Kitchen Remodel in Wellesley Gets an Open-Minded Opening

When this couple relocated from Washington DC to Wellesley, they knew the Cliff Estates neighborhood was great, the architecture outside was excellent and everything about the house met their needs…. except the weird galley kitchen that doubled as a hallway to the family room.  Before they committed to the purchase, a local realtor recommended they have us look at the space to see if we thought the dual purpose thoroughfare had any hope.

Before & After Floor Plans

The Owners wanted the kitchen and family room open to each other, and wanted to make sure the new space was going to work for a growing family.  We suggested taking the space from the adjacent library (not a priority space for them) and finding a way for the current space to be an added value to the kitchen, while allowing the traffic pattern to the family room to be unimpeded.  At first, the clients were concerned that they would not get a kitchen that was part of the family room, and skeptical that they would love a less direct sightline.

We devised a plan for the existing kitchen space to provide additional storage with a dinette.  This created a great bridge from the kitchen to the family room that provides casual dining, a craft and game space, as well as a place for future homework. ask carolyn  We discussed the fully open concept and the benefit with smaller homes where this open space is more important; however, we felt sure that the spacious family room combined with this much larger kitchen and an indirect opening would serve the family better in this case.  Even an almost silent dishwasher can project an unwelcome noise in a large room with a vaulted ceiling.

I often tell our clients that we have the benefit of not trying to resolve a design challenge while we are occupying a space.  This was another great experience for us to learn about what was ultimately important to our customer, and offer them solutions that are designed in the best interest of their lives when the project is done.  While the initial desire was to have the family room and Island more open to each other, the client loves the way the spaces work and can now enjoy open living with defined space that gives the whole family a casual “together” environment.

   

                              Existing Library                                             New Kitchen Location

   

            Existing Galley Kitchen                                     New Opening to Kitchen

 

 

Kitchen Cabinetry Trends

Trends in cabinetry are as important as fashion trends, and present in every part of home and décor. The main difference other than the obvious… you don’t wear cabinets… is that we seek long term trends for these capital improvements so that we have a longer period of enjoyment for our investment. A recent report from our Custom Line, Plato Woodwork, shows that nationally white still represents over 50% of selected finishes. Plato is the oldest cabinet manufacturer in the US and offers products from a semi-custom line through a fully custom shop making them a great source for the direction of the industry.

One of the longest running trends has been the white kitchen with the wood island. This white cabinetry is most prevalent in the North East. About 75% of our kitchen installs are some version that includes white, and that is pretty significant considering all the wood species available as well as other colors. This trend of white started out with baby boomers like me, waxing poetic about “mom’s” kitchen and the nostalgic feeling it provided. Kitchens were white in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s because they were often built in place and often painted to match the trim. White is also very classic and bright which makes people gravitate toward what feels like it will last.

Before you give up on breaking the trend, it is important to note that any defined architectural style doesn’t lose it beauty or timelessness when it is designed well. There will be times when contemporary is in more favor than traditional, it is usually the finishes that were poorly selected that may look dated, like the wallpaper or fixtures… or avocado appliances :)

Here are a couple of kitchens that may make you think about what color is for you.

Inset Kitchen Remodel in Wellesley

White Shaker Cabinets in Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

 

True Cost of Bath Remodeling

 

Bathroom renovations are more than cosmetic make-overs that include a new counter and a coat of paint.  It is common for folks to ask if I can just replace the tile and fixtures too.  Since make-overs are not my specialty, I can only comment that if you are looking to sell your home soon- that is probably the way to go.  If you need a renovation though- be warned that trying to go halfway will likely result in finding yourself in no-man’s land and you’ll have to fight your way through anyway.

 

I use the term no man’s land a lot when someone asked to replace tile and fixtures because if you start peeling the bath onion, it will usually involve uncovering all sorts of issues that need to be addressed anyway- and you end up spending more money.  The challenge is that when you remove tile, you remove the substrate, when you remove the substrate, you expose old insulation-wires-framing and discover issues that are supposed to be upgraded due to code regulations.  If you try to install only new wallboard below the old wallboard (where the tile was removed) that will cause a cold joint where you can count on a crack appearing in the near future aided by the warmer board below with new insulation meeting the less malleable board above that still gets the new England winter blowing in from outside. That is why I believe in either finding a make-over specialist for a new top and paint, or doing it properly the first time.

 

Baths are expensive for 2 primary reasons.  First, you are using more expensive and durable finishes in most of the space.  Second, the project is “small” and requires all the same players, working without economies, and being managed and dust protected as it does if you are building a whole house.  I developed a spreadsheet that won’t identify exactly what you will spend, but it will help you understand the matrix of cost variations as they relate to age of home, quality of finishes and size of project.  Many of the small family bath remodels in Wellesley/Newton from the 40’s require full gut renovations and mechanical upgrades and these baths average $35,000 while the same bath built in the 1980’s will average in the mid to high $20’s.

 

 

 

I hope the chart helps! If you are planning any type of renovation from a small bath to a large addition, call us to set up a site visit and we can help you get started with some great information on your project.

 

Kitchen Countertops as Architectural Features

Can you imagine a kitchen without counter tops? It wasn’t that long ago that the kitchen table was used as the main prep space- with minimal counter clean up space reserved for the sink. Once the marvelous concept of preparation and clean-up space was introduced, there wasn’t much call for improvement. The kitchen counter has evolved based on a few very important reasons: 1. Times change and so have the materials available – (stainless, laminate, solid surface, natural stone and glass, concrete and wood) so we can change the look as well as mix things up. 2. Times change and so have our lifestyles- Mom is not cooking alone in the kitchen anymore – the duties have been split and the children are more involved. Because of our busy lives it is one of the activities families do together now so the layouts of the counter tops have changed (islands, peninsulas, L and U-shaped kitchens as well as the most current use of multiple triangles of task-connecting stations for prep, clean-up and cooking… and the all-important homework while being in the same room with each other) 3. Times change and the kitchen is not just the nucleus of the home, it is the center of our life at home. This creates a need to blend the best practices of what the kitchen needs to do while making the kitchen a beautiful part of our family area… “wait, I think this is how the pioneers did it” In the following examples are a couple of counters that have more than one purpose:

Butcher block countertop

Butcher block countertop

The chopping block above faces the family room and dinette and provides relief by not being on the same plane as the main counter.  The warm color of the wood offers a casual change of definition, and the lower height is actually more conducive to cutting and chopping.  The butcher block also means no more bringing out a cutting board at prep time.
Large kitchen island

Large kitchen island

The length of the counter above allows two accomplished foodies to work side by side.  There’s more! The extended casual dining is scalable and was designed to help manage the client’s invited guests and create more “gathering space” to keep the work zone free of unwanted participation. The extension is also scalable in that it can be used to bring little cooks in on some cookie making, be used for casual dining, or allow homework or other projects to be done while a meal is being prepared. One more benefit of this design is that the extended dinette is an architectural bridge helping transition the adjacent family room into the kitchen. The moral of the story? When you are designing your next kitchen, imagine all the things you want to accomplish in the space and use that as a creative start to your counter space.

Windows Yield High Returns in Remodeling

During many design projects, one of the best opportunities to make a high impact on the design with the best return is often by moving or adding windows.  The typical aversion includes cost, but is usually associated with a paradigm about the way things are or the impact that they will have.  Of course, installing windows where they do not exist has associated costs other than just the window.  In our market, a 36 inch wide by 54 inch high window typically costs between $500 and $1,000, depending on the quality and energy efficiency.  There is carpentry to frame it, plaster to repair, as well as painting inside, and usually some painting outside with some patching of the siding.  So if the cost to add a window would be an additional $1,500-$2,000 and you are doing a significant renovation, the new window(s) may actually be the star of the show.

kitchen windows before renovation

Before windows…

Kitchen windows after renovation
…after windows

Kitchen windows before renovation

Before windows…Kitchen windows after renovation…after windows