Ready, set, renovate!Published on February 24, 2008

  • Photo by Darren Brown

From budget smarts to the hottest trends, local experts tell us how to guarantee a smart kitchen renovation.

If you can't bear to look at your outdated kitchen cabinets any longer or make dinner on that scratched countertop one more night, it's time to remodel. As the heart of your home, your kitchen has many roles, from food prep and dining to storage and a family gathering place. These requirements can make the transformation exhilarating, but also a little overwhelming. Since re-modeling can run the gamut from small upgrades to a full-scale luxury overhaul, here are some ways to plan ahead and get the most out of your kitchen renovation project.

Start with a budget Every renovation needs a realistic budget that reflects the size and re-sale value of your home, as well as the priorities you set for the project. "There is no point in doing a 60k renovation in a small bungalow that may never re-coup that money in re-sale," advises Roxanne Levaque, an interior designer at Distinctive Bathrooms and Kitchens in Orléans. "Often it's not as much about creating a show piece as it is fulfilling the practical needs of the family." Do your homework It's important to educate yourself by visiting local home improvement stores, look for inspiration in books and magazines, do online research and prioritize your kitchen overhaul. If your cabinets are in good shape, then you might want to focus on installing high-end granite countertops that will give you bang for the buck. Or maybe you want to sink a large percentage into flooring, and investigate the wide selection of hard wood or ceramic surfaces available. The style of your home is also an important consideration. "In many cases, clients may want a very modern aesthetic, but it doesn't flow with the rest of their home," Roxanne explains. "That's why we offer in-home consultations. It helps me design a kitchen that is right for them and for their home." Going green If being eco-friendly and buying local is important then you need to shop around. For Guillaume Fournier, vice-president at Poirier Kitchens, their motto is, "green isn't just a trend, it's a way of life." Another local business committed to the environment is Ottawa's Muskoka Cabinet Company. "Customers who are concerned with sustainability, going green and buying local, find our company appealing," says Muskoka kitchen designer Lorin Russell. "We fabricate our cabinets locally and have introduced Breathe Easy cabinets catering to this clientele." The company, located on St. Laurent Boulevard, owns a plant in Alfred, Ont. where all their cabinets are made. Building relationships Make sure you have a good relationship with your designer and contractor. A complete renovation can take many months so you want to feel comfortable with them. "Often the families (we work with) become good friends by the end of the project," says Roxanne. Lorin suggests clients be honest with their expectations right up front. "This will start your relationship off on the right foot," he says. The latest styles Right now, the hottest trends in kitchen cabinetry are all about clean lines with no embellishments, constructed out of maple or painted MDF. Dark espresso cabinetry is still very popular with white cabinets making a comeback. If you're looking for something unique, Guillaume is custom designing shiny shaker cabinets with bamboo accents for his clients. Stainless steel and brushed nickel continue to be popular choices for handles and faucets. Hardwood and cork floors are replacing tile and grout lines. Custom hood fans with architectural detailing have become the new focal point of the kitchen. Make it your own Custom kitchens are pricey, but they shine with personality. A popular designer treatment is to feature dark chocolate cabinets or islands in combination with cream cabinetry to create contrast. "The growing demand for an eclectic look that combines the traditional with modern elements works in many homes," explains Guillaume. Poirier Kitchens specialize in "funky designs" using unusual materials like bamboo (which is stronger than oak) and tempered glass laid over personal photography for a customized backsplash. Their showroom features a bright red glass countertop as an alternative to the typical choices like granite. Back to Bedrock The hottest new trend for tiles are tumbled marble or slate, which reflects the trend of using natural products to create a look that is simply beautiful. Plus tiles used on the floors are getting bigger (think 18 inch by x 18 inch) and tiles for backsplashes are getting smaller. Designers say one inch by one inch mosaics are in the biggest demand right now. Granite has been the most popular countertop surface for the last few years, but new products are gaining in popularity. "Quartz is so hot right now", says Lorin. "Its functionality makes it the ultimate countertop. It doesn't scratch, doesn't burn, and is anti-bacterial. It's by far our best seller, but it's not cheap." Kitchen Reno Do's & Don'ts 1.DO be realistic about your budget. Too many design shows give viewers unreal expectations. DON'T forget to add in an extra 10 per cent for unplanned expenses. 2.DO realize renovations take time and your project won't always run smoothly. DON'T sweat the small stuff. 3.DO be prepared. Look at home magazines and create an ideas file, visit showrooms, talk to designers, and ask questions before making any decisions. DON'T forget there are no stupid questions. 4.DO use professionals and check references. DON'T use your brother-in-law's second cousin twice removed who won't guarantee his work. 5.DO visit the work site often and bring coffee, water and donuts when you stop by. DON'T babysit your contractor and crew. 6.DO cut costs by buying finishing materials yourself. DON'T suddenly decide you know what you're doing and try out the power saw or electrical wiring. Written by Carrie Irvine

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