When you move into a new home with an ugly kitchen, it’s easy to feel like tearing it out and rebuilding from scratch. But we recommend living with a kitchen for up to a year before making any major changes. Why? Because problems of style and problems of function are often very different, and require different solutions.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The following case studies illustrate the wide range of problems and solutions that a kitchen can have.
Kitchen Case Study 1: “The Good”
This family had a new, well laid out and functional kitchen, but simply didn’t like it. The overall appearance was fussy and traditional, the cupboards, while in perfect condition, were a very orange wood. And while the colour scheme of the cupboards, backsplash and walls worked together, they weren’t very interesting overall.
We replaced the unloved light over the kitchen table with a “showstopper” glass pendent light that was both elegant and relaxed. Next we replaced the very dated looking hardware and painted the walls a colour that looked great with both the backsplash and the wood.
A revitalized kitchen that the homeowners no longer want to renovate.
Kitchen Case study 2: “The Bad”
The kitchen was practically unusable, having one exterior and three interior doors in a space that was no more than 10′ x 15′. The layout of the doors meant that most of the kitchen was circulation space with only one wall of built in cupboards, and several furniture pieces used for storage.
We renovated the kitchen, opening it up to the rest of the house by removing one wall, which eliminated two doorways, and changing the entrance to the basement. This allowed an entire wall of new cupboards to be added. (This was a larger renovation, and you can read more about it in our post Why Your Designer Asks “Why”)
With a new open concept and only one door to contend with, they gained three times the amount of cupboards. The homeowners wantd to retain the uppers which, unlike the lower cabinets, were in great condition. They were repainted, and the design focused on integrating them seamlessly with the new kitchen cupboards. The result was a kitchen that vastly expanded the useable space of the main floor while fitting seamlessly into the style of the century home.
Kitchen Case Study 3: “The Ugly”
This third kitchen had several components that just didn’t work. The lighting was insufficient and the flooring needed replacing. The cupboard layout and the counter tops, however, suited the client perfectly. The only issue with the cupboards were their very dated appearance. A strong wood colour and grain dominated the kitchen and dining area and didn’t suit the new updates aesthetically.
We changed the flooring and the lighting. We left the existing cupboards in place, but with new hardware and a professional paint job.
The updated kitchen looked great, and integrated into the house better than ever before.
Assessing your kitchen’s function
In each of the above case studies the clients could immediately identify some elements that they didn’t like or that didn’t work, but in all cases using the kitchen allowed them to find out the extent of the issues. Here are some tips for how to figure out your own kitchen’s pros and cons.
A good kitchen layout makes efficient use of the space.
There are tools to figure out good kitchen layouts, but if the kitchen is not falling apart the best way to assess it is to use it. That way, when you spend the money to design and install your dream kitchen, it’s fine-tuned to the way you use it, to your needs.
To assess a kitchen layout, pay attention to both what is working, and what is not.
- think about how your kitchen tasks relate to your space in these categories: preparation, cooking, cleaning, storage
- do you have zones for these, and where are they?
- does each zone contain the tools and storage needed to complete the task?
- Transitional Spaces: do you have enough space around your stove and fridge to place items, or are you constantly having to leave that area to put things down?
- is there a cupboard that holds all the pots, does it also hold the lids?
- do your pantry items end up scattered around so that you use track?
- can you keep your cutting boards near the cooking zone you use to chop?
- are your dishes convenient to the table and/or the dishwashing area?
- do you have convenient places for all of the small appliances you use regularly or occasionally?
- Ease and Accessibility
- are there cupboards, shelves, or other things that you can’t reach?
- are there counter areas that you can’t use because you’re always bumping your head on something?
- are there bare areas where you would like cupboards?
- The Triangle: this is the path between the sink, fridge and stove and unless its a galley kitchen, you can usually draw a triangle between them.
- is this pathway and the distance between them working for you?
Next is the physical condition of the kitchen. Without regards to the style,
- are the cupboards attached well to the wall?
- are any parts sagging under the weight of their contents?
- are any areas of the finish peeling or chipping?
- are the doors askew?
If the doors are slightly crooked or misaligned with each other this is usually a hinge issue and can be fixed with a relatively simple adjustment, but check to see if the hinges show signs of older repairs. There is a limit to the number of times screws can be adjusted, and that limit changes depending on what the cupboards are made of.
Lighting is especially important in a kitchen, where you want the light to work well, but, depending on the views to the rest of the house and whether it’s an eat-in kitchen or not, you may also want to take it out of the spotlight once work is done.
- Are there dark corners?
- Shadows caused either by not enough lights or the existing lights casting your shadow over the counter area while you work?
- If there is under counter lighting is it enough?
- Is the switch in a spot you like?
- Is the colour temperature of the lights right for you?
It’s easy to know straight-away if you dislike your kitchen’s style. But by using it, you will be able to determine if the solution for the dissatisfaction of your kitchen is one that requires a full renovation, a partial one or just an updating of the finishes.
And don’t forget to keep in mind the things that are working. From the whole layout to just one switch placement, knowing what you like and what works for you is very helpful to creating the best new kitchen design.
If you’re dreaming of a better kitchen but it’s still in the dreaming stage, start tracking your layout, and thinking about zones. Even with a badly designed kitchen, you can start small by rearranging your use of the space, and finding some of the easier-to-tackle problem areas.
We have a board full of clever kitchen ideas and one of style that you can use for space and layout inspiration, and of course you can always contact us if you want some help with a kitchen refresh, layout advice, or a full reno. If you’re not sure what you need, don’t hesitate to ask!