Kitchen Design & Renovation Clifton VA

Kitchen Design & Renovation Clifton VA

In February 2016, I received a phone call from a lovely lady who had recently moved into her home in Clifton, Virginia with her husband and teenage son.

She said she called me because she reviewed my work and client reviews online, and could tell that I was not a “cookie cutter” type designer.

We met on a February day in her outdated kitchen (see “before” photo above.) She immediately began showing me her collage of inspirational photos. “Wow”, I thought: this is definitely not our standard all-white typical kitchen project.

Aesthetic elements that inspired my client included:

  1. an old wood beam that she and her husband had purchased on a “whim” because of its beauty;
  2. copper elements — a collection of copper mugs that she wanted to display;
  3. multicolored ledgerstone, which was the surround of her fireplace in the Great Room;
  4. blackish steel beams — an industrial element that would provide the structural support required.

We had a clear starting point for the aesthetic elements. But what to do with the awkward kitchen layout?

Directly behind the kitchen was the laundry room, which awkwardly shared the kitchen sink run as you turned the corner to come into the kitchen.

If you look at the before photo below (the sink is not in view because it is on the other side of the room!), you can see that if you were cooking and needed to visit the sink (or vice versa), you would have to cross the room to the other side.

The other element that bothered my client was a single column dividing the Great Room from the kitchen. She wanted to eliminate it. She also wanted to convert the laundry room into a pantry and mudroom.

I examined the rooms’ existing configuration and proposed the following changes. (Any structural or other changes were confirmed and fine tuned by our structural engineer, Rob Fling, and Guy Brannock, Brannock Enterprises.)

  • Relocated the sink to the island;
  • Elongated the shared laundry/kitchen room wall and simultaneously pushed it back away from the kitchen
  • Because my client wanted many appliance conveniences in the kitchen — including a 48″ refrigerator/freezer — we had to shift our thinking. There was not enough room for a 48″ built-in refrigerator/freezer along with the tall micro/single oven cabinet. So I proposed the idea, which appears to be trending nowadays, of substituting a GE 36″ refrigerator in the kitchen and an 18″ Thermador freezer to be located in the pantry.
  • Elongated the main gas range top wall by eliminating the wing-wall on the right and reducing the doorway width into the Keeping Room.

The key aesthetic elements, which involved collaboration with and inspiration from my client included:

  1. Incorporating the wood beam into the hood over the GE Monogram 48″ gas range-top;
  2. Mirroring over the pantry and 18″ Thermador Freezer;
  3. Continuing with the fireplace existing multi-colored ledgerstone theme throughout the kitchen, pantry/mud/laundry mudroom and powder room;
  4. The structural beam would also serve as an aesthetic dividing the Great Room and Dining Room from the kitchen yet still allowing for an open layout concept
  5. Floating shelves and wood countertop in a similar (Oak) wood specie as the wood beam;
  6. LED lighting–strip for wall cabinets and puck for floating shelves;
  7. Copper sink, faucet, pendants, and cabinet hardware;
  8. Engineered quartz for all countertops (except for wood top area).

If you are tired of your current kitchen and looking to upgrade it to suit your current lifestyle and design preferences, give me a call.

I can save you time, money and stress by helping you define and refine your kitchen renovation ideas and your remodeling budget, assisting with the selection of cabinetry, countertops, appliances and all the other fixtures and finishes that go into a new kitchen, and coordinating the delivery and installation of your new kitchen with your contractor or builder.

You can reach me by phone or text at: (703) 801-6402; or by email at: sandra@expertkitchendesigns.com.

Latest Kitchen Storage and Design Options

Latest Kitchen Storage and Design Options

My monthly perusal of kitchen remodeling and kitchen design trade magazines gives me new ideas for items and processes I can incorporate in my clients’ kitchen designs. Here are four kitchen design trends, randomly picked, that I want to share with you:

Sliding Cabinet Doors

The continuing trend in American kitchen design continues to be “sleekness”. Sliding cabinet doors in lieu of doors that swing open offer one way to achieve that sleek look while maximizing available space.

sliding kitchen cabinet doors

Sliding Kitchen Cabinet Doors


Watch the video below to see how sliding cabinet doors work on Hafele’s Frontino unit:


 

Kitchen Workspace / Function Hidden Behind Retractable Doors

In smaller living spaces such as loft apartments and the like, the kitchen is often part of the overall living space. This open concept is appealing, yet for those who wish at times the kitchen looked more like furniture, the Orgavital by Mobalco offers a beautifully-designed and highly functional solution:

Orgavital kitchen storage cabinet

Orgavital Kitchen Storage Cabinet

Deep Drawers for Storage

Deep kitchen storage drawers are becoming ever more popular. Deep drawers can be designed to store trays, dishes, glasses, liquor bottles and taller small appliances.

Deep kitchen storage drawers

Deep kitchen storage drawers

Frameless or Full Access Cabinetry

frameless cabinet construction

Frameless Cabinets

American and traditional European cabinetry typically incorporates
1 ½ face frame construction.
 
In contrast, frameless, or rather, full access cabinetry uses ¾ “box” construction which maximizes interior cabinet space utilization. Drawer boxes and pullouts can be wider thereby increasing actual storage space in a kitchen.
 
Along with the trend for a more seamless look, this type of construction therefore offers dual benefits.


 
Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.
 

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget.

Kitchen Design Challenge: Traditional Tract House With Awkward Kitchen Footprint

Kitchen Design Challenge: Traditional Tract House With Awkward Kitchen Footprint

Fauquier County Kitchen Design by Sandra Brannock,  Expert Kitchen Designs

Fauquier County Kitchen Design by Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

How many times have you seen large upscale production type homes with high ceilings, chair rail moldings, a spacious master bedroom suite, 3-car garage, and an excess of diagonal angles wherever you look (the latter being one of my architectural pet peeves, by the way — more on that later)?

The kitchens in these homes are typically plagued with poorly-placed entries and exits and awkward footprints.

I found myself faced with such a kitchen last year when I was contacted by two Fauquier County doctors, Tammy and Rob, for help with their kitchen redesign. They were both busy doctors, with four children in grade school. Well into two years of planning, they had visited a large kitchen and bath showroom, and had walked away with some basic 3D renderings of the space along with some cabinetry samples. And because Rob was eager to get going, they had purchased their high-end kitchen appliances, Sub Zero and Wolf.

Luckily, except for the appliances, they had not “pulled the trigger” on the project. Tammy put on the brakes as she knew something was not quite right with the proposed kitchen design.

On the cold February day I met with Tammy, she said, “We are about to remodel our kitchen and do not want to make a big mistake. Last year, we made a very big mistake by purchasing expensive wall to wall carpet. This mistake cost us thousands and now that carpet is lying in a roll in our basement — a complete waste. We do not want to repeat this experience with our kitchen remodel, so that is why I called you”.

Tammy and Rob’s kitchen was definitely a design challenge. Skinny in its footprint (by today’s standards in relation to the house), an easy but exorbitantly expensive option would be to bump it out the back of the house to expand the kitchen footprint. But was there another way to remodel this kitchen without bumping it out?

Beyond the challenge of the limited footprint, Tammy and Rob wanted to incorporate their pre-purchased appliances, which included a 30” Sub Zero refrigerator and freezer, a built-in Wolf microwave with single oven, and a 48” range. These appliances were “amazon-like” in relation to the kitchen’s footprint.

“Oh my . . ,” I thought to myself, wishing they had not purchased the appliances before they had a solidly executed design plan, as I would have advised them differently.

But I like challenges, and have yet to be stumped by any kitchen design conundrum, so I agreed to take on the project.

Smith Kitchen Before RemodelHere you see a photo of the kitchen after it was gutted. On the left is the existing diagonal knee wall. The column at the end was structural. It could not be removed because it provided essential support for the floor above.

There is no before photo of the other side of the kitchen which, prior to demolition, housed 24” deep base cabinetry including a tall double oven. This allowed little room for the existing small island which measured just 36”by 48”.

My first big challenge was, “How do I create an esthetically pleasing, balanced and functional kitchen while incorporating all of those big appliances?”

My first solution was to eliminate the “corner” in the kitchen by boxing it out. This allowed me to create two main wall runs for two of the essential work functions in the kitchen: cooking and food storage.

On one run, the focal point was the 48” Wolf range with a large decorative hood.

The second run, starting at the “blocked off” corner, I placed the 30” Sub Zero freezer, the 30” tall micro and single wall oven cabinet, and the 30” Sub Zero refrigerator.

Oven Range, Sub Zero refrigerator and freezer

I then created a large 135 degree island. On the shorter turn of the island I incorporated the essential support column. On the longer portion was the main sink and food prep area. We had enough room opposite for casual seating.

smith sink view 800

18 inch deep pantry storageFinally, we repurposed the far wall that used to house the double oven and 24” deep cabinets and transformed it into “decorative” pantry storage utilizing 18” deep base cabinets with counter wall cabinets.

We also were able to take advantage of Perlick’s wonderful Sottile Series Line which offers an 18” deep refrigerator. The latter served as cold storage for the kids’ drinks without having to access the large Sub Zero.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget.

Amissville Colonial Home Kitchen Remodel

Amissville Colonial Home Kitchen Remodel

Amissville VA kitchen remodel

Amissville VA Custom Kitchen Design by Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs


What to do with a “builder grade” kitchen whose footprint is awkward and poorly planned?

I received such an inquiry from a retired couple, Jan and Michael late last summer, near my home office here in Amissville. This colonial style home, although located here just outside of Warrenton, was not atypical of what we often see in the DC/Metro area.

Center hall colonial floor plans typically locate the kitchen in the back, with a formal living room just off the foyer and a stairway to greet its guests. As such, the kitchen is often set back farther in the house, closed off, except for open access to the breakfast nook and backyard.

This reality for Jan and Michael was something they tolerated, but a breaking point came when they realized they spent a lot of time in their kitchen (who doesn’t!), but its aesthetic and flow was really beginning to gnaw at them.. To put it succinctly, they were “done” with their existing kitchen.

On a cloudy summer day, I came to visit them. This is what greeted me when I arrived:

1) The sink was located at the very end of the peninsula with landing space only on the left side.

Amissville VA Kitchen Peninsula and Sink Before Remodeling

Kitchen Peninsula and Sink Before Remodeling

2) A white side by side refrigerator stuck out on the end of a cabinet run–which did nothing to enhance the feel of the space.

Amissville VA Kitchen White Refrigerator Before Remodeling

White Refrigerator – Before Remodeling

3) Although there was good effort on the part of the homeowner to enhance the existing space with red paint, the overall effect did little to improve the cohesiveness aesthetically.

4) The existing pantry was dark and dim with a door that opened into the hallways. Awkward.

So, what was my approach?

When faced with a limited footprint like this one, my first course of action is to examine all existing entries into the kitchen.

I ask simple questions:

  • Can this entry/exit be relocated or repositioned at minimal expense?
  • Will this improve upon the locations of main kitchen functions in accordance with NKBA guidelines?
  • Will traffic flow in and out of the kitchen to other rooms improve?

In Jan and Michael’s case, the answer to all these questions was “yes”. The entry into the family room (area to the right of the non occupied blank red wall) could be moved RIGHT about a foot.

Amissville VA Kitchen Before Remodeling

Amissville VA Kitchen Entry Into Family Room

By doing this, we were able to elongate the blank red wall to house a new counter depth refrigerator and a microwave in a base cabinet. We returned more cabinetry back into the family room wall, which acted as a second pantry.

Amissville VA Kitchen Remodel with New Refrigerator and Corner Pantry

New Refrigerator and Corner Pantry

Further, the wall which formerly housed the white refrigerator was now dedicated to the main/prep sink.

Amissville VA Kitchen Sink Remodel

New Kitchen Sink

This change allowed to create a unique focal point with plenty of counter space on each side of the sink.

The last wall, now free of the peninsula, was committed to the cooking function, and also allowed for it owns unique and attractive focal point.

Amissville VA Kitchen remodel new kitchen range

New Kitchen Range

Access to and from the breakfast nook was free and clear for the homeowners.

We also incorporated a “barn door” over the pantry opening, and added additional recessed LED lighting in that area.

Amissville VA Kitchen Remodel Pantry

New Kitchen Pantry

Cabinets were by Brubaker Kitchens, Sherwin Williams #6002 Essential Gray. Grays come in many hues– It was important of course to select the right gray for this kitchen–we did not want it to be too “blue” or in the “purple” hue.

The countertop was my favorite budget friendly “go to” Absolute Black honed granite.

The backsplash was 4×8” ceramic tile we found at The Tile Shop in Manassas.

The wood floors were also refinished — sanded and stained in place.

These elements, combined with the caring and skills of a local contractor, Mark McCormack of Compass Construction, whom I have known for years, provided Jan and Michael with a kitchen they are sure to enjoy for many years to come.

View The Project Slideshow

Click the image below to view the project slideshow.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget.

Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: The Kitchen Pantry

Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: The Kitchen Pantry

As promised, here is the second part of my blog about 2016 kitchen design trends. Today’s topic is the evolving nature of the kitchen pantry.

Pantries: Becoming More Beautiful Without The Laundry Room!

Old Style Pantry Laundry Room

Old Style Pantry Combined With Laundry Room

Decades ago, the typical kitchen, if space permitted, allowed for a nearby “closet” that served as a pantry. It was not uncommon for part of this pantry space to be dedicated to the washer and dryer. In an era when women were solely in charge of preparing family meals and doing the family laundry, it made sense to place the laundry room near the kitchen to make it easier for women to cook and do laundry at the same time.

In those days, no one thought it odd or ridiculous to be dragging dirty laundry through or near the kitchen on a regular basis.

Thank goodness times have changed. With our busy overscheduled lives, men’s and women’s roles have evolved. Men are as likely to cook as women. Husbands and wives often share cleaning responsibilities or hire a cleaning service to handle cleaning chores.

To accommodate modern lifestyles, today’s homes are likely to be designed so that the laundry center is positioned near the bedrooms, where most of the family’s dirty clothes and linens are generated.  In today’s families, where all family members are often expected to be responsible for washing their own clothes and dirty bed linens, it no longer makes sense to be lugging large laundry baskets up and down stairs and through the kitchen.


Modern Day Home Floor Plan

Modern Day Floor Plan with Laundry Room Near Bedrooms



Cluttered Dining Room Table

Cluttered Dining Room Table

The kitchen in modern homes has become a central living and gathering space. Formal living rooms and formal dining rooms are disappearing. (I personally cannot count the number of times I have seen formal dining room tables cluttered with stuff related to the family’s everyday activities — a testament to their essential function and purpose!) The trend towards eliminating formal living and dining rooms frees up more interior space that can be allocated to the modern kitchen — which leads me back to the topic of the pantry.

Today’s homeowners view walk-in pantries as a big plus and a new trend is appearing. The pantry is becoming more luxurious and more integral to kitchen design.

Over the last four or five years, and more frequently over the past year, if it is economically and logistically possible, my clients have been requesting a separate but visible open pantry space adjoining the kitchen.

In a few kitchen remodeling projects, I have designed pantry spaces that include high end appliances such as beverage centers, icemakers, and refrigerators. Floor to ceiling cabinetry matches that of the kitchen, and countertops are installed to house counter-type appliances. (See illustration below.)

Open Kitchen Pantry Design by Expert Kitchen Designs

Open Kitchen Pantry Design

Other trends on the rise: depending upon the space, the kitchen will house only a fresh food refrigerator, while the freezer is located inside the pantry since frozen items are not needed quite as often if the cook prepares from everyday fresh non-frozen ingredients.
  
So if you are wondering if it is time to reconsider your pantry’s storage needs and aesthetic, it is. This is truly a trend that is here to stay.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget.

Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: Part I

Kitchen Design Trends for 2016: Part I

Today I Googled “latest kitchen design trends” in order to compare them to some of my own observations in the market. Coincidentally, I also just received in my inbox the latest U.S.Houzz Kitchen Trends Study. Here’s a quick roundup of what today’s homeowners are going for in kitchen appliances, kitchen technology and kitchen cabinetry:

Colorful Appliances

This actually came up on my search as a “trend”. Homeowners today are on the hunt for one or more technicolored appliances to satisfy their “kitchen eye candy” needs and there are a number of vendors that cater to them.
Colorful Ovens 2016
 
Viking, Blue Star, Big Chill, Bertazzoni, Smeg, Elmira, and Dacor are a few of the manufacturers offering bold color schemes for refrigeration, cooking and clean up appliances. However, even though the media tell us that bright colored appliances were considered trends in 2014, 2013, and 2012, and earlier, very few of my DC/Metro area clients over the last decade were interested in these options — even though they were intrigued by the bold color concept.


La Cornue Chateau Series Gas Range in Stainless Finish

La Cornue Chateau Series Gas Range in Stainless Steel Finish

I had a few clients that chose La Cornue and Ilve gas ranges in conservative colors, but for the remaining appliances they opted for stainless steel or panel ready options.


La Cornue Majestic Range in Midnight Blue

La Cornue Majestic Range in Midnight Blue


Most popular kitchen appliance colors 2016

Houzz Study: Most popular kitchen appliance colors 2016


And to further confirm my suspicion that this “trend” is hardly one at all, the Houzz study found that 75% of homeowners prefer Stainless Steel finishes over other colors for their kitchen appliances.
 
The 7 % “other” category could include cherry red or violet colored appliances, but I would bet it leans more toward “panel ready”.

 

Technology: Communications Center in the Kitchen

The following idea is a “must do” because of our world of constant connectivity. The latter, combined with time spent in the kitchen cooking, eating and socializing, requires a dedicated communications center in the kitchen for all family members.

Docking Drawer

Docking Drawer

For example, take a look at DockingDrawer.com. These units offer a solution that can be applied regardless of your kitchen’s present status (existing or to be remodeled). The Docking Drawer will hide the cords, charging units, and devices that often invade every family’s kitchen counter.
 
Now, look around in your kitchen. Do you need to allocate space to each family member for their various electronic gadgets? This system eliminates the “missing charger” scenario that all of us have encountered at one time or another. If the chargers are dedicated and connected in a drawer, they will likely stay there.

It was interesting that Houzz did not specifically identify this element in their study — yet I have found nearly all of my clients asking for a dedicated connectivity space in their kitchen.

Check out Houzz’s summary of homeowners’ use of the kitchen and hours spent there:
How Homeowners Use Their Kitchens

Wow. Given the number of hours we are awake each day, over 50% of homeowners spend at least a third of their time in the kitchen!

This leads me to the other trend I see consistently with my clients: opening the kitchen up so it becomes what Houzz refers to as the “super kitchen”:

Opening Up the Kitchen

I would guess, and confirming my own observations, that when given the option regarding other rooms, and provided the option is economically and structurally feasible, most homeowner want a completely open kitchen.

Cabinetry

Well, I could not add anything more to Jacob Hurwith’s short but fabulous article:
Kitchen Cabinet Trends to Watch in 2016

Everything he says is spot on and agrees with my own observations. Simplicity, clean lines, and neutral color schemes continue to be “hot”.

If you happen to live in a traditional setting, keep in mind that streamlined modern kitchens are presently being installed in Georgetown DC townhouses. It is amazing to see the transformation. Further, Houzz’ study concluded that white remains the most popular kitchen cabinetry color, followed by medium toned wood colors:

Most popular kitchen cabinetry colors 2016

Most popular kitchen cabinetry colors 2016

As for “gray is the new white” (also noted on Google as a trend), it appears that it has made the entry in a color for consideration, but it has not yet eclipsed white as homeowners’ primary color choice.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget

Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Pay Trades People Well To Ensure the Best Remodeling Outcome

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

When planning a kitchen remodel or other home renovation project, it is important to leave room in your budget for quality and reputable tradespeople.

Over the course of my career, I have witnessed homeowners invest in the finest appliances, cabinetry, flooring, and fixtures yet tighten their wallet when paying the tradespeople responsible for installing these products. Experience has proven that homeowners who skimp on labor costs will regret it.

Lately I have been reflecting on the conversations I overhear from the tradespeople working on home renovation and kitchen remodeling projects. These are dedicated, skilled professionals who face numerous challenges every day with project situations beyond their control.

Their lives are stressful, too. They have families to return home to, mouths to feed, cars that break down . . . in short, the same stresses and challenges that everyone has.

Therefore, I believe in compensating generously those who work conscientiously to deliver an end product that meets high quality standards. It saddens me when I encounter clients who, although they pay top dollar for the products that go into their remodeling project, take perverse pride in pinching pennies in paying the people who are doing the work on their home.

In my experience, most trades people who come into your home care very much about the quality of work that they do. The better you treat these critical workers, the more they will be motivated to take ownership of the outcome. This will make your life easier and smooth the way for problem solving when issues arise. Homeowners who treat their trades people with disdain contribute to a negative dynamic that leads to sub-par results.

The fine details involved in remodeling are endless. There are times when unforeseen difficulties arise; this is where success hinges upon the talents and problem-solving abilities of the installation crew. If you compensate them poorly, they will be tempted to shift the blame to others and avoid participating in solving problems well and properly. Time is wasted, frustration increases exponentially, and tempers flare. I assure you, this is not fun and will create additional stress.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

A Chef-Worthy $50,000 Kitchen Remodel

A Chef-Worthy $50,000 Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

I was honored to be invited to contribute to the Trulia real estate blog recently on the topic of how to get a chef-worthy kitchen on a $50,000 budget.

According to Remodeling Magazine, the average cost nationally in the United States for a 200-square-foot major kitchen remodel in 2015 is $56,278. And this falls into the category of a “low budget” kitchen remodel.

Start By Talking With Your Kitchen Designer

Often, homeowners don’t understand the cost-saving benefits of hiring an expert kitchen designer at the outset of your planning process. Your kitchen designer will ask the questions needed to clarify your vision, your goals, your time frame, your style and your budget, so you will know what is and what is not realistic within your budget.

Share your ideas and your priorities with your kitchen designer and ask them to help you clarify your kitchen remodeling ideas and direction. If your kitchen designer suggests that something you want is not cost-worthy, heed his or her advice.

Another advantage of working with a kitchen designer is that he or she will usually be able to provide you with higher quality cabinetry and appliances at better price points than you will find at big box home improvement stores.

Best Places to Splurge in a Kitchen Remodeling Project

The best places to splurge on your kitchen remodeling project are cabinets (estimated cost: $20,000 – $25,000) and quality appliances (estimated cost: $10,000 – $14,000).

Kitchen Cabinetry

Your kitchen cabinetry will endure the most abuse, so look for all-plywood construction along with a superior finish and top-notch door and drawer hardware. While your initial investment will be 20% to 30% more upfront, you will realize a positive return on your investment in five or more years when your cabinetry looks and feels as great as when it was first installed.

If you’re looking to trim costs, cabinets with MDF construction will save you approximately 12%. Oak, knotty alder, and hickory are no-upcharge wood species that will save you 6% to 22%. Consider high-pressure laminate for a contemporary look.

High End Dishwashers

A high-end dishwasher is a luxury worth considering, especially if it also offers the custom panel option. Hoods can be customized to suit the overall design.

Induction Ranges

If you’re currently using an electric range, don’t worry about converting to gas for a pro-caliber kitchen. Instead, replace the old stove with an induction model. There are many high-end professional kitchens using this marvelous method. It is instantaneous, efficient, and also minimizes the extra heat generated in a hardworking kitchen.

For more ideas on how to get a luxurious kitchen on a budget of $50,000 or less, visit the Trulia blog at: How to Create a Chef Worthy Kitchen Remodel for $50,000 or Less.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Expert Kitchen Design Tips: Keeping Cool During the Hot Remodeling Season

Expert Kitchen Design Tips: Keeping Cool During the Hot Remodeling Season

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

After nervously weathering a lull in business this past winter, I’ve been blessed with a “flash flood” of kitchen design clients over the past eight weeks.

I am not alone in the “feast or famine” home improvement business cycle. Just about everyone in the home remodeling industry experiences a sharp upturn in business during the April – October peak season when homeowners decide they are ready to get started on the home improvements they’ve been dreaming about through the holiday season and winter months.

The spring and summer seasons are a thrilling time of year, when I get to apply my unique talents and skill sets in service to a variety of clients, each with their own unique vision, budget, space constraints, design tastes, and expectations.

It is also a crazy-making time of year when I and my team members are challenged to manage homeowner expectations while keeping each kitchen remodeling project on schedule, within budget, and tend to the hundreds of details involved in every kitchen remodeling project.

A kitchen designer’s job is akin to an orchestral conductor who must ensure that each member of the orchestra is properly rehearsed, cued to play their part at the exact right point in time, and in perfect balance with their fellow musicians from the beginning to the end of the symphony.

When a new client hires me, they are usually eager to get started on their kitchen remodeling project immediately. And I am eager to please them with a kitchen design that delights and exceeds their expectations.

My tasks as a kitchen designer include:

  • an initial consultation with each client where I ask clarifying questions and listen deeply to identify the client’s vision, goals and budget,
  • evaluating existing space constraints,
  • perfect measurement taking,
  • project documentation,
  • drawing,
  • aesthetic prowess,
  • attention to details when ordering, and
  • the ability to accommodate the client’s change requests at any point in time without losing focus and momentum

… all while maintaining sanity in my own personal life.

Remodeling partnersMy own job is complicated by the availability of my trade partners who, like me, are working with other clients who each have their own set of needs and scheduling expectations.

During the peak remodeling season from April – October, cabinet manufacturers, appliance and plumbing suppliers, countertop fabricators, and tile shops are all operating at full or capacity, striving to meet the demand and deliver their products and services on schedule to each and every customer.

When consumer demand is at its peak, and each service provider and manufacturer is working at full capacity to meet the demand while the market is “hot,” it is inevitable that mistakes will be made.

So if you, dear prospective client, want to ensure the best outcome for your kitchen remodeling project, here are my suggestions:

  1. Start early, well before the peak season hits. Home remodeling contractors have plenty of time from October – February to give you the undivided attention you want and deserve. A successful kitchen or home remodeling project takes months to complete. You need to allow a realistic amount of time for advance planning, mid-stream changes of plans, and contractor scheduling, especially if you want your remodeling project completed in time for the holiday season.
  2. When you meet with a designer and contractor, know that their cost estimates and estimated completion time are just estimates. It is impossible to accurately determine the final cost and time frame for your project until all key elements have been identified, including fixture, appliance and finish selections, permitting, manufacturing schedules, subcontractor availability, and delays due to weather or unforeseen construction circumstances.
  3. Be flexible. I have found that by the time a client is ready to leap into the process, a sense of urgency overwhelms them. Everyone involved in your project wants to be efficient and get the job done on time, on budget, and in a way that leaves you thrilled and delighted. But the reality is that planning any remodeling project will take much longer than you expect. You will be happier when you align your expectations with reality.
  4. Do not impose your unrealistic expectations for a speedy and perfect delivery on your remodeling team. When remodeling contractors pressure their employees and subcontractors to “hurry up” to please you, mistakes will be made and you will not be happy with the final outcome.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Kitchen Remodeling Success Tip #2: Timeframe

Kitchen Remodeling Success Tip #2: Timeframe

An important consideration in every kitchen remodeling project is your timeframe. You may have a high sense of urgency to complete your kitchen makeover as quickly as possible so as to minimize disruptions to your family’s routines.

However, it’s important to be realistic about the amount of time needed to thoroughly plan the details and elements of your kitchen makeover to ensure that you are happy with the final outcome.

You and your family members will need to make key decisions on multiple elements that will go into your new kitchen, including:

  • Paint colors
  • Flooring materials and finishes
  • Countertop materials and selections
  • Kitchen cabinetry styles, materials, and selections
  • Kitchen appliances and accessories

Your kitchen remodeling choices must also be coordinated with the building contractor who will have his own timeline for scheduling and installing your kitchen elements, so it’s essential that decisions be made in a timely manner to avoid costly project management delays.

Chances are, you will need to invest more time than you anticipated in planning for your kitchen remodeling project.

The more you communicate your desires, preferences, choices and expectations up front to your kitchen designer and building contractor, the better your chances of being delighted with the final outcome of your kitchen remodel.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality. Let Expert Kitchen Designs take the headaches out of your kitchen remodeling project and take care of all the details so your kitchen renovation proceeds smoothly, on time and within budget.

How to Set a Realistic Kitchen Remodeling Budget

How to Set a Realistic Kitchen Remodeling Budget

When I meet with a new kitchen remodeling client, one of the first questions I always ask is, “What is your budget for your kitchen remodel?” This is a tough question for most people. You may not feel comfortable discussing money matters with your kitchen designer right away. You may be thinking that whatever number you disclose will be either too much money or too little money. Or, you simply may not know what your kitchen remodeling budget should be.

View Video


Nevertheless, it is important to establish a realistic budget that will cover the costs of all the elements you want to have in your remodeled kitchen.

One way we arrive at a realistic budget number is to sit down and talk about it. I will talk with you about all the elements of your kitchen design and what you can expect to spend on lighting, the design, cabinetry, flooring, appliances, hardware, and anything you may have seen on Houzz or showrooms that you want to include in your kitchen remodel.

By having a candid discussion to start with, we will be able to determine a realistic budget for your kitchen remodeling project.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen DesignsSandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality. Let Expert Kitchen Designs take the headaches out of your kitchen remodeling project and take care of all the details so your kitchen renovation proceeds smoothly, on time and within budget.

New Kitchen Storage Accessories — KBIS 2015

New Kitchen Storage Accessories — KBIS 2015

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

As we know, the point of any kitchen cabinet storage accessory is to make life easier for the end user. Unfortunately, in my opinion, some tend to be “space wasters” and a bit “gimmicky”. Having said this, I am a big fan of the basics: pull out shelves, tray dividers, spice pullouts and cutlery dividers.

At the 2015 KBIS (Kitchen and Bath Industry) Show in Las Vegas, I did see some great new innovative storage accessories. Here are a few of the ones that made sense to me.

Pullouts Plus 270 Degree Lazy Susan Revolver

Base cabinet corners of any kind challenge kitchen designers. There is always a downside either with the aesthetic or the function. For those who do not want a blind corner unit, and prefer square corner susans, the following insert, called a 270 Degree Revolver, from Pullouts Plus (pulloutsplus.net) is practical and functional.

Sugatsune Lateral Opening Door Hinge

The concept behind Sugatsune’s Monoflat LIN-X Hinge is completely unique. The video below demonstrates it perfectly. For me, as a designer, I would use these hinges for a tall corner pantry application, where two doors that meet in the corner could slide away from one another independently and without interference.

Rev A Shelf Knife Storage

Rev a shelf knife storage

Rev a shelf knife storage

How many times have you found yourself hesitating, just for a moment, trying to decide exactly where to slide that food prep knife into its proper “slot”. If you are like most, and you do not have a luxuriously large kitchen with a large Wusthof knife storage drawer insert, knife storage can be cumbersome.

Rev a shelf knife storageWhat I saw at Rev A Shelf’s booth was to me a “wow” moment. They have come up with a knife block, stored in a pullout, that allows you to insert the knife anywhere. To me this is ingenious because it realizes space and time efficiencies.



Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen DesignsSandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality. Let Expert Kitchen Designs take the headaches out of your kitchen remodeling project and take care of all the details so your kitchen renovation proceeds smoothly, on time and within budget.

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

KBIS 2015 in Las Vegas Part Two —Color, Finishes and Form

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

As promised, here is the second article about what I learned and observed at the Las Vegas 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Building Show (IBS).

Today, I touch upon my impressions regarding color, finishes, and form trends. All four at the show were combined in different ways perhaps described best as: the rustic with the sleek, the industrial with extremely polished, something vintage with something brand new, commercial styles morphing into residential. Of course, my blog below could never capture every impression made upon me. But all below made significant impressions on me making them all “blogworthy”.

Kitchen Color Trends

Neutrality is Still “In”
Would you be surprised if I told you that the palette of neutral colors gray, white, and brown are still going strong? And that this palette consistently appears in cabinetry, countertops, and flooring-—the three main building blocks of any kitchen?

A neutral color palette remains, at least at for now, de rigueur.

At the show, almost all kitchen (and bathroom) vignettes featured these neutral color schemes. They dominated the “canvas” and, then, on occasion, bright “pops” of color would be introduced in the space, such as a tile backsplash or a single furniture piece in a bold color such as red or orange.

The guideline followed is: fixtures that are not easily changed remain neutral in color. If color vibrancy is needed, it is found in items that are changed more easily, such as these stools:
ORANGE STOOLS

Finishes

Hardware — A Slight Surprise
For metal finishes such as decorative cabinet hardware, pulls, knobs and the like, the standard polished chrome and nickel, brushed nickel, black, oil rubbed bronze types were displayed in booths as always.

What made a bold “new” entrance was something that most have considered forever in the history books: antique and polished brass.

The pulls and knobs on display this year were not in their traditional form, but rather presented in contemporary or modern ones:
brass pullbrass hardwarebrass hardware on cabinetsSimply by changing the form, but not the finish, the whole feel is transformed. Applying this concept to almost anything sheds light on how something old can be new again.

Appliances — The Continuing “Go To” Finish

stainless refrigeratorAs for appliance finishes, if you heard a rumor that stainless is going “out”, this is not entirely true. It is true that more and more appliance manufacturers offer “panel” ready appliances — meaning you can have a matching cabinet panel made to make the appliance look like the front of a cabinet. But, outside of this option, stainless is still the most popular appliance finish. Although there continue to be a few appliance manufacturers, Viking, La Cornue and Big Chill, to name a few, seeking to distinguish themselves with bold vibrant colors, the standard “go to” is stainless. It remains so because it is neutral in color.

Engineered Quartz Finishes

raw concrete CaesarstoneCaesarstone, an engineered quartz countertop manufacturer from Israel, displayed some of its new finishes that mimic concrete: Raw Concrete, Sleek Concrete & Fresh Concrete. They also have improved their “art imitates life” with their Concetto series. If you are one who needs color, take a peek at this:

caesarstone profondo

Laminates

Another “wow” at the show was revealed to me when I explored Lab Designs’ booth. Incredible samples of high pressure laminates, one after another, were displayed, and many I had ever seen before. Some of these laminates were so compelling, you wanted to touch and feel them — because they had a 3-D quality to them.

honey cayman rattan laminatelaminate sage

Tile: Art Imitates Life

If you are in the mood to stretch your creative brain even more, the tile industry is not lacking for material to help you do so. Tile has truly become “art”, and the choices are infinite for anyone wishing to expand their options to be creative. A few examples:

Kitchen wood tile floor example

Porcelain Tile with Wood Finish

In the world of porcelain tile, the wood look is exploding. These tiles actually have “grooves” that look like the characteristics of real wood.

Weathered Concrete Tile

Weathered Concrete Tile

Another hot trend: tile that looks like weathered concrete. This trend is due to the industrial/commercial look that is making its way into residential interior design.

And then, if you are tired of tiles offering repetition with 90 degree angles, you can enter the world of Ann Sacks. Below is a photo of Sakura tiles which create an Asian inspired wall.

tile mural

Form

If I had to assign a “gender” to the type of form trends I saw at the show, I would say without hesitation: masculine.

  • Countertops—thick, simply in form in edge detail, often 6 cm thick.
  • Kitchen sinks and faucets—straight, linear, minimalistic
    Cabinetry—rustic or sleek. Less details.
  • Hardware—minimalistic with right angles. Some outright “rustic.”

Stay tuned for my next and last article on the show. This one will cover new storage solutions for the kitchen.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Kitchen Appliance Innovations — KBIS 2015

Kitchen Appliance Innovations — KBIS 2015

What I Learned at the 2015 KBIS Show in Las Vegas

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

I made it to the 2015 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Building Show (IBS) in Las Vegas last week together with my Class A Contractor husband, Guy.

The two shows, intentionally combined, offered three huge exhibition halls—North, Center, and South–at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There among many aisles was a plethora of design and building elements to explore, understand, and make your head spin. For three full days, Guy and I walked each of the long aisles engaging our brains and legs, as this show’s participation required huge mental focus and lots of walking.

I arrived home greatly inspired with so much to share, I decided to do this blog in three parts. This PART ONE blog will cover appliances only.

The 2015 Look–Sleek and Seamless

Almost all appliance manufacturers, with a few exceptions such as La Cornue and Bertazzoni, embraced the integrated European style: a sleek look with seamless installations into the cabinetry and countertops. Here is an example from Bosch:

bosch-miami-kitchen-appliances

Note the overall horizontal aesthetic with nothing “protruding” and functional drawer storage below each oven.

The German manufacturer Gaggenau also offered similar aesthetics. Click the image below to view Gaggenau’s online showroom:

Gaggenau Online Kitchen Showroom

Perhaps after watching the Gaggenau online showroom (above) you concluded, as I did, that the geographic location can change, but the contemporary look can stay the same.

I think due to our “global” economy and world, this is most definitely a long term trend, the message being that contemporary design has a place everywhere.

Induction Cooking

Again, if you are still questioning the validity of my blog article about induction cooking last year, a visit to the 2015 KBIS show might have swayed you. Induction cooktops were displayed front and center at every appliance booth.

In fact, at the Gaggenau display, I had a nice chat with the executive chef who was cooking at their booth. He said he would cook with nothing but induction. While we were chatting, he explained the beauty of what he was cooking on: Gaggenau’s CX491 induction cooktop where the induction zone is continuous. The cooking zone recognizes your pan or pot no matter where you move it on the surface (see picture below):

Gaggenau Induction Cooktop

In addition, the CX491 Induction Cooktop can be installed so it is flush with the countertop.

New or Improved Ventilation

A flush ceiling mounted ventilation hood? Somehow I missed this product’s release three years ago, but thankfully I discovered it on this visit to Best by Broan’s booth. Their Cirrus built in ventilation hood is unlike any other I have ever seen. It offers a flush installation into the ceiling, and the ultimate plus is it can be mounted in ceilings as high as 9 feet. This eliminates any bulk above the cooktop regardless of location, wall or island.


Best by Broan also offers a new downdraft: Cattura™ (click picture below for details).

Cattura™ downdraft

Quieter but taller (18” versus 14”) than other downdrafts when fully engaged, its big bonus is that it can be installed with any other appliance manufacturer’s cooking unit.

Integrated/Specialized Food and Beverage Storage

Two dominant themes at the show were:
1. flexibility in design/ unit location, and
2. integrated installation.

With a large section of the population “aging in place”, improved undercounter refrigeration options were offered by both U-Line and Perlick.

Most notable was Perlick’s Signature Series Sottile Collection

Perlick™ Kitchen IslandPerlick’s “Sottile” display demonstrated how food storage needs can be addressed below the counter at 18” deep — easy access for all.

Throughout the appliance booths, a strong theme included the specificity of each appliance. The thinking is: you do need a separate icemaker, beverage center, wine captain, independent freezer and refrigerator because the more specific you are regarding these functions, the more efficiently you can design your space and work flow.

As for integrated refrigeration: we know that Sub Zero put integrated refrigerator and freezer installation on the map years ago. Now, more consumers recognize the benefits of integrated appliances that offer specific and superior storage with a clean design aesthetic.

Presently, if you are considering integrated refrigeration installation for your kitchen, you have a broader range of manufacturers to choose from:

  • Liebherr
  • Gaggenau
  • Thermador
  • GE Monogram
  • Jenn Air
  • Bosch

Compact Appliances for Small Spaces

If your kitchen space is extremely limited, which is typically the case in a metropolitan city such as New York or Washington, DC, Bosch is an appliance manufacturer you should seriously consider. Their 18” wide integrated dishwasher has been a mainstay for several years. Now, they have a 24” refrigerator and a 24” wall oven. Soon to be released is their 24” gas cooktop.

Bosch 24" RefrigeratorBosch 24" wall oven


Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaSandra Brannock has designed beautiful and functional custom kitchens for clients throughout Northern Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, DC region. For more information about Expert Kitchen Designs services, call Sandra direct at (703) 801-6402 or email sandra@expertkitchendesigns.com.

Choosing the Best Color Scheme for Your Kitchen

Choosing the Best Color Scheme for Your Kitchen

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaChoosing the best color scheme for your kitchen is one of the first and most important elements that must be addressed in the course of every kitchen remodeling project.

The colors you choose for your home’s interior will affect your life every day. When meeting with my kitchen design clients for the first time, I typically address the client’s color preferences up front. The importance of color choices should not be underestimated when designing your kitchen because even if the technical aspects of your kitchen design are all correct, the wrong color scheme can spell disaster.

The best time to discuss the topic of your kitchen’s color scheme is during our initial meeting which, ideally, will take place in your home. When I can see your living spaces firsthand, I am able to understand your color preferences in terms of vibrancy, warmth or coolness, and neutrality.

As we discuss your kitchen’s design elements, I may ask if we can take a tour of your home. What rooms do you prefer over others? This allows our conversation to become even more interesting as we explore, together, your color preferences.

For a brief technical “color” starter course, let us consider what color truly is. Color is created by a unique reflection and absorption of light waves. The colors that we see every day are the visible parts of what scientists refer to as the “electromagnetic spectrum” (there are light waves that are invisible to us!) As Christopher Crockett explains in his EarthSky blog:

The electromagnetic waves your eyes detect – visible light – oscillates between 400 and 790 terahertz (THz). That’s several hundred trillion times a second. The wavelengths are roughly the size of a large virus: 390 – 750 nanometers (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter). Our brain interprets the various wavelengths of light as different colors. Red has the longest wavelength, and violet the shortest. When we pass sunlight through a prism, we see that it’s actually composed of many wavelengths of light. The prism creates a rainbow by redirecting each wavelength out a slightly different angle.

light spectrum

color hues, values and saturation
I think you would agree when you appreciate color from a technical standpoint above, we need to be well focused on this subject.

Now to complicate things further (and, hopefully, to clarify as well), each individual’s perception of color varies from one person to the next. In our eyes, we each possess rods and cones which perceive color differently. And further, it has been established that 1% of women and 8% of men are “color deficient”.

So what does this all mean? That color choices are complicated by your own genetic makeup. It is not simply your imagination when you perceive a color differently than your spouse or other people living in your home. However, color selections can become easier when you consider the following carefully before committing to the color scheme for your kitchen.

In a physical space, colors will appear differently depending upon several factors:

  • Time of day
  • Time of year
  • Weather outside (sunny, cloudy, snowy)
  • Color presence of one or more horizontal or vertical elements—floor, wall, or ceiling
  • Dominance of artificial lighting — LED, incandescent, fluorescent
  • Dominance of natural lighting
  • Other color elements in the room

All the items above create additional light waves that “crash” into each other to create a different color than the one perhaps intended! Therefore, if you consider all of the above, it is true: each kitchen’s color scheme is unique because no two spaces are exactly alike in their light spectrum’s variables.

So what do I advise?

First, think about your space in terms of the elements that will “dominate” spatially. Typically, these will be:

  1. Cabinetry
  2. Countertops
  3. Flooring
  4. Walls
  5. Lighting, to include natural daylight and artificial lighting.

Then, from the above list, choose what “must be”. As an example, let us say you want to have the most popular choice these days for cabinetry: painted. Allow me to share with you a dialogue I recently had with a client:

Sandra: “What color do you want your cabinetry to be?”
Client: “White.”
Sandra: “There are many tints and hues of white. Gray, yellow, blue, green, pink…”
Client: “I want a gray white”.
Sandra: “Do you want a blue gray, green gray, or purplish gray?” (This is said somewhat with exaggeration, but the truth is there are such types of “gray white”)
Client: “Are you serious?

Yes, I was serious. I cannot make this up. I live and breathe in the world of design, and I can see, before my client does, subtleties of color that will affect the outcome.

My discussion with my client above continued further for about another hour. We then discussed all of the elements impacting the final desired “color scheme” in her kitchen.

Color wheel
In summary, from my experience, the correct color decisions must be made early in your kitchen design in order to avoid a costly and disastrous end result that will leave you feeling miserable for years to come whenever you spend time in your kitchen.

All my life, I have always had a knack for color in all ways. Earlier this year I finally took the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test in a professional setting. My test results confirmed that I am well qualified to advise you on your color choices and that I am in the correct business: I scored 96%.

For further reading, visit ColorMatters.com.

Quick Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Quick Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

I recently had the honor of being quoted in the Chicago Tribune as part of a larger article, Last Minute Home Fixes for the Holiday. The impending arrival of holiday guests is a great motivator to spruce up your kitchen before the holiday parties begin. With that in mind, here’s a recap of the suggestions I made in the original Chicago Tribune article:

Declutter. Empty the cabinets, throw out or donate things you don’t need. Then pick up some cabinet organizers, like spice racks or shelves.

Add colorful accents. If you don’t have the time or energy for a full paint job, accent items can wake up your color scheme. Stay neutral with your fixed items, but add new punches of color with things that are flexible, such as a stool or decorative bowl.

Change your cabinet hardware. New knobs, handles and drawer pulls can give new life to tired cabinets. While shopping for new hardware, pick up any replacement hinges or pegs needed to secure those cabinet doors or shelves that have become wobbly.

Update your lighting. Changing to LED bulbs has become less expensive over the years. Or, you could pick up a new lighting fixture. If you’re using incandescent lights, try swapping a traditional switch for a dimmer switch to gain control over the room’s ambiance: low lighting for intimate dinners or a brighter atmosphere to showcase your holiday buffet.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

From CPA to Expert Kitchen Designer: Sandra Brannock’s Career Path

From CPA to Expert Kitchen Designer: Sandra Brannock’s Career Path

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer


Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs

As human beings, decision making is an essential skill.  Unfortunately, when we enter college right out of high school, we are required to plan our future careers without the benefit of the insights we gain as we mature.

Throughout my various careers I have observed that high school and college students (at least in my experience) are not encouraged to study or do what you love or taught that if you love what you do you will be on your path to “greatness”.

During my first two years of college, I had a hard time deciding on a major. Initially, I chose a pre-med course of study. But after completing the basic course requirements in chemistry and biology I lost my enthusiasm. I did not understand exactly why. All I knew was that I felt somewhat “listless” about doing what I was doing every day.

Instinctually, I began investigating business majors. Accounting caught my attention because of its practicality and because it was the essential “language of business”. I enrolled in Accounting 101, learned a bit about its practical application, and decided to take it all the way by obtaining my BS in accounting.

My First Career: Accounting

In my senior year, the major public accounting firms visited the George Mason University campus to conduct screening interviews for entry level positions at their firms. I interviewed in depth with three firms at their offices in Washington, D.C. My favorite was Ernst & Young (E&Y). They hired me as a first year staff accountant in their audit division at 1225 Connecticut Avenue. I later passed the CPA exam and continued to practice at E&Y for almost four years.

Initially, public accounting was a terrific learning experience. I learned how to “work and play” hard with others. I had 20 other peers in my “class” from local universities which contributed to great camaraderie and competition. But as time went on, again, I found myself feeling lackluster for the constant “black and white” required day-to-day work.

A change was required. I thought, erroneously, that if I pursued a position in private accounting, I would be more rewarded in terms of job satisfaction.

I made the decision to leave E & Y with no job prospects on the table. To make ends meet, I temped for a few accounting placement firms. During this time, I found a position as a financial reporting supervisor for a privately held homebuilder. Almost two years later, I was recruited for a position as an assistant controller for a publicly held construction company.

The end result of my private accounting experience led me back to the exact same place when I left E&Y: I enjoyed accounting for a few hours at a time, but found myself completely uninspired beyond that. In a nutshell, it essentially did not fit my personality.

From CPA to Wine Sales Rep

I began to explore another avenue. As an alumnus, I was able to take the Myers-Briggs test at George Mason University, a 2-3 hour personality assessment test. Lo and behold, my profile fell into a category somewhat on the other spectrum from accounting: I was an E-N-F-P (extroverted-intuitive-feeling-perceptive). The test also summarized the areas for which I would be best suited: education, sales and service. Suddenly, I recognized why I had been unhappy. I recognized that my intuition was correct—that I needed to engage in a career more suited to my personality. Now I felt energized and extremely motivated to begin another career chapter.

I decided I would pursue sales first. I literally “threw” myself “out onto the pavement” and began exploring sales positions no matter what they were—as I figured this process would educate me and get me closer to my end goal.

Initially, I was not inspired by the positions I investigated—mainly because the positions were “hard sell” types. Then one day I stumbled across a Washington Post help wanted ad for a wine distributor sales representative. The company was family owned –small — located in the warehouse district of Alexandria. It paid much less than I was making as a CPA. Commissions only with a small territory to start, but the ad said, “If you love to learn, this is for you.”

I had nothing to lose. So I sought out the interview, and then spent a day with a sales rep in his territory. I found myself extremely stimulated even though I knew nothing about wine. I was far from a “wine aficionado”. But because the products were so diverse and changed from year to year, it became obvious that this business was anything but “routine”. They hired me. I learned a tremendous amount about wine, and by default, all things culinary and gastronomic. I felt totally alive, excited and enthusiastic about the business. And that is how I began my career in sales.

$1.25 Million in Wine Sales to Restaurants and Wine Shops

Seven years flew by. My last year there, I sold $1.25 million worth of wine to restaurants and specialty wine shops. My closest client relationships were with the owners of the specialty wine shops. They were extremely particular and higher maintenance than other clients, but I thrived when working with them. My sales work centered on sharing and tasting wines with them and understanding what was important in their business. Accordingly, I wanted to make sure that when I came to them with a new wine, I came to them with something of value that would “fit” their needs.

Listening to Clients: My Key to Success

This brings me to a fundamental principle I hold highly in my business practice always: A universal truth for me in designing kitchens is that it is always about listening to your client … carefully. Unfortunately, at the end of seven years of selling wine, and because I listened to my clients, I witnessed a market shift in my clients. They wanted more boutique-type wines. The company I was working for, as good as they were, had a different market focus—a focus that did not align well with my clients’ wine preferences and needs.

I recognized, reluctantly, that it was time to shift gears again.

Initially, I was going to go work for a well-respected wine importer in the “boutique” end of the business. But that did not work out. I had already left my original company, so I was not sure what to do. But as the saying goes, “things happen for a reason.”

Career #3: Saddle Fitting

At the time, my hobby was horseback riding. One day while I was trying to fit a saddle to my horse it occurred to me: how do you know when your saddle correctly fits your horse ?

I went to the local tack shop, brought multiple saddles back to my horse and put them on him. But the answer to the question of what defined proper saddle fit eluded me.

I began researching all things related to saddle fitting. I discovered that the Society of Master Saddlers in England had an answer to my question. Boldly, I contacted the Society and asked if I could visit and learn about saddle fitting. Initially they put me off. I continued to persist, and finally, it was arranged. I bought my plane ticket and planned my 2-week trip in October 1997 to meet and work with Ken Lynden-Dykes. Ken was the senior lecturer of the Society’s Qualified Saddle Fitters course (at that time, they only allowed UK residents to take the course). He was extremely generous and gave me a basic but fairly thorough introduction to saddle fitting.

We traveled throughout the English countryside performing saddle fit evaluations. Throughout our trip, he learned how serious I was. He became my mentor and made a few trips to the U.S. shortly after I started my business, Grand Prix Saddle Fitting. He observed my implementation of the 7-step method he taught me and provided constructive feedback.

Over the next several months as I continued to practice, what unfolded for me was amazing. I discovered horse owners everywhere who had been in the dark and did not know how to get help. I placed small ads in local horse publications. Clients responded saying, “I am so glad you exist!” and “I don’t know what’s going on with the saddle on my horse.”

Friends and Family Thought I Was Crazy

In the meantime, on the personal side, my friends and family were very concerned about my new “career” path. How could I cast aside my previous professions for … saddle fitting?? Who in their right mind would pursue such an endeavor?

Nonetheless, because I believed so fiercely in the cause, I soldiered on. I enjoyed being out in the stables, meeting horse owners and their horses of all types. I enjoyed eliminating their frustration by demonstrating, on the spot, how a saddle should fit their horse. And, the ultimate reward was to see their horse “move” better while being ridden, and to have the horse owner exclaim: “Wow! What a huge difference!”

A New Talent for Design Emerges

Happily, I did this for seven years. Ah, the “seven year itch”. I became a bit bored. Oh no, time to make another change. By now I realized the familiar signs of discontent. I could not visualize myself saddle fitting for the rest of my life. I began to tap into another aspect of my personality that had not been fully explored.

Since a young girl, I have always had a passion for organizing rooms and experimenting with color. I used to change the paint color in my bedroom regularly—and would often shift the furniture to see what “felt better”.

During my saddle fitting days, I purchased an old 1937 farmhouse. A hovel it was, and all thought I was undertaking a daunting project when I bought it, as it was such a mess — but I had a vision for how it could be improved. Now, as a testament to my insight from back then, over the years, people have visited and said, “Wow, what a transformation!”

Transforming Spaces Energizes Me

So in short, transforming spaces energizes me. When I reflected about what should come next in a “design” career, obviously the question became: what kind?

I had a friend in California who had changed her career from wine into kitchen design. She shared with me a bit about her transition. This filled up my “gas tank”, and I literally knocked on the door of a kitchen and bath showroom, introduced myself, and announced to them “I’ve never professionally designed a kitchen but I would like to learn.” I was hired shortly thereafter!

Career #4: Kitchen Design

I spent the next four years working for the kitchen and bath company. I learned CAD (computer aided design). I made mistakes. But I made a lot of clients happy.

My happiest clients were the ones that wanted my advice on the whole project, but the showroom did not embrace this business model. They wanted me to “sell” cabinets, countertops, appliances, and anything related. The truth was my added value was mainly in the design, for which I was not patently paid.

I decided it was time to create my own venture. I wanted to be a consultant who assisted homeowners with kitchen design and then the how and where to spend their dollars on their kitchen remodel.

I began my company, Expert Kitchen Designs in 2010. As the owner of my own company, I am not under pressure to sell any particular line of products. My clients feel comfortable in their exploration and enjoy the remodeling process. They are educated and therefore feel confident, not pressured, when they make their decisions every step of the way.

I love working with odd kitchen spaces, as difficult as they may be. I enjoy thoroughly letting my clients express themselves, their wants and needs, and guiding them through the entire process up until the very end. I get to use so many parts of my brain, both the left and right, so I never feel like I am “stuck” doing one thing all day long.

Tying It All Together to Serve My Clients

Looking back on my career path, there is nothing I’ve done that I regret. I think all of it is relevant to what I do today. Accounting is relevant because when you do design, you have to use numbers. You have to pay attention to technical data. You have to be precise. So that experience obviously has been key.

The wine business introduced me to the culinary, and the latter happens in the kitchen. So indirectly, the wine business gave me a direct connection to kitchen design through cooking.

Saddle fitting taught me that, no matter what business you are in, it is all about balance and paying attention to details, spoken and unspoken. Balance is key and pervades almost every aspect of our lives. Including kitchens!


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Kitchen Remodeling Arlington Virginia: Tudor Home Restoration Project

Getting to Know Paul, Tom and Their “New” Old Home

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Last January 2014 (just before we had that wicked polar vortex descend upon us), I was asked by Commonwealth Restorations to contact Paul and Tom about their kitchen remodel. They had just purchased a neglected Tudor home (circa 1904) in North Arlington.

My meeting with Paul, on a sunny brisk day a few days later, revealed a house possessing tremendous character: tall ceilings, unique moldings, wainscot panels on the walls, and the little quirky parts of the home that cannot be easily replicated. The entire home, including the kitchen, required restorative work to make it livable by today’s standards.

When I spoke with Tom and Paul on the phone a few days later, they told me the story about their decision to purchase the home. Paul said: “When I told Tom there was a house to look at on Glebe, he said he wasn’t going to live on that street. However, on first sight while standing in the rear garden, Tom said he wanted to buy the house having not even seen the inside.”

Obviously, the key ingredient for Tom was the mature and very carefully crafted backyard garden whose elements and style made one feel, while standing there, that one was in Old World Europe one hundred years earlier.

Unfortunately, unlike the garden, the existing kitchen lacked any style at all. It was dark with wood paneling. The floor was “busy”– laid with linoleum. The cabinets were an off white laminate. The appliances were white. A bit of a dichotomy in comparison to the garden’s class and sophistication.

The Original Kitchen

Paolini Kitchen Back Corner Before Paolini Kitchen Entry BeforeIn spite of its flaws, this “bad” kitchen had its good points. A saving grace was its fairly large rectangular footprint and access to the backyard garden. For this second reason, Paul and Tom stressed the importance of a beautiful kitchen which shared easy access to the garden below.

Kitchen Demolition and Planning

The actual kitchen demolition work commenced in February. Paul, Tom and I met several times to discuss conceptual ideas. Because the kitchen footprint was longer than it was wide, and one of the walls would house a sliding glass door onto the deck above the garden, we agreed on an L-shape perimeter footprint for the main working parts of the space. A 48” Thermador refrigerator and 48” Wolf range took up some “real estate ” on the longest part of the “L”.

paolini-kitchen-range

Regarding cabinetry, Tom and Paul weren’t familiar with flush inset framed construction. Upon my recommendation, and to further enhance the period of the house’s style, we agreed this was the way to go with a Sherwin Williams paint “Snowbound”. The overall goal of increasing natural light in the kitchen was paramount, thus the plan included a large picture window. This would become the “anchor” for the main cleanup sink. The island would offer a prep sink across from the cooktop and near the fridge allowing efficient food prep without creating additional traffic at the clean up sink.

paolini-kitchen-view

Initially, seating on one side of the long island was part of the plan. Further discussion created concerns as, due to the length of the island, such a layout would contribute to an unfavorable “cafeteria” feeling. I suggested creating an “L-shape” seating plan on the end closest to the refrigerator. Paul took this a step further by allowing the side opposite the fridge to be open as well to accommodate three or more people if they needed seating for informal gatherings. The stool on the refrigerator side could be easily tucked underneath that side without interference at other times.

Rohl sinks and polished-nickel faucets were mainstays for this kitchen, along with matching decorative cabinet hardware from Hardware Restorations. The floors, which were antique heart pine, were too red for Tom’s taste. The desire for darker floors seemed natural for this house—the floors were stained a dark brown.

paolini-kitchen-sink-dishwasher-view
Tile was selected in crackle porcelain finish—in Champagne and Cocoa colors hue to pick up these element in the granite tops.

Because we had a great team — meaning client, contractor, and kitchen designer — we completed the house by Memorial Day weekend. Paul and Tom continue to email me and let me know how happy they are with their kitchen.

Arlington VA Tudor Home kitchen restoration

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer, in the remodeled kitchen

Client Feedback:

Following a work assignment of two years overseas, we began living in our friends’ home last September while they were away for ten months. Their own home was expertly renovated by Commonwealth Restorations. When Paul and I bought our 110 year old home in December, we knew Commonwealth was a firm we should consider. Commonwealth’s owner Bob Strunk took on the renovation project for our home and from the outset, he suggested we would want to work with Sandra Brannock of Expert Kitchen Designs.

Paul and I had gone through many books and visited several kitchen design locations and were overwhelmed by the choices and the “cookie cutter” approach the designers offered us. We were renovating a historic property and wanted all of our ultimate selections to be integrated and cohesive in their entirety. While there were many nice components available at the design centers, it was an overwhelming decision process to achieve the “total fit” without the assistance of someone who could offer us a great deal of informed guidance. We quickly realized we needed such a knowledgeable guide who could work with us very closely throughout the entire kitchen design process.

Sandra’s first visit occurred at our house and she quickly grasped the basics of what we hoped to achieve. The size of our planned kitchen was large and Sandra guided us to the best design and function attributes from a broad perspective. She helped us to maintain proportionality so that “less really is more”.

Sandra also “spoke” the contractor’s language so it was no surprise to us that Bob had strongly suggested we use her. We learned to appreciate very much the importance of her knowledge of a contractor’s perspective. As a result, she anticipated and helped to forestall many issues before they became problems as she worked very harmoniously with Bob and his subcontractors.

Sandra guided us through the entire decision process and met with us at multiple distributors to have us see and feel the products we were deciding upon. She brought a great deal of intuitive insight to the process and worked extensively with Paul and I to bridge our often different goals.

Once the general layout, cabinets, and appliance decisions were made she developed very detailed and precise schematics. These went through several iterations and served several purposes. Sandra incorporated exact dimensions into the schematics and thereby “translated” our plans into the right language that the contractors could understand. Plus, the schematics gave us visuals into what our individual choices would look like when all combined into one cohesive product.

We would refer Sandra to anyone facing a kitchen redesign project. She was always available for to answer questions and to give gentle guidance for grey areas. She helped us make the right decisions and to pull together our dream kitchen. Sandra:

  • Worked as our guide
  • Made the difficult process easier
  • Was always ready to consult
  • Knows the industry’s standard metrics for functional kitchen design. (Space between island and adjacent counters, etc.)
  • Offered intuitive insights as to what we both sought but were unable to individually articulate.
  • Processed our goals and choices well and came back with appropriate suggestions.

We had gone through many books on our own to establish styles and concepts we both liked, but pulling those into a cohesive whole would have been very difficult on our own.

We visited several kitchen design centers where a cookie cutter approach was offered to us, which wouldn’t have amounted to much in the way of a cohesive finished product.

Sandra offered gentle guidance to steer us away from ideas that were either too big or otherwise not really good for our home. She has extensive design talent and architectural knowledge.

She asked the right questions to get us to identify our likes and dislikes and our goals. She then refined these into a workable and cohesive whole through an iterative process.

She was cognizant of the perspectives of contractors and anticipated issues that might arise. She went to bat for us as needed.

She meticulously assessed the ultimate kitchen appliance choices we made for functionality and suitability and then assessed them for their physical fit into the planned layout. She informed us where we would have to adapt space configurations, and she developed beautiful schematics that enabled us to visualize the finished kitchen in its entirety.

All decisions were made with space considerations in mind.

She worked to help identify common goals and preferences of two strong willed individuals who couldn’t always agree.

She quickly returned our calls and responded to our messages. She was a delight to wrk with throughout the process.

She is proud and knowledgable of her work and it shows in the beauty and integrity of our kitchen.

The size of our kitchen impresses on its own, but Sandra’s assistance in guiding us to suitable design features helped us to keep from choices that would have overwhelmed and exaggerated the space to the detriment of the overall effect.

She focuses on proportionality in her design which is very important. Less is more.

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Why I Love Pennville Custom Cabinetry for Kitchens

Why I Love Pennville Custom Cabinetry for Kitchens

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaI recently had the pleasure of participating in a video commercial for Pennville Cabinetry. You can learn why Pennville Cabinetry is my top choice for custom kitchen cabinetry when you watch the video below. I am standing in a beautiful Pennville Stanford Collection custom kitchen that was completed a couple of years ago. It is absolutely gorgeous and the total example of what Pennville does with a lot of value. When I was first introduced to Pennville, I thought they would be like any ordinary cabinet company until Mark showed me the finishes and the construction and the door styles. My mouth fell open. I fell in love. This is the most incredible product I work with today.


Who would not want to cook in this kitchen? It is where everybody wants to be. Family and friends can gather around this inviting and beautifully designed kitchen for meals, enjoy themselves, connect and share and love.

One of the reasons I love to work with Pennville is their ability to add some personal custom touches to the cabinetry. We have a pantry cabinet here that they were able to inscribe for the homeowner with her own inscriptions, one saying goodies, one saying bread. Another thing that Pennville does is combine the cabinets so that they look seamless and like they were meant to be there forever.

This is a very clever way to use space on the side of a tall cabinet. We basically made this little secret compartment where keys and another items can be stowed away in a secret place that is very nicely concealed top and bottom.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.

Reston Town Center Kitchen Makeover Part 2:  When Best Laid Plans Go Awry

Reston Town Center Kitchen Makeover Part 2: When Best Laid Plans Go Awry

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Before embarking on any kitchen remodeling project, I caution my clients to prepare themselves mentally for unexpected glitches because, as the Scottish Poet Robert Burns has observed, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

I have yet to see a kitchen remodeling project that progressed 100% as planned, with no errors, miscalculations, mishaps or delays between the time the homeowner signs off on the kitchen design plans and project completion. Inevitably, there comes a point when I am reminded of another saying: “the road to good intentions is paved with hell.”

Remodeling “Hiccups”

Homeowners who accept that they will endure some degree of hell while their kitchen is being torn apart and made over can spare themselves unnecessary anxiety, panic, and sleepless nights during the remodeling process.

Our recent Reston Town Center kitchen remodeling project offers a case example of the kinds of things that can go wrong in the course of creating a beautiful kitchen that is a delight to live in and cook in. This was a complicated remodeling project that experienced its share hiccups and mistakes that we have successfully resolved. On a side note, I am happy to report that, despite the glitches and trials we encountered during the course of this project, our client’s neighbor was so impressed with the way this kitchen turned out that she immediately engaged us for her own kitchen design and remodeling project.

Human Errors Are To Be Expected

In this case, several independent and unrelated incidents contributed to construction delays. The list below is not meant to point fingers or blame anyone but rather to point out that all involved are human and, despite our best intentions, human errors are bound to occur in complex construction projects.

  1. The homeowner changed her mind about her initial under-cabinet lighting selection, after seeing another option she liked better during the kitchen demolition,
  2. Backordered decorative cabinet hardware,
  3. Cabinet installer mistake,
  4. Cabinet manufacturer mistake,
  5. Conflicting instructions from the Building Inspector and the Fire Marshall regarding the relocation of the existing sprinkler system, which was required due to the ceiling reconfiguration,
  6. My not being a bit more persistent in ensuring critical decisions were made on time,
  7. My not insisting more emphatically that the client’s request to change a particular design element would certainly present a problem for her later (i.e. I would have had to debate it strongly with her to make my point.)

Adjusting Manufacturer’s Specs

This homeowner insisted that the range hood bottom be placed 30″ above the cooktop, as recommended by the manufacturer. Although I always attempt to follow manufacturers’ specifications, to a “T”, I advised her — based on my own professional experience — that it would be better to place the hood somewhere between 33” and 36” (69” to 72” above the floor) to prevent taller people, such as herself and her husband, from banging their heads on the hood while cooking. She believed the manufacturer’s specifications should be followed. I relented and went with what she wanted.

Sure enough, after the hood was installed, she realized the wisdom of my original advice when she could not avoid bumping her head on the hood while cooking. Fortunately, we were able to raise the hood “box” up 3″ but that created a new requirement to shorten the panel above the mantel since the original panel was now too tall.

Pennville Cabinetry remade the panel (at an additional cost to the client) but now they made a mistake on the width. The purchase order and paperwork were correct, so I don’t know how that mistake occurred. Nevertheless, Pennville had to remake the hood panel a third time to get it right! 

This, Too, Shall Pass

This case example illustrates how kitchen remodeling projects can turn into a comedy of errors despite the best preplanning. The more complicated the project, the more likely it is that mistakes will happen — especially during the spring and summer “high season” for remodeling and everyone is working at full throttle to get the work completed on time. However, I can assure you that in all cases “this, too, shall pass.”

Here is one photo of where we were just five days after the cabinets were delivered. It shows Florian, the granite fabricator, measuring and templating the countertop.


Reston VA kitchen remodeling

As you can see, the hardwood floor has not been sanded or finished yet. Finishing hardwood floors should always be left to the end to avoid damaging them when appliances and cabinetry are brought in and installed.
You will note that the refrigerator (left) is installed, waiting for its matching cabinet door panels and handle. The decorative hardware had not arrived yet. The client and I agreed it would be best to look at sample hardware on site, after the cabinets were installed, to confirm her selection. That’s why the refrigerator panel is “off” for the time being.

Below are photos from early May.


reston-kitchen-makeover



kitchen tile backsplash

The floors have been sanded and finished—ergo the brown paper “protection” with blue tape on the floor. Tile and countertops are in; the countertop also had to be “lifted” up to the second floor with a crane. It was a bit nerve-wracking because this particular piece was very long, had a sink cut out in it, and also had radius curve opposite the sink cut out. A treacherous endeavor, but the crew was successful.

Decorative hardware was in. You will note that the refrigerator panel is not. We had a bit of a hiccup here; one of the installers drilled the hardware incorrectly so we had to send it back to Pennville. Cabinetry. (This is a reality in kitchen installation. It happens to everyone, especially when you have a crew that is truly task oriented.) Luckily, Pennville was able to repair it and ship it back within two weeks.

We are waiting for a few more pieces of molding we decided to add to polish off the final “look”. Stay tuned for final photos of this project, coming soon.


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs, Virginia

Sandra Brannock designs beautiful, timeless, functional kitchens that reflect your personal style, within your budget. She helps discerning homeowners throughout Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC get the kitchen of their dreams and select the perfect cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, lighting, and appliances to make their dream kitchen a reality.

Call Sandra today at (703) 801-6402 to schedule a kitchen remodeling consultation. Sandra will help you get the most value out of your kitchen remodeling budget and ensure that all the details of your kitchen renovation proceed smoothly, on time and within budget.