Kitchens set tone for smart, open designs

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The trend to open-concept homes sparked increased spending on kitchen cabinetry, and solidified the leading role in the home for kitchens.

“The kitchen is where you entertain,” says Drew Pelc, who along with his wife, Shelley, co-owns Dynamic Kitchens in London. “Now it is front and centre and has to be made more impressive. Design is a larger part of people’s mindset for entertaining in their homes. That is a big difference.”

“It used to be divided. Now the kitchen is a centralized part of the home,” says Dynamic Kitchens general manager Kevin Bowers. “House design has changed to accommodate the open concept.”

“Every party we have is centred around the island. People stand around it,” says Pelc, whose own kitchen features an 11-foot-long island. “There is no spilling on carpets and it is easier for mingling, going from one person to another. People sit at the island on bar stools and kids do homework on the island.”

Formal dining rooms are disappearing, except for people in their ‘50s and older. Pelc says a modern kitchen with top-flight cabinets sets the tone for the whole house. When they see the kitchen they say ‘wow.’”

While renovated kitchens are traditionally the best selling factor, Pelc says homeowners should renovate to enjoy it themselves. “I don’t suggest that they renovate just for the revenue. When they renovate for resale they tend to do it on the cheap and it will not draw a lot because people recognize it as cheap.”

Jim Smith, president of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors, says young buyers today like the work done. “They’re busy. They don’t want to do it. They like to have the kitchen and bathroom done so they can move in and enjoy it.”

Smith says the cost of renovations can be steep. “If you take out a wall for open concept, then you are doing flooring as well (to make it match).” Add to that new cabinetry, granite counter tops and an island.

“If your house is worth $300,000 you will try for $360,000 when you sell (to recoup your investment). You most likely will get the $360,000. It should pay off.”

There are other factors that will sell a house quickly or make the selling process drag on. One of them in the latter category is an aging roof. People know it will be costly to replace.

Smith says windows are a big issue in the market value of older homes. If they are original windows the house’s value will decline. Other negatives include an old furnace and a long-ago, out-of-date renovation.

A mistake some people make is putting off a project for too long because it reduces the time they will have to enjoy their investment. “Some should have done it 10 years ago,” says Pelc. He suggests that homeowners who upgrade should be prepared to spend about 10 per cent of the retail value of their home. This can make a change in their house that they will enjoy.

Older homes under renovation often have their walls removed, creating more open space. New homes are smaller and some have separate kitchens. “Bigger homes more often than not are open concept,” Pelc says. “They all want a TV that can be seen from the kitchen.”

Dynamic Kitchens, along with some of their competitors, build the cabinetry themselves. Bowers says their cabinets are an inch or more deeper than others and have solid backs. Oak, maple, hickory and cherry are some of the popular types of wood used in cabinets, along with some exotics.

Cupboard doors can be carved by a machine that is guided by computer input. They can create the whole door, including the border around it, from one piece of wood. This ensures that the borders will never separate. Similarly, the machine can be used to carve out smaller items for the cabinetry. There is little waste of wood because computer input guides the machine to locations on the board that are large enough for the part.

In a modern kitchen, appliances can also get into the act. An internet connected to a refrigerator door can call up recipes using Wi-Fi.

Pelc says design is a process. “A good designer will meld what the client wants along with your good advice to make it functional and still attractive.”

Sometimes a part of a designer’s job is to dissuade a customer from “making a massive mistake,” says Bowers. “Our knowledge collectively comes from hundreds of years of experience.”

The open-concept homes started to attract buyers 30 years ago and with it kitchens began to be painted white. This created light. There have been other changes, such as more use of nine-foot ceilings.

Dave and Muriel Buchner decided to update their entire house because ‘it was extremely outdated and we preferred modern,” Dave says. “We had to go modern to get someone to come up with something astounding.” They chose Dynamic Kitchens.

The Buchners began their renovations with the rest of the house. “The kitchen was the last piece of the puzzle because it is the most expensive.”

They had owned the home for several years and decided it was time to bring it up to date. Dave’s favourite feature is the upper cabinet doors, which open upward for easy access.

Second on his favourite list is the fact that the lower cabinet has drawers that pull out, making access easier than with the traditional doors.

“We didn’t keep the old appliances. We went with new high-end appliances. They make a big difference.”

Their kitchen includes an island with two stools, which makes it a favourite place to eat for the Buchners. “We use our island all the time.”

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