Do you remember the post about the Santa Barbara Design House family room + kitchen designed by none other than Mary McDonald? Well, I had the pleasure of meeting the kitchen (and bath) designer who brought it all to life…
Charlie Rutledge business is to build great spaces and, I think you will agree, he is good at his craft. Charlie is a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and a Certified Bathroom Designer (CBD) and he graciously let me pepper him with questions about kitchen design. He even provided us with the floor plan (below) of the Santa Barbara Design House kitchen!
Thank you Charlie, such a pleasure speaking with you.
The floor plan (link to plan below) for the Santa Barbara Design House seems to invite casual entertaining and living. Tell me how you approached this project?
I always start with the big picture and function. This property is made for entertaining and large parties, but it also needs to work well for daily life. I wanted both the residents and the caterers to find it very easy to use!
Incorporating the client’s wish list is one of my top priorities as a designer. So the first challenge was to get two full size sinks and all the appliances needed for large groups, (two dishwashers, a full refrigerator, full freezer, and seven others) and still create great function. This was achieved by putting things where they make sense for cooking, clean up, and storage for those using it daily. And not wasting an inch of space was also important. For example, the posts on each side of the range pull out with storage for spices and oils, and the columns on the sides of the refrigerator are working cabinets as well.
The next challenge was to make a grand visual statement worthy of a design house and yet, as you said, invite casual entertaining. Visually I did this by creating balanced focal points, using formal details in the cabinetry and trim, but softening that formality with the “worn” finishes. Functionally I did this with careful use of zones. That is, by giving the cook and the guest both a place so they are together but not in each other’s way. The prep and clean up zones are open to, but distinct from, the seating/serving side of the island. Also, by having the refrigerator and the second sink at the “edges” of the kitchen, both parties can use them without crossing paths. So when everyone has a comfortable place to be, it is naturally inviting and feels more casual.
I love that you put the sink on the island. Is this a new trend? Tell me why it works.
Including a second sink and putting one of them in the island has been popular ever since we got past the “triangle” to “zones”. If the main sink is at a window, I usually include a medium size prep sink on the island. It is especially important in a larger kitchen where the fridge is in a different zone than the clean up sink. I do try to keep the cook top and ventilation off the island as it is not as friendly as the sink for seating, entertaining, and the projects for which the island can be so useful.
5 things every homeowner should ask themselves before starting a kitchen remodel?
1. Why do I want to remodel? Again this seems obvious, but if you list all the reasons, the end result could be so much better. If the primary reason is to improve the look, you may not think about the other issues you could improve, like those dead corners. Likewise your focus might be getting more storage, but when you consider everything you realize you don’t like the appliance locations.
2. Do I need a professional to design or build my project? Be realistic, you may have a sense that you know exactly what your kitchen needs, but having someone who has designed and built a couple hundred kitchens help you might save you from your own ideas!
3. What do I like about my current kitchen? You don’t want to get all done and realize you miss the junk drawer!
4. What does not work for you in the current kitchen? Seems obvious, but really think it through. You may be frustrated every time you load the dishwasher, but why?
5. When costs become a deciding factor, what are my priorities? You may be able to gut the room and move walls to achieve your dream kitchen, but if your budget only allows for a partial remodel, make sure it is the right part. A good professional will help you evaluate options and get the most out of every penny.
#1 mistake homeowners make when starting a kitchen remodel?
Getting the process out of order, therefore going in circles. Cost will eventually play a role in the scope of the project and your material choices. If you establish the scope and estimated cost at the beginning, you will be able to make each choice knowing how it fits. Even if you choose to blow the budget, you know by how much!
What paint process do you recommend for cabinets to prevent chipping?
If you are using new cabinets, there is nothing better than the pigmented conversion varnish that can only be applied in the factory. If you are painting existing cabinets, you need to spend the time or money to do significant prep before the color coat. The needed prep will depend on the overall condition of the existing finish, type of wood, and what you want the final look to be. Any time you paint over another finish it will be more prone to chipping than a quality process on new wood.
So…. are prefab kitchen cabinets for a budget remodel ever an option?
Sure, but it is good not to assume anything. An experienced kitchen designer can help you get the most out of your budget by evaluating various types of cabinets. Also, the cabinets that are often considered “prefab” are built to order and often higher quality than local shop “custom” cabinets. I built custom cabinets 25 years ago, but turned to designing with national brand cabinets because I could offer more for the money, often just as custom as the local shop.
What are some tips for optimizing space in a small kitchen?
1. If you have corners evaluate design options carefully and don’t waste that space.
2. Don’t be tempted to oversize your appliances. A counter depth fridge may not have quite as many cubic feet, but one that juts out 10 or more inches has ruined many a small kitchen.
3. Using a “frameless” cabinet gives you more space in the drawers, roll-out shelves, and other moving parts.
4. Favor design options that give you more counter space, even if it means less total storage. You can optimize the smaller storage, but being short on elbowroom is just a bummer!