Ready for some radical honesty? My remodel is taking longer than expected and costing more than I planned. Despite bringing my heavyweight design skills, my professionally developed bossy demeanor, and my blatant obsession for interiors, I was simply not prepared for the level of detail management, scheduling, planning and general sense of mid-level panic that accompanied this project. This is quite typical and what everyone tells you to expect, but I kept telling myself certainly my remodel will be different.
Kitchens are the heart of a home and one of my favorite rooms to design. I’ve written about the basics of good kitchen design here and here. This current and personal project is packed with meaning for me as it’s a time for true beginnings with this new home and our first baby on the way. A few weeks ago I shared the before images and design plans for my kitchen. This week, I’m excited to share my top five tips for a speedy kitchen remodel.
Tip 1: Measure & Plan
Starting with a plan is de rigueur for interior designers. Here is our final floor plan and detailed elevations for this kitchen remodel. Even before the first original 1948 cabinet or the chipped tiles were removed, I had already planned and documented the exact height of the window sill, where every light switch would be located, and the future home of both the utensil and spice drawers. A thorough design plan requires a lot of time upfront but saves you so much time during the renovation process. As long as you hire a general contractor or sub-contractors who are willing and able to read your plans, then your time spent answering questions, running to the home supply store, and making important design decisions under the gun will be greatly reduced. Besides, it is much easier to move things around on paper than in real life.
Tip 2: Make all finish selections at the same time
Once I had the floor plan and color scheme down for our kitchen (emerald green and copper), we set out trying to turn the vision in my head into a reality. To cut down on the guess work, you will want to get samples of all your tile, flooring and cabinetry decisions and carry them around with you when you are shopping. If you’re like me, you’ll also carry them around with you when you’re not shopping because you never know when the perfect wallpaper might come waltzing into your life. Your goal is to make sure everything has a sense of harmony and inclusiveness. Most people tend to default to a white kitchen simply because they are afraid of making a mistake but color in a kitchen adds an amazing sense of energy and the finishes are a great place for a touch of color. My finish decisions were made in the following order:
1. cabinetry style (white and modern)
2. backsplash (Ann Sacks bronze)
3. countertop (white quartz)
4. decorative lighting (copper pendants)
5. wallpaper (david hicks geometric)
6. flooring (porcelain tile laid straight)
7. sink (white farmhouse)
10. paint (always select this last because paint comes in every color while tile, backsplashes, and wallpaper have more limited palettes).
Tip 3: Purchase All Your Materials Well in Advance
You should have the appliances, backsplash, flooring, sink, even the faucet on site before demo if possible or, at least, scheduled to arrive shortly after construction begins. Delays due to surprises during demo are inevitable but your schedule doesn’t have to be derailed by back-ordered items. Also, open every box and inspect everything immediately when it arrives. I painstakingly went through each backsplash tile and found a few damaged ones I was able to replace well before we needed them.
Tip 4: Edit, Edit, Edit
It’s tempting, I know, but don’t put everything you have ever liked into one room. (This tip applies to all rooms, not just kitchens by the way.)
Tip 5: Get Bids/Quotes Early
I was able to estimate most of my construction costs well in advance by getting early bids. Unexpected costs are a given during a remodel but you can really minimize the damage and make smart choices by having a thorough understanding of the projected total cost. Also consider the labor to install your materials. Our flooring was relatively inexpensive porcelain tile (under $20 per square foot) but the labor to install it was probably just as much, if not more, per square foot.
Following these top five tips are sure to make any remodel a more organized and, dare I say, a more enjoyable experience. Prepare to spend portions of your day following up on the plan you’ve established. I had a checklist that I reviewed with my carpenter almost daily. Be excessively clear in both your written and verbal expectations and let your contractors know right away if your expectations are not being met. (Pro tip: being pregnant while remodeling makes this last step much easier.) Although our kitchen took longer than the four weeks I had budgeted, it was done before Thanksgiving and I am thrilled with the results. Go forth, be brave, and use color! You can do this.