July 10, 2012

Kitchen conversions should be timeless

Beware of trendy updates, say designers, since styles are constantly changing


Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most expensive rooms in a house to renovate. So it makes sense to have a design that retains its functionality for as long as possible. To find out how, we talked to Carole Hutchison and Linda Hutchison, two unrelated Victoria interior designers with Design One — Stevens Interiors. Carole says a good layout that works for the house and for the cook is key for a kitchen to stand the test of time. “It makes upgrading easier.”

Designing a timeless kitchen is about combining function, technology and, most importantly, quality, she says. “There’s no sense skimping on a budget and have the kitchen falling apart in just a few years.” But don’t give in to the temptation to make the kitchen cutting-edge, she warns, since technology and styles can change by the minute. A trendy kitchen will date quickly and need upgrading sooner than a more conventional and traditional design.


Joan Richardt, who recently renovated her kitchen, said she wanted to stick to a warm, soft West Coast theme that fit with the rest of the house. “But I didn’t want anything over the top. I like how the kitchen has more of a timeless look, one that fits with the water views I get from the kitchen window.” Carole, who has been designing for the past decade, said many clients have older homes and don’t want a modern kitchen that clashes with the rest of the house.

As far as kitchens go, there is no one-size-fits-all, both designers say. A custom kitchen stands the test of time better than most because it’s designed around the space and the individual. “One tends to enjoy a kitchen more when it is custom,” Linda says. “Above all, don’t design a kitchen for the next person in mind. Many people renovate with the idea of making it generic and not [offending] the next owner. That’s a lot of meals cooked in a compromise [design] with the hope somebody else will like your kitchen in the future.”


Both designers agree that the role of the kitchen is evolving. In new homes, kitchens tend to be a multi-use hub around which other rooms revolve. “It’s become a more general-purpose area,” says Linda, a veteran interior designer with more than 23 years’ experience. “It’s now where one would use the computer, drink coffee and do crafts.” It’s not uncommon to see a laundry area immediately beside a kitchen. Others boast mud rooms, wine storage and walk-in pantries. In new and renovated homes, walls that traditionally separate the kitchen from other rooms have been removed and replaced by partial walls or just cabinetry, in some instances.


With the advent of the “great room” — a combined kitchen and living-room area — small kitchens are a thing of the past. But what if you want to downsize into a smaller space, such as a condominium? Designers have come to the rescue by making small spaces work harder. “We can now give people pullout instead of walk-in pantries,” Carole says. “There are appliances — dishwashers, microwaves, even small refrigerators — that are integrated into pullout drawers that one can get to save space in a small kitchen.”

Aging in place

One aspect many people overlook is how components of a kitchen work for elderly people. Some problems are simple to solve. A simple contrast strip on the edge of a countertop helps those with failing vision. Appliances with the controls — and display — on the top are preferable to ones that have them on the face. Cupboards should have handles rather than knobs for those who suffer from arthritis.

Faucets with levers are similarly preferred over ones with knobs. Some faucets now have sensors that operate by touch — or by merely moving a hand in front of them. Linda also stresses that when renovating, people should take a hard look at lighting needs for the future. For those with diminishing eyesight, a kitchen should be as bright as possible. Activities such as cooking and reading recipes require more task lighting. Installing under-counter lights is also a good idea.

Victoria Times Colonist


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