environment. They knew that homeowners and businesses would save money on energy bills. They worked with manufacturers to develop better and varied light sources for residential and commercial use. “DOE estimates there are at least 500 million recessed downlights installed in U.S. homes, and more than 20 million are sold each year,” according to a report by energy.gov.

Armed with all of this information, I hope that you’re inspired to switch (pun intended!) your existing lighting to LEDs.

See before and after pictures and a description of the featured kitchen project that successfully used LED lighting.

© 2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Revised 2/2022.

Best Kitchen Lighting Combines Art And Science

What Is The Best Kitchen Lighting For All Your Activities?

West Linn Remodeled Kitchen Lighting

The best kitchen lighting (1/2)

. . .  and why should the best kitchen lighting combine art (the human factor) and science (the technical factor)? To achieve maximum enjoyment and function.

Here’s an example: The homeowners loved their home but disliked the dark kitchen.

  • It was large and had many angles.
  • The windows faced east which meant that the kitchen got dark early in the day.
  • They had to turn on recessed incandescent fixtures that wasted energy and increased their electric bill. Their kitchen was still dark.
  • The speculation builder used dark-stained standard cabinets that absorbed most of the light, limited the layout, and wasted space.

Several contractors said the best solution would be to add onto the kitchen. That would solve the problem with angled walls. But it wouldn’t solve lighting problems unless they went with an all-white kitchen. That’s not what they wanted. No one suggested using LED lighting.

The good news, there was only one addition needed. A 3′ by 3′ area was added to the southeast corner of the eating area. This allowed space for a sliding patio door and it created more wall space for a large picture window. This allowed more light into the room, and the homeowners got a great view of Mt. Hood! They soon became fans of LED illumination. More about this later.

Remodeled Master Bathroom: Cabinets & Storage #2 Feature

Plumbing Is Necessary, But Bathroom Cabinets Personalize The SpaceRemodeled Tigard master bathroom with new contrasting cabinets provide lots of storage

What are two features that Homeowners request for a master bathroom? The #2 and #3 requests are for more (and better) storage, and an up-to-date look. Bathroom cabinets can satisfy both needs!

What are the features that homeowners request most often? The #1 request is for a large(r) shower.

The remodeled Tigard master bathroom is a great example!

The Homeowners requested a large two-person shower. And they both wanted more storage for:

  • Grooming paraphernalia to be put away when not in use;
  • Towels;
  • A back-up stock of tissue, hair care products, soap, and lotions (Costco overflow).

Making room for a larger lavatory

The existing lavatory area was too narrow, and the adjacent toilet room was wider than it needed to be, so space was borrowed from the toilet room to make the lavatory wider. The additional space allowed the following specialized storage in the bathroom cabinets: (more…)

Accessible Bathrooms: 8 Proven Features For Quality Of Life

Accessible bathrooms help people perform daily health and personal-care needs. Function. What’s the most important feature in a great accessible bathroom? Quality of life! There are required features, of course, but they don’t have to remind the person who needs them is in-valid.  Quality of life (self-esteem) is too often the lowest-priority when homeowners are remodeling an existing bathroom. Other terms used synonymously with accessible design are barrier-free design, aging-in-place design, and lifetime livability. To achieve a functional, safe, and beautiful accessible bathroom, it’s best to hire a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (C.A.P.S.).

Best quality-of-life features in any room include:

  • Occupants’ favorite colors
  • Layered lighting to make the area interesting
  • A mix of tactile and visual textures
  • Background music (may not be appropriate for hard-of-hearing occupants)
  • Natural aromatherapy (lavender is a great one for relaxation)
  • Comfortable temperature (this is achieved in bathrooms with radiant under-floor heating)

Safety Features that Accessible Bathrooms Need:

  • Doors:
    • 32″ wide, minimum.  There are offset hinges to make the net opening of 32″ wide doorways more accessible.
    • Pocket doors are good but have limitations regarding location, and pulls may be hard to grip.
    • 36″ wide doorways are better.
    • Easy-to-grip lever handles.
  • Wheelchairs and walkers:
    • 5′ turning radius (without a lot of “back and forth” maneuvering).
  • Floors:
    • Same level on both sides of a doorway.
    • A slip-resistant hard surface that will allow wheelchairs and walkers to glide effortlessly.
    • No area rugs.
  • Lavatory cabinets, countertops, sinks, and faucets:
    • Open knee well, with recessed drain pipe or wrapped drain pipe to prevent burns and injury.
    • Everything on the countertop and in drawers should be easily accessible from a seated position.
    • The countertop should be at a comfortable height, so wheelchair arms can slide under if desired.
    • Medications organized and marked for easy reading and understanding.
    • The bottom of the sink should be easily reached by someone seated or leaning against a walker.
    • Faucet controls:
      • Easily reachable, side-mount rather than rear-mount.
      • Single-lever control that’s easy to grasp.
  • Showers:
    • Curbless entry with or without a curtain or an easy-to-open door that doesn’t block access.
    • Valves:
      • Accessible from inside and outside the shower, with easy-to-understand and easy-to-operate controls.
      • Anti-scald protection.
    • Adjustable shower on a slide bar.
    • Shower seat, either fixed height or drop-down.
    • Good lighting that doesn’t produce glare.
    • Grab bars are necessary for everyone!
  • Tubs:
    • Whether a standard tub or a walk-in tub, plumbing location is critical because the valve, diverter, and personal shower must be easily accessible to the bather.
    • Standard tub: Entry and exit are important considerations. The tub should have built-in safety grab bars. If possible, the bather should sit on the edge of the tub and swing legs in, then using the grab bars, lower themself into the water.
    • Walk-in tub: New walk-in tubs have become popular. The problem I’ve had with most of them is that the bather has to enter before filling the tub and wait for the tub to drain before exiting. Kohler has introduced a new walk-in tub that eliminates the problem of the bather getting chilled. They offer a walk-in tub with a heated seat.
  • Toilets:
    • Seat 16-1/2″ to 18″ high.
    • Access for side-transfer from a wheelchair is recommended.
    • Wall-mount and/or floor-mount grab bars are very important.
  • Lighting and visual cues:
    • Non-glare, bright lighting is recommended.
    • If there is any visual impairment, it’s important to have contrast in color saturation and texture.

Excellent Resources for Accessible Bathrooms and Other Rooms:

The bathroom featured in today’s tip was a powder room in the 1970s two-story home. Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms were on the second floor. The Homeowners realized the importance of having an alternate bedroom and an accessible bathroom for emergencies on the main floor. To create the roll-in curbless shower, they were willing to abandon a hallway that led from the front door to the kitchen. Their top priority for the bathroom, in addition to accessibility, was a bathroom that didn’t scream, “You’re disabled!” Their bathroom whispers, “I’m here for you,” because it was designed for accessibility and quality of life.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ, Principal of D. P. Design

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate and Aging-in-Place Specialist who specializes in helping homeowners with home remodeling additions. She also designs new homes. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

Contact Diane today to talk about your remodeling needs and goals. Sign up to receive her newsletter that has valuable information about home remodeling and quality of life.