How to turn your vision into a kitchen renovation dream

February 9, 2010

By David Hayes

To turn your kitchen into a dream space, have a vision to lay the road map for designers to get you there. File

When Joanne Clowse was ready for a home renovation project, she first thought she had it under control.

“My dad was an electrician and a mechanic from the U.K.,” she said. “So I was used to being around the business.”

But she quickly discovered the business is quite different in the U.S. than the United Kingdom, and she admitted she was in over her head when she wanted to install all new features, from tub to cabinets, in her master bathroom, even with her extensive immersion in the industry.

So, she turned to Issaquah kitchen designer Carole Porter, whose business Kitchen Arts has been helping homeowners in kitchen and bath redesigns since 2000.Porter said homeowners have several options when it comes to kitchen and bath renovations, from do-it-yourself, hiring a contractor, going through a “box store,” like Home Depot or Ikea, or consulting a design specialist like herself.

Regardless which route is taken, Porter recommends starting with a vision. Bring in pictures of likes and dislikes to help direct which way to go with that vision. Then, with that developed, think of need — including cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, painting and demolition.

“Take, for example, today’s appliances,” Porter said. “There are so many choices, they could be the most expensive part of the project.”

The bigger the project, the more coordination will be required, from electricians and plumbers to builders and other contractors. A kitchen designer can act as a liaison between everyone involved.

“But if you’re going with a designer, talk to one first,” she said. “So you can then go to the contractor with a completed vision before starting the job.”

The kitchens of yesterday focused on the “triangle” design, where the sink, refrigerator and stove were in a triangular layout for an ideal flow.

Porter said designers are moving away from the traditional triangle, creating more workstations within the kitchen.

Another trend she’s seeing is drawer banks replacing cabinet doors. This creates easier access, a wider vision of contents, a better use of space and can be easier on the back, Porter said.

Speaking of cabinets, in the past, most designs featured oak wood products. These days, homeowners are finding cherry a lot more affordable, in addition to maple and birch.

“But the biggest misconception is not so much wood type as door style,” Porter said. “The more elaborate style, the more expensive.”

For homeowners on a budget, Porter said the entire space need not be completed all at once. Refrigerators and dishwashers come in standard sizes, so cabinets can be replaced first. Then, when it’s affordable, refrigerators and dishwashers can follow. Stoves and ovens will have to be incorporated into the design from the start, as they vary so much.

When planning a kitchen or bath remodel, Porter said homeowners should always keep resale in mind.

“Think, ‘How will this help me in the future?’” she said. “This region is seeing an 80 to 95 percent return on renovation investments upon resale, if it’s done right.”

Clowse said she is excited that she went with a professional consultant.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “Working with a contractor, I had a lot of questions. Having someone on the ground, who understood my vision, who could handle problems as they came up, was invaluable.”

David Hayes:, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at

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