Ellen Cheever knows her kitchens. The Wilmington, Del., kitchen designer (ellencheever.com) has literally written the book on kitchen design. She authored the first two textbooks on kitchen and bath design for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and while serving as the NKBA's director of educational services, her research led to new industry planning standards manuals. She's an informed trend watcher who has a residential practice, and she consults with major manufacturers on product design and projects. She spoke with STYLE AT HOME about trends in kitchen design. Here are her kitchen renovation pointers.
If you have an active family and cook a lot, invest in the best-quality cabinets you can afford. "They're built better, have better hardware, which means doors will open and close better over 20 years, and they have elaborate finishing systems, which is critical," Ellen says. Custom cabinets that are finished on-site don't provide the best finish. "I'd rather work with a manufacturing facility with quality controls leading to an extended warranty on the finish." Ensure that the finishing process is a systemized one that includes either flash-off or heat baking.
Ellen's small-space kitchen reno pointers:
• Once you have the right amount of counter space, don't add more.
• Switch to floor-to-ceiling pantry-type storage; it's one of the best ways to maximize a small space. A 12-inch-deep cabinet gives you immense storage.
• Don't assume everything you have is a necessity. "Think about what you use weekly, monthly and yearly. You can organize and work in a small space if you have self-discipline about your possessions.
• Have areas that do double duty. If you have a table, can it have a shelf underneath for oversize pots and pans? If there's wall space above the table, can you install an open rack there?
• Buy the best cabinets you can and outfit the insides of them so that every inch is organized. Better-quality cabinets have full base shelves (ones that extend to the front of the cabinet), while cheaper ones only have half-shelves.
Hiring a kitchen designer
Ellen says you can design your own kitchen if you're on a budget, if the materials and equipment in your room have just given up, and if the plan is to take everything out but put new things back in the same spots. "But you lose out on the opportunity to have a professional with a fresh set of eyes, years of experience and knowledge of the latest developments in design improve your space in ways you wouldn't think possible," she explains.
The concerns the consumer has about working with kitchen designers are: Will they create the most expensive solution because they're money hungry? Will they specify products because they have an allegiance to the manufacturer rather than defer to what I want or can afford?
According to Ellen, you can be confident about the professionalism of a designer if you can answer yes to the following questions:
1 Has the firm or designer practiced in your town for several years? That's almost a guarantee they don't overcharge or they wouldn't still be in business.
2 Has he or she invited you to see past work and offered many references?
3 Does the designer have a state-of-the-art, well-maintained showroom?
4 Does he or she have work showcased in local show houses or community projects?