The successful kitchen renovation process requires much planning and leg work. If you spend the time and find the right partners, the result can be very rewarding in terms of the pleasure of daily use of a beautiful and efficient kitchen and it also helps preserve or increase the value of your home.

Consider these tips while planning your new kitchen:

Design Help

You must have a detailed plan. This would consist of detailed drawings and a list of all materials and how they are being used.  If you are planning an addition or a complete rethink of your home beyond the walls of the existing kitchen you may first need to hire an ARCHITECT to start to explore structural, zoning and general utilization questions.

For detailed planning of the kitchen space per se your best option is to find a KITCHEN DESIGNER with many years experience at a studio whose portfolio demonstrates a style, quality and level of detail you find appealing. In most instances you can have several meetings to interview and qualify any of these people for compatibility, creativity, and skill without incurring any costs.  You should always get at least a ballpark estimate for your specific choices before making any financial commitment.  You should not need to pay an additional fee for detailed drawings and general design consultations if you are purchasing their cabinets. Never hire a firm that insists all aspects of the work must be done through them. You will simply spend more without any benefit.

It is rare in this area that a GENERAL CONTRACTOR is not hired to coordinate the many tradespersons you will need. A good, seasoned GENERAL CONTRACTOR should have a network of skilled, reliable and reasonably priced subcontractors who come when needed and correct mistakes without drama. If the contractor insists on applying markups to all parts of the project including those that you alone are selecting and purchasing (appliances, decorative, materials, cabinets and counters for some examples), you should look further as this is not the standard or ethical practice.

A skilled INTERIOR DECORATOR is sometimes employed as a sounding board for general concepts or to provide detailed specific recommendations for every surface in the kitchen.  Chemistry, compatibility, their skill and your budget all come in to consideration here.

Avoid Expansion if Possible

The construction of an addition, of any size, will be costly and complicated. An addition can easily double or more your entire cost. Explore whether you can keep within your existing room to achieve your goals. Better design combined with superior new storage options are usually all that is needed for a marvelous update. If that approach doesn’t work look for additional space in an adjacent closet, hallway, dining room, enclosed porch, etc.

The 20 Year Plan

If you think your new kitchen is turning out to be expensive – imagine the cost if you need to redo it in 10 years, or simply the cost of replacing, repairing and refinishing some of the elements on an ongoing basis that won’t stand up to heavy use. If you make good choices and have a tiny bit of luck you can have a virtually care free and cost free kitchen for at least the next 20 years.

Porcelain, stone or tile flooring if properly installed should be maintenance free .

Wood floors are very popular and beautiful but will almost certainly need to be sanded and refinished 2 or more times.

Granite counters will stand the test of time.  Except for the lightest colors, or honed finishes they should look like new indefinitely even with heavy use. If you choose lighter colors of granite, DuPont offers a sealer for a small price that will give you a 15 year warranty against staining, which rarely occurs.

Appliance reliability does not correlate much with price. The service department at your appliance dealer may be able to offer some insight as to brands and models. Get the strongest disposer you can find. A mid range disposer will be the first to go and replacing an average unit will be a predictable occurrence, always inconvenient and, with the plumber’s labor, expensive.

Well made cabinets should last as long as you want them. Imagine replacing the cabinets every 10 years! Inferior cabinets fall apart, the finishes, hinges and drawer systems fail and you are without recourse except for a huge replacement cost or the frustration of living with decrepit storage.

Do the Whole Job Now

Re-wire, re-plumb, level the floor if needed, look for potential problems, etc. now. Structural issues, electrical inadequacies, etc. will detract from the utility or appearance of the project. Be sure to address all potential future building and service issues while things are open.

Compare Prices and Check Recent Installations

If you have detailed plans you can get “apples to apples” comparisons for general construction. You may want some help analyzing bids even with detailed specifications to make sure there are no gaps.  On remodeling bids we have found up to a 300% variance from the low to high bidder. Get at least three bids unless the work is very minor. Price on construction bids does not correlate with quality of workmanship or efficiency of the project. Once you have selected specific appliance models getting competitive pricing is simple

Pay Attention to Lighting

Recessed, accent and task lighting can greatly increase the appearance and utility of your kitchen. Great changes have occurred in the last10 years. On average, an older kitchen was designed with less than half the wattage currently specified!

Remember, it all starts with a thorough, well researched and well documented design.

Typically, a down real estate market is characterized by a lack of new home building and buying. Additionally, moving can become less appealing when you’re not getting top dollar for your home, and there is short term uncertainty where home values are headed. Home improvements are a good way to maintain the value of your home, even in a down market. Many home owners decide to remodel and make their existing house a more comfortable and relaxing environment, rather than move.

But, is a down real estate market the time to do so?

The good news, for those who wish to renovate their kitchen or bath, is that in a down real estate market, there is typically a glut of qualified workers and individuals who can perform high quality work. This glut creates a more competitive environment and all of the savings from the bottom up are passed to the consumer resulting in more attention and more value for the dollar. Building permits have declined from 2009 to 2010 and declined again in 2011. This creates pressure on contractors to secure the available work and keep their essential crews working.

The current down market has caused numerous trades persons to lower their pricing structure in an attempt to secure continued work and in many cases, material prices are also down. General contractors are very likely to pass the savings to their clients plus they will use a lower markup across the board for bids. This they hope will help secure enough work so they can try to make ends meet.  Homeowners should expect lower pricing and great service.

There is a time value to money, and accomplishing a project in a lower cost market ensures a better investment for the homeowner. A project that costs “X” today will inevitably cost “X+” a year from now due to normal inflation of the economy. So if one can take advantage of a lower market now, the savings in the future will be exponential.

Bottom line: If you have the available funds, now IS the time to remodel.

Hello…I am Jim Simko, Founder and Owner of WESTON KITCHENS. I have been a designer, builder and a passionate cook most of my life.

During my more than 30 years in this general field, I have been honored to work for a long list of New England’s top chefs, academics, business leaders, sports legends, architects, and others in all fields who may also be your friends and neighbors.

This is now the VERY BEST time in my long experience to plan and complete home improvement and construction projects.  In late July, 2011 it was announced that the Massachusetts economy grew at a vigorous annualized rate of over 4% for the first quarter. Impressive!! But as far as my fellow designers, trades persons, vendors and suppliers can tell you, whatever activity created that result was not much in evidence in residential construction, residential real estate and residential renovations. The truth is prices have been steady or decreasing for 3 years, margins and costs have been cut to the bone, and people who want to stay in the field are usually willing to go to extremes, if necessary, to help make your project possible. From all reports the trend appears unlikely to change at least until well into 2012.

The good news, for you, gets even better because for the present at least, skilled designers,  crafts persons, and related vendors of all sorts have generally lowered prices and upped their services to try to at least “keep busy” and hold on to their best employees until “better days”.

At Weston Kitchens we have demanded that all our affiliated vendors and associated service providers maintain their strictest cost controls. No one is served if a project is meticulously planned but beyond current skinny budgets and ultimately abandoned.

New trends we have noticed:

There is a decided preference for good quality North American cabinet brands over much more expensive non custom European brands.  There are domestic brands now that have identical style, better quality, are totally custom designed and cost less than half the price of the European brands.

Instead of $8000-$12,000 refrigerator models, we often find customers now opting for the recent category of $3000 French door refrigerators which seem to some to have functional advantages and arguably, better reliability.

We see a tendency for customers more often to buy high end cook tops or range tops but then select mid tier ovens, versus going top dollar across the board.

Renovations to existing kitchens and baths now focus first on trying to make better design and usage with in the existing footprint of a room – or at least with in the existing house.  Smart design and clever new storage options can frequently double or triple the previous usage of an older kitchen within the same space. Avoiding an addition can cut out more than half the cost of an update.

Lead times for contractors to start after bids are accepted can often be 2-4 weeks instead of 6-12 months. Custom cabinets often take 5-6 weeks instead of 4-6 months. Trades people have less work to attend to so your project will often be completed more quickly than it would have been previously.

We are finding customers often purchasing plumbing fixtures, light fixtures, tile and some appliances on line. I have seen savings of upwards to 75%. The downside to this strategy, in some instances, is difficulty getting refunds or service if you find defects or  if you are dissatisfied with the quality of a product. If an installed lighting or plumbing fixture proves defective, the trades person who wasn’t allowed a markup for the product is unlikely to absorb any labor costs for necessary service or replacement.

For every reason we are all hoping the economy rebounds soon and with gusto. Until then if you need or want an improvement in your home you may never find a better time!!!

Color has become a major design tool in the kitchen! No longer is it obligatory to paint walls a neutral color and live with a drab backdrop in the most utilized room in the house. Color is also being incorporated into cabinets, flooring, counter and sink areas, appliances, upholstery, and decorative items. This creates a situation where options to incorporate color abound. However, some color sense must be employed in order to achieve a result that is stunning as opposed to chaotic. Here are a few ideas to discuss with your kitchen designer:

Where do you want to make the most impact? Look at your kitchen and determine the points of interest that exist. Do you have a wonderful alcove for dining? A large wall that is available for a gallery of art or beautiful pots and pans? Are your appliances state-of-the-art? What you are looking for is the aspect of your kitchen that you want to emphasize as a focal point. While you could have more than one focal point in a larger room, generally speaking one will draw the most attention. It is good to identify this area before you begin working with color and specific room features.

Depending on the focal point you and your designer choose, the use of color will then become a personal choice but will also depend on the size of the area you are working with as well as the use of the space. For example, if you choose a dining area color would then be potentially integrated in wall treatment, upholstery, furniture and floor and window treatments. Designers are aware of color integration rules and of course, they are aware of appropriate ways to break these rules! Be sure to obtain samples of all materials to be used in the focal areas and as well, be sure that they coordinate well with other finishes that will be used in the room.

If your focal area will be dramatic in some way, be sure that the rest of the room is more complacent so as to let your focal area essentially take over the impression of the room. Lighting is a wonderful way to assist in this task as dramatic or intense lighting creates a visual “pocket” and draws the eye where more demur or recessed lighting is functional but not overt.

If you are creating a kitchen worthy of a professional chef you may want to let the appliances be the focal point. Color use in this type of approach will be in the actual food preparation area and most likely will consist of cabinetry, counter and wall treatments as well as the appliances themselves.

If your appliances are stainless steel, tile is a good choice for complimenting the clean look of the appliances while offering many color and pattern options. Tile, as well as cabinetry, is available in many styles, from the most modernistic to (literally) antique options. Depending on your design intention selections can be made to add focus and interest to any type of food preparation areas as well as other areas in the room, if so desired.

Do you have a large wall that needs to be blended into the room? To integrate open wall space, consider the use of murals or a gallery wall. Art can be integrated into the kitchen very successfully, especially as many kitchens are increasing in size and functionality. The wall behind your seating or dining area can become the room’s focal point by using exceptional cookware or dishes as a design element or by integrating art works that bring color and context to the area. The wall can be prepared for this type of usage with paint color and application (texture, vivid colors, patterns incorporated into the paint application) or other wall covering options that will support and add a sense of dimension to the wall. Again, lighting is available that will heighten the drama of certain wall elements, if that is your goal.

Believe it or not, your floor can also become the focal point of your room! If you prefer more neutral wall treatment and cabinetry options consider using the floor space as the area where you integrate color. Create a floor mural under your dining table or in an open area as opposed to selecting carpet or more traditional flooring. Tile is an excellent option for this approach as is hardwood (think stripes or squares of color or an asymmetrical pattern) or a “carpet” painted onto the hardwood. Creative approaches draw attention so consider color on every surface of the room – not just the walls.

Every home and every kitchen area has its own potential. These ideas are general in nature and meant to get the creative juices flowing. Work with your designer and your space to create the kitchen of your dreams – and be sure to consider the use of color. Your imagination is the only limiting factor!

Trends come and go but good design is timeless. The kitchen design
trends unfolding for 2012 are basic - yet beautiful interpretations of
timeless design. Let's overview the kitchen design movement to get a
sense of where designers are going with this essential room.

Across the board, kitchen design is focused on efficient space
utilization, ergonomics, functionality and practicality of use.
Kitchens are currently serving more purposes than simply preparing and
consuming food. The use of kitchens for entertainment has long been a
factor, however, kitchens are now becoming the home's multipurpose room
- incorporating features and usage that has been more typically found
in dining rooms and living areas.

At home entertainment and relaxation has moved solidly into the kitchen
through the incorporation of computer areas, TV viewing and gaming, and soft
comfortable seating areas built in for entertainment, conversation and reading. Desk areas
are also more and more common in the design of the kitchen space.
The kitchen has become the central location for family activities and
communication in the home and thus, kitchens are increasing in size to
accommodate this heighened usage.

Due to the large amount of time many families are spending in the kitchen, more attention is being paid to the design
of the room in terms of finishes, lighting and the room's overall
ambiance. Attention to use of color, the integration of shelving
alongside cabinets and high tech appliances are all contributing to the beauty, practicality and
functionality modern kitchens.

Cabinetry is a primary design element in the room. Artful designs as well as modern, clean lines are both popular and effective.
Extending counter area into table height areas (as opposed to bar style
seating) is becoming more popular due to its practicality and the
attractive manner in which the seating areas are combined with the

Cabinet use is also evolving as built in microwaves, ovens and
trash/recycle areas become more and more popular. Refrigerated drawers for vegetables
and fruits are another space saver and, when located near the sink,
offer increased functionality and efficiency in food preparation.  Built ins offer
convenience of use as well as making a contribution to the overall coherence of the design of the
room by minimizing the visual effects of numerous appliances and the clutter of
trash, recycle or vegetable bins.

Cabinet and shelf finishes are being addressed most often in natural woods or colors such as white, gray, charcoal or
black as well as colorful finishes such as gold, red, blue, purple and
green. Many manufacturers are producing "green" cabinet finishes which are
being selected by more and more designers and their clients.
Stainless steel cabinetry is another new, popular option.

Cabinets and shelving are being accessorized with decorative pot and
pan sets, bowls, vases, etc., all specifically chosen to complement the
built in decor and room finishes. The one rule for accessorizing - less
is more!. No clutter!

Lighting has become another key design element with the integration
of chandeliers over kitchen islands and the use of LED, pendant and
other designer lighting options. Lighting adds color and ambiance all
in one package and is an extremely effective design element. Most successful
kitchen designs are incorporating specialty lighting in numerous forms and in a variety of locations throughout the room -
in cabinet, under or over cabinet, ceiling, wall and even baseboard
lighting are all potential design choices

These trends will be examined individually in future blog postings.
Stay tuned to learn more about state-of-the-art kitchen design and

Welcome to Weston Kitchens’ new Blog page!

Please check in regularly for articles about kitchen design, renovation, planning for kitchen projects as well as new product information and company news.

Our first blog will be posted in a few days…

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