06 July 2010

SENSIBLE STYLE - Due consideration

So you've been reading this blog for a year now and are still not totally sure what Sensible Style actually means. Let me share some definitions and considerations.

First, Sensible Style means a matching of form and function so that your space works to meet your needs and looks good while doing it.

Kitchen ROI

It also means spending wisely to get what you want at a price point that fits your home's value. It's just as easy to under-spend as it is to overspend, and both can bite you in the resale process. Consider your kitchen remodel an investment in your home. Putting a $100,000 kitchen in a $250,000 home won't give you a good return, as you've majorly overspent. But neither will putting a $30,000 kitchen in a $3 million home.

Even if you plan to stay in your home for 10, 20 or 40 years, you never know what circumstances might arise in your life that could create the need to move much sooner than planned. That's not the time you want to discover that you're not going to get much back for the new kitchen.

Tip: Get advice from local appraisers or Realtors on what buyers in your price range and neighborhood are looking for - e.g., stone tops, built-in appliances - and consider the ones that make sense for your home and family. If, for example, everyone else is investing in quartz or granite, look-alike laminate tops are not going to build any value for you.

Engineered stone tops, like this Black Anubis from Silestone, bring great form and function to a kitchen project.

Open plan considerations

Most of the designs I've worked on in the past five years involve opening up the kitchen to the adjacent rooms. These are usually a great room and/or dining room. Open plan designs are wonderful for entertaining and relaxed family living, but they do involve special Sensible Style considerations.

First, open plan kitchens tend to have fewer wall cabinets. So the designer and homeowner need to consider where the dishes, glasses and other typical upper storage items will go in this new plan.

Tip: Dish drawer organizers are great for storing serveware in base cabinets. They can be purchased through many cabinet brands, or after-market from accessory sources. Also consider siting your everyday dish storage near the dishwasher for more convenient unloading.

Dish drawer organizers like this one from Rev-A-Shelf are ideal for open plan kitchens

Another consideration in open floor plan design is coordinating the style of the kitchen with its neighboring rooms. They should flow together seamlessly and look as though they belong in the same home. When someone goes for a French Country kitchen in a Craftsman home, it doesn't usually work out well. Ditto for a Tuscan kitchen in a California contemporary. What happens when that new off-style kitchen is in place is that everything around it looks out of place.

Here's the Sensible Style approach to open floor plan design... Take your kitchen cues from the surrounding rooms' permanent elements. If you're not going to change the fireplace mantel with its dentil molding, for example, use dentil trim in the kitchen cabinetry's crown molding.

If you have a large furniture piece that's valuable and staying in the space, choose kitchen cabinetry that will coordinate well with it. This means factoring in its finish, as well as its door style. They don't have to be a match; they just have to look good together in the same open space.

Tip: Bring a door from an important furniture piece to your design selection meeting so you can see how the new cabinets will work with what you already own.

Notice how the family room cabinetry in this kitchen I designed coordinates with the kitchen island for a pulled-together open plan design.

Open plan flooring considerations

Flooring can also be an issue in open plan designs. Sensible Style means choosing a floor that is right for your household, not just right for a magazine layout. Considerations include its durability, especially with active children in the home, along with its maintenance requirements, safety and comfort underfoot. Polished travertine is beyond elegant in an empty nesters' pied-a-terre, but can be a nightmare in a busy family home, or for a senior citizen with balance issues.

The other consideration for your new kitchen flooring is how it will look next to the rooms it opens up to. If you're keeping that flooring in place, select new kitchen floors that look good next to it.

Tip: If you minimize the contrasts between the kitchen floor and the adjacent rooms' flooring materials, your space will look larger and more cohesive.


  1. Almost any home can be enriched and enhanced with the installation of decorative molding.

  2. If I wanted to put a 100K kitchen into a 250K home, I would. I think people should look down the road as far as they can and do what they want to, if they think they will stay in their home. I have very close friends who have done nothing with their home because they were convinced that they would only be there two or three years. It’s been almost thirty now! But those who think only of the resale value of the home really shortchange themselves. They end up with bland when they could have had spectacular, however they may interpret spectacular. Someone else may not care for their “spectacular” and may well rip it out after they purchase the home, or even go down the street and buy something else. So, what? They could just as easily play safe and end up turning off a potential purchaser who dislikes bland.

  3. I'm working on a new kitchen in an home right now, and I'd love your read on what we're doing! You have such excellent, sensible advice! I'm contemporary; boyfriend is traditional -- house is massive, dark 1906 tudor with paneled walls, beamed ceilings in entrance, stained glass, etc. There are young children and a dog, too!
    The new kitchen was created from a small kitchen, breakfast room and closet combined, and creates a room with a working "U" at one end, capped by an island with two cabinets and a drawer microwave, plus a curved seating area. We think our storage is good - lots of drawers; a pull out pantry next to the fridge; pots and pans in drawers under the cooktop; and sink, dishwasher and dishes close together. The seating side of the island is where traffic to and from the space passes. An adjacent butlers pantry will house a smallish kitchen table as well as more storage. We want an elegant, stylish, but livable vibe -- we like to cook and eat!
    The finishes are my concern. We plan: 18" X 18" faux travertine tile (Daltile San Michele in Dorato); creamy white cabinets in a simple recessed square panel design (stacked upper cabinets of 36" and 18" cabinets with 6" of crown molding to reach the 108" ceiling - the shape and color matches existing cabinets in butlers pantry); and Juperana Gold granite countertops (golden brown with dark brown and grey accents - little movement), stainless appliances including range hood; glass subway tile backsplash (muted tone called hazelnut); golden beige paint; crown molding all the way around the room...maybe a shade darker ceiling paint. Thoughts?

  4. Joseph,
    Yes, you certainly can put a pricey kitchen into a modest home. Just so long as you (or your clients) don't expect to get their investment back. If they're doing it just because they really want that kitchen and it will add significantly to the pleasure in their life, fine. Go for it. Everyone gets to do what they want with their homes and lives. That doesn't make it sensible, though, and that's the point of this posting!

    Some nice choices. Not sure the white Shaker cabinets in the butler's pantry were original to the Tudor home. They used more dark wood, formal style cabinets. Light is fine, but Shaker is very stark for the architectural style you cite. Also, I'm not a granite fan, as I don't think it's particularly sensible, especially for a family with active children. Why not look at a golden-toned quartz product instead for good looks, durability, warranty and easy maintenance. Good look with your project!


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