A couple months ago, we finished an enormous kitchen remodel. This week, our contractor sent along some professional photographs of the kitchen, and looking at them got me thinking about the process of our remodel. Based on our experience, I’ve come up with 8 questions to ask before starting a kitchen remodel.
8 Questions to Ask BEFORE Starting a Kitchen Remodel
1. Determine your priorities.
How do you use your kitchen? I mean, how do you really use it? Do you just cook for family? Do you rarely use anything other than your microwave? How often do you really entertain? Have you ever noticed that on all the HGTV shows everyone needs a huge kitchen for entertaining? That always strikes me as bogus. Really? In my experience, no one entertains that often or is constantly hosting elaborate dinner parties. Or maybe I’m just not being invited…
Use the answers to the above questions to determine your priorities. If you honestly entertain a lot, then a big serving area/buffet might be useful. If it’s just you and the family, then an eat-in area, breakfast bar, or even desk area might get more use.
2. What “feel” are you going for?
In terms of design or style, I don’t like to use typical labels and categories like “French Country” or “Modern.” I find it more useful to think abut the “feel” of the area I’m designing. For example, in our kitchen remodel, I wanted a clean and open feel but that felt warm and inviting. I called the kitchen a Blue, White, and Woven Kitchen with a Modern Central American Vibe. But a fancy or long or just silly name isn’t important. Just a sense of what look or feel you are going for. When we remodeled our hallway bathroom, I knew I wanted a playful and fun feel since it is the “kids” bathroom, but nothing too childish or themed since it’s also the “guest” bathroom. (Check out how our modern playful bathroom turned out.)
3. What will be the big feature of your kitchen?
A kitchen can have a lot going on and there are a lot of different choices and finishes that will be all working together in the same room. I find it helpful to choose one feature to be the focal point of the kitchen. Then you can compare all other finishes to that one to make sure it all works together. For example, in our kitchen, I knew the bright blue cement tile from Nicaragua would be the big star of the kitchen. So as I selected countertops, cabinet-color, handles, and all the other little finishes, I took into account my beloved focal wall of tile. Remembering the big star of the kitchen kept me from going to crazy on all the other choices and let the tile really shine bright.
4. Drawers or shelves?
As you design or decide on cabinetry, think about how and where you like to store things. I prefer drawers over shelves/cabinets, so most of our island is full of drawers. I did two deep drawers below the stove for pots and pans. And shallower drawers right across from the dishwasher for everyday dishes.
5. What is your work triangle?
The idea of a work triangle is that as you cook, most of the process takes place between the sink, the stove, and the fridge. So think about where those big items will go in the kitchen and try to keep the triangle in between them clear and open. For example, in my parents old kitchen, the fridge, sink, and stove were all on different sides of a giant island in the center. When I cooked there, I felt like I was constantly on a journey around the entire kitchen to get to the fridge for an ingredient and then back to the stove to stir it in.
This is also the area where I think it’s super great to live with the old kitchen for awhile before you start anything big. We lived in our old kitchen for a year before starting our remodel. During that time, we realized that we didn’t need a built in pantry or the storage closet in the garage. Incorporating those spaces into the kitchen was a huge game-changer in terms of the layout and usability of the space.
6. What would you do?
Get input from others. And then think about what they said even if your first reaction was to discard it. In our old kitchen, we had the stove in the island and I assumed it made the most sense to leave it there even after the remodel. But one of the contractors I got a bid from suggested moving it to the wall. My first reaction was “No way.” I was thinking that I wanted the stove in the island because as you’re cooking, you could look out to the living room. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of cooking is not standing over a pot, it’s prepping and chopping and working on the countertop. Moving the stove to the wall allowed us to make the entire space more open and it’s actually much more functional there.
7. What’s your budget?
Obviously, we’d all love to not have to ask this question. But it’s reality. You might not be able to afford everything at the highest level. Use your answers to the previous questions to determine what area is your priority. What is your splurge? For me, the tile and the butcher block counter were big priorities. I didn’t care about splurging on a fancy appliance, so ours are basic. Instead, I spent extra on the dream tile I wanted for a focal wall.
8. What are the details?
A kitchen remodel is a lot of work and a lot of mess and trouble in your house if you are living there while the work is being done. The more of the little details you can plan out before the job starts the better. If you always already know the answer or source for the next question, the process can move along more quickly. I’d advise choosing all your finishes, light fixtures, etc. before any work starts. Even better, have them waiting on hand before construction begins so you won’t have to wait with a half-finished kitchen for a certain product to come in.
Would you add any questions to this list? What would you choose as the most important splurge in a dream kitchen remodel? To read more, check out our kitchen moodboard and planning before the job started or see before pictures and the initial reveal with all our sources here.