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.

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.

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.

Reston Town Center Kitchen Remodel

Reston Town Center Kitchen Remodel

How do we get those cabinets and appliances up those very narrow stairs?

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaSeveral weeks ago I blogged about how to pick finishes for a kitchen. The kitchen referenced in that article is located in a large 4-story townhome right next to Reston Town Center in Northern Virginia. This townhome has extremely narrow staircases that do not easily accommodate the 100” tall oven and Sub Zero refrigerator cabinets the client wanted so that the kitchen could be “all that it can be”.

If you do not think ahead about entry and exit points for the delivery of new kitchen appliances, you can become quite unnerved on the day they arrive!

Thankfully, our careful advance planning prevented a panic attack.

Delivery Day

The cabinetry for this kitchen had been ordered 12 weeks earlier. Finally, the “big” day — delivery day -— arrived. I left early in the morning to drive directly to Reston, Virginia to meet the Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck and Brannock Built contracting crew.

Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck

Pennville Custom Cabinetry truck

Upon my arrival, the Pennville truck was there. It was a generous 43-foot-long tractor trailer truck equipped with “air ride” technology to ensure a safe, smooth, and secure ride for the kitchen cabinetry inside.

The first few cabinets were unloaded off of the truck. As expected, each was wrapped carefully with a its own blue quilted blanket for additional protection during transport. Nevertheless, as the cabinets were unloaded I still braced myself for possible damage just before examining them (a normal OCD trait of mine).

Thankfully there was no need to worry — after all, this was top-of-the-line Pennville Custom Cabinetry! Pennville cabinets take longer to engineer and build (right now, a 12 week lead time), but in the end, when you run your hands over the finish and view them in the sunny daylight, their exceptional high-quality construction makes them worth the wait. Pennville goes the extra mile to ensure that each cabinet is dimensionally correct and exemplary in its final form. In my experience, I have never seen a cabinet company with such high quality control standards. For discerning clients, Pennville cabinetry is always my top recommendation.

forklift

Forklift

So what came next? Well we knew that most of the cabinets could fit easily into the narrow stairway up to the kitchen. For the larger cabinets and 42″ Sub Zero refrigerator, we had planned to use a different, albeit unconventional, means to transport these into the client’s home. We used a fork lift-—this exact one:


Lazy Susan transport

Lazy Susan transport

The one cabinet we did not anticipate needing a forklift delivery method was…the square corner lazy susan! Glad we were prepared.

sub zero in windowNext, we brought in the Sub Zero refrigerator. Yes, it came in through that window.

Other large cabinets making their way through the window....

Other large cabinets making their way through the window….

Plus a few other cabinets . . .

These pictures document our how our advance planning prevented last-minute delivery issues. We examined all the steps and logistics that could present a problem during delivery, and by doing so, we were able to carry out this phase of the kitchen remodel successfully and with minimal stress.

Here is the contractor, Guy Brannock who, after everything made its way into the house, is very happy that all of our preparation paid off. Bravo Guy!

Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!


Stay tuned for the next phase: the installation process.


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.

Can Your Marriage Survive a Kitchen Remodel?

Can Your Marriage Survive a Kitchen Remodel?

Kitchen Remodeling Advice from Expert Kitchen Designs

How to Minimize Conflicts Over Kitchen Remodeling

I recently went on a ski vacation. At Reagan National Airport, before taking off, I performed my typical earnest search for the perfect magazine to entertain me while en route.

Because I love my work and am passionate about kitchen remodeling and kitchen design, I never succeed in keeping my vows to take a break from my profession while I am on vacation. That’s why I selected the magazine “This Old House” to read on my flight.


Turning the pages, I stumbled upon an article titled: Survive the Marital Stress of a Remodel. Ah, additional confirmation that I am not imagining the tension I sense among couples during the kitchen remodeling process!

Fast forward to my return from vacation: I met with my extremely nice clients who are remodeling a true-to-form Tudor home in North Arlington. The meeting’s purpose was to review and discuss the basic kitchen design I had prepared and presented to them before I left. Several telephone conversations later, the other half of the couple asked me, out of the blue: “Do you ever see people get separated or divorced during a kitchen remodel?”

I about fell over, as the article had been forefront on my mind and to hear my client utter these words seemed to be beyond coincidence.

Fortunately, my client confided that they were not on the brink of separating, but he was concerned about the health of their relationship because they were experiencing:

  1. major stress over trying to make so many kitchen remodeling decisions harmoniously,
  2. strong emotions regarding the power struggle over who should be “leading” or “following”, and
  3. different approaches in establishing a budget they both could agree on.

Thankfully, this couple possesses a high degree of emotional intelligence — which is a definite asset to bring to any relationship during a kitchen remodel.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this cautionary tale?

  1. When embarking on a kitchen remodeling project, stay focused and calm.
  2. When the tension rises — as it inevitably will — take a break, visit or revisit another topic, and come back to the more difficult topics later.
  3. Stay away from the “blame game”.
  4. Trust your kitchen designer. He or she wants you to be delighted with the outcome, so if you find yourselves really “stuck”, ask your professional kitchen designer for their opinion. He or she will steer you in the right direction.

Related Reading:
Can Your Marriage Survive Your Renovation?
How to Remodel and Keep Your Marriage Together


Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, owner of Expert Kitchen Designs, has been happily married to Guy Brannock for seven years. Together, they have endured and survived their own trials and tribulations during their own home renovations. Sandra provides expert kitchen design services to discerning homeowners throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland and metropolitan Washington DC.