By Francie Healy
Warmth. Comfort. Activity. Friendship. Best place for it? The kitchen, of course ‒ the heart of the home. It can be (some people say should be) the best room in the house.
Renovating to make a kitchen everything you want it to be, now and in the years ahead, takes wise planning, says Valerie Laba, Design Supervisor for Westend Bath and Kitchen. With more than 20 years in the industry, Valerie suggests thinking many years forward, towards safety as well as comfort in later years.
She says you can go as far as removing a wall to create a larger (and ultimately, obstacle-free) space without any transitions; or simply focus on the way your new custom cabinetry will work. For example, you can plan on shelving as pull-out trays so you’re not trying to reach to the back of a pantry or deep cupboard, especially if they’re lower shelves. This idea works as comfortably for children as it does for seniors.
Lighting is another important element that makes kitchen life easier and more pleasant. Valerie suggests potlights on dimmers, under-cabinet and in-cabinet lighting, not just for efficiency but because it’s beautiful (and cozy at night), especially when the cabinet doors are glass.
She advises thinking about a kitchen renovation as a whole, complete project, rather than planning upgrades in stages as you might do for other parts of the house. This is especially true if you’re going to have integrated heated floors, for instance, or built-in (or custom) appliances. It underscores the importance of planning, when a new kitchen might be part of your life for 20 years or more.
For some homeowners, technology drives some of the design in a kitchen. Valerie says their clients often want lots of electrical access, especially in counters: pop-up sockets, for example, and USB chargers.
Others like choosing from the wide variety of decorative hardware for fingers young and old: wider handles, for example, that allow an easy grasp. Valerie adds these small ergonomic details can make a big difference.
She suggests creativity in the use of existing space: building a wall oven and microwave into a full cabinet or cabinets, so you can decide on the height of your appliances; or creating an office or homework space (with plenty of charging sockets) in areas too low to accommodate standard counters. The ideal for such a space is under a window, but if not, or in addition, you can have a variety of superb lighting options.
Valerie supervises Westend’s designers, who help homeowners decide what they can have in their kitchen according to budget and (with input from engineers) structure.
She says most people who are planning on living in their homes for a long time choose the timeless look of white cabinets; or classic designs using warm and cool, but subtle, colours, such as rich grey.
“They find they can always add as much colour as they want in accessories,” she says. Cabinets, on the other hand, when somewhat understated, remain in style indefinitely.
Another timeless feature that seems most in demand is quartz for counters. Valerie says almost all their clients prefer it because it’s so attractive, looks natural, is easy to maintain, and lasts almost forever. Tile floors take the lead in flooring, but Valerie says hardwood and composite can also work well in kitchens.
Bottom line? If you plan carefully, think ahead and work with designers who have the experience to guide you, your kitchen might be your favourite place of all.