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new life for an old kitchen

Written by Jane Trabert Schmitt
Imagery by Joe Carney

Two simple words can strike fear in homeowners: kitchen redo.

Relax, said design professional Aaron Mach. You won’t be alone in the process, and in the end you’ll see a transformation of outdated space into something spectacular.   
    “Wait until you see how much better your kitchen can be,” said Mach, Senior Architectural Designer at Empire Custom Cabinets & Countertops in Buffalo, New York.
    A prime example is a renovation completed last spring in a century-old house in a nearby suburb. The arts-and-crafts style home with thatched roof and lush gardens stands out from others on the street for many reasons, but the owners were never keen on the kitchen.
   “Our house is a 1924 stone cottage. We moved here in 1998 and the kitchen probably was last updated in 1960. It was turquoise, copper, brown paneling — pretty horrible,” they said.  “We lived with it for 20 years and finally decided to do something about it. We wanted a kitchen that fit with this unique house but also had all the modern amenities.”
    Now they have space with unmistakable appeal and style. The room features white Shaker-style cabinets custom made by Empire, marble countertops, a subway tile backsplash, wainscoting, updated windows and a gorgeous two-tone gray marble floor with radiant heat. Light and airy, it’s a stark contrast to the dark, heavy elements that were there before.
    “It’s not one of the larger rooms of the house but it feels larger now because it’s so much brighter,”  the owners said. “It’s amazing. We were able to create a more open space that is dramatically different from what we had.”
    The first step in this type of project is an in-home consultation, according to Mach.
    “I want to see your space,”  he said.  “I need to see what it looks like and how it functions for you. Do you have enough cabinets? What is your situation for appliances?
    At that point we’ll discuss your goals, your style preferences, what you do and don’t want to keep. It’s a very personalized process; it has to be. Every person is different and every kitchen intends to be unique.” As with other home improvement projects, a relationship forms between designer and client. They must learn to trust each other and honest communication must flow both ways to ensure a good outcome.
The client is the boss,”  Mach said.  “I will give you my professional opinion and design ideas and then we go from there. ... After we meet, I’ll create a general layout based on what we discussed. That sketch layout turns into a conversation between us, going back and forth about what you like or don’t like. Our goal is to provide the client a realistic rendering of the new space, and from there we will start the project.”
    Expect to start enjoying your new kitchen in four to eight weeks, he said. And don’t be deterred by twists and turns along the way as ideas evolve, materials are ordered and unexpected challenges arise.
    Here are some tips for homeowners considering a redo:
• Launch your search for a designer with word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers.
• Develop your plan with a close eye on form and function.  “If you have good form, the function and other (elements) will morph into an aesthetically pleasing design,”  Mach said.
• To save time and money, trust the professionals. “My job is to steer the client toward options that I think make the most sense,”  he said.
• Consider high-density fiberboard (HDF) if you like the look of painted cabinets. Add quartzite to the list of in-demand materials for countertops.
• Unleash your creativity.  “If you have an idea for your kitchen, we can make it happen,”  Mach said.
• Remember that you get what you pay for.  “A new kitchen is an investment, definitely,” said the homeowners. But we decided to spend the money on space that would make us happy.  


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