Lessons Learned From New York Times' "Dream House Diaries"

As I noted a few days ago, the New York Times blog, of which I was a "regular", has put up its last post. It's definitely bittersweet for me (I can't deny there are SOME emotions to seeing the last post, since I've hung in here for close to a year!) But, somehow, I think I'll be able to work tomorrow. :)

Here are the lessons that, I think, one should learn.

1. Plan in advance. As far ahead as you can, as soon as you are thinking about remodeling or building a home, start the process to find a kitchen designer. Alison and Paul's (the homeowners) builder told them to wait until the kitchen had a floor. That's...I can't find the words.

2. Find a kitchen designer - Take a look at this post for tips to find a kitchen designer. Allow for time up front, it may not be able to get done quickly.

3. Before you sign a contract, tell your builder you may not want to use his kitchen designer. Deal with that up front, and find out what sort of allowance will be rebated back to you. My take is Alison and Paul thought they would get a better deal with the builder's kitchen person. This is unknowable on their part, and I doubt it would have been much of a deal in the end. Not worth it.

4. Be aware that sometimes builders' kitchen designers are most comfortable with doing kitchens one way, and fast. Do you want that for a long term purchase?

5. Will your kitchen designer advocate for YOU...or for the builder? Alison and Paul had an issue with a large air handler which created a very bad aesthetic situation on several counts in their kitchen. Their designer should have been on the spot right away to come up with alternate solutions.

6. Be aware that even if you have to pay an upfront fee for a kitchen designer, in nearly all cases, the fee is refundable upon purchase of cabinetry. Extremely low risk and very much worthwhile to go this route.

7. Make sure the designer draws in surrounding spaces ESPECIALLY (did I say especially?) if the space is a great room. This was not done in Alison and Paul's case. As a result, the great room is a kitchen with a dining and seating/sofa area in it rather than a great room with a kitchen in it.

8. Make sure the dining area is drawn with chairs, the proper size table, all proper size furniture, and the spacing is gone over very carefully with you. Alison and Paul's great room is 44, maybe 45 feet long, with, oh, 9 1/2' allocated to the dining area. Yes, that's REALLY  a place that I want to hang out at. Maybe there is 4' between the table and the sofa on the other side of the space.

9. Note the window placement in relation to the dining table. In Alison and Paul's case, the windows have no relationship to a dining table. And, they are different sizes. It's just bad. They were warned.

10. Alison and Paul have acres of countertop, all of it one dark colored granite. Be aware of the impact of this type of situation.

11. Don't blindly put boxes on the wall. There are many other creative ways to design a kitchen.

12. Look at proportions and sizes of cabinet doors. In quite a few areas, Alison and Paul's doors do not relate well to one another, side by side and/or top to bottom.

13. Please think twice before you "default" to maxing out every possible inch for storage. The kitchen can look like another room, a lovely room, a real room. Do you really need all that stuff? If you do, and it's a great room, then be aware that there are alternatives to all those.....boxes. Creativity takes time. Give it time and understand that the aesthetic nature of the kitchen should be given equal, yes I said, equal, billing, especially in a great room!

14. Just put the time in. Apathy breeds boring design solutions as well as outright bad design due to others' apathy, responding to your apathy.

Ah, I feel better. I've had so much built up frustration during the course of this blog. The apathy, the waste in this kitchen, really was unfortunate. And, again, ad nauseum, I'm talking the apathy and waste in the fundamentals.

Posted on April 6, 2008 and filed under Kitchen Design.