New galley-like kitchen

sf7307August 13, 2013

We are moving into a new condo -- loft-style (some concrete walls, ceilings, pillars, huge industrial windows). The kitchen is useable, but not great and we plan to replace it. Last time we remodeled a kitchen (in our previous home) with the incredible assistance of folks on this forum, we ended up with a great kitchen (super-well laid out) for the 6 or 7 years we lived there after remodeling. However, we used very middle of the road cabinetry (looked great but wasn't super great quality).

We only expect to live in this place 5-7 years. The kitchen will, by necessity be a galley-type. One 13' wall of cabinets and appliances, and a 13' +/- island.

Our last kitchen was fairly traditional (dark cherry). We expect to go modern this time. My initial question relates to quality of cabinetry and appliances. Since this is a fairly high-priced downtown San Francisco place, and we do expect to sell it in 5-7 years, would you suggest we go high-end in the kitchen -- European cabinetry (Alno, Pedini, etc.)? Or should we just do IKEA? Or something in between. We want it to look great and function well, but we're not into high-price for "label's sake". Same goes for appliances. The idea of spending $7-10,000 for a refrigerator just kills me, but if it's "worth it" for looks, function and/or resale, we'll do it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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The most rational course of action is to build an average kitchen for your neighborhood/building.

If your typical neighbor has Ikea or Ikea priced cabinets and a $3k fridge that is what you should do.

If you typical neighbor has Pedini and a $10k fridge that is what you should do.

If you build significantly below average for your building it may take longer than average to sell or you may have to discount in order to sell.

If you build significantly above average for your neighborhood then you will never pull the money out you invested.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Good point, deeageaux. We just closed today so I don't know the answer - I'll have to ask around.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 2:19PM
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In general, in owning and shopping for condos in the City, I've noticed the level of investment in kitchens seems to be less. With the inflated SF real estate prices, it seems like if you chop the price of the home in half, you will get level of kitchen that installed elsewhere. I'm certain you noticed the same thing when you were shopping for this place.

I have struggled with the same issue, in deciding whether or not to remodel, and to what level.

It does depend on what price level we are talking about, and what neighborhood. I am seeing even builders put in integrated or built-in fridges into high end condo kitchens, but I don't see the cabinets called out very often (and the cooking equipment is often limited by venting). Nice fridges appear in remodels as well; I am thinking it is a high priority on form (sleek and modern) over function (don't need the space). I am actually very often disappointed in the finish level of many of the kitchens in the $1.5M+ range, mainly because it seems that not a lot of emphasis is placed there.

Besides asking around, you might check out some nearby open houses next Sunday -- above and below the price range of your home -- or go to sfarmls and browse the pics.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 3:52PM
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Isn't the general rule of thumb to budget something like 10-20% of your home's value for a kitchen remodel?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 5:22PM
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In an area of high property values like San Francisco, the rule of thumb does not make as much sense as it does in many parts of the country. It's easy to spend $1M on housing in San Francisco, and in many houses or condos in that range a $100,000 kitchen would be out of sync with the rest of the house.

I've noticed here, where the footprint of even large houses (which go vertical) is very small, a relatively modest house will have a built in fridge like Sub-Zero (with the less expensive Liebherr making inroads), simply because regular fridges are too deep for the small kitchens, for example. But the rest of the kitchen will probably have cabinets from Home Depot or Lowes, topped in granite.

Particularly if you are Not staying long, I would probably split the difference. I would make it fit the comps and have the look and the feel without all the expensive bells and whistles. Spend on what you will enjoy using there.

Unless you are in a particularly "status kitchen" market, my feeling is that most people do not notice details. One or two touchstones may symbolize a "good kitchen" for most people (and they may not be the same ones to different people).

My Realtor (whom I've worked with exclusively for 18 years) says most buyers do Not notice a quality build, or details, and generally don't want to pay Extra for it. They notice if it has what they are looking for, and they notice certain things, which to them, are important. They are going to want to pay based upon square footage in a certain location. Something that is of exceptional quality will only sell to someone who is Looking for exceptional quality, and most people are not interested in spending extra on exceptional quality. She is a consistent top seller in national rankings within her company in a competitive market, so I don't think she is being dismissive of clients, I think she knows what she's talking about.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 6:17PM
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I would ask your realtor assuming you liked him/her and would consider using them again when you sell. They should have an idea of what level of kitchens are in the comps.

I do think SF and most parts of the Bay Area are unique in that there is such high demand that most things sell. What I would want to know is that if I spent X more on higher quality cabinets and appliances, would I get that back.

Most home buyers do not have the level of information available on this site and at least my experience in SF and the peninsula is such that you only get to see the house a couple times before you have to bid (usually against multiple people). With the exception of the very high end market, I'm not sure super high end cabinets are worth it.It seems people are more interested in the appliances and the overall look.

Regarding Ikea, we rented two flats this summer and both had Ikea kitchens that were great.They had integrated, paneled refrigerators and dishwashers (Ikea brand). If you didn't see the word Ikea, you would have no idea where they were from.

However, when I mention to friends that I'd consider them for our kitchen they wrinkle their noses. So, I'd also ask the realtor if Ikea has a negative reputation regardless of their quality. I wonder if a lower quality cabinet would be better for resell than Ikea.

Good luck :)

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Very well said Palimpsest. We were posting at the same time and you summed it up perfectly.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 6:37PM
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IKEA for cabinetry is actually pretty good and configurable. You can customize the interiors a lot. Look on IKEA fans website. The trick is to treat it like a parts catalog. Go to the closest IKEA for you on a slow day - either Emeryville or Palo Alto and work with the kitchen designer there to customize. For the look, most people look at the doors. You can get very nice custom doors for IKEA from people like Semihandmade. See AnnKathryn's gorgeous kitchen here.

In a foodie town like SF, good quality appliances will sell your house when you are ready to sell. I know when were house hunting, I did pay attention to the Miele or Leibherr Fridges, Wolf or Gaggenau cooktops or ovens, Miele dishwashers etc. You can find decent deals in last year's models etc. I would not scrimp here but keep in mind how much you cook as well.

One more thing. The ReStore in San Mateo had a brand new never used, never installed Pogenpohl cabinetry that came from a SF loft. It was gorgeous and really cheap.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finished kitchen: Ikea, walnut, marble and glossy white

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 6:43PM
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I couldn't reply to your email to me so I looked you up on GW and found this post.

Thank you for the compliment regarding my cabinets. I live in Southeast Wisconsin and my cabinets were made by a small Amish cabinet shop about 80 miles from my house. There have been lots of discussions on here lately about Amish cabinetry. I had a very good experience with the cabinet shop I used and I love the quality of my cabinets. If you are in my area I could give you further information.

My cabinets are natural cherry. They have no stain on them at all. They have a clear satin finish on them. I don't remember exactly what was used. They were installed almost 2 years ago. The finish looks as good as it did on the day of install. The cabinets have darkened slightly as all cherry wood does.

If you would like to see more pictures of my kitchen there is a link below

Here is a link that might be useful: Cherry cabinets

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 10:07PM
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Thanks badger. Unfortunately we live in Northern California, nowhere near Northern Wisconsin!

Could you tell me how wide your dishes drawer and your spice drawer are?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 2:59PM
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Forgot to say, your kitchen is gorgeous!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 3:00PM
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sjhockeyfan, Northern California, yep that's definitely too far for my Amish cabinets maker to travel in his horse and buggy. Have you ever been to Wisconsin?
My dish drawer is 36 inches wide. In case you need more info about dish drawers there have been lots of post on here in the past. One thing that many (including myself) have noted regarding dish drawers is that the peg in drawer system is not really need with the soft close drawers.
My spice drawers is 18 inches wide. I do have some other (more specialty type) spices in one of my cabinets but even if my drawer had been wider, I don't know if I would have put every spice or spice mix in it. I find that for me the size of the drawer is fine. Hope you can figure out the right size drawer for you.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 11:51PM
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