Of all the rooms in a house, the most detailed and complex to design is the kitchen. It is also arguably the most important room in a house. Most of us will, at some point in our lives, want to remodel, design, or upgrade a kitchen. Sometimes, that requires the help of a trained interior designer. Other times, the homeowner is completely capable of handling that job themself. With that in mind, I thought this DIYer’s guide on how to design your own kitchen might come in handy. At the very least, it should provide a good place to start and help you to determine if you will require assistance.
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How to Design Your Own Kitchen…
Step 1 – Sketch the Floor Layout
When I design a kitchen, the first thing that I like to do is start with a plain sheet of graphing paper and a measuring tape. (Yep, I am still a little old school). Later on, I will transfer my plans into my software designing program. However, if you don’t have designing software, don’t worry. You really don’t need it to design a good plan.
In fact, I did everything by hand for my own kitchen, made copies, and used those copies for my contractors. As long as you are careful to label everything, hand sketching works just fine. But, designing software is good for creating visuals. If you are planning to order your cabinets online, you can check out this free online design tool from RTA.*
So, to begin a design, you need to first measure and sketch out the floor layout. If the kitchen is large, I key out 6″ for every graphing square. If the kitchen is small, I key out 4″ for every square – or 3 squares for each foot. This allows me to be as accurate as possible in my designs.
Once the floor layout is plotted, I then go back and start marking all the locations of the current plumbing, electrical, and gas lines. You need to show exactly where they are located in the wall or coming from the floor. Next, label any obstacles or important features, such as vents, windows, doorways, pantries, etc. Getting all the details precise at this first step is crucial.
Step 2 – Do Your Preliminary Research
Next, you need to determine your budget. What is the maximum that you want to spend? Then, add a 10% contingency fund to your budget for overages and unforeseen issues. Just remember, when those bids start coming in, they should be considered minus the contingency fund. Don’t fall into the mistake of dipping into the contingency during the planning or preconstruction phase.
The average remodeling job last year was around 23K. However, you can get beautiful kitchens for much less, if you know where to look for quality cabinets* and you are willing to do most of the work yourself.
Now that you have the budget decided upon, it is time to determine the features. How do you want your kitchen to perform? Do you want an easy to clean design? Do you prefer shelves or drawers in your base cabinets? Are there any special features that you need, such as nonstandard height countertops, special storage, professional sized refrigerators, etc.? What about cabinet and door styles?
Choose your appliances and (IMPORTANT!) check the website of the company and get the spec requirements for each appliance. Every single appliance will have a spec sheet to let you know how big of an opening that you need, setbacks, distance from other items, and any other detail that is necessary for proper installation. You will need these to create your design. You will also need to provide these to the cabinet company if you are having custom cabinetry built. (TIP – I normally allow 20% of the budget for appliances, unless the owner opts to cut costs in other areas or to do some of the work themselves. In which case, I may opt for an upgrade in appliances)
Step 3 – Create Your Design Layout
Once you know your budget, and once you have the floor sketched with every obstacle identified, you can then begin to draw your design. I like to do an overhead (boxed) view of the base cabinet and a front-facing view of each wall. This gets the measurements down and also lets you see an idea of what it will look like.
To keep your expenses down, try to create cabinets that come in standard width. Double cabinets should be either 36″ or 30″ wide. Single cabinets should come in 24″, 18″, 15″ and 12″. Narrow pull-outs, such as those used in place of fillers can be made in 10″, 8″ or 6″ widths, but often are considered a custom size.
Determine New Layout:
Think it Through:
What type of kitchen do you want? Will you have a galley kitchen, single wall, U-shaped, L-shaped, Peninsula, Island? Do you have the room for your preferences? Remember that you will need a certain amount of walking space between and around all pieces.
Pencil to Paper:
Begin your sketch by doing the overhead view of the base cabinets first, then do a front-facing view. A straight edge or ruler will come in handy for marking perfect diagrams. Make sure that the sink is positioned at the plumbing, and the oven, microwave and refrigerator line up with the locations of their dedicated outlets.
If you plan to move things around, be sure to have a plumber and electrician come out and tell you what all will be required to move plumbing and electrical outlets. They can also tell you if there are any vents or obstacles in the walls that will need to be taken into consideration. Be sure to get a rough estimate on any changes that will need to be made.
When sketching the front view, be sure to draw drawers where needed and include any detailed features that you want. If you are not good at drawing, you can just create the box shape and label it with details. Then, search the internet for images of your ideas. Print those off, and attach them to the diagram.
Step 4 – Get Quotes
The next thing to do is to bid out your plans to all of the subcontractors that you plan to use. Strive for 3 bids from each profession. Make sure that you see samples from cabinet manufactures, and make sure that the details are all in writing before you sign on the dotted line.
Decide what, if any, work that you plan to do yourself. Some of the more common DIYs for kitchens are the installation of backsplash tiles, painting, and of course – designing!
If you may want to do the entire project yourself, there are some great companies out there that specialize in ready to assemble cabinetry. If you are looking to go that route, I recommend checking out TheRTAStore.com.* They are very reasonably priced and used by both HGTV and the DIY network.
It is best to have alternative materials and appliances chosen that are acceptable to you. That way, if one item is unavailable, or if you need to find a way to cut your budget, you will have some options. So, as you write/draw your design, dot in those alternate choices and the savings for each.
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