What to do when your Kitchen has Expired


Show Notes:


Hello and thank you for joining me for this episode of the whitewash studio podcast.

My name is Marc Sawyer and I’m your architect. My goal is to give you the knowledge so you can advance your dream of creating the ideal home for you and your family.

Today I am going to be answering a questions about refreshing a dated room. I think we have all run into a situation where we just feel either our entire house or a portion of it is too dated. We would like to refresh it and enhance it in some way.

JJ asks,

We just bought a place built in the 90’s. The kitchen and living room is where we want to start. We are thinking of getting rid of the island and making a two-tier bar on the window side. Any advice for cabinets, floor, appliances etc? If possible we would like to repurpose the cabinets.

Question on Houzz

So the 90’s. That is not that old. The interesting thing is that design changes so rapidly. If you think about it over the past 10 years we have seen a resurgence in the transitional style. I like to call it the transitional farmhouse style kitchen. It is kind of a cross between farmhouse with exposed materials and simple cabinets with the transitional style which uses modern materials and clean contemporary lines and details with a focus on the quality of materials.

JJ, So I think what you are searching for is a kitchen that has the qualities of that transitional style that is so common today. Something more fresh, light and open. Refined details and character.

This is a great question. So the kitchen feels dated. Anytime that we have something that might feel a little off we need to take some time to explore why it feels this way and what are the predominate features or elements that are forcing a particular feeling. Then once you fully understand the space you are able to really tackle all the challenges head on and make the transformation happen.

I know that sometimes it feels overwhelming as well but, we will be able to figure this out so don’t worry about that. There is hope. There is always hope. Lets take a look at the space. Now when I do this it is important to not take any of these comments personal. This is a house that you purchased. It is not you. You are not a reflection of the design or state that your kitchen is in. I think that it’s important for you to understand that no matter what you are renovating. Having a professional come into your home and start pointing out all the issues and problems can be a little disheartening, to say the least.

You might feel like its an attack on you as an individual but understand that this has nothing to do with you and you are not your house. Ok with that said lets take a look at your kitchen and living room.

From the photos it appears that the Garage or Mudroom might lead into the kitchen on one end. Perhaps a laundry area off the kitchen.

Then the kitchen which is in a U configuration with the door to the laundry interrupting one corner of the U. There is a skinny looks like 30” deep island in the center of the U that might be 36” long and the end of the island has a bar with stool and small overhang. A space for one person at the end of the bar.

The kitchen flooring looks like vinyl with a tile pattern and is a palette of various shades of brown. The cabinets are brown as well. Most of the appliances are black except for the dishwasher that is white.

There is a pantry door on the end of the kitchen. Just have to mention here that the pantry door appears to be a bi-folding door with a small door handle that looks out of proportion with the door. Something more suited for a cabinet pull.

The cabinets stop and there is an open breakfast area at the top of the U, with a 3 sided bay window that has a great amount of glazing revealing the pool in the back yard. I like this.

The third room in this row of rooms is the living room. It is open to the breakfast room but is separated from the two areas by a wood railing with pickets. This was a common thing to try and separate some rooms and also make a floor transition. The goal of the rail was to have separation but maintain the open plan. The railing if nothing else dates this area. If it doesn’t date it, it interrupts the space for sure.

The overall feeling I get from the space is that you have great views to the exterior pool area and a large amount of windows. Including one window over the sink in the kitchen looking out to the pool as well, but the interior is not getting the light that it deserves. The brown color palette and dark corners of the kitchen are soaking up all the light to your spaces.

The design is in the details so I want to take a look at all the little components and revisions to this area that we can do to bring it up to date and a space that will look and feel like you want it to.

There are several details that are dating the space. The cabinet door face style is one of the most important. All of the upper cabinets have curved tops.

We will keep the current cabinets you have in place. They are in great shape and the layout is pretty efficient. We can talk about the refrigerator and island in just a minute. So we remove the faces of the wall cabinets and replace with a shaker style door that has a more simple detailing and one simple recessed panel.

All of the cabinets are wood grain and stained brown. Which is great but the trend today is either to have an extremely dark stain or to have a light paint. White, gray, even light greens or blues. For this kitchen layout and our need to brighten up the space I would choose a light gray painted cabinet color.

The door hardware can be a simple chrome or polished stainless knob. You don’t have to have the bar pulls to achieve the updated look. The bar pulls can be nice but in this situation I would use only a simple knob pull. The handles you have now are the ornate curved metal ones with the colored insert. This is a very seventies style pull. Changing this hardware to something more simple in a polished chrome will help to update the cabinets as well.

So I am sure that you have noticed it, that something just doesn’t feel right with the kitchen ceiling and the cabinets. When you look at the cabinets up to the ceiling you see that the ceiling is framed down to the cabinets and actually sits out past the cabinets. the builder framed a soffit around the perimeter that kind of caps off the tops of the cabinets. What this does is it gives a strange claustrophobic feeling at the ceiling. It closes that off making it for more enclosed than it actually could feel.

Typically when something like this is done its for the purpose of adding some kind of ventilation to a space or venting something or other. I don’t believe this to be the case with your kitchen JJ. This needs to be part of the renovation. Removing the soffit around the perimeter of the kitchen. This will open up the ceiling and give you an opportunity to add some trim to the top of the wall cabinets.

The other thing that will allow you to do is place another can light directly over the sink. You are needing a light there as well as two more additional can lights in the ceiling. 2 more on the breakfast room side of the existing 4 cans. They make remodeling cans that can be installed in existing ceilings. This is what you will want to add to the space.

Now you do have an island and one of the big things is to drop pendants over an island or bar area. I would resist trying to do that in this kitchen. The layout of the island is not suited to that lighting layout. simply because of the size and the location of the island.

While you are refacing your cabinets and adding lighting add some under cabinet lighting to illuminate your counters. This will provide great light for working within the space and make it very functional. You will not be disappointed with any light that you add to the space. The more the better. I would just stay away from adding any linear fluorescent strips. Stick to the Led under counter lighting.

Your counters look pretty nice. They are a light gray appears to be granite counter but is a nice looking laminate from the picture. If you are updating all the cabinet faces, updating the counter would complete the renovation. It would make the project shine and the quality and look of the overall space is going to be relying on these details.

Another thing to mention is because the counters are laminate the kitchen sink is a drop in mounted sink. When you replace the counters with a stone counter use an under mount sink. That will help to clean up the details of the sink and counter. Either shoot for a large sink that has one small bowl and one larger or a single bowl kitchen sink. The single bowl is more preferred now than the smaller double bowl sinks. I would stay away from a farmhouse sink for this particular design.

The backsplash appears to be painted. You have the integral 4” splash that is part of the laminated counter. Since you are replacing the counter with stone this would be a great opportunity to tile the backsplash. There are 3 possibilities. the first is to use large tiles on a 45 degree angle. the second is to use the super small tiles that look like little bricks. They come on a mesh backing and you put them up in 12” sections. The third is to use a simple rectangular tile. I suggest going simple with this and using a simple rectangular glossy white tile. You can do something interesting with the pattern and run it in a running bond pattern but turn it vertical. This is a rather fresh contemporary look.

Given the amount of counter space you have and the number of appliances that we have today sitting on our counters it would be good to locate the microwave over the range where the current fan is located. You have the height with the cabinets to place a built in microwave with an exhaust fan over the range. This will free up some of your counter space for the actual space you need for cooking.

As you know to complete the package you need to update the dishwasher to a black dishwasher. You can replace the door so all the appliances will match the black and it will have a cohesive look.

So were talking about ensuring we are creating a cohesive look. The details of a space are what provide that, the details are what develop the character of a space.

The key is to make sure that the details and the character of a space makes someone feel comfortable. And by comfortable I don’t mean relaxed or calm necessarily. What I mean is that its not odd or unnatural.

Anything unnatural or odd will standout. It will jump out like a sore thumb waving its hand around screaming, “look at me, look at me.”

It’s important to be aware of when things strike you as odd and one thing that struck me as odd in this kitchen is the pantry door. It was one of the first things I saw when I looked at the pictures that you made.

Right now you have a bi-folding door where you would typically see a single swinging door. Because the door is small and light the previous person decided to put a cabinet pull handle on the door as opposed to a real latch. It comes across as being odd because the door is not a cabinet door yet it is being treated that way. It leads you to believe it was either in error or a mistake made to save costs.

The great thing about all of this is that it is not really that big of a deal. I mean I am making it a much larger deal than it really is just to emphasize how making one odd decision can affect and entire space. In order to solve the pantry door issue, my suggestion is to hang a single paneled door slab. A door that actually acts like a door. Having a handle and latch.

JJ in your question you mentioned you were thinking about getting rid of the island and creating a two-tier bar near the breakfast area. Now since your kitchen is fairly small and the island is actually pretty narrow I would recommend not creating a two-tier bar.

The reason is the bar is going to end up being short not really provide you with any kind of real substantial seating area and at the same time it’s going to actually conflict with your breakfast room area and make the space practically unusable.

My suggestion is that you put a table in the breakfast room area and rework your island to make it a little bit longer so you can provide a little more cabinets underneath it. Remove the one stool at the existing island and extend the island in the direction of the breakfast area, maybe 2 feet.

This will allow you to have more countertop surface at the island as well as make that space more functional. Because you will not being encroaching on the breakfast area, that room will be able to be utilized for it full potential.

The flooring throughout the kitchen looks like it’s a vinyl floor covering and it has a pattern of wood or maybe various shades of brown tile.

I assume that once you pass the breakfast room into the living room the low free floating railing also serves as a flooring transition that goes to carpet or wood?

I would like to see the kitchen floor converted to a wood floor. The wood could be carried out through the remaining rooms all the way into the living room.

The reason I would like to see wood is because the natural material is going to add a level of richness to the space that vinyl just can’t achieve.

Your other option to wood is tile. Tile is a much harder colder surface. Which are the qualities that make it more durable, but the more and more I talk to homeowners, people are preferring hardwoods in the kitchen. They provide a certain level of comfort when working in a space for longer periods of time.

When you put hardwood flooring in the kitchen have it extend into the breakfast room and living room like I mentioned earlier. If you don’t want to have it in the the living room then just stop the transition where the railing is currently shown.

Just to finish up my thoughts on your space JJ, The railing detail separating the living room form the breakfast area is probably one of the features us dating your space the most. I believe everyone would agree to remove this railing.

From the image it looks like the railing is separating nothing more than the room. There doesn’t appear to be any transitional height change, but if there is you still want something to protect people from falling off. If this was the case, which it does not appear to be, I would put a low solid knee wall at least 36” tall.

JJ this was fun and I hope that you found it useful. Now if you have a question about design that your struggling with and you would like some advice. You can email me: marc@whitewashstudio.com.

If you enjoyed this episode and found some ideas or tips to help you update your kitchen. Please leave a positive review for the show.

You can really help the show by leaving a review either through the iTunes podcast app that you maybe using to listen to the show or by going to whitewashstudio.com/iTunes.

I would really love to hear your feedback on the show and if you’re finding this useful.

As I mentioned earlier, If you have a question for the show I would love to hear it. You can email me at marc@whitewashstudio.com. If you would like to connect with me on Twitter I am @wwsarchitecture and on Instagram @wwsarchitecture

If you are a long time listener to the show you’ll notice that I actually have change my Twitter handle from ThomasmSawyer to wwsarchitecture and I’m trying to transition everything over to that.

The reason is I actually go by Marc which is my middle name not Thomas so I thought it would be more appropriate to go ahead make a switch now and let everyone know in this podcast so if you do go to the previous Twitter handle you’ll see a notification that I’m switching to this one.

I would really appreciate hearing from you and listening to your suggestions that you have for the show or struggles that you are having with your particular space. Let me know and I would be glad to help you.

Tip the show with Bitcoin