It’s no secret that the trend in home building and renovations has been to maximize square footage and minimize the number of walls to give a spacious open feeling. Homes have been getting larger while families have been getting smaller. The old house that once raised generations of large families is not big enough for today’s new owners.
One of the reasons for this trend is the affordability of larger homes or significant renovations. Families today, are able to pay for, or at least qualify for the mortgage necessary to pay for a larger home. Builders, real-estate agents and mortgage brokers are happy to encourage this trend, because everyone is making money and the home owner is proud-as-punch with all that extra square footage.
I think a large house is great, but when a huge house lacks enough furniture to fill the space, it doesn’t feel like a home. You may have seen the kitchen-dining room-living room combination with no definition and a large empty space in the middle. Then there are some kitchen islands that could be called a continent, not an island.
The kitchen triangle, or the relative placement of the fridge, stove and sink, is very important to maintain. If you have ever been in a kitchen that seems awkward, it’s usually because the “triangle” is out of whack and that can be caused by a kitchen that is too spread out.
Removing walls is a trendy thing to do. I sometimes wonder if we will be putting these walls back twenty years from now when the trend reverses. Most of the time, it makes good sense. Many homes built 50 or more years ago, had very small rooms with too much division between them. Homes built in the last 30 years started the trend to larger rooms and removing walls in these houses often goes too far. Instead I have recommended customers open up a portion of a wall, not the entire wall.
Removing walls often eliminates valuable cabinet space. This space has to be recovered somewhere else, usually by adding an island. An island can provide some of the needed division between the kitchen and the dining room as well as a popular hang-out area for guests without getting in the way of the cook. Proportion and positioning is key here. Too big or too small and it will become annoying real fast.
Regardless of the era your home was built in, or the square footage, the kitchen may have been well designed or poorly designed for your needs. Efficient cooks need the right amount of room. They need the stove, fridge and sink to be the right distance apart and adequate counter space, but not acres of it. Large kitchens become storage lockers for tons of items you never use and counters get piled up with knick-knacks and garbage.
As mentioned, one of the reasons for the trend in large kitchens is that the costs have come down. Renovating your kitchen will often cost less than you think. Updating a well built and well laid out kitchen with just new counter tops or new doors saves money, and a lot of inconvenience. Above all else, you need to spend some time looking at show homes, reading magazines and watching renovation shows. From here, you can start a “needs list”. Once you consult with your contractor to see what is possible for your space, you can then refine your ideas from there.
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