Budget-Friendly Arlington Condo Kitchen Remodel

Budget-Friendly Arlington Condo Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Mara and Suzanne are returning clients of Expert Kitchen Designs who wanted to update the small kitchen in their Arlington condominium before renting it out. I was first introduced to them several years ago by one of my favorite home building contractors, Eric Pilka of Oakmont Homes.

To stay within their budget, we implemented kitchen upgrades that did not require major structural changes. We improved the kitchen layout and installed new kitchen cabinetry, appliances, countertops, sink and faucet.

After renting out their condo, Suzanne and Mara purchased an open-floor planned home in Alexandria, Virginia that was well-suited to their contemporary/mid-century modern taste in design.

The only downside to their new home was the galley kitchen. It was pedestrian in all ways: cheap white cabinets and appliances and an ordinary laminate countertop. The one positive feature of the kitchen lay below the nasty vinyl flooring: here we discovered well-worn oak strip flooring that could be refinished to enhance the existing space.

Since I had a established an effective and congenial working relationship with these clients in previous kitchen remodeling projects, we were able to proceed smoothly with the new kitchen design project. I began as I always do by asking lots of questions to identify their goals and objectives:

  1. How long do you plan to live in this house?
  2. What don’t you like about the kitchen now?
  3. How much do you want to spend to get what you want?

We determined that they wanted the kitchen to open up into the dining/living area. I worked on the CAD drawings and provided a few perspectives to show them what the space would look like with two walls eliminated and other walls painted with their chosen color scheme.

Below are two renderings done with my 2020 CAD in a “live” perspective:

Arlington VA Kitchen Remodel CAD Drawing

The view above is taken as you stand in the dining room. On the left side, we eliminated the back and end wall to allow for deeper counter space with a small overhang for casual dining. On the right sink wall side, we eliminated the end wall.

Arlington VA Kitchen Remodel CAD DrawingThe view to the left is what you would see from the living area. This was designed after Mara and Suzanne had indicated they wanted a Soapstone countertop, and that the overhang on the living room side should be minimal. They also weren’t sure about the white subway tile. I left it out in this last rendering.

Once we were agreed that we had a plan that Mara and Suzanne loved, we could move forward with calculating all costs associated with the project. As I have said many times before, design is first and foremost to cost estimation of any kitchen remodeling project.

Now, Eric Pilka of Oakmont Homes had the scope and structural requirements he needed to proceed with construction. Eric determined weight-bearing loads from the walls we wanted to remove, then had supporting beams engineered for these walls. He also had a defined plan that allowed him to accurately calculate all costs for this kitchen remodeling project, which eliminated unpleasant cost-overrun surprises later.

After we determined all cost elements, agreements were signed and all systems were “go,” full overlay construction cabinetry by Dura Supreme in Classic White with the Craftsman Panel was the cornerstone.

The oak floor was uncovered and refinished. Soapstone countertops were installed. And the coup de grace was the marble backsplash in a subway tile pattern installed expertly by Eric’s tile installer.

Below are a few pics of the final outcome. See how they compare to my perspectives above…

Arlington VA Kitchen Design

Lighting Fixtures Arlington Kitchen DesignI selected the perfect lighting fixture (right) that allowed the entire counter-space to feel open and flowing without a “geometric” light just hanging over the large countertop.

We still need to repaint the walls. I always advise clients to postpone repainting walls until all elements, fixtures and finishes have been installed, as they will influence how light is reflected in the kitchen. Take some time to observe the colors in your kitchen at different times of the day and then decide see which colors suit you.

In kitchen design and remodeling, advance planning, accurate costing and patience pay off—– always.


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.

This Week’s Inspiration: “Kitchen Centric” by Mick De Giulio

This Week’s Inspiration: “Kitchen Centric” by Mick De Giulio

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Yesterday I had an appointment with another kitchen designer in Northwest D.C. It was a collaborative appointment, mainly to discuss the planning of his new showroom. He lived in London for twelve years and has resided in D.C. for the last three years. He remains inspired by the kitchens he designed in the U.K. because they were more efficient and lent themselves to the way we all tend to live naturally.

I arrived at our meeting in the middle of a soft light rain, parked my car, and walked into his still unfinished showroom space. Progress so far included a high gloss tile floor and primed walls waiting to be painted. A red coffee “conference” table was surrounded by four white leather Mid-Century modern chairs. On the table were three or four kitchen books, one of which caught my attention immediately: Kitchen Centric, by Mick de Giulio.

kitchen centricOne turn of the page of his new book reminded me of why he so inspires me. He has the “X Factor” among kitchen designers. To illustrate further– per his direct quote from his website:

Design Philosophy

I believe a great kitchen has a magic to it that transforms the physical room into a feeling. People are drawn to that kitchen, and they may not know why. The kitchen sings.

It is my job to write the music. I may call myself a kitchen designer, but what I really do is orchestrate and conduct the dreaming process.

I listen to my clients, absorb, and then jump aboard their excitement, sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always steering that energy into both tangible and intangible – a kitchen that feeds the soul.

– Mick De Giulio

This is exactly how I feel about kitchens and service to my clients.

If de Giulio’s words captivate you as they captivate me, and if you would like to entrance yourself more, visit Mick’s website: www.degiulio.org

Or better yet, pick up his new book: Kitchen Centric. De Giulio’s kitchens are nothing less than stellar — and as an added plus, no nonsense.

Great design need not be complicated. However, it sometimes requires a bit of not going with the “typical”. And if you open up your mind, you might be surprised what will greet you in your dreams for your new kitchen.

Isn’t dreaming and being open to magic what life is all about?


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.

7 Reasons Why You Should Hire Expert Kitchen Designs for Your Kitchen Remodel

7 Reasons Why You Should Hire Expert Kitchen Designs for Your Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designer

Throughout my life, in everything I have undertaken, I set the bar high. And when I achieve my goals, I move on to the next one without much grandeur or self-promotion.

This morning, after thinking about it, I decided to jump on the self-promotion bandwagon by listing 7 reasons you should hire me as your expert kitchen remodeling advisor / designer. But before I list the reasons, here is an email I received last week from an interior designer (clients’ names concealed for privacy purposes):

Sandra-
Thank you for passing on your updated website. You are one talented lady !!!! It was an absolute pleasure to work with you on the “_____” kitchen and bath project. I am so looking forward to our winter project with the (name withheld).

Thank you for being such a wonderful addition to my business. You make my job so easy!!!!!
Have a great weekend.
Kelley Astore
http://www.kelleyastoreinteriors.com

This interior designer is talented, smart, and very particular about details (all requirements to be successful in the remodeling business). She did not know me at all prior to the “M___” project, which involved a complex full house remodel. Throughout our collaboration on the kitchen remodeling project, she told me repeatedly, “You should get a gold medal! You are such a hard worker. You helped the M___’s understand what they were getting in their kitchen remodel. The amount of detail you have provided to them is impressive.”

She understood, as a colleague in the business, the value I brought to the table that made the kitchen remodel proceed smoothly while minimizing stress and providing peace of mind to the homeowner.

So, if by chance you are considering or evaluating kitchen designers for an upcoming kitchen remodeling project, here are 7 reasons you should hire me:

  1. You will save time and money in the long run. The expert planning I provide for you will eliminate inefficiencies and mistakes from beginning to end.
  2. I never push or pressure my clients to make hasty decisions. I am nurturing and practical-minded. My passion and mission is to make the design and remodeling process, as well as the final outcome, enjoyable for you. Together, we can create wonderful memories.
  3. I can help you clarify, identify, and prioritize your kitchen remodeling goals and dreams. And, I can help you make your vision a reality while staying within your budget.
  4. My husband, Guy Brannock (Brannockbuilt.com), is a Class A Contractor with 30 years of experience. He, as your contractor, and I, as your designer, will manage all the details of your remodeling project to ensure it proceeds smoothly and that you get what you expected and paid for. Since we are a husband-wife team who are together 24/7, you can rest assured that the designer (me) and the builder (Guy) will be communicating with each other to ensure your project is managed properly. So even when you don’t “see” us working, we are working.
  5. Guy is a perfectionist when it comes to finish carpentry and installation details on all levels. With Guy in charge of installing your cabinetry and appliances, you will have peace of mind knowing that the installation will be done correctly with full attention to every detail. Guy is an absolute sweetheart, patient and gentle with our clients. They love him!
  6. I offer access to top quality cabinetry with direct pricing (think Mercedes E to CS Class at a Toyota price point) which can save you 20 -25% on the cost of cabinetry. Why? Because I have no showroom overhead costs to cover. I can offer the same quality of cabinetry as you will find in a prestigious kitchen showroom in the Washington DC area at better than “contractor pricing”. And, if your needs fall into a less expensive category, I also have access to such cabinetry at contractor pricing.
  7. I am flexible. If you prefer to obtain your cabinetry, appliances and fixtures through your own suppliers and/or work with your own builder/contractor, you can hire me “a la carte” to design your kitchen. As noted above, when you hire me to design your kitchen, you will be working with an experienced expert who will help your kitchen remodel proceed smoothly, review and manage the details to minimize your stress, and give you greater peace of mind.

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.

Prep Sinks and Cleanup Sinks — Why You Might Need Both

Prep Sinks and Cleanup Sinks — Why You Might Need Both

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

With few exceptions, the question: “Should I include a prep sink as well as a cleanup sink in my kitchen?” always arises when planning kitchens for my clients. Many clients are confused about the purpose, and need for, a prep sink as well as a cleanup sink. Most of us grew up with a single sink in the kitchen, so the idea of having or needing two sinks is novel. Back in the day, a second sink in the kitchen, by most middle-class standards, would be considered a bit odd or excessive.

So — to lay to rest concerns and confusion about this topic, I thought it would be helpful to reference NKBA’s guidelines on prep sinks, with some input from my own experience. Assuming we wish to plan on having both types of sinks in the kitchen, let us begin by specifically explaining each sink’s purpose.

Purpose and Placement of Cleanup Sinks

The purpose of the “cleanup” sink is pretty straightforward; some refer to this sink as the “main” sink. However, the term “main” (in kitchen design “lingo”) is not accurate, as it suggests that the sink is all-purpose when, in fact, it serves only one purpose: cleanup of pots, pans, dishes, and whatever else. Typically, the cleanup sink is placed slightly away from the cooking and food storage areas of the kitchen. The cleanup sink no longer functions as the third boundary of the traditional “work triangle” because it is not required for prep work.

Purpose and Placement of Prep Sinks

The prep sink is intended to be used by the cook to wash and prep produce, fish, poultry, pork, or beef. It also can serve as a “pot filler” for pasta or as a water source for other types of food preparation. Ideally, it should be located near the cooking and food storage areas so that the cook can access it easily. If possible, there should be ample room to one side of the prep sink for workspace. NKBA guidelines recommend a space that is at least 36” wide and 24” deep. If this is not possible, keep in mind that we have the ideal and then what is available given space limitations. What’s most important is that you, as homeowner, are comfortable with the sink’s placement and that its placement helps, not hinders, your cooking tasks.

Additionally, and sometimes inadvertently, the prep sink’s location may be closer to the family room or breakfast area. In this case, the sink can be useful for other purposes, especially if one adds an InstaHot water dispenser to it. A cup of hot tea no longer requires that one refill the kettle and waste precious energy heating the water for its preparation.

Two Sinks are Better Than One

If space allows, having two separate sinks with distinct functions is always preferable to only one. This allows for a more open feel in the kitchen with less traffic jams in the two sink areas, especially in today’s busy world.


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.

Ageless Kitchens and Your Kitchen Remodel

Ageless Kitchens and Your Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

The title of this article has two meanings–both important and relevant to all who use the kitchen.

First, for all homeowners, nothing is more rewarding than living day-to-day in a kitchen that feels “timeless” in style and aesthetic. Imagine a kitchen, maybe the one you have now, that you enjoy today — if it had been designed with this goal in mind. Fast forward 10 to 15 years and imagine that you have that same feeling and appreciation for your kitchen. This would put your kitchen into the category of “ageless”.

The second meaning relates to the actual ages of family members and friends who use the kitchen. “Ageless kitchens” are enjoyable to be in and work in, regardless of one’s age or physical abilities and limitations. Wouldn’t it give you peace of mind to know that, if you wish to stay in your home for years to come, you will be able to work in and enjoy your kitchen without limitation?

Achieving these two objectives is best accomplished by enlisting the expertise of a professional kitchen designer as early as possible in your kitchen design or remodeling venture.

Here is what I advise clients who want to have a classic, ageless kitchen that will withstand the test of time:

  1. Keep it simple—the less elaborate the details, the more likely years from now no one will think the kitchen is “dated”. Less is more.
  2. Stick with a neutral color palette. Yes, some might think that this might be boring — but you can always punch up the color interest by accessorizing using your favorite colors. As an added bonus, the neutral color palette will make accent colors “pop” even more.
  3. Invest in decent appliances and ensure the space allotted for them will support future replacement down the road.
  4. Invest in all plywood construction built cabinetry whose finish is top-notch by industry standards.

Kitchens that can be used by all, regardless of their physical ability or disability, are designed according to established Universal Design principles. Considering that, by the year 2020, over 20% of the world’s population will be over the age of 65, it is wise to pay attention to Universal Design Principles when designing or remodeling kitchens.

Important Universal Design Principles for Kitchens

  1. Work aisles in the kitchen should be 42” (for one cook) to 48” (for two cooks)
  2. With perpendicular walkways, one should be a minimum of 42” wide.
  3. Allow for knee space somewhere in the kitchen at a work center (sink or cooktop)
  4. Incorporate easy-to-access below counter storage for heavily used items.

Additional Resources

For more information on Universal Design in the kitchen and throughout the home, read: What is Universal Design?.


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.

Planning and Collaboration: The Key to Kitchen Remodeling Success

Planning and Collaboration: The Key to Kitchen Remodeling Success

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

I just received Home & Design magazine’s “Late Spring” issue. I always enjoy opening it and seeing what has debuted lately in the DC/Metro area. What caught my interest this month was the article “Fresh Start“, offering great insight into the reincarnation of a 1950’s split level home in Mclean. The project’s outcome and the tale told therein should be heeded by all homeowners considering the undertaking of a remodeling project.

The photos reveal sequences of tranquil spaces throughout the home; all elements, as can be seen in the photos, take on a fresh airy feel, with each room’s transition into the next as seamless as the one before–including a comfortable relaxed kitchen (my expertise, of course.)

So, besides the beautiful pictures (all illustrating that these particular homeowners love the color blue), what caught my interest? The following excerpt, which echoes perfectly what I embrace when working with my clients:

“The renovation process was remarkably smooth, which Leggin (the architect) and his clients attribute to the seamless collaboration of the design team early on. ‘They met every two weeks for six months to discuss the vision for the plan,” says the husband. ‘It was a totally collaborative process.”

Bingo. They began early. They included several design experts. The homeowners engaged themselves fully with the experts, thereby ensuring that the end result was what they wanted.

To read the full article, “Fresh Start: A Talented Design Team Transforms a Mundane McLean Split-Level,” click here.


Sandra 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.

Induction Cooking: Time to Reconsider?

Induction Cooking: Time to Reconsider?

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Typically, when I ask my client what type of cooktop or range they will be using, the response is either electric or gas. Few clients realize that there is a third option that is worth considering: induction.

History of Induction Cooking

Induction cooking has come a long ways since 1933, when it was first introduced in the “Kitchen of the Future” at the Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair. Fairgoers witnessed the miracle of “cool heating” using electrical power that required much less energy than standard electrical cooking appliances. For years thereafter, attempts to perfect induction cooking units continued in the U.S., but alas, the induction cooking units were plagued with problems and U.S. manufacturer units went off the market in 1999.

Regardless, Europeans and Asians pursued induction cooking research and development (R&D) due to their concern with energy conservation. Ultimately, their efforts paid off and led to a breakthrough in U.S. commercial applications in restaurant kitchens. As a result, chefs began to recognize the benefits of induction cooking. Through word of mouth and experience, early adopter home cooks began to embrace induction cooking as well.

Benefits of Induction Cooking

Induction cooking offers many benefits, including:

  1. Instant and precise cooking as with gas
  2. No wasted heat
  3. Cooler kitchen because of #2 above
  4. Safety — the cooktop is cool to the touch immediately after use.
  5. Universal design compliant — induction cooktops are thin and can be inserted so that knee space is available underneath without any interference.
  6. Ubiquitous installation -— runs only on electricity
  7. Easy to clean

Induction Cooking Drawbacks

Induction cooking may pose some possible drawbacks, but these are easily overcome as described below:

  1. Cooking vessel has to be made of magnetic material. So if a magnet sticks well, not loosely, to the bottom of the vessel, that vessel works with an induction cooktop.
  2. Noise. Sometimes the actual cooking process produces noise through the cookware because it is not top quality —- the interior pieces of the cookware can rattle. Easily remedied by investing in quality cookware.

For more specific information about induction cooking not addressed in this blog, check out this article:

induction cooking explained

Additional information about the pros and cons of induction cooking can be found at:

TheInductionSite.com/proandcon.


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

How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinetry for Your Kitchen Remodel

How to Choose the Best Kitchen Cabinetry for Your Kitchen Remodel

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaKitchen cabinetry usually accounts for a significant portion of any kitchen remodeling project. As a professional kitchen designer, I often educate clients about kitchen cabinetry basics: what to look for, and what to avoid, when selecting new kitchen cabinetry.

Too often, homeowners assume that a cabinet box is “just a box”. This is erroneous thinking that can lead to costly mistakes and inevitable disappointment with the final outcome of your kitchen remodeling project.

There are major differences among cabinetry manufacturers that the uneducated consumer will not easily detect. In kitchen remodeling, as in other aspects of life, the fact is — to quote a very worn out cliché — you get what you pay for.

The jargon of kitchen cabinet manufacturing can be intimidating. Do not let manufacturer jargon deter you. By educating yourself about kitchen cabinetry fundamentals, you will soon be able to “speak the language” that will help you make a sound purchase decision.

The Four Main Elements You Must Understand About Kitchen Cabinetry

There are four main elements you must understand before selecting and investing in your new kitchen cabinetry. These elements are:

  1. Cabinet Construction — framed and frameless construction consist of box and drawer box construction, and hardware operational mechanisms.
  2. Door and Drawer Styles — includes the actual detailing and construction of the door and drawer front.
  3. Wood Species — from basic to exotic veneers — the latter being the most expensive.
  4. Finishes — for toughness and durability, especially in the kitchen, the quality of the finish cannot be overlooked.

Cabinet Construction

When cabinet manufacturers refer to cabinet construction, they refer to two categories—framed and frameless or full access. Framed cabinets are most common in the US. Within this category you can choose, in order of least to most expensive:

  1. Standard or traditional overlay
  2. Full overlay
  3. Inset

Frameless (or full access/European construction) cabinets have no face-frame to the opening; the 3/4″ sides of the box define the opening. We often see this type of cabinet construction in contemporary or modern settings.

Installing frameless cabinets is more involved than installing framed cabinets, which can result in higher installation times to get your frameless cabinet into its proper position. Therefore, it requires a skilled and experienced carpenter to install this type of cabinetry.

Box Construction

Whether framed or frameless in style, cabinets are “boxes”. However, the materials and joinery used in their construction vary greatly among manufacturers. You may be familiar with terms such as particle board, MDF (medium density fiberboard), and plywood construction. Plywood is considered the best form of construction for a cabinet box. However, some manufacturers offer high quality MDF at a lesser price than plywood. Particle board is considered one of the lowest quality materials.

Drawer Box Construction

Drawer boxes, not including the hardware attached, come in three basic forms.

  1. Laminate/stapled
  2. Solid Wood Sides/Plywood bottoms/Staple or Dovetail
  3. Metal

Laminate kitchen cabinet boxes are least expensive. Over time, with heavy use, they fall apart.

Dovetail constructed cabinet drawer boxes reign supreme over stapled cabinet construction. Some manufacturers build a better drawer box than others by using a ½” plywood bottom. The drawer box bottom is what supports the weight of items placed in the drawer box. One of my manufacturers often demonstrates the quality of his drawer box by turning it over and literally “jumping” on it with his 200 pounds of weight! Now that is a drawer box meant to last a very long time!

Metal drawer boxes are just that. They are more popular with European manufacturers who, as an example, may use Hafele as their drawer box supplier.

Obviously, if you want a long lived product you will prefer the higher end drawer box construction.

Hardware Mechanisms

These are purchased by the cabinet manufacturer for various uses including, but not limited to, door and drawer opening mechanisms and internal accoutrements. BLUM and GRASS are popular hardware systems. Hafele, Richelieu, and Rev-A-Shelf offer internal convenience items for storage. All cabinet manufacturers rely on these “third parties” to enhance their cabinetry’s functions

Door and Drawer Front Styles

Doors and drawer front style components and proprietary details are too numerous to illustrate in this short article. Within the specific category of framed or frameless construction, your kitchen cabinetry costs will vary widely depending on these factors:

  1. Flat or recessed panel door styles cost less than raised panel door styles.
  2. The more detail a door has, the more expensive it will be.
  3. Doors that are thicker than a standard 4/4″ door (i.e. a 5/4″door) will cost more.
  4. The quality of the door and drawer front depends on whether it is made “in house” or purchased from an outside supplier. Higher quality manufacturers make their own doors and drawer fronts, as a general rule.

Wood Species

Another element that affects price is the wood species used for the cabinet: Oak, Maple, Cherry, Lyptus, Mahogany, Hickory, Birch, Ash, Alder, Knotty Pine, Walnut, Chestnut — these are all “wood species” derived from trees. Supply, demand and quality govern the specie price. For basic wood species, it is safe to assume that:

  1. Oak, Hickory, White Birch, and Knotty Alder will be the least expensive.
  2. Maple is next in the hierarchy.
  3. Cherry cabinetry will cost about twice as much as Maple cabinetry.

Also, within each species, there are tolerances or grades assigned –ranking the quality of the wood. If you are particular about the way the wood specie will “look” in its finished form, be wary of cheaper manufacturers’ quality—the outcome is entirely different than that of a higher quality manufacturer.

Finishes

Finish is one of the most important aspects affecting your cabinetry’s appearance and quality. If you talk to any carpenter who makes cabinetry or furniture, he or she will tell you that finishing may be most time-consuming and challenging component of the cabinet production process. The sanding process, attention to detail, and finish elements must be top-notch if you want your cabinetry to be the kind of high-quality investment that will endure for generations to come.

What do you need to know before making your cabinetry selection?

First, use your eyes and hands. What you see is what you get: A first rate finishing process costs more because the cabinet manufacturer has invested a large amount of capital in human and equipment resources that will pay off in future years.

Comparing finishes across the board in terms of cost (from least to most expensive):

  1. Stain wood finishes.
  2. Add 5-15% to the base price if you want additional accent or glaze applied to your cabinetry.
  3. Add 10-15% to the base price for straight painted finishes (on paint grade material, maple or birch), depending upon the manufacturer. Also, be sure to understand the difference between a lacquer paint finish versus an “opaque” or “color tone”stain”. The latter is not a paint but often passes as one under the consumer’s radar. This type of finish will not endure and will “rub through” over time.
  4. Add an additional 15-20% to the base cost ff a glaze is added to the paint,.
    5) A multi-step process which includes distress, patinas, or anything with an artistic one-of-a-kind appearance will add anywhere from 30 to 40% more to the cabinet price.

Now that you have this information, you will be better able to make a well-informed kitchen cabinetry purchase decision with which you will be happy for years to come.

Of course, there is always more to learn, but now you have everything you need to know to steer yourself in the right direction.

If you would like more information or advice on your kitchen remodeling project, call or email Sandra Brannock, (703) 801-6402, sandra@expertkitchendesigns.com.

Kitchen Cabinetry Finishes 101

Kitchen Cabinetry Finishes 101

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

Sandra Brannock, Owner, Expert Kitchen Designs

As a professional who works with various lines of kitchen cabinetry, I find the biggest indicator of cabinet quality is its finish. Obviously, finish affects overall appearance. But more importantly a superior finish, in substance as well as form, testifies to the manufacturer’s quality standards. A superior finish adds longevity to the life of cabinetry–not just a few years, but decades of use withstanding moisture, chemicals, food splatters, and bumps and scrapes. In summary, it stands up to the test of time—which is the most rigorous test of all.

Finishes Typically Found in Kitchen Cabinetry

Finish is an extremely complex topic. In order to get an in-depth professional opinion, I called Bill Adams, a finishes and coatings expert and representative of Accessa Coatings Solutions in Indiana. Bill used to be professional finisher (technical applicator) at a very high end custom cabinet manufacturer—so he understands the finish process for kitchen cabinetry. When he began to answer some of my very basic questions, I found myself thinking: “Wow, there is a lot more to finishes than I thought.” Regardless, Bill was able to convey the information for me in layman’s terms–for the sake of keeping me from having to write a Tolstoy novel. So here we go.

For kitchen cabinetry, there are essentially four kinds of chemical finishes, from least to most superior in quality— NC and Pre-Catalyzed Lacquers, Post Catalyzed Conversion Varnishes, and Polyurethanes:
1) Nitrocellulose Lacquer
2) Pre- Catalyzed Lacquer
3) Post-Catalyzed Conversion Varnish
4) Polyurethane.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer is considered an “everyday” type finish–inexpensive and cures or dries easily. There have been some improvements in this finish since its invention in 1921, but is it is still considered by the “pros” to be in the lowest end of the spectrum in quality for the following reasons:

• Tends to conform to the surface below it showing any imperfections of the substrate (Lower Volume Solids)
• Scratches and wears off easily (interacts with other chemicals/materials)
• Tends to yellow over time.

Some cabinet manufacturers use this finish because of its low cost and quick curing time.

Pre –Catalyzed Lacquers offer a step up when compared to straight Nitrocellulose Lacquer. The “pre” catalyzed version is called such because the catalyst is added into the mixture before it is sold to the end user, it is ready to use and requires little preparation. Additionally, it has a longer shelf life and requires less professional expertise for its application, when compared to Post Catalyzed Conversion Varnishes. Although superior to straight Nitrocellulose Lacquer, most have quality limitations such as a lower volume solids ratio (15-20%) and a tendency to yellow (not curing “water white”) so its performance is not as superior as the next step up.

Post–Catalyzed Conversion Varnish is often higher in cost per gallon when compared to Pre-Catalyzed Lacquer. It has a higher volume solids ratio of 30% to 45% thereby providing better coverage, build and fill and creating a better chemical barrier against wear and tear that stands the test of time. For cost and benefit that is the most noticeable in the industry, most would say it is the “go to” finish for high quality.

Polyurethane is another finish, often applied on items that take a beating from the elements. This finish is costly in dollars and time, and requires more safety / risk considerations. Post Catalyzed Conversion Varnish and Polyurethane’s protective qualities are so similar overall that the benefits of polyurethane (durability vs. cost and time) can be considered by many manufacturers overkill for kitchen cabinetry.  Therefore, for most discerning clients, Post-Catalyzed Conversion Varnish would be considered the ideal product to use for high end kitchen cabinetry finishes.


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

Top 7 Kitchen Remodeling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Top 7 Kitchen Remodeling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaFew events are more disruptive, stressful or costly in life than remodeling one’s home. In my career as a professional kitchen designer, I have observed, assisted with and managed numerous residential kitchen remodeling projects throughout the Northern Virginia / Washington DC region. Here, in no particular order, are the top mistakes I see homeowners making when embarking on a kitchen remodeling project:

1) Not having a plan.

A kitchen remodel is a multidimensional process that requires far more advance planning than most homeowners realize in order to proceed smoothly.

Elements that must be considered and decided upon beforehand include:

  • who will be using the kitchen,
  • how will they be using the kitchen,
  • designing a floor plan that will support workflow patterns,
  • optimal configuration and placement of appliances and cabinetry,
  • product selections, fixture selections, color and finish selections, and
  • coordinating delivery and installation with multiple suppliers and workmen.

An expert kitchen designer understands all the elements that go into a planning a successful kitchen remodel and can save you considerable time, money, stress and headaches throughout the remodeling process.

2) Not being educated about the product

Just as you wouldn’t pair running shoes with an evening gown when dressing up for a special event, the cabinetry, fixtures, appliances and other elements of your kitchen remodel should all be of similar style and quality.

3) Not understanding the impact that appliances have on design

Appliances drive the kitchen design, period. Serious consideration should be given to what appliances will go into your kitchen, why they are there and where they will be placed, or you may later regret your choices.

4) Not understanding the importance of lighting

Lighting is key to everything in your kitchen remodel. The sun’s changing angles throughout the day and the seasons and the way the sun reflects in your kitchen will affect the look and feel of your space. I have seen too many clients commit to finish selections only to discover after all is installed that the color they thought was “beige” looks “pink” under the kitchen’s actual lighting.

5) Not understanding cabinetry construction.

All boxes are not created equal. Cabinetry construction affects its longevity. The cabinet’s finish is another important aspect of a cabinet’s quality. Examine both the construction and the finish of your cabinet selections to ensure your satisfaction with the final product.

6) Not subscribing to the “less is more” theory”

Kitchens do not have to be elaborate to be beautiful. When in doubt, do less, not more.

7) Not committing to a budget range.

This will most certainly get you into trouble. Homeowners are often reluctant to confide their true remodeling budget to the professionals assisting them. They may not be sure of their budget or they may not feel comfortable entrusting that information to the professionals who will be managing their kitchen remodeling project. If you are uncertain how much you should budget for your kitchen remodeling project, ask a trusted professional kitchen designer to educate you about your options.

Knowledge is power. The more knowledgeable you are about your remodeling options, the more likely you will make informed and sound decisions.


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.

How to Avoid Disappointment With Your Kitchen Remodeling Project

How to Avoid Disappointment With Your Kitchen Remodeling Project

Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaYou have heard the horror story a dozen different ways — at a cocktail party, from your neighbor, by the coffee machine with co-workers: the kitchen remodeling project from hell. The tale of woe may include unanticipated cost overruns, inferior products that did not meet expectations, cabinetry or flooring finishes that looked “different” under the new kitchen lights, unexpected and frustrating delays, and homeowner exhaustion and annoyance with the entire selection process.

Why are these nightmare scenarios so common? From my vantage point as a professional kitchen designer, homeowners and contractors almost always underestimate the complexity of a kitchen remodeling project, and overestimate their abilities to successfully plan, coordinate and manage the myriad details involved in a kitchen remodeling project. This is not because either party is “inferior” or incapable. Rather, it is simply because there is a chasm between the two parties which, unfortunately, does not become apparent until the project is well underway.

The Honeymoon Phase

At the project’s inception, the contractor’s and homeowner’s mindsets are similar. Both are eager to define the project’s scope as quickly as possible, formulate and agree to the contract, and begin the work so that the homeowner can soon enjoy the beautiful new kitchen. Often, the homeowner anticipates that the kitchen will be finished in time for a special holiday or a significant family celebration.

Reality Check

Once the project begins, a shift typically happens. As the homeowner focuses on the finer nuances of kitchen layout and cabinetry, countertop and flooring selections, the homeowner realizes that one or more aspects of their original remodeling commitment needs adjustment. This realization precipitates the first stressful encounter: a discussion with contractor about any of the following:

  • The floor plan layout does not meet the homeowner’s expectations.
  • The selection process is too overwhelming and time-consuming for the homeowner, often expressed as “no one told me to expect that this much work was required”.

This is when the realization dawns on the homeowner that the kitchen they envisioned — the kitchen that they believed they were going to get — will end up costing far more than what they originally anticipated, due to additional installation requirements or changes in the overall scope of the project.

Now the dynamic between homeowner and contractor begins to break down. The contractor wants to finish the job so he can move on to the next one, but the homeowner is “stuck” — overwhelmed and paralyzed by the sheer amount of product information they must absorb and choices they must make for the project to proceed on schedule. Homeowner budget constraints also become a concern at this juncture. The contractor is unhappily thrust into the unenviable position of having to design and assist the homeowner with decisions. The remodeling job “stalls” while the homeowner requests changes in the scope of the original project. Patience wears thin and then stress levels rise.

How to Avoid Disappointment

First, homeowners need a reality check. Most noteworthy remodeling projects involve design and selection decisions that are far more numerous and complex than anticipated.

For example, consider the wide range of kitchen appliances (ovens, cooktops, microwaves, refrigerators and dishwashers) which must be evaluated and priced before a selection can be made. Combine this one agenda item with decisions involving kitchen floor plan, paint colors, flooring selections, countertop selections, sink and faucet selections, cabinetry selections, and lighting fixtures, and you can appreciate how the homeowner and the contractor can benefit from working with a kitchen design professional to guide the decision making and selection process.

Professional Kitchen Design Will Save You Money, Time and Stress

A professional kitchen designer will save you money, time, and untold stress during the kitchen remodeling process. Perhaps most importantly, a professional kitchen designer will ensure that the your kitchen remodeling project proceeds smoothly and on schedule so that the whole process is enjoyable. A reputable and caring professional will help you get the kitchen you want within your budget and protect you from unexpected and unpleasant cost overruns.

Partnering with the right kitchen designer from the beginning will instill you with confidence throughout the process and reward you with the beautiful and functional kitchen you envisioned.


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

Oakton VA Custom Kitchen Makeover

Oakton VA Custom Kitchen Makeover

Oakton VA Custom Kitchen by Sandra Brannock Expert Kitchen DesignsThis proverbial Double Income No Kids (DINKs) couple were tired of their depressing kitchen. It offered no place for friends and family to gather and the cooking area was cramped into the corner. The dark oak cabinets and drawer boxes falling apart when opened further increased the overall frustration and feeling that “this kitchen is hopeless.” At their wits’ end, they made a path my door.

When this couple first came to me, it was obvious that the budget was a big concern. They had listened to advice from many others spanning the subjects of costs, remodeling frustrations, and how to achieve the look they wanted. They were understandably confused and unsure which way to turn.

We sat down together and discussed their expectations. I educated them about the cost elements for their kitchen, including cabinetry choices (which are typically the biggest material cost factor in a kitchen remodeling project). Our conversation immediately eliminated their fear because now they knew what to expect and were ready to embark on the kitchen the remodeling journey.

The first step was to take one last look of what they had endured for years. (Can you imagine anyone trying to do dishes in that very small double bowl sink while someone was taking the pie out of the oven?)
Oakton VA Kitchen Before Remodeling by Sandra Brannock Expert Kitchen Designs

The second challenge for them was deciding upon their style. My second meeting began by visiting their home to solidify this. We discussed other elements in their house that they liked—the furniture, artwork, and color scheme. I asked them: “What makes you feel good?”. After some productive dialogue, CAD drawings and finish comparisons, we settled on a design scheme. We hired a reputable remodeling contractor with whom I had worked.

Here is the final outcome:

Oakton Virginia Custom Kitchen Design by Sandra Brannock

I cannot end this story without giving out thanks to the fabulous remodeling contractor who was exacting in his attention to detail.

What did it cost?

The total cost for this kitchen remodeling project was $46,700.

Monkton Maryland Farmhouse Custom Kitchen Design

Monkton Maryland Farmhouse Custom Kitchen Design

An interior designer, with whom I had successfully collaborated before, approached me about this 140-year-old brick whole farmhouse renovation which included a small outdated kitchen. The entire project was formidable in scope as it included all rooms of the house. Additionally, the homeowner wanted the new space to be comfortable for family and friend reunions in the summer, so its restoration was emotional for her. She loved to entertain and her small outdated kitchen had major problems with food storage/prep, traffic flow, and space for her large family and friend gatherings.

The biggest challenge was moving the project forward as fast as possible due to the client’s wishes—as she was discerning, very busy and lived overseas, so communication on a daily basis was challenging. The interior designer was able to do conceptual drawings, but it was up to me to figure out the specific details for production and field installation, while keeping the client updated on all minute design cabinetry details.

One of the most important elements in her kitchen was what we refer to as a “larder pantry.” This pantry piece was custom-made. Note the inscriptions above on the drawer fronts above — “bread” and “goodies” inscribed only for her!

Monkton Maryland Farmhouse Kitchen LarderPantry

All of us worked very hard—and thanks to my peers, the final project outcome produced what I believe to be one the most elegant and refined kitchens I have ever designed.

The elements that create the final look include Parisian-inset painted and antiqued Lyptus cabinetry with appliance panels, Ovolo corners, furniture feet and mouldings, decorative hardware created an “old world” look.

Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer are housed in a cabinet reminiscent of a furniture heirloom piece with antique mirror inserts reflecting light. Wall cabinets, lit with LED strips, sit directly on countertops maximizing storage. A back-lit blue agate slab uniquely accents the blue 60” Ilve range.

Half of the larger island fulfills all food prep needs. The other half is 30 1/2” in height for pastry prep; immediately behind it stands a custom English pantry larder with custom inscribed drawers offering a personal touch.

5cm honed Calacatta Gold countertops and a reclaimed wood floor contributes to an older world feel.

The second island–adjacent to the morning room –is movable and offer lots of seating for social gatherings.



Monkton Maryland Custom Farmhouse Kitchen Design by Sandra Brannock

What Did This Kitchen Remodeling Project Cost?

Here’s the cost breakdown for this kitchen remodeling project:

Kitchen Design and Cabinetry: $68,339

Extension of kitchen (including re-framing the floor and truing the walls):  $29,000

Steel beams: $6,000
Engineer: $5,000
Designers: $8,000
Electrical: $12,000
Plumbing: $5,600
Windows: $1,800
Flooring: $8,500
Ceiling: $1,200
Trim: $3,000
Paint: $2,000
Countertops: $10,000
Wood tops: $3,400
Lighting: $6,800
Faucets: $5,000
Farm sink: $2,000
Stone at stove: $6,000
Glass tile: $2,000
Mirror on refrigerator: $2,000
Appliances: $46,500
_______________________________
Total: $234,139

Fauquier County Kitchen Remodel

Fauquier County Kitchen Remodel

This circa late ‘70s /early ‘80s kitchen became the main focus for a husband and wife, both married for a second time. The short story: for a brief time, this was his “bachelor” pad before he met her. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and homes merge together with his home as the main residence. Her “mission”? Update the kitchen!


The “before” picture (left) reflects most of the elements that required change. After the kitchen design was completed, a complete kitchen demolition was required as “everything must go” (including the washer and dryer!)

New appliance, cabinetry, countertop, floor/tile, fixtures and a new kitchen window were installed to ensure the space was completely up-to-date.

The kitchen’s most important functional design objective was to open it up to adjacent family and dining rooms. This required removing the lower eastern and southern walls.

Voila. We incorporated the following:

  • Kitchen Aid appliances
  • Full overlay Shaker door-style Cherry cabinetry.
  • Engineered Oak floors matching the same in dining room and family room to allow for continuation of the space.
  • Mission type lights over the L-shaped island allowing informal gatherings as family and friend linger in the family and dining room.
  • Recessed lights and under cabinet lighting throughout.
  • All lights have dimmer switches in order to transform task and general into ambient lighting.
  • The most unique piece: a suspended wall cabinet with glass and Mission mullions on all four sides with lighting in the interior.

Overall cost of this project including labor and installation: $80,000.