A smart kitchen remodel ‘doesn’t have to break the bank’, say designers


Walk through a well-renovated kitchen with Portland interior designer Garrison Hullinger and you’ll never see the busiest room in the house the same way again.

It will highlight the snack area and the beverage center that keep people from interrupting the home chef at the command center.

You’ll be introduced to the ‘work sink’, made of durable Silgranit granite in a color to match the countertop, and the breakfast cupboard, with pull-out shelves for small appliances for making coffee, smoothies and bagels grilled in the morning, before the pocket doors close, hiding what’s inside.

And you’ll see a double fridge with ingredients for meals on the side closest to the main cooking area and on the other side: yogurt, cheese sticks and other quick grab-and-go treats.

“An organized kitchen isn’t a struggle to manage,” says the designer, who has seen trends come and go since he founded Garrison Hullinger Interiors 22 years ago, but he doesn’t fall for the hype.

Kitchens are expensive to update and must be designed to look good and work for decades.

The 2022 Houzz & Home study found that kitchen renovations require the longest construction period, nearly five months, in addition to the planning phase, which can be almost twice as long.

Money is better spent on timeless styles, organizing storage and multipurpose surfaces in the heart of a home, where everyone gathers, says Hullinger.

Instead of one wide, free-standing island, he likes two narrow, parallel islands: one for preparing food and a slightly taller one that blocks out messy kitchen work and is used for serving and entertaining.

“Good design makes life easier now and in the future,” says Hullinger. An island, once covered with baby bottles or used as a children’s table, can eventually become a place for a wine bar.

“Then it’s finally time for the grown-up party,” he says. “Create a kitchen that serves you through the stages of your life.”

A 1950 house in the Marylhurst neighborhood of West Linn was renovated in 2020 by Black Sheep Design.Ruum Media

Many people, huddled at home, improved their living and garden space in 2020 after offices, schools, restaurants and factories closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Others have put renovation projects on hold due to labor shortages, rising costs and uncertainty around production and delivery delays.

“There was enough chaos,” says designer Hullinger, “why undertake a kitchen renovation?”

Today, shortages are easing — merchandising and supply chain teams are working to quickly restock in-demand items, a Home Depot spokesperson says — and designers at the National Kitchen & Bath Association recommend alternatives to high-priced products.

People who bought their homes in the last few years got a low mortgage interest rate, but in the frenzy of a highly competitive market, they may have settled for a kitchen that wasn’t the showcase they wanted.

Owners of homes built 20 to 39 years ago are most likely to want an upgrade, the National Kitchen & Bath Association found.

They are now ready to dismantle cabinets, a wall if necessary and rebuild the most complicated area of ​​a house, using new materials that look like expensive designer products, but are durable and easy to maintain.

Aubrey McCormick and Walker Templeton of Black Sheep Design in Portland have bought, remodeled and sold more than 20 homes over the past two years.

They faced challenges like everyone else: hiring a team of reliable workers, staying on top of supply chain issues, especially with windows, and absorbing the cost of lumber that added $20,000 to $30,000 to an entire house project, McCormick says.

Splurging in a kitchen always makes sense. Home sellers like McCormick know that the kitchen is a big factor in finding a buyer.

One of Black Sheep Design’s projects, a remodeled 1950 home in West Linn’s Marylhurst neighborhood, has a new kitchen with an Italian white terracotta backsplash, slatted wood island and custom bench in the dining area .

The accommodation was selected to be a stop on the 2022 Portland Modern Home Tour.

“The first thing we look at is how we want the house to feel and how we can reconfigure the flow to allow the house to function as it should,” says McCormick.

The team draws natural light into a kitchen by enlarging the windows and, if possible, redesigns the layout to have a free wall to add a sliding glass door and make the ceiling vaulted.

They reuse what still works and look for high-end fixtures, drawer pulls and soft-closing cabinets that won’t break the bank, she says.

“There are so many tiles that mimic the high-end selection,” she says. “You can still make your kitchen look beautiful for half the price of more expensive tile.”

Cabinets are the biggest expense in a kitchen remodel, and they range from custom cabinets that can cost around $50,000, to stock cabinets at IKEA for half the price, and Home Depot and Lowe’s cabinets for even less. she says.

If the existing cabinets are working well and the design and layout are still appropriate, they might just need a cosmetic facelift with new hardware or paint.

“Use your imagination and think about how you want your kitchen to work for you,” she says.

AFTER photo of a small kitchen.  Portland interior designer Garrison Hullinger of Garrison Hullinger Interiors designed this small kitchen.

The easiest way to give a kitchen a timeless touch is to match key elements with the architecture and era of the home. Interiors of the Hullinger Garrison

Experts agree that the kitchen is the most expensive space in a home to remodel and the most complex, requiring experience in plumbing, electrical and design.

A budget can get out of hand quickly. Decide on the goal and create a priority checklist, including storage and organization, appearance and layout.

Here are the kitchen tips:

Complement the existing architecture. The easiest way to give a kitchen a timeless touch is to match key elements with the architecture and era of the home. Consider the visible parts of the kitchen when selecting the cabinet style. A neutral solution: white or wood-grain cabinets, says Barbara Miller, design director for design and remodeling firm Neil Kelly.

Create work areas. Make it easier for people to get into the kitchen and get what they need without going through the command center and driving the head cook crazy, jokes Hullinger. It takes time to plan and organize a kitchen, but when everything fits in the right area, life is easier, he says.

AFTER the photo: Portland interior designer Garrison Hullinger of Garrison Hullinger Interiors designed this small kitchen.

Garrison Hullinger Interiors designed this small kitchen with drawer pegs and inserts that keep items organized.Interiors of the Hullinger Garrison

Use Forgotten Space: Some homes built in the 1930s and 1940s have deep closets that extend back to the kitchen. If the closet is shallow, the remaining space can become kitchen storage space with sliding racks or a pantry.

Keep it simple: When your hands are full or greasy, you can tap your knee against a power-assisted cabinet door to access trash cans and recycling bins.

Pet design. “I’m not trying to dress up a rhinestone bowl for a dog,” says Hullinger, whose company designs residential and hotel projects. “I really look at storage, for small or large bags of dog food, and lifestyle.” Some people want a Dutch door to see their dogs during dinner but not have them under their feet.

If a renovation is on the back burner, but you still want to dress up the kitchen for the holidays, Hullinger suggests packing up and storing anything you don’t use often. “There’s no room in the kitchen for something you don’t use 80% of the time,” he says.

With more cabinet space, remove a few doors and see if open shelving appeals to you. “Display your favorite things,” he says.

Spend a few hundred dollars on kitchen storage solutions. “It will add sanity to your vacation life,” he says.

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman

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