Does a reasonably-priced great kitchen exist?

alisandeFebruary 27, 2003

I'm about to embark on a kitchen remodel, something I wish I'd done 20 years ago when I cooked from scratch three times a day, every day. Although I no longer spend that much time at the stove, the house badly needs a new kitchen for resale value (the present one doesn't have cabinets or drawers, for starters), and I need a more pleasant and efficient place to work and hang out.

I've been lurking on the various forums related to new kitchens, and I'm feeling a bit out of my league. It appears that most people are getting Sub-Zero refrigerators and $7,000 ranges. And that's just for starters.

I've chosen good-quality cabintry, but haven't started looking at appliances yet. I've always loved the look of commercial gas ranges, but don't want to sink a fortune into something that essentially represents overkill. I guess what I'm asking is this: Is it possible to get a really good looking, wonderfully functional kitchen without spending an astronomical amount of money?



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I think it is, Susan, and I think you need to start talking to some stores in your own area about reality. Lots of folks on the remodeling forum here are just spending more than most other folks.

(about the range: my MIL has a commercial gas range, and she has to constantly warn my kids to stay away from it, bcs it's a true commercial range, not a "commercial-look" home range w/ insulation that keeps the outside from getting hot. My plan, when we redo our kitchen, is to get a BUILT-IN range, to eliminate all the crevices that eventually need cleaning. Maybe a commercial range would help your resale, but probably not enough to justify buying one)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 9:56AM
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We built our whole addition which included: new kitchen and great room 660square feet , full basement with daylight windows and 9'ceilings (9 foot ceilings in the kitchen/greatroom too), Tons of windows, new septic, new well, and appliances for about 45,000. This is less than some peoples kitchen remodel! I have a Maytag gas oven/stove combo-in black (which I think looks old fashioned); A white Hotpoint water in the door biggest fridge on earth; A white Maytag dishwasher; and A GE electric indoor grill with two extra burners, downdraft, and a special burner that gives exact temp.(haven't figured that one out yet.) All these were bought at a discount when we bought them all together and the grill was a floor model at about 1/3 the price. We have stained glass doors on our upper cabinets, 30" tile countertops, oak cabinets, plaster canopies around all the lights, a chandelier over the snack bar/island which is oak, ceiling fan in the living room area, maple floors in the kitchen, carpet in the living room and maple stairs down to the basement...I'm telling you this so you'll know that it isn't cheap's solid with stuff that'll last.
Now we did just about everything ourselves. Everything except the block wall basement , well, and septic. I know that you can have a very nice kitchen for not a whole lot of money. (I'm not saying the 45K is not a whole lot of money, but it is a whole new addition with basement,windows etc..)

You don't have cabinets or drawers? What size kitchen do you have? We can give you some inexpensive ideas to spruce it up and find you some counter space. What style do you like? My kitchen is french country with a little gothic and Victorian thrown in! LOL You could find some cabinets that are dinged a little for a good price, and put your own counter top on and backsplash.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 10:28AM
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I just looked at your page. You have an old farm house too!
Ours was built in 1846 or 1864..yikes memory problem and dyslexia. :) Our addition was started a couple summers ago...not finished with everything yet. We're now working on the old part of the house.

How big is your kitchen? Is it a big country kitchen? Do you have any of those old counters? We have a Seller's in ours (the old kitchen) that dates to the late 1800's or early 1900's..again with the memory. sigh...

What fun you can have, for not a lot of money. You know in that style house you can use actual furniture for your lower cabinets. Just set the furniture side by side and screw 'em to the wall, then put your counter top on..May need to add some heights..shims or even another little drawer to equal the heights.

Oh my ideas are flowing!!!


    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 10:37AM
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Susan, did you see the thread below? There are some good ideas there. My first thought when I read your post was to re-face your cabinets. Then I read that you don't have any! Yikes! Please, wahtever you do, spend as much time as possible thinking through the design of the kitchen. I have old, but good quality cabinets. Re-facing would be an option for me, except that the layout is so poor that the entire kitchen will have to be gutted to rework the layout. I once borrowed a book from the library on kitchen design. Many cabinet retailers also offer free design services. Just make sure that what THEY design is going to work for YOU.

As far as the appliances, I too wanted a commercial looking range. I quickly rethought that idea when I started shopping. The true commercial ranges are mega$$$. And, I didn't care for the quality of the ones that are made to look commercial, and they weren't cheap either. I went with a white GE Profile range/oven combo, and I am quite happy with the look. I've decided to go country, not cutesy country, just simple country, (mostly because of the views out the windows,) and I don't think that the stainless steel would have looked as good with the decor. You should check out the appliance forum for more ideas on good, resonably priced appliances. DH and I also relied heavily on Consumer Reports online. We chose a maytag dishwasher because it rated very high, and both my Mom and MIL have older maytags that still work great. Maytag, as well as most other manufactureres, have lines of appliances that are essentially the same, except, as the price goes up, they have added features. You can still get a very inexpensive maytag dishwasher that is just as good, and will last just as long as the more expensive models, but will not have ALL the fancy features. We chose a middle of the road model because it had some extra insulation that makes it quieter. If you are planning on selling your home, it is not economical to choose top of the line appliances, unless you're in an expensive area where people expect commercial ranges, sub zero refrigerators, and granite countertops.

I, for one, do not like working on granite counters. And, I have worked in many commercial kitchens in my life, and I can assure you that professionals do not work on granite either. They work on stainless steel and/or wood. I don't like the look of stainless contertops in a home kitchen (too sterile.) I'll probably be going with laminate, with a front edge made of wood. My Mil has this and it's very attractive. Another option, perhaps less expensive, but perhaps not, is to have the front edge beveled. Did you know that they also make a solid surface/laminate hybrid. Sorry, I don't know what the exact term is, but what they do is use a thin layer of solid surface on a wood base. It looks just like true solid surface, and can be sanded just like solid surface, but it's less expensive. When it's time, I'm gonna look into this, maybe doing the front edge in wood, maybe beveling it (depends which look I like better.) IMHO, truely solid, solid surface is not worth the $$. They say it lasts forever, but eventually, you (or the next owner) is gonna get tired of the pattern.

What do your floors look like? Is there linolium? If so, there may be wood floors underneith that can be refinished. If not, in an old kitchen like yours, a linolium floor would be totally appropriate, and in keeping with the age of the house.

If you haven't thought about the sink yet, I would consider one of those sinks with the front that extends down the front of the cabinet. Do you know what I'm talking about? Yes, they're expensive, comparitively speaking, but I think well worth it for an old farmhouse. Think of it as your focal point; the one item that you splurge on.

Here is a link that might be useful: budget remodeling/redecorating

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 11:42AM
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Susan -
The most critical thing about a kitchen is not the brand name of the surfacing, nor the price of the appliances ... it is how the kitchen "works".
Is the storage easy to get to, can you easily prepare a meal, or are you constantly walking around a 3-mile lap track (too-big has its own problems. It's all about designing a work flow, which most kitchen designers conveniently forget.

People will pick up on the fact that there aren't any drawers near that blown glass sink faster than they will the fact that you have a $$$$ range imported from Lapland. And if that $$$$% Sub-Zero frig doesn't have a convenient counter to put things as you are taking them off the fully adjustable chiller shelves ... it's a bad kitchen.
I remember a kitchen in a very expensive house that quite literally forcedyou to walk AROUND the island to get from the sink to the frig. It's like they hadnever heard of the "work triangle".

With no cabinets or counters you will save money on demolition. :)

As far as appliances, leave room for the common sizes, based on your house size, and pick good quality with the features you want to have. No sense overspending for things you don't want ... "resale value" is more in the work flow than anything else.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 6:05PM
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Before you spend one dime consider the following:

Are you doing the kitchen for YOU or for "resale"?

If it's for YOU, do it any way you want it to be.

If you're doing it for resale, DON'T DO ANYTHING AT ALL! I'm serious, the next owner of your home will likely rip out out and re-do all the things you did to "upgrade" it. It's sad, but true; my father in law was an architect and we saw the whole scenario played out plenty of times...

The cold, hard facts are that kitchen remodels rarely recoup the amount of money required to achieve them. You'd probably fare better with a moderate make-over that made YOUR life easier, day to day. Skip the high end appliances, do with good quality ones that you wouldn't mind taking with you or that will be "paid for" by the time you decide to sell.

Our kitchen? a galley! 24" gas stove that is nearly 20 years old. A Kenmore refrigerator purchased new in 1997, when we tired of defrosting the freezer COMPARTMENT on our faithful 1965-6 apartment sized 'frig.. A two bowl stainless sink that was free. No dishwasher, no micowave. But it works and we're OK with it, for now. :)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 7:33PM
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Reasonable kitchen remodels exist, but why not do a cosmetic makeover? Clean, fresh, and neutral OR bright (like in yellow, or white with bright color easily changed accents-like curtain, placemats, accessories) sells. I bought a wreck of a house and did a cosmetic makeover for $26.00! Sounds impossible, but by using "leftovers" from family of primer, curtain rods, material, cabinet paint, etc. I was able to clean up and tie together the kitchen until I can save enough for what I really want.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 2:35PM
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What wonderful ideas! My own response will be a little slow, I'm afraid. Spent today in the E.R. with my DH, who was admitted to the hospital this evening. Nothing terribly serious, but it'll be a few days before I'm back to a normal routine. Talk to you then.



    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 10:17PM
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Though it may be a while before you see this ...

we want to let you know that the thoughts and prayers of many of us are with you and your family at this anxious time.

We hope that the issue does not turn out to be serious.

May God keep you.

joyful guy/Ed

    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 11:46PM
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Best to you and your family. Hope all is well.

I'll agree with the idea that if you're doing this for selling, don't. Why give the realtor more money? They push you you spend $30,000 to get another $20,000 in the sale (hence their commission goes up) but you don't benefit. If it's for you, go ahead and do it. For instance if you're selling, why put a $2000 stove in when you can put in a $200 stove. Both will sell as "new stove". Same with a frig, washer/dryer or whatever you're doing. There's a buyer for every home. I wouldn't waste the money. But you need to analyze what you're doing and want to do.

As far as appliances, check the appliance forum and go through the old posts. WONDERFUL information! You'll find out why GE appliances are so cheap and a whole lot more. Go in with an open mind, get a fix on what you want to spend and you'll be far ahead.

Good luck and have fun!


    Bookmark   February 28, 2003 at 11:56PM
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Gee, I really hope things are OK.

Nothing is more stressful than unforeseen health "issue".

Thinking of you...

    Bookmark   March 1, 2003 at 8:21AM
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I hope your DH is ok Susan. Don't forget to take care of yourself too. I'll pray for you both.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2003 at 8:51AM
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Cheolone thank you, I think that's a wonderful accomplishment. I'm doing pretty much the same as you did, it's hard on one income to make headway and fix up the house. I drive a 13 year old car, knock wood, I'm hoping to get two more years out of it, and I do most everything in the house myself. I did have to hire roofers, and had to have a new furnace installed, I simply wasn't strong enough for those tasks.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2003 at 9:12AM
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This question of mine turned out to be far more timely than I had imagined. My DH was placed in a nursing home yesterday, and the state will soon have a major say in my finances. So I have to move quickly if I'm going to do anything with the kitchen. I just posted a request for help in the Appliances forum.

I'll try to answer your questions. The kitchen is basically L-shaped, with the two walls *roughly* 8.5 x 10 feet. The shorter one contains a window, and another window is at the end of the other measurement. The fridge is separate, and a very old 30" square butcher block serves as an island.

My cousins, husband and wife professionals in another state, are going to design the kitchen for me. That was the original plan, anyway. I've since learned that the big cast iron vertical vent pipe that graces the kitchen can't be removed, and the cabinet arrangement will somehow have to hide it. I think this may call for some hands-on assessment, in which case I'll pay someone locally to come in and do the design work.

My style is non-frilly country. I want a clean look of wood and natural light. I've chosen beadboard cabinets, and I love Windchime's ideas about countertops. I will have some "kitchen furniture" in the dining area that is open to the kitchen. I presently have an old beadboard narrow cupboard, and I will soon have delivered an antique Hoosier and a handmade Dutch pantry, the latter part natural wood, part painted dark green.

Special thanks for your kind words about my DH and our situation. His placement was a long time coming, and it's good to know he's receiving the best care, but still the decision is a sad one.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2003 at 9:14PM
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Susan -
How high are the walls? And can you scan a measured drawing? Show where windows, frig, existing plumbing and the vent pipe is. I assume the open side of the "L"is dining room area?

I had a similar vent pipe dilemma - they just boxed it in and I painted it to match the walls. Or you can place a short faux cabinet in front of it if it runs up a wall.

The beadboard cabinets sound great, and if they come with pot drawers, even better. If you use laminate on the countertops, with "Chevy-grade" appliances instead of the "Ferrari" models the K&B forum is in love with, you can get a really good looking kitchen at a modest price.
Think about convenient work patterns, ease of storage,lots of storage, and as much unbroken counterspace as possible. To be useful for cooking, you need at least a 3-foot stretch of counter.

The only place to not skimp is on the wiring and plumbing. Buy really good faucets (good brand, not their most expensive model), and don't skimp on the new circuits.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2003 at 8:12AM
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Susan, I'm so sorry to hear about your DH's health. I hope all is well with you two.

Your cabinet selection sounds beautiful. I think, judging from your description, that you and I have similar tastes. I agree with lazygardens about the pot drawers. My aunt has them and they're great. Below is a link with a picture of the sink that I was trying to describe. It's called either a farmhouse sink or an apron sink. As I said, they're not cheap, but sometimes, we have to decide what we're going to splurge on.

I hope you can save that butcherblock. If not the whole thing, then perhaps, re-use the top, and discard the base. If the top is too big, maybe you can cut it down. Wood is wonderful to work on.

I still stand behind my choice of a Maytag dishwasher. As I recall from consumer reports, they rated at the top, along with another brand, but the maytag rated better for quietness, and I HATE noise. Whatever you choose, you may want to consider the fact that some, but not all dishwashers allow for a front panel (usually wood) to be installed that matches your cabinets. I specifically checked for this feature since I knew we would be replacing our cabinets eventually.

Concerning your windows: A lot of times, in old houses, the windows extend closer to the floor than in newer houses. If you don't want to replace the window with a shorter window, which would involve patching exterior siding, which would in turn alter the facade, then you may want to look at it as an opportunity to incorporate a baking center. Even if you don't bake, it could be a selling point when you go to sell. Plus, it will break up the long line of identical cabinets, and provide a shorter piece of countertop for when you're doing something that requires leverage. Maybe this is where you can re-use that butcherblock top? Or, you can add a chair and make that space a built in desk with a view.

Does your cabinet retailer offer free kitchen design services? I'm just thinking that with your time crunch, you don't have time to wait on your cousins. You need to get these things purchased! I recently re-designed my Mom's kitchen using a program called 3D Home Architect Deluxe 3.0. I purchased it several years ago for $30. After you design the house (or room) in 2D, it allows you to see it in 3D, from any angle you choose. Very helpful, and very easy to use.

Here is a link that might be useful: farmhouse/apron sink

    Bookmark   March 10, 2003 at 2:57PM
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An apron sink would go beautifully here.

I plan to leave the butcher block right where it is--as my "island"--perhaps with a pot rack over it.

Yes, I think I'll have to use a local kitchen designer rather than my cousins. The cousins are both eager to help me and wonderfully talented (they do extravaganty upscale kitchens in NYC, among others), but they are just too far away for my present circumstances. Also, I think it would be wise for the designer to appear in person to get a look at the problematic vent pipe.

The flooring man was here this afternoon to give me the unwelcome news that nothing can be put over the present floor except carpeting, which I absolutely do not want. Anything else--laminate, vinyl, wood--will require that the present floor be ripped out and a 3/4" subfloor put down. The contractor is coming on Wednesday, and he and I are hoping he'll see a way to put down the subfloor w/o ripping out the old.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2003 at 7:54PM
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Alisande -
What is the "current flooring" and how many layers of it?

Sometimes you get a layer cake of various floors (I had from top to bottom in one house: sheet vinyl, ceramic, self-stick tiles, sheet flooring, glue-down solid vinyl tiles, linoleum, original fir tongue and groove!) If it's a layer cake, you have to get down to the bottom layer, whatever it is, and start fresh. My guess, from the age of the house is that it's tongue and groove fir or oak right over the joists. If so, rip down and see what the original flooring looks like and decide to refinish or add plywood subfloor and do something else.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2003 at 9:14AM
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We're down to one layer: old oak. Several contractors have told me it's not salvagable, so refinishing isn't an option. It's too bad...we're talking about a large area here. Half the kitchen floor is plywood. When we moved in, all this was covered by sheet vinyl. What a mess! The wavy uneven areas of the floor produced ridges where the color wore off the vinyl, leaving white stripes all over the place.

Interesting that although the flooring in this half of the house looks clearly like oak to me, the front rooms have another kind of wood. It doesn't have much of a grain at all; would that be fir? The planks on half of the front area are the standard 2.5" width, while the other half uses 5.25".

    Bookmark   March 11, 2003 at 9:31AM
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It was common to use different woods and widths. Whatever the expensive stuff was went in the public rooms like the parlor. The cheaper stuff (wider, interestingly was cheaper because it had less labor in it) went into kitchens and bedrooms. And there was little concern about matching existing materials when they added on rooms.

If you have a mix of old oak and plywood, there is a less expensive way out that still looks good. Check the flooring forum for the threads on "plywood as finish flooring" ... you do need to get the joists levelled and the floor flat with a good subfloor, but after that a good country flooring could be painted and stenciled right on the subflooring with several coats of clear poly for protection. Another possibility is using 1/4 birch or oak over the subfloor and staining it.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2003 at 3:32PM
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