Kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project

Used to be that kitchens were strictly back-burner stuff. We dumped buckets of money into our living rooms, family rooms and master bedrooms. We put our money where we wanted to impress and drew an invisible curtain around the kitchen.

Statistics show that we’re staying at home more, inviting guests in instead of taking them out. As a result, the kitchen has made a dramatic rise on the it-better-look-good-and-function-well scale. Kitchens are no longer at-home orphans.

According to designer Lisa Weber, of Lisa Weber Design in Fullerton, kitchen remodeling is the most common improvement project facing consumers today. Quoting a recent article in Kitchen and Bath Business, she notes that Americans will spend $27.5 billion renovating 4.4 million kitchens.

“The average homeowner will spend a great deal of time and money remodeling the kitchen,” Weber said. “And if they haven’t researched the market, planned and shopped carefully, they can make some very costly mistakes.”

When private investors Ginger Figge and Jim Buckle moved into their 30-year-old California bungalow, the compact, 15-by-15-foot kitchen was anything but a show stopper. The home had been a rental for years.

“The home was very run-down,” said kitchen specialist Steve Salazar, who owns Kitchens del Mar and handled the remodel project. “For a small space, it did not function well.”

Goals for the kitchen remodel were threefold: reconfiguration with optimum function in mind, incorporation of functional storage space, and a clean, uncluttered look designed for easy maintenance. Because the front door of the house opens with a view directly across the dining area to the open kitchen, first impressions were a consideration.

Originally, the cooktop had been on a long counter separating the kitchen from the dining area. Not a pretty picture for arriving guests. It was relocated to a less conspicous spot on a counter facing a hall leading to the bedrooms. The move allows the dining area/kitchen counter to do double duty as a spacious kitchen work surface or dining room buffet.

To minimize its size, a 36-inch-wide, 24-inch-deep Sub-Zero refrigerator was installed flush with other built-ins. Unlike some refrigerators, it does not protrude into the kitchen, presenting an unsightly obstacle.

“Typically, with a small space, lots of our work is devoted to maximizing the storage function,” Salazar said, “and that goes right down to the TV.” Instead of simply plopping it onto a counter, it was hidden in a custom-made TV cupboard with retractable doors above a built-in oven.

Tight-space storage? The existing breakfast bar was raised six inches above the adjacent counter to buffer the sight of the relocated cooktop. Three 12-inch-deep storage cabinets were then neatly tucked under the bar.

To give a clean, crisp look that de-emphasizes the small size of the kitchen, a color palette of white with Delft blue accents was used. Durable, easy-clean Arctic white DuPont Corian replaced damaged light-blue ceramic tiles on counters. The Corian flows in solid, seamless pieces that do not distract the eye as tiles would. Delft blue appears in handmade accent tiles that fit neatly into white tile backsplashes and trims.

To anchor the white kitchen, the oak floor, which had been whitewashed, was refinished to a deeper, more natural hue, Further Details. The white opens up the kitchen, while the oak pulls it all together.

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