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Hi!

Welcome to my blog. As an interior designer, design is in my blood. Design affects how we live, how we function. It can have a profound effect on our happiness and productivity.  I wish to inspire you with my stories about great, good and not so good design. About exteriors and interiors. About colours and art. In short, the things that we surround ourselves with. 

Step 2-Part 1 - Enlarge Your Kitchen

Step 2-Part 1 - Enlarge Your Kitchen

Kitchen Renovation Step 2 / Part 1 - A bigger Kitchen!

Cover image: a contemporary kitchen renovation by international design firm Maddux Creative (UK, US). It could well be that this kitchen was relocated from the back of the row house to the front.

You have come to the conclusion that it is time to get a bigger kitchen. You were visiting your friend who just had a new kitchen installed and you were blown away with the beautiful results. Your kitchen is dysfunctional and old, if not darn ugly. It is time for a new one! An exciting thought.

Meanwhile you reviewed your current and future kitchen needs, your square footage, the existing electrical wiring and plumbing as well as your appliance and storage needs.

At this point you have two options: 

  • Enlarge the existing footprint by eliminating walls or relocating them and thus taking space from an adjacent room.

  • Relocating the entire kitchen to a different area of the house.

  • Building an extension to your home which would also give you the opportunity to not only enlarge the kitchen but to add a dining and/or seating area for some family-based activities, or to add a much needed laundry room and mudroom.

Any one of these three options requires the input of a professional. There are too many things you need to be aware of that the average homeowners probably does not know. The average homeowner also does not have the skills to tackle an addition or relocation. You will need knowledge of building codes; you will need to know how to make proper construction drawings or you will need to know how to actually build that new kitchen. It is unlikely that the average homeowner has all these skill sets and more likely than not, the average homeowner does not have any of these skills.

Beautiful kitchen extension with a full wall of contemporary black framed glass windows and doors opening to a small urban garden. Skylights add even further light making the space look large and open. Source: Proficiency Ltd. (UK).

Beautiful kitchen extension with a full wall of contemporary black framed glass windows and doors opening to a small urban garden. Skylights add even further light making the space look large and open. Source: Proficiency Ltd. (UK).

Which Professional to Hire

  • Architect or Architectural Designer

  • Interior Designer

  • Contractor

Architect or Architectural Designer

Enlarging the footprint of your kitchen or relocating it to a different area of the house will require the services of an architect or architectural designer. This professional will ensure that any structural changes to the house are made according to local and national building laws and codes. They are responsible for making safe and sound changes within the allowable boundaries. They also ensure that aesthetically additions fit the architecture of the existing home.

In case of adding an extension the architect will design and draw plans that deal with the foundation and existing structure of the house. He or she takes care of exterior walls, roof lines, drainage, rain proofing, windows and doors. He or she deals with connecting to the local sewage systems and allowable square footage you can expand on. The location, size and zoning of your lot determines how much you can add on. An architect will make sure the addition is at a minimum according to local laws at a maximum a real valuable addition which is gorgeous to look at. The architect will make it look like the addition has always been an integral part of the house.

Side extension to a UK row house enlarging the kitchen and living spaces. I like the skylights and full glazed back wall allowing much light into the area. Source: Design Squared Ltd. (UK).

Side extension to a UK row house enlarging the kitchen and living spaces. I like the skylights and full glazed back wall allowing much light into the area. Source: Design Squared Ltd. (UK).

If you can get by with relocating the kitchen to a different part of the house an architect can help with a proper floor plan and ensure the flow of traffic in the house remains good. He or she will make sure that plumbing and electrical, as well as HVAC is in the right locations and tied into the guts of the house solidly. Sometimes only a bump-out is required to get the space you need and the architect will make sure that the bump-out is according to local and national laws and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. 

Interior Designer 

If you can get by with eliminating or relocating some non-bearing walls, an interior designer can help!. A qualified interior designer has knowledge of local and national building codes and will know how to provide proper demolition and construction plans. I always recommend you have drawings made to make sure that your appliances end up in the right spot, the electrical and mechanical is taken care of properly and in the right place, and that enough storage is allowed for. Remember you never want to embark on this journey without a set of drawings. A set of drawings would include a demolition and construction plan and relevant elevations. All of these have legends and descriptions to show the contractor what to do. This is a minimum required. Perspectives and birds’ eye views are nice but not entirely necessary other than that these show the homeowner what it will look like. A contractor won’t need them.

The designer will help you select cabinet door styles, countertops, flooring and backsplash tile among other things. The designer can assist in selecting sinks, faucets, lighting and even appliances. The designer will make sure that the renovated kitchen ties in with the look of the rest of the house, or that it becomes the start off point for further renovations in the future. 

Another image of the Proficiency row house extension. Note how the old fireplace and piano alcove blend seamlessly with the contemporary kitchen and huge bank of windows at the back.

Another image of the Proficiency row house extension. Note how the old fireplace and piano alcove blend seamlessly with the contemporary kitchen and huge bank of windows at the back.

In the past my involvement as a designer has sometimes been limited in providing only workable drawings. Such a client would then go and select the interior finishes themselves with minimal or no involvement on my part. At this point the DIY amongst you takes over. 

Contractor

The job of the contractor is to actually build or renovate according to the drawings, plans and recommendations by the architect or interior designer. It is not their job to suggest design changes. At the point where a contractor receives drawings all design challenges have already been carefully thought out and the only time when a contractor should be making design change suggestions is when the actual building situation in a home does not allow for making the proposed change. Typically this involves structural situations but a good architect would have caught these challenges from the onset though.

Should a design change be required at this point, I do recommend you have the contractor carry out the change in collaboration with either the architect and/or designer and to have him put it in writing. Changes should be approved, always! This will document the building process for future reference and it protects you, the homeowner in case of mistakes or when something goes wrong. And there is always (always, always!) something that goes wrong. Trust me!

Kitchen Extension. Row house showing front door, living area and staircase in front with extension in back. Note the skylights giving the space a ton of light. Mae House Design, UK.

Kitchen Extension. Row house showing front door, living area and staircase in front with extension in back. Note the skylights giving the space a ton of light. Mae House Design, UK.

It can happen that an innocent looking wall could potentially provide a challenge when opened up. Older homes could have gone through earlier renovations and changes without having been recorded for whatever reasons. One renovation I was involved in, was supposed to open up a wall from a kitchen to the family room in a large home. The available older architectural plans did not show any supporting columns in that wall section, however, when we opened up the wall a column was found and without replacing it with a new cross beam to support the upper floor, we would not be able to carry out the design as planned. We had to close it up and leave it as is, which really presented the homeowner with an unpleasant decision: she could not open up her kitchen to incorporate the family room at all unless spending a lot of money on inserting a large cross beam in that location.

Building Permits 

When you are enlarge the kitchen footprint, it is highly likely that plumbing and electrical needs are to be relocated. This requires a permit from local authorities. I cannot stress enough how important this is. At a minimum: if ever anything happens (such as a flood or small kitchen fire) and insurance authorities become involved, you do not want to be caught with a renovation which was not done properly and thereby forfeiting your insurance! Never mind the potential of compromising the safety of the entire structure!

Amazing backsplash in this kitchen! What a great feature. Source: Pinterest.

Amazing backsplash in this kitchen! What a great feature. Source: Pinterest.

In addition, Since kitchen renovations are a big thing to carry out with lots of trades and sub trades on site all the time, home building inspectors roaming the neighbourhood when checking permits and renovation progress in other homes, may catch wind of what you are doing, check you out and if they find you without a permit, all work may well have to stop. You may even have to tear down what has already been done just to ensure that you work within the parameters of the building codes! These can be costly mistakes! 

Live-In Kitchen. Scandinavian design as featured in Marie Claire Maison, France

Live-In Kitchen. Scandinavian design as featured in Marie Claire Maison, France

So, wherever you are: always do a kitchen renovation with the proper permits.

Permits vary from province to province or from state to state and I am quite sure from country to country. Although, most western countries have very similar national building requirements. Why can permits vary? Well, local topography determine the safety of buildings. When you are building in the mountains or on flat land, different circumstances require different safety rules and regulations. if you live in an earthquake zone, you will need to adhere to safety and fastening regulations. If you live near a river or otherwise flood zone, rules exists to ensure proper drainage etc. 

Permits can include the following:

  1. Building permit in case of an extension to the house

  2. Building permit in case of relocating the kitchen to a different part of the house

  3. Electrical permits

  4. Mechanical permits (heating, HVAC)

  5. Plumbing permits

Magri Williams Architects, UK. Kitchen and dining area extension to a small and average row house. Now it needs some landscaping!

Magri Williams Architects, UK. Kitchen and dining area extension to a small and average row house. Now it needs some landscaping!

How to find the right professional?

There are several ways to find the right person for your kitchen renovation. 

Word of Mouth.

A verbal referral is always the best. Friends, family and colleagues can recommend someone they have used in the past and you will know whether they have been happy with the way the work progressed and whether the relationships between them and the professionals were good and pleasant. It takes time to enlarge a kitchen and you want to make sure you all get along and that everybody is on the same page and open to discussion and revisions. 

Local Trade Associations or Organizations

Check a local architects or designers trade association to get a few names. Find names through a contractors organization. It is possible that such an association will not give you specific names since they represent all of their members, not just a few. But they will have a roster of members which you can check out. Once you have a few names, find them online and look through their portfolios to see which appeal to you. Then you interview at least two or three in each category.

Doherty Design Studio (Australia)

Doherty Design Studio (Australia)

Online

Sometimes people have no other choice but to look for a professional online. If this is you, make sure you vet each one carefully. Interview three of each profession at a minimum, ask for references and check out these references. Yes, this is all a lot of work, but it can save time, money and aggravation in the end.

I would also check with your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce how the business professional is rated. Make sure your chosen professional is in good standing. The building industry can be a very flaky and unscrupulous one. There are areas in the country where untrustworthy and flighty individuals look to make a quick buck and then disappear. The horror stories of -in particular- contractors who do shoddy work and leave you hanging are plentiful. TV shows are based on this phenomenon. This situation is unlikely to occur when looking for an architect or interior designer since most of these professionals need to be registered and licensed. They will not risk their carefully built reputations!

Contract

You want to make sure you are dealing with true professionals when renovating your kitchen. Such a professional will always want to work with you with a proper contract which outlines the scope of work, responsibilities and obligations on both sides, fInancial structure of the job, time lines etc. 

Source: The Refined Farm House (US). I have never understood the need for putting bar stools at an angle. To me it is an annoying display. You see it a lot in showrooms and real estate notices….

Source: The Refined Farm House (US). I have never understood the need for putting bar stools at an angle. To me it is an annoying display. You see it a lot in showrooms and real estate notices….

I recommend you do not work with people who tell you that you can do the renovation without permits to save time and money. I would also not deal with people who would not provide a proper contract that outlines design and/or construction scope of work, obligations and financial regulations. You want to know right out of the gate where you stand, what you can expect, how and what you are going to pay and what your timeline will be. 

In summary: do your due diligence. After all, it is your home and your money and you owe it to yourself and your family to choose the right professionals for the job.  Once the work gets going be flexible and open to suggestions and establish great working relationships. Your renovation will go so much smoother and you will be much happier. 

A last warning: keep your budget in check and don’t do or choose anything you are not in love with unless circumstances are such that you have no other options. Too many times clients have made hasty or unwise decisions which affected their bottom line and ultimately the joy of having a renovated kitchen. A bad choice will forever be seen by you! A good professional who has your satisfaction at heart will not let you make such a decision! Keep this in mind.This article is intended for homeowners who want to enlarge their kitchen space substantially. If you are not that homeowner and if you can only use the existing footprint then stay tuned for the next post which will be exactly what you will need.

Meanwhile thank you for visiting. I hope this information will give you food for thought and provides a guideline to make fewer mistakes and have fewer renovation headaches.

Step 2-Part 2: Use Existing Kitchen Footprint

Step 2-Part 2: Use Existing Kitchen Footprint

Step 1 - How to Plan your Kitchen Renovation

Step 1 - How to Plan your Kitchen Renovation