Before (scroll down for after pictures)

This kitchen transformation is striking. What once was a dark and isolated space is now an open, light-filled, beautiful great room. The first item on their wish list was removing the wall separating the kitchen from the living room. This young couple wanted to be able to entertain friends and family, and be part of the festivities, rather than be relegated to the kitchen. Fortunately, we were able to do that for them, and the result is a large, open-concept great room, where everyone can be together.

Second on their wish list was enhanced functionality, in terms of increased storage space and counter space. To achieve this, I recommended changing the locations of the sink and cooktop. The large farmhouse sink is now under the front window (the new window stayed the same width as the old one, but became shorter to accommodate the wall of cabinetry and backsplash). By moving the cooktop to the old sink location we gained several feet of counter space on both sides, and we also gained a second oven, in place of the old one-piece range.

The island provides even more functionality. Notice the microwave drawer in the island— this frees up space on the counters, and still keeps it in a convenient location near the cooking area and the breakfast bar. The new island is great for serving food and drinks when friends come over, and, on a day-to-day basis, provides a lovely spot for drinking coffee and watching the birds out the front window.

 

Probably the biggest benefit in the new kitchen is the increased amount of storage space. Between the Lazy Susan in the corner, and the pull-out cabinet for utensils near the cooktop, large drawers for pots and pans under the cooktop, the large upper cabinets flanking the sink, the pantry cabinet with adjustable pull-out shelves by the fridge, and the extra space in the island, my clients have ample space for everything. I think my client said it best when she texted me while she was putting away all of her things: “Holy potatoes we have a TON of storage in this kitchen!!!!!”

To unify the living room and new kitchen, we extended the wood flooring throughout the entire space, and used the same paint colors in both rooms. The teal and yellow accent colors add a welcome pop of brightness to the calming white and gray color scheme. I was very happy working on this project, and am thrilled with the results. The new space is very warm, welcoming and fun, just like the clients.

After decades of living in their Fremont home, this couple opted for a full remodel of their kitchen. The old kitchen was dated and dark, lacking in storage and counter space, and definitely in need of a makeover. My clients told me that, at this stage of their life, they were ready for their home to finally reflect their taste and design aesthetic.

Before:

   

(Scroll down to see the after pictures.)

We had a few goals for the new kitchen:

  1. Increase the lighting. One important way to get more light into the kitchen was to remove part of the wall separating the kitchen and living room. In place of the wall, we maintained separation by creating a high counter. At the end of the counter, we installed a three-light pendant fixture both for extra light, balance, and to create an interesting focal point. In place of the old ceiling-mounted fixtures, we installed dimmable LED recessed can lights, and LED under-cabinet lights. As a result, the new kitchen is much lighter and brighter. 
     
  2. Make the kitchen feel more spacious and open. We could not increase the size of the kitchen, but we make it feel larger and more open by changing the layout of the cabinets. We moved the refrigerator to the back of the kitchen, removing a large visual block in the front. The removal of the wall was also key in opening up the space. Replacing the old hood vent and cabinet with a new chimney hood also opened up the space. One other trick to make a space feel larger is to use the same flooring throughout the space. In this case, they already had hardwood floors in the living room and dining space, so we extended the same wood floor into the new kitchen.
     
  3. Add storage. You may have noticed that we extended the cabinets as close to the garage door as possible; this added several inches of cabinet space to the lower and upper cabinets. By moving the refrigerator, we were able to extend the cabinets to the edge of the wall, and also add a peninsula for additional counter space and storage space.
     
  4. Add functionality. The flow through the kitchen was improved by relocating the major appliances. Moving the refrigerator was the biggest change. That opened up the space tremendously. Putting the microwave in an upper cabinet created more counter space. And, of course, the new custom cabinetry is outfitted with full-extension drawer glides and pullout shelves. One thing you don’t see in the photos is inside one of the cabinets: we added outlets inside the upper cabinet next to the garage door. This gives them dedicated space to charge their phones and tablets without everything sitting on the counters.
     
  5. Add beauty and style. The gorgeous granite, with its dramatic colors and patterns adds a real wow factor to this kitchen. And we chose horizontal grain cherry wood cabinets for a sleek, contemporary look. Everything is streamlined, clean and crisp, with a mix of textures, patterns and colors. My clients are thrilled with their new space— it finally is an accurate reflection of their style.

 

After:

If you’re embarking on a kitchen or bath remodel, one of your most important decisions is the countertop. Which materials are available and what are the pros and cons of each? Let me give you an overview of your choices, and my take on each.

Granite:

I get asked frequently if granite is still “in.” It’s true that many of my clients are preferring Quartz over granite, but many still prefer the natural beauty and uniqueness of granite. I don’t think granite will be going “out” anytime soon, although I think many people will be looking at more unique colors and patterns going forward. There are some granite patterns that are more ubiquitous out there— those are the ones that may end up looking dated in several years.

Pros: With granite, you can get an enormous “wow” factor— brilliant color, amazing pattern, and a true one-of-a kind kitchen or bath. Granite is extremely durable, and is a great choice for busy kitchens, as it stands up to knife nicks and high heat quite well.

Cons: Because it is a natural stone, it is porous, and can possibly stain, especially the lighter colors. Take care to wipe up spills right away, and plan to seal your granite every few years to protect it. If you’re planning on putting new granite on top of your existing kitchen cabinets, make sure they are sturdy enough to support the weight of the granite slab— your contractor should look at your cabinets and determine whether extra support is needed.

Marble:

Marble is stunningly beautiful and elegant, and is especially lovely in traditional kitchens.

Pros: It is the preferred material for pastry and baking because it stays cool. If you are an avid baker, you might want to create a baking station in your kitchen and use marble for that countertop.

Cons: It is much softer than granite, and can very easily stain, even if you seal it regularly. It is a bit harder to maintain, which is why most people tend not to use it in their whole kitchen. You might see marble used on an island, or a bar, or on the backsplash as an accent.

Engineered Quartz:

There are many brands of man-made quartz materials that you may have heard of. Silestone, Caesarstone and Cambria are among the most well-known. Quartz is surging in popularity, due to it’s durability and it’s vast array of colors, and now patterns too. If you tend to prefer solid colors over patterns, or want a very modern look, then quartz is a great choice. Quartz is also now available in patterns that resemble granite and marble, so if you like the look of natural stone, but prefer a lower-maintenance product, definitely look at those options.

Pros: It’s available in myriad colors, including the ever-popular neutrals, but also vibrant colors like orange, fire engine red, cobalt blue and lime green. Quartz is non-porous, making it very stain resistant. It is durable, and holds up well in busy kitchens.

Cons: Because of the resins used in the manufacture of quartz, it can possibly scorch if very hot pans are placed directly on it. Make sure to always use trivets to protect the surface.

 
Other choices: 

Tile:

Not too many people are choosing tile for their counters these days, although if you have a historic home that you are refurbishing, tile may be the best choice for aesthetics and authenticity. Most people don’t care for the grout, as it can be notoriously hard to clean. I love using tile on backsplashes and in showers or on the floors, but not on counters.
 

Laminate:

If you’re on a tight budget, laminate is a great option. It is very affordable, and comes in a host of colors and patterns. New laminates now can even look like stainless steel, or bamboo, or wood. It is easy to clean and maintain. But it can scratch or burn if you’re not careful. I like to use laminates on desktops. In my own home office I have a blue laminate countertop that is now 11 years old and still in perfect condition. 
 
There is no wrong choice for your kitchen or bath— but one product may suit your needs, lifestyle, taste and budget better than another. 

When it comes to interior design, many people find it easier to tell you what they don’t like rather than what they do like. Can you describe your own design style? Are you traditional? Modern? Contemporary? Classic? One reason it’s so difficult for us to pin down one particular style is that most of us, at least here in California, tend to gravitate toward a mix of styles. Seldom do I see (or design, for that matter) a room that’s 100% one way or another. Have a look at these kitchens and you’ll see what I mean. In each example, there is a blend of elements, materials and finishes, all fitting the personalities and lifestyles of the clients who own them.

icp_9673“Traditional” and “Classic” elements– In some traditional and classic kitchens, you’ll find natural wood cabinets, and in others you’ll see painted cabinetry. Both types can fit into traditional décor. Painted cabinetry is often glazed or antiqued to give it more character, and wood finishes tend toward the dark, formal and dramatic. Color schemes tend toward neutrals like earth tones and black and white. Traditional kitchens often feature beautiful millwork, such as crown molding and embellished cabinets. Decorative corbels supporting breakfast bar countertops, and furniture-style toe kicks are definitely elements of a traditional kitchen. So are custom wood hood vent surrounds. You might see farmhouse (also called apron-front) sinks, and elegant plumbing fixtures. You’ll often see luxurious materials like marble tile backsplashes and natural stone counters.

icp_5858“Contemporary” and “Modern” elements– Contemporary kitchens might also feature natural wood or painted cabinetry, but the door style is much simpler, less ornate, with cleaner lines. Very modern cabinets might have a high-gloss lacquered finish in white or black or a bold color like orange. Shaker style or flat-front (also called slab) cabinetry is very popular for contemporary and modern kitchens, and in some kitchens, you’ll even see wood grain running horizontally rather than vertically. Mixing natural and man-made materials is also common. For example, you’ll see sleek quartz countertops paired with marble tile backsplashes, or granite counters combined with glass tile. Decorative light fixtures and pops of color are also characteristic of a contemporary kitchen. Faucets and sinks will be simple and unadorned, often stainless steel.

icp_1627Distressed wood floors and heavily textured stone backsplashes are two popular features you might see in today’s contemporary kitchens. A strategically selected rustic element can soften the look of a very modern kitchen and make it more casual and livable. For example, combining hand-scraped, distressed wood floors with sleek, crisp cabinetry creates an interesting juxtaposition, and also provides a practical walking surface for busy families with kids and pets. Unless the entire kitchen is designed intentionally as a rustic mountain cabin, the addition of one or two rustic elements does not make the kitchen any less contemporary.

All of this brings me to “transitional” design—a very popular term used today to describe a design style that I think most of us can relate to very well. I define transitional design as a successful blend of both traditional and contemporary elements. I think that all of these kitchens shown can be described as transitional kitchens. Some may lean a bit more traditional or more contemporary, but none is a pure example of any one style. These days, unless you really know undoubtedly which style you prefer, chances are you’ll feel right at home in a transitional kitchen, blending elements of traditional, classic and contemporary styling.

Looking back on the design projects I completed in 2015 gives me some insight into what clients will be asking for in 2016. Here are some of the most common requests from last year that I see continuing this year as well. As you plan your own remodeling and redecorating projects, keep these in mind.

Improved lighting throughout the house

ICP_5920This is an extremely common request, no matter what the project entails. All over the house we are improving the lighting by adding LED recessed can lights—in baths, bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces—as well as decorative pendants, chandeliers, wall sconces, and accent lighting. It’s hard to believe how many older homes came with almost no lighting at all! There are a lot of bedrooms and living rooms out there with no hard-wired lighting, just one sad small lamp on a table, or a rickety torchiere lamp in the corner. As we all age, this issue will even become more important.

Accessible bathrooms for different ages and abilities

ICP_1235And speaking of aging, several of the baths I worked on last year included grab bars, ADA-height toilets, and walk-in showers. With many people hoping to live in their homes forever, thinking ahead to later years is extremely important. The good news is that accessible baths cannot only be functional, but can also be very beautiful. The variety of products available is amazing.

Removal of traditional medicine cabinets

In so many bathroom projects, we are removing the existing medicine cabinets to make space for more interesting storage options, such as tower cabinets on the vanity or recessed wall cabinets. Removing the medicine cabinets allows us to also add more interesting lighting as well, such as wall sconces on each side of the mirror. In cases where we do keep a medicine cabinet, we are installing more functional cabinets with pull-out magnifying mirrors, mirrors on the backs of doors, and even electrical outlets built in. I bet you didn’t even know there were so many options.

Painted kitchen and bathroom cabinets

ICP_1313Wood cabinets will never go out of style, but painted cabinets are definitely “in” right now. Most popular colors for painted cabinets right now: white and gray, although I’ve done several projects where we used black and other colors as well. Whole kitchens can be painted the same color, or you can use two colors. For example, painting upper cabinets white, with dark gray lower cabinets, or combining wood perimeter cabinets with a painted island. I don’t see this trend going away any time soon. Varying the finishes and colors really does add a lot of personality to the space.

Well-designed living spaces

ICP_5865What I mean by this is that more and more people are tired of feeling like their rooms are a random hodgepodge of hand-me-down furnishings or rooms filled with purchasing mistakes. An increasing number of people are asking for living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms that are professionally designed, with fabrics and furnishings that go together and are color-coordinated. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me to design “grown-up” living rooms – no matter what age they are! I’ve worked with young folks in their 20s and 30s, all the way to retirement age, and it’s a common request. Maybe it’s a result of too much HGTV, but whatever the cause, people really do want to feel comfortable and happy in their homes.

Closeup of a installers hands attaching a hinge a kitchen cabineA few weeks ago I wrote about planning a bathroom remodel. This week I thought I’d tackle kitchens. Whether you do the bulk of the work yourself or hire a general contractor, I’ve provided a sample timeline so you understand what to expect. A typical kitchen project takes 6-8 weeks, and it can be longer if walls are being moved or if adjacent rooms are involved. For example, in one recent project, my clients not only remodeled their kitchen, but also made substantial changes to the adjacent family room. Those changes included raising the floor in their step-down family room so it would be level with the kitchen, installing new wood flooring, new built-in cabinetry, and a new sliding door and window.

As you are planning your kitchen project, keep these steps in mind.

  • Design the kitchen layout and select all materials. Spend a good amount of time on this step. The more detailed you are with your design plan, the more accurate the contractor can be with his price quote. Will you be keeping your appliances in the same location? Or is there a better way to plan the space? Perhaps you need more counter space—can you move the double ovens away from the cook top and open up more space for prepping? Is there enough room for an island? Do you need more cabinet space? If so, can you build some in the adjacent dining area? Or make your existing island a little longer or wider? Take time to investigate your options for materials. At this stage, a professional designer can really help you narrow down your options and put together a space plan and design that fits your taste and lifestyle.
  • Obtain permits. After you have your design created, take your drawings to the city to obtain any necessary building permits. The homeowner or the contractor can take care of this step. The city will want to know the type of plumbing and lighting you are using—there are strict building codes regarding water flow and energy efficiency, as well as requirements regarding the number and type of electrical outlets needed. There will be periodic inspections during the remodel process.
  • Select appliances, sinks and faucets. The cabinets are built around the appliances, so it’s important to select these first and make sure the cabinet-maker receives all the dimensions and specifications.
  • Order the cabinetry. This is typically the item with the longest lead-time, so order these before starting any demolition. Your contractor will typically start construction approximately two weeks before the cabinets are due to be finished.
  • Start construction. Demolition, framing, rough plumbing and rough electrical work will be the first steps. Are you changing your electric cook top to gas? Do you need to add more outlets? Are you adding more lighting? All the wiring and plumbing will be done at this stage. The cabinet drawings are needed so the contractor knows where the plumbing and electrical wiring need to go.
  • Install, tape and texture the sheetrock. After the old kitchen has been torn out and new plumbing and wiring has been installed, there will be wall repair. After the new sheetrock has been installed, textured and prepped, then painters will come to put on a fresh coat of your chosen wall color.
  • Install the cabinetry. Contractors will generally leave off the cabinet doors until the end, to avoid potential damage when the floors, counters and appliances are installed.
  • Create a template for the new countertop. After the cabinets are in, the installers for the new countertop will come and take final measurements and create the template for your new counters. After about a week or so, they will return with your beautiful new counters and install them. You’re in the home stretch now.
  • Install the backsplash. This can be tile, stone, glass—any of a wide variety of options.
  • Install the new flooring. This can be done anytime after the cabinets are installed, but often contractors wait till after the counters and backsplash are in, again just to avoid any potential damage to the floors.
  • Install appliances, sinks, faucets, and light fixtures. Now the kitchen is almost finished!
  • Install cabinet doors and cabinet hardware.
  • Finishing touches: paint touches, final trim moldings, caulk baseboards, install window treatments, and anything else that may be left to do.
  • Final cleaning: the new kitchen will be dusty—some contractors include a final cleaning as part of their work, but some don’t. You might want to ask about it this at the beginning. You’ll want to do a final cleaning before you move in.
  • Kitchen complete! Although it always seems like it takes forever, a few weeks of inconvenience will result in years of enjoyment.

simple sketch of an interior design of a dining roomIs your dining room in need of a facelift? Whether your dining room is formal or informal, here are some decorating tips to help make it special.

  • Before purchasing new dining furniture, measure the room to keep you from buying a table that is too large. Ideally you would want at least 36-42″ of clearance around the table, measured from the edge of the table to the wall. This will give diners enough room to pass behind the chairs.
  • Consider two different types of dining chairs—for example, the head chairs can be fully upholstered, while the side chairs can have upholstered seats and wood backs. Choose fabric for the head chairs that will work well in your living room too; that way you can bring those chairs into the living room when you entertain.
  • Before purchasing a new chandelier, again, take note of the measurements of the room and of the table. A good rule of thumb is to look for a chandelier that is 1/2 the width of the dining table. For example, if your table is 48” wide, look for chandeliers that are approximately 24” wide.
  • If your room has eight-foot ceilings, install the chandelier so that the bottom is approximately 30 inches above the tabletop. Add three inches for every additional foot of ceiling height.
  • Install dimmer switches on all of the light fixtures. This will allow you to create just the right mood for the occasion.
  • Warm colors are wonderful in dining rooms. Reds, oranges, and yellows stimulate the appetite while exuding a friendly, welcoming feel. Select rich, muted colors rather than bright, pure colors for a subdued, elegant feel. Examples are: terracotta or cinnamon rather than orange; burgundy or rose rather than red; creamy yellow or gold, rather than pure yellow.
  • If you prefer cool colors, warm up the dining room with small accents of a warm color. For example, in a taupe dining room, use touches of red. You might use red in a floral arrangement, in a piece of art, in your dishware or in the chair fabric.
  • If your living room and dining room are open to each other, make sure to use the same colors in both rooms to tie them together. If you have a burgundy sofa, for example, cover your dining chairs in a patterned fabric that has burgundy in it.
  • Create a custom floral arrangement with the colors in your color scheme to use as a centerpiece.
  • For window treatments, vary the style of the treatment. For example, hang gorgeous drapery panels in the dining room, and swags in the living room. Using the same or coordinating fabrics in both rooms will tie them together.
  • When displaying china in the china cabinet, resist the urge to overfill the cabinet. Display what looks aesthetically pleasing, and store the rest elsewhere.
  • When arranging your china cabinet, use plate stands for your dinner plates to create backdrops for your crystal.
  • Use a table runner instead of a tablecloth to show off the beautiful wood table. Don’t hang artwork too high. Hang art at eye-level while seated.
  • Candles are always right at home in a dining room. Group a collection of silver candlesticks on a tray for a simple centerpiece.

spacious modern kitchen with maple cabinets and graniteI recently attended the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, where my colleagues and I got to see a wide variety of beautiful and innovative products for remodeling kitchens and baths. It was like Disneyland for designers–tiles, cabinetry, countertops, cabinet hardware, and fancy gadgets as far as the eye could see!

We saw cabinetry made from gorgeous, rich-looking exotic woods and very unique finishes (picture a bleached finish resembling driftwood), quartz slabs made to look like marble and granite, creative storage solutions for kitchen cabinets, and much more.

During a seminar on kitchen and bath trends for 2014, we learned the following:

Seventy-five percent of you prefer neutral kitchens, especially those of you over the age of 44. It is true that neutral kitchens tend to have more universal appeal (which is important if you plan to sell in the next few years) and tend to be more timeless than trendy. Neutral kitchens can be traditional or modern, and can look elegant or more rustic and casual, depending on the materials chosen. It’s never wrong to design a neutral kitchen, but don’t default to neutral because you are afraid of color!

Twenty-five percent of you prefer bold colors in the kitchen, and for those of you under the age of 44, the percentage is even higher. Bold colors can appear in wall colors, backsplash tile, and upholstery of course, but also in unexpected places like appliances and cabinetry. For example, picture a kitchen with a stainless steel refrigerator and dishwasher, and an oven in an eye-catching Cherry Red or Cobalt Blue. Mixing in a colorful appliance, or painting the island in a bold color can add pizzazz to the kitchen.

Eighty-six percent of you prefer granite or quartz for your countertops. With so many colors and patterns to choose from, it is no wonder. It appears that other materials like laminate and Corian are not as popular anymore, however, for tighter
budgets, I would definitely recommend looking at laminate. There are lots of greatlooking choices out there and are quite durable, even for high-use kitchens.

I was happy to learn that 50% prefer tile backsplashes instead of using the same granite or quartz on the backsplash. My clients will tell you that nine times out of ten I recommend tile for the backsplash. It allows us to be much more creative and give the kitchen a more personal touch.

Most of you undertaking bath remodels desire spa-like bathrooms that feature warm, neutral colors and natural materials. In one recent remodel, the shower pan is a bed of natural river rocks, and the shower wall features a wide band of glass and stone mosaic tile. Beautiful.

Many of you are adding windows to the bathroom to bring in natural light. I like to enhance the lighting in the bath as well. For example, we might install vanity lights on a dimmer switch, an LED light in the shower, and a pendant light hanging above the spa tub.

Forty percent of you prefer a large shower rather a tub, and the number is even higher for those of you over 55. In those large showers, remodelers under the age of 44 are choosing large rain head-type showerheads and body jets; those over 44 are opting for handheld showerheads. Some even want both types—a large rain head as well as the handheld showerhead. Why not have maximum flexibility?

If a new kitchen or bath is in your future this year, know that you have myriad choices for fixtures and materials. Take your time and think about the type of room you desire, in terms of both functionality and aesthetics. If you can imagine it, it probably exists!

Anna Jacoby is a Certified Interior Designer. Contact her at 510-490-0379 or info@annajacobyinteriors.com or visit her website at www.annajacobyinteriors.com