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Designing Your Dream Kitchen (Even if You’re on a Budget)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

A kitchen must be practical, functional and look good. Not just a place to prepare and eat meals, today’s kitchen is the social hub of the house, whether you’re hanging out with the family, entertaining friends or need somewhere to lay out your current parent-child crafts project. Creating a kitchen design plan that reflects who you are as a family can help you get a new kitchen without the actual expense of buying a new one.


It might sound like stating the obvious, but what will be the purpose of your kitchen? If you’ve never given much thought to what role it plays in your life, working in your kitchen might be more of a source of frustration than a pleasure. All you might need to do is rearrange your kitchen to match your lifestyle. Keep in mind how many people will be using the kitchen on a regular basis. The kitchen’s main focus will also determine the number of appliances that will monopolize counter space or need to be stored in cupboards.

If you entertain a lot, then you might prefer an open concept kitchen design that will allow you to talk to people while you’re prepping or cooking food.

Does your kitchen have to do double time? If the only room in your home for a dining table and dining chairs is the kitchen, then you will need to allot space. The same applies if your kitchen is the only place for your washer and dryer, a mudroom or a workbench.

Is everyone in your family on different schedules and you eat together only on weekends? If this is the case, then probably the microwave will play a bigger role in your kitchen than the stove. If a built-in microwave shelf is not an option, the Ameriwood Microwave Workcenter will free up counter space while adding more storage.


How big is the room? Take measurements. When designing your kitchen, also include any architectural features, such as structural walls, windows and doors that might restrict the use of your walls and floors. Also take into consideration how the kitchen relates to the rest of the house: if there is a bathroom off the kitchen, patio doors that lead out to your deck or the kitchen is enclosed, all these factors will affect traffic flow and impact the room’s design plan.

If the area you have to work with is limited, choose cupboards that maximize available space. If replacing the cupboards isn’t in your budget make them more versatile with turntables, baskets or organizational cubbies. Freestanding storage units like the Ameriwood Industries Beautiful Single Door Pantry will add functionality to your kitchen.

Decide on the Essentials

In addition to the sink, cupboards, the stove and the fridge, make a list of those other appliances you can’t live without. If you would like to include a deep freezer, dish washer or wine chiller, map them out on your kitchen design floor plan. Also take the time to consider which of your appliances will need permanent counter space. Items you use often enough to leave them out in the open, rather than putting them away after each use might include a rice cooker, an espresso maker, food processor or slow cooker.

Decide on the Extras

Once you’ve mapped out the basic design of your kitchen, it will give you a better idea of how much room you have to play with. Would you like to be able to watch the news while getting breakfast ready? Add a portable TV to your countertop setup. Always running back and forth to the family room to use the computer for new recipes or generating a grocery list? Consider placing the Safco MÜV Stand-Up Workstation at the end of a kitchen island. Want to be able to supervise homework when making dinner? Put a computer armoire against a kitchen wall or in a niche adjoining the kitchen.

Decide What Stays and What Goes

Appearances account for a lot. Sometimes a kitchen renovation is as easy as taking stock of the kitchen as is and then deciding what needs replacing and what needs sprucing up. Here are some ways to give your kitchen a facelift without a lot of effort or cash.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of paint. Painting the room a trendy color will breathe new life into your kitchen. If money and/or time are issues, paint one wall a bold color; it will create a focal point while giving your décor a fresh perspective.
  • Is the floor looking a bit worn and dingy? Give it a little pick-me-up. Redoing the floor may not be as hard or as expensive as you might think. Today’s market offers several “easy-fix” flooring solutions including self-adhesive tiles. Depending on the size of your kitchen, it may not cost a lot either, especially if you decide to DIY. Many retail outlets offer good deals on discontinued tile patterns or canceled custom orders.
  • If your kitchen cabinets are still in fairly good condition, but just outdated, revamp them by painting them, replacing the doors only or buying new hardware. Make sure that the paint you buy for your cupboards is made specifically for cabinets. Check with your hardware store to see if they will need primer or any other type of special preparation.
  • Is the existing space under-utilized? By adding counter stools to a kitchen island or the other side of a freestanding counter, you’ve created the ideal space to eat a snack or have a place to sit while chopping veggies. An unused corner could greatly benefit from a corner bakers rack; a great way to keep a choice selection of recipe books close at hand, as well as extra space for displaying collectibles.

More Mileage Kitchen Design Tips

Take a tip from the pros and look up. Installing the Concept Housewares Rectangular 36″ x 18″ Ceiling Pot Rack will not only add functionality but it will also give your space the look of a gourmet kitchen.

Plan on replacing your appliances sometime in the near future? If counter space is an issue, buy under the cabinet models.

Does the dining set in your kitchen still bear the battle scars of marathon finger-painting sessions and paper mache fights? Now your children are older maybe it’s time replace that old kitchen table.

You can greatly improve the kitchen’s outlook by updating the curtains or blinds, particularly if they’re eight or more years old. Especially if your kitchen doesn’t get much natural light, selecting a contemporary window treatment that lets more light in can give the room a completely different look and feel.

And speaking of light, when fixtures are outdated or inadequate, it can take its toll on your kitchen by making it appear dark and uninviting. Changing the lighting will make a tremendous difference to the space. Even if you have to hire an electrician to install the new fixtures, it will be worth it if it makes the kitchen more functional and welcoming.

You can spend a lot of time in the kitchen. If you think that a new kitchen isn’t in your future because of budget restraints, you might want to reconsider. With a bit of creative thinking, a lot of planning and a little DIY, you can have a kitchen that really will be the heart of your home.

The Farmhouse Kitchen Reinvented

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

The farmhouse kitchen was literally the heart of the home. It was designed as a place not only to cook a lot of food for a lot of people, both immediate family members and farmhands, it was also the place where the meals were eaten and everyone would gather to catch up on news and socialize. It typically displayed exposed ceiling beams, wood floors, large stone, tile or porcelain sinks and hanging utensil racks. With a rustic charm that still resonates today, the farmhouse kitchen is the ideal kitchen interior design for a country, mission or even contemporary style home since it evokes a simpler time of hearty, home cooked meals, freshly baked bread and warm fruit pies, especially apple.

Farmhouse Kitchen Walls

The color palette should be as warm and inviting as possible. Deeps reds, grass greens, sunshine and lemon yellows, creams and mochas are popular colors for farmhouse kitchen walls, window treatments and area rugs. Other commonly used colors are the ones that closely resemble the shades and tones of spices.

To recreate the walls found in farmhouses of yesterday, walls are often made to look weathered and aged by specific painting techniques like ragging, sponging and other faux finishing methods. Stenciling is also used to decorate walls; common patterns used include farm animals such as roosters and cows; trailing vines; and fruits and vegetables.

Farmhouse Kitchen Floors

Pine wood, unfinished with a scrubbed or bleached appearance, is the premium choice for the kitchen floor in a farmhouse. Stone is also a common flooring material. A great alternative to a stone floor is simulated stone tiling; it’s easier to keep clean and not so difficult to maintain. Since the farmhouse kitchen is also a place where meals are eaten, round braided rugs or woven rugs with a country theme are used to add warmth and charm.

Farmhouse Kitchen Windows

Traditionally, farmhouse kitchen windows would have curtains in plaids, ginghams or florals. Window treatments are often paired with wide, draping tie-backs and swagged or ruffled valances. Tying back the curtain to let as much light in as possible was especially important in a farmhouse kitchen.

Farmhouse Kitchen Furniture

Pine furniture reigns supreme in the farmhouse kitchen. Tables are solid and square or rectangular in shape. Chairs have rounded backs. Wood finishes are whitewashed or lighter in color, often distressed to create an aged appearance. Often the dining area resembled a picnic table because the table had benches instead of side chairs.

Cupboard doors and door and drawer knobs are typically made of pine. Kitchen hardware and decorative accents made of brass, bronze or copper are also popular. Backsplashes are usually made of ceramic tile in beige, cream, taupe or other earth-toned neutrals.

Farmhouse Kitchen Charm (accessorizing)

Hang an oversized utensil rack or pot rack over the main work table or food prep area.

To uphold the integrity or spirit of the farmhouse kitchen, modern conveniences, such as a stove hood, can be “hidden” by disguising them behind cabinetry of white washed exposed grains or wainscoting panels.

Oversized accent furniture pieces such as a sideboard with a hutch are ideal for displaying a collection of jugs, teapots or other country-themed collectibles.

Choose table linens in berry colors or playful plaids. Placemats, runners and chair seat pads with a rooster or hen theme are ideal.

Computers in the Kitchen?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

A stove, sink, microwave, and fridge are definite must-haves in a kitchen. But a computer…well, that’s just crazy talk!

Bago Luma Serving StationWhile adding a computer to your kitchen design, whether new or reno, might sound a bit odd, consider this: professional chefs and restaurateurs have actually been using computers in the kitchen for several years now. In a residential setting, they can be just as valuable for anything from meal planning to a place where young children can use the computer while you’re preparing dinner.

People have many reasons for wanting a computer in the kitchen. One of the driving forces behind designing computer-friendly kitchens is contractors who are building homes with multi-purpose rooms in response to consumer demand – gone is the “formal” living room reserved only for guests. Another reason computers are appearing more and more in kitchens is multi-tasking. It allows you to keep an eye on the stove while checking your email, watching an online news story or supervising a child’s computer time, whether for homework or for fun.

  • Everyone today is aware of privacy and online security issues; children, especially young ones, should be supervised when surfing the net.
  • Not just for meal planning or looking up recipes, a computer can also be used to create grocery or inventory lists, convert measurements and watch videos of how to cook certain foods.
  • It makes placing online grocery orders easier.
  • A computer in the kitchen creates a natural gathering place for family members to plan an outing, buy movie tickets online or to have a video conference with the grandparents.
  • You will have music wherever you go. A kitchen computer is a handy source of music to cook by.

The Antique Black Computer Armoire ideal for a kitchen that is also used as the main dining area
Will it be a computer station for the kids so you can supervise their homework and/or internet usage? Then you will want the computer to be in your line of sight rather than behind you when you’re standing at the sink or stove.

If you like a dedicated recipe station and a place to plan meals, perhaps it would be best to put the computer at the end of the counter or on the kitchen island where you do most of your food prep.

Give some thought to traffic flow. Whether the workstation is a built-in or a freestanding unit like a computer desk or a computer armoire, you will want to be able to sit and work at the computer without blocking the “kitchen triangle” (pathway from the sink to the stove to the refrigerator), as well as any entrances.

Your computer desk or workstation will need to be situated near a power source.

Work out your electrical wiring/power source needs. Even if you plan on using a laptop, it will eventually need to be recharged at some point. 

The width of the computer area should be at least 24 inches. If you would like your kitchen computer station to include space for spreading out papers or homework, or room for friends to gather around the screen, double the width, from 42 to 48 inches. 

Whether it’s a built-in or freestanding unit, you probably will want under-desk storage for any computer hardware you would like to hide away. Make sure any cabinetry, computer desk CPU compartment or enclosed area provides adequate ventilation. 

Don’t forget to include some kind of wire management system. You want easy access but without the clutter. 

Especially in a kitchen environment, include a dedicated slide-out keyboard tray in your computer setup. When not in use, you can retract the keyboard tray, protecting it from any potential mishaps.

Shelves above the computer desk or workspace are a must-have for office supplies, a choice selection of cookbook faves and peripherals like a printer or fax machine.
If you’re designing a built-in computer station, don’t forget to shed some light on the subject. Under-cabinet task lighting is the perfect solution, freeing up workspace while make the most of the light source. 

The same goes for any computer desk or computer armoire you are adding to your kitchen. Make sure you select a good desk lamp that will let you work comfortably at the computer.

Kitchen Storage Furniture

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Buying Guide: Kitchen Storage Furniture

One of the most important places to be organized in your home is your kitchen. Every item should have its proper place so it can be found easily while preparing a meal. If you’ve ever wasted time attempting to find pots, pans, utensils, or even extra surface space, it might be time to consider a new kitchen storage furniture.

What are the different kinds of kitchen storage available? Read on to find out which kind of kitchen storage will best fit your home.

Baker’s Racks

Baker’s racks are a set of shelves, usually in the wrought iron style, and they normally include a wine rack in their base.

They were traditionally used to cool baked goods on, but in modern times, the shelves are used to store various kitchen items, like spices, jars, or cans.

Home Styles Furniture Baker’s Rack with Solid Wood Top
This baker’s rack from Home Styles has a natural wood finish that would suit a country-style kitchen. Its solid wood surface is ideal for preparing food on, and it features two shelves up top, a drawer, and two cabinet drawers for lots of different storage possibilities.

Southern Enterprises Decorative Bakers Rack with Wine Storage
Mixing metal and glass together, this baker’s rack from Southern Enterprises has a warm coffee finish and decorative scrolls on either side, making it a focal point for the kitchen. It features a six bottle wine rack underneath the main mahogany-stained shelf, and a lower shelving unit for bigger items likes bowls or pans.

Two tempered glass shelves up top complete the baker’s rack.

Grace 19GO – 19 inch Gourmet Wrought Iron Bakers Rack
If you’re interested in a classic, wrought iron baker’s rack, take a look at this model from Grace. To customize its look, you can choose to add brass tips to the ends, and it comes in eight different metal finishes. It comes with two storage racks below and a maple-topped surface area that can be used for food preparation.


Used for either the kitchen or dining room, all three of these pieces are basically used for the same thing – display and storage.

They have surface space on top that can be used to prepare food and then serve it on, and the base normally has cabinets or drawers for fine china, appliances, or anything else that needs storing.

Home Styles Furniture 3 Drawer Large White/Ivory Base and Stainless Steel Top Buffet
For a buffet that’s easy to clean off, the Home Styles buffet has a stainless steel top that makes for a great cutting or dicing surface. This buffet also features a nine bottle wine rack, three pullout drawers, and two adjustable shelves to keep extra kitchen items in.

Southern Enterprises Black Sideboard
A great casual accent piece for your kitchen is this sideboard from Southern Enterprises. The three wicker storage baskets give off a country kitchen vibe, and inside the cabinet doors is an adjustable shelf in case you need to customize the fit of your storage.

Steve Silver Bello Granite Wine Rack Server
If you love the bold look of granite, this server by Steve Silver with its black granite top will instantly give your kitchen or dining room sophistication. With its rich cherry finish and traditional detailing, this server will definitely stand out. Its storage includes a twelve bottle wine rack, three drawers, and two cabinets on either side.

Kitchen/Microwave Carts

For portable surface space and storage, try a kitchen cart. The only difference between them is that the microwave cart has a special area for a microwave to fit in.

They feature lockable rolling castors that allow you to roll them around the kitchen to make space, or throughout the house to use as a serving tray.

Winsome Kitchen Cart with Drop Leaf
If you have a smaller amount of space in your kitchen, a cart with drop leaf sides – like this model from Winsome – will accommodate it. Simply extend the beech wood drop leaf sides if you need more counter space, and tuck them down when you need more room.

With a drawer, open shelf, and cabinet, you’ll have room for dishes, utensils, or whatever else you’d like to store.

Nexera Delissio Microwave Cart in Natural Maple
If you’ve been looking for a place to set up your microwave, look no further than this microwave cart by Nexera. Made of recycled MDF and particle board, this cart has a solid top meant to hold your microwave, and two open shelving units below for storage.

It also features a drawer and side slots that you can use to store spices or oils.

Home Styles Furniture Expeditor Metal and Wood Cart in Natural
This lightweight cart from Home Styles is ideal as a place to prepare food, serve it, or even put a microwave on top. Its hardwood surface is durable against wear, and its two metal shelves can hold just about anything.

A towel rack on one side and a utensil rack on the other completes the cart.

Pot Racks

Forget about storing your pots and pans in a lower cabinet: consider investing in a pot rack. Not only are your pots and pans visible and organized – all you need to do is reach up and grab them. They look attractive, too, as they hang from your ceiling over your kitchen island.

Concept Housewares Square 23" x 19" Ceiling Pot Rack
With its espresso-hued frame and chrome grid, this pot rack from Concept Housewares will look attractive hanging from your ceiling. It comes with eight swivel hooks, twelve pan hooks, and four ceiling hooks to fully suspend the frame and the cooking ware.

John Boos Cucina Mensola Grande Shelf with Pot Rack Bar & Hooks
Made from durable stainless steel, this model from John Boos is meant to hang from your wall. It comes with a shelf for extra storage and three hanging hooks for anything from pots and pans to ladles and spatulas.

Concept Housewares Half-Round 20" x 12" Wall Pot Rack in Stainless Steel
Another wall option is this stainless steel example from Concept Housewares. It has a metal grid on the inside of the frame, and features 10 pan hooks, 10 S-shaped hooks, and built in wall mounting brackets.

Happy cooking with your new kitchen storage furniture!

Nicolette Interior Design Diva

Kitchen Carts Islands

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Buying Guide: Kitchen Carts Islands

Have you ever wished that your current kitchen island was portable? Sometimes, it would make cooking and entertaining a lot easier to move your kitchen island out of the way to make more space, or even use it in different rooms as a portable counter or serving tray. That’s where a kitchen cart comes in handy! A kitchen cart is basically an island on rolling castors. It offers the same counter space and storage abilities as an island – except with mobility! Kitchen carts are also less expensive because there’s no installing process needed. To find out which kitchen cart would complete your home, take a look at the following examples to help with your decision:

Wine CartThe Tru Bamboo Bamboo Cart with Wine Rack and Stainless Steel Cart  is just 30 inches in width, so if you have a smaller sized kitchen, opt for this model from Tru Bamboo. Since bamboo is one of the strongest fibers in nature, its bamboo top will resist the pressure of knives, pots and pans, or liquid spills. It also comes with a wine rack and sturdy stainless steel base, so it’s a great serving tray as well as an island.

Stainless Steel CartAnother option that’s 30 inches in width is the John Boos Cucina Avanti Outdoor Cart with Stainless Steel Top. Indoors or out, this cart is sturdy, rust-proof, and modern looking for a sleek-looking kitchen. Stainless steel acts as a great cutting surface because it’s super flat and easy to clean up. With two open shelves and a spot to hang utensils, this kitchen cart is a great addition to your kitchen or patio.

White Kitchen CartsIf you’re looking for something that’s still small on size but offers more counter space, consider the Home Styles Furniture White Wood Kitchen Cart with Natural Wood Top and Drop Leaf. Its 12-inch drop leaf side can be raised whenever you need a little more surface space. It also features a paper towel bar, which is handy in case of a spill. Two drawers, an open shelf, and two cabinet doors make up the storage space this specific kitchen cart, and the solid hardwood top is sturdy enough to prepare food on.

Kitchen Island CartsIf you’re going to be cutting and dicing food frequently on your kitchen island, try the Linon Kitchen Work Island with Butcher Block Top. Butcher block tops are usually two inches thick or more, unlike other wooden topped islands, so they normally last longer. This cart features one large drawer, two cabinet doors, and two open shelves for plenty of storage, and chrome hardware against a deep walnut finish for an appealing look.

Granite Top Kitchen CartInside or outside, the Outdoor Great Room Company Bistro 36 Inch Granite Top Kitchen Cart will hold up against the elements. Granite counter tops are a popular choice in today’s market because of their beauty, durability, and resistance to heat. However, if you want to keep your knives sharp, use a cutting board on granite surfaces to keep the blades from dulling. This cart comes with utensil hooks, an optional serving tray, and its eye-catching eucalyptus cabinet doors will keep any items stored away. 

Glass CartIf you’re looking for something along the lines of a serving tray, the Eurostyle Roberta High Rolling Glass/Chrome Cart is a stylish idea. You can keep it stationary in your kitchen to store items or home décor, or you can use it as a serving cart to bring food or drinks into the next room. Its shiny chrome steel frame and tempered glass shelves look delicate, but guarantee strength at the same time.

Although kitchen carts are designed to be practical and long-lasting, you should still be taking proper care of their surfaces. Depending on what surface material you go with, there are some care tips that go along with them:

Stainless Steel
Even though its name includes “stainless”, if food or liquid is left on its surface for a long period of time, it can possibly leave a stain. Clean up immediately with glass cleaner to avoid scratches. If the steel does get scratched, remove them by scrubbing it with a Brillo pad in the direction of the grain. Fingerprint smudges can easily be removed with vinegar and warm water.

Butcher Block
To keep your butcher block strong, apply a coat of mineral oil to it about once a month. Apply the oil in the direction of the grain and be sure to let it soak well before wiping it down to remove the residue. Make sure you only use mineral oil – linseed oil, tung oils, or any other varnishes have the ability to ruin the butcher block. Wood absorbs moisture, so make sure you wipe up any liquid right away to keep it from seeping into the wood.

To clean your granite countertop, use a soft cloth dipped in mild detergent and warm water. If you clean with too much soap, it will streak when dry, so you only need a tiny amount. Also, be sure to avoid cleaners like vinegar, lemon juice, or anything else acidic – it can eat away at granite’s surface. Granite has the potential to collect dust, so be sure to dust regularly.

Mix either lemon oil or mild soap with warm water, and use a soft cloth to wipe down hardwood surfaces. Make sure to buff the hardwood dry, and then fill in any cracks with a wood filler to prevent any crumbs or drops from getting in. Glass cleaners, waxes, or polishes aren’t suitable for your hardwood countertop, and be sure not to put a hot pot or kettle on it for it may leave a burn.

I hope this helps you with any questions you had with kitchen islands carts!

Nicolette Interior Design Diva

Kitchen Carts the Secret to Your Dream Kitchen

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

black granite kitchen cartDoes Your Dream Kitchen Lack Adequate Work Space?

Are you frequently running out of space on your countertops? Does your kitchen work space feel congested? If you have answered yes to these questions – perhaps you should consider a kitchen cart that can supply more storage for small appliances and free up your counters thus allowing you more freedom to create the perfect meal!bamboo kitchen cart

A kitchen that is not fully functional is a calamity for anyone who wants to enjoy cooking in a well planned space. Kitchen carts can be a life saver when situated in an unused corner or can even be placed in the center of the kitchen as a work island and act as a storage area as well. Today’s kitchen carts come in all shapes and sizes and are not just functional but are extremely stylish and can fit well with your cabinetry and other appliances making it seem like it was always there. 

breakfast bar kitchen cartKitchen utility carts are beautifully crafted in many wood finishes of hardwoods or traditional butcher block and some even feature granite tops. With ample storage shelves and drawer space you can utilize these efficient carts for pots and pans or serving dishes and utensils depending on your needs. Often having other accessories like a towel bar or even a wine rack, you will find that this kitchen addition will give you more room on your counters because you have cleared off the non-essential items – like a can opener or toaster that doesn’t always get used every day.

Some of the more adventurous kitchen carts feature extensions that can provide even more work surface when needed but can be easily folded down when not in use. If you want to just add a little pizzazz to your kitchen and don’t really care about the work space but want to add a place to display your favorite tea cup collection or serving dishes – there are also many attractive carts that have open shelves or even mirrored doors so that you can showcase your china or Grandma’s dishes.

Most of the kitchen utility carts have wheels but also have the ability to be locked so that they become stationary and won’t go running away from you while you slice a kitchen carttomato! In an apartment or a smaller home where space is a problem everywhere, these carts are ideal for a microwave or coffee maker thereby leaving your counters empty for cooking.

Many of these carts resemble a piece of furniture like breakfast bar kitchen carts so rather than what you would refer to as a utility or kitchen cart so they can be used in a dining room or other areas if there isn’t enough space in the kitchen. These versatile kitchen carts not only come in all shapes and sizes but will fit all budgets as well and can be used for a multitude of purposes: storage, workspace, display center or even a pantry to store canned goods. Whatever the need you can redesign your kitchen space so that you have the needed counter space so cooking becomes a pleasure rather than an ordeal!

Nicolette Interior Design Diva

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