The latest colors and trends are tempting, but a kitchen should be timeless, says Barbara Miller, design director for the Neil Kelly design and remodeling company.
It’s expensive to remodel a kitchen, and cabinets can make up 30% of the costs, so make sure you or an owner five to 10 years in the future won’t think the look has gone out of style, she says.
A sure-fire solution: White cabinets.
Since Neil Kelly started remodeling homes in Portland in 1947, “we have never stopped selling white cabinets,” says Miller, referencing a statement made by owner Tom Kelly, whose father founded the company.
She says styles and hardware have changed, but white remains popular in the Pacific Northwest, as does wood-grain cabinets.
The easiest way to ensure a kitchen has a timeless feel is to match key elements with the architecture and era of the house: A Colonial Revival house works best with traditional cabinets, while a midcentury design shines with sleek, flat panel cabinet doors and a Northwest ranch benefits from a transitional style in wood tones.
Selecting neutral materials and colors for cabinetry and large surfaces may seem unexciting, but there are ways to make a statement with wall color, knobs and pulls, and fixtures that can be changed in a day without having to undergo a full remodel.
A new pendant light over the island can help make a kitchen look up-to-date, Miller says.
People considering a kitchen remodel typically ask Miller if they can keep existing cabinets. She says cosmetic upgrades are possible if the design and layout still look and function well.
She explains what needs to be considered when deciding to renew or replace cabinets:
- Quality of existing cabinets. If the cabinets have a peeling finish, new paint will peel too, says Miller. Large grain oak and other wood cabinets can be refinished with a darker stain, but the grain will show through paint. “You can make the grain not as visible, but no one can guarantee a smooth finish,” she says, “and there will be a difference in the texture.”
- Appliance sizes have changed over time. A remodel could start when the oven doesn’t work or the downdraft ventilation system breaks, says Miller. If you can’t get a new one to fit the original space and there isn’t enough room to modify the cabinets, cabinets will need to be replaced.
- Choose cabinet styles that continue to be sold and reproduced. If the existing cabinets were designed to work with a large soffit in the ceiling and you want to use that space for taller cabinets, or if you want a pull-out pantry with the most storage possible or to move a cooktop out of the island, you will need to replace all the cabinets if you can’t match them.
To upgrade the look, Miller says “face frame” and overlay cabinets can be fitted with new doors and drawers that cover the edges.
“Once you start replacing drawers and door fronts, and making too many modification, you are over 50% into the cost of new cabinets,” she says.
Trending now are modern, high-gloss cabinets in bright colors like deep green as well as blue or red ovens. “Unless you’re designing for exactly how you love it, I would stay neutral with cabinets and appliances if you’re planning to resell your home within 10 years,” says Miller.
Miller is recommending solid wood cabinets, which can be repainted, to a client set on having periwinkle blue. “You can paint them white for resale,” she says. “Ask yourself first, is this changeable? How much effort is required to modify it in the future? Being smart in those decisions will help your kitchen be timeless.”
Home design and product experts with Neil Kelly will offer ideas and advice during a kitchen design and remodeling webinar starting online at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10. Register for the free event at neilkelly.com/events.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072
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