It's common for homeowners to have trouble visualizing the impact a remodel will have on their daily life. It can be difficult to see past the ugly, outdated and broken cabinets, dirty grout, dull lighting and cramped spaces they've lived with for years. It's even more difficult for a new homeowner to fully understand how they will function in their kitchen or bathroom because they haven't moved in to fully experience the space.Read More
As an interior designer, having a portfolio of work is important for homeowners to see spaces that they can relate to, compare against and dream about. What's usually missing is the story behind the changes. What was "wrong" with the kitchen or bathroom in the first place? What difference did the changes make? Who was the contractor and other team members involved in the beautiful result? This week I've decided to highlight a San Francisco kitchen remodel that was done a few years ago.
San Francisco is known world wide for her cable cars, steep hills and painted ladies. She and other Bay Area homes are known for their small closets, antique built-ins, formal dining rooms and too many doors connecting small rooms as though they were related to the Winchester Mystery House. This kitchen was no different. Having 5 doors in roughly a 12'x12' space resulted in the refrigerator being located in the breakfast nook (through one of the doors) and the pantry door not opening all the way plus needing to squeeze into a small space just to get to the pantry items.
Why was this kitchen so poorly planned? For starters, refrigeration technology didn't exist. Victorian era people had ice delivered to keep cold items cold for a few days, and here in the Bay Area many used their "California Cooler" which was essentially a dry pantry with circular birdhouse sized holes to allow the foggy cool air regulate temperature. Milk and eggs were delivered regularly and many of the more affluent families had a couple of servants which were to remain hidden from guests while they prepared the food. Our culture has changed significantly from the days of Downton Abbey. Families today who have hired help want open kitchens and are not ashamed of the au pair or the housekeeper who work for them. Why? It's simple, as humans we desire to be connected. Most families are working full time and being together for a few precious hours at home while preparing a meal and doing homework is just what we need.
In redesigning this San Francisco Victorian to be more warm, inviting and useable, the first thing that needed to change was to eliminate a few doors. This was achieved by removing the pantry closet and a duplicate door to the powder room, voila, a place for the refrigerator in the kitchen! The pantry storage was incorporated into cabinetry with easily accessible pullout shelves, lazy Suzan's and other kitchen cabinet storage solutions. The three doors that remained became doorways instead, which removed the hazard of opening a door on someone as you entered the kitchen blindly. (There is a reason restaurant employees yell out "corner" and have rules about which door to go in and which to exit.)
The next design challenge was to simultaneously maintain the size of the kitchen while maximize its storage and making it more manageable for 2-3 people working in it. Being that there wasn't any room to expand, without losing the integrity of the formal dining room, this did take a little structural engineering and creative thinking on the part of the plumber, the heating duct specialist, and the carpenter but it was well worth it. We were able to keep the original heating location and painted wood paneling in the dining room and by providing a peninsula instead of an island we increased useable counter space, created work zones for a 3-person kitchen and invited guests to participate in the meal preparations without crowding the cook.
Imagine, holiday dinners with the whole family, children rolling dough and cutting cookies, grandma roasting turkey and making her famous macaroni-n-cheese, dad washing dishes while talkative aunts and uncles are sitting at the counter with the latest "news" all without bumping elbows, stepping on toes or colliding with a serving platter full of delicious home-made goodies sliding off onto the floor!
Last week at All Soul's Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, I listened to a sermon referencing Muppet Theory, based on the article published by Slate, in relation with the workings of the Holy Spirit . I started wondering "what kind of Muppet am I". Do I bring chaos or order as I interact with people?
Okay, I admit it, I took the Zimbio quiz previously via Facebook and it thought I was Gonzo. Yes, that lovable blue creature with the hooked nose who is somehow in a relationship with Camila the chicken. In general I'd say he brings chaos to the Muppet stage. Out of curiosity I retook the quiz and I was now the very organized stage manager Scooter. Oddly enough, all of this actually makes sense.
As a kitchen and bath designer I bring both chaos and order to the lives of homeowners and contractors on a daily basis. Remodeling one's home is inherently going to bring chaos by losing the use of one or more room and simply moving out so as not to live in a construction zone is stressful.
Designing a fresh new space also brings chaos. Some things I am continually balancing in my mind include: Can I relocate plumbing? Can I relocate walls? How can I increase storage and function in a small space without changing the walls? What new and efficient technologies can I introduce and what will be the impact on the budget and installation? So how do I find balance and relieve the remodeling stress for both the homeowner and their contractor? Through listening, checklists, documentation and clear communication.
I was recently working with two different clients who happened to work with the same architect and both found that he didn't provide adequate assistance in moving their project along so that the general contractor could provide an accurate budget and start construction with-in their timeline. Each had decided that they would take his incomplete materials list and "go shopping" on their own and both were quickly overwhelmed.
One, happens to be a personal friend, and started telling me her story and how stressful it was with her frequent travel schedule and her husband's long work hours. We quickly pulled together a plan to accomplish selecting the items she would need so that she could provide all of the necessary details and pricing to her contractor before she hopped onto the next plane. My other client let her contractor know the circles she was moving in without the results she was hoping for. He referred her to me, as we have worked together on previous projects.
Decision making is often more difficult than we imagine. As we worked together to narrow down the possible options, through a process of elimination of style, taste, cost and comparison, their shoulders relaxed, their disposition was more cheery and over all, they had a better experience than they had ever imagined. And the bonus was that their contractors had less "work" to do to prepare their final budget and construction schedules because we were able to provide them detailed information and ready to purchase quotes.
Order brings a sense of peace to the chaos that is remodeling. This is the balance that a professional designer can bring, and maybe a Muppett too.