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Kitchen Confidential:

Melissa Kellogg
Mountain House and Home

There are more options now for small kitchens to gain counter and cabinet space and get a whole new look without sacrificing important amenities. According to a survey by Remodeling Magazine, the average kitchen remodel will cost about $54,000 but return at least 80 percent of that cost at resale. The current trend toward built-in and hidden appliances along with contemporary, clean lines works perfectly in small kitchens, says Liz Sterling, designer with Kitchens Plus in Eagle-Vail. And believe it or not, local kitchen designers are happy to work with small kitchen remodels. A few of them share their strategies for making small kitchens realize their full potential.

Sterling recommends considering a complete change of physical space. One small condo kitchen she remodeled in Frisco involved removing some walls and taking the cabinetry all the way to the ceiling. Getting rid of angles and creating an “L” or “U” shape can maximize the use of space.

Robin Slattery, president of Modern Kitchen Center in Glenwood Springs agrees.

She says, “Think of the kitchen like a boat; you have to make use of every single inch.”

A client of realtor Laurie Huggins of Breckenridge Associates Real Estate remodeled her one bedroom Yacht Club condo. She changed the entire layout of the kitchen from a small galley kitchen to an “L” shaped that opened into the main living area, says Huggins. She gained enough space to add an island and replaced the appliances with all new full-size appliances. As the listing agent for the condo, Huggins says the resident turned around and sold the condo a year later and made back twice the money she put into the remodel. The unit sold for more than $50,000 over other units in the same condo complex.

Room to work

Increasing counter space will also make a small kitchen feel bigger, says Sterling.

She suggests getting rid of any separate levels. For example, if the breakfast bar is higher than the kitchen counter, make it all one level for a more open feel and more useable counter space. Remove any appliances, such as the microwave, from counter tops. Microwaves can be installed in the wall, over the stove or as an under-the-counter drawer.

Trading in large, full-size appliances for the new smaller, built-in models will also give the kitchen a more spacious look. There are many options and strategies behind the latest in appliances and kitchen technology.

Ranges – Viking and Bertazzoni both offer smaller sized, 24-inch wide, stand alone, high-performance ranges. Another possible solution is to pair a two- or four-burner cook top with a combination microwave, convection oven and range hood installed above the cooktop. Using dual-purpose appliances wherever possible will increase counter space and cabinet space, says Stephanie Campbell, sales manager of Alpine Appliance Center in Eagle-Vail.

Dishwasher – Rather than opting for a full-sized dishwasher, consider an 18-inch-wide dishwasher that looks and operates just like a conventional dishwasher, only thinner. Also, dishwashing drawers are gaining in popularity. The drawers can be completely integrated into the cabinetry and slide out like a standard drawer for loading and unloading. The dish drawers are generally half the size horizontally of a standard dishwasher, and they leave room for an extra drawer beneath.

Refrigerator – Another space-saving opportunity is to get rid of the full-sized refrigerator, which usually takes up a large percentage of usable space in a small kitchen. Eric Boylan, vice president and co-owner of Alpine Appliance Center in Eagle-Vail suggests considering refrigeration drawers for small spaces. With refrigerator and freezer drawers under the counter, homeowners gain a sizeable amount of additional counter space. For those that want a larger refrigerator, consider a built-in Sub-zero refrigeration tower that’s only 27 inches wide.

Challenges

As for styling, a contemporary look with clean lines is a good choice. “It opens the room up,” Sterling says. And, she says if done right, basic contemporary styling lasts forever and will never look dated. The European look of boxy, high-gloss veneers and lacquer finishes are gaining in popularity in our region, says Slattery.

Remodeling a small kitchen can pose major challenge. “There are often trade-offs,” Slattery says. One of her clients had such limited space that the homeowner had to choose between a wine refrigerator under the counter or a dishwasher. They chose the wine refrigerator. Because of limited space, it is important to carefully consider exactly what you want and need in your small kitchen so that you can choose appliances and features accordingly.

“It’s just as hard to plan a small kitchen remodel as it is a big one,” she says. Homeowners can use the “work triangle” as a guideline when planning how to arrange appliances and work areas. The work triangle is the space from the refrigerator to the cooking area to the clean-up area. Then let creativity and practicality dictate the rest.

The most important advice for homeowners remodeling a small kitchen is to research. There is such a wide variety of appliances and technology available now that is revolutionizing kitchen design. Remember, the kitchen is where everyone congregates, Sterling says. “It’s the most important room in the home.”


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