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Tips on Your Options for a Kitchen Remodel: An Interview with Alex Dahlgren of The Ancon Group

By Alex Dahlgren

It Begins

Before a single hammer is swung, the most important thing is the creation of a plan. Determining what works and what doesn't work about the existing kitchen is where we start. Lists are very helpful. Write things down. Establish a budget and stick to it. Think about how your kitchen is used, not how "should it be used" but how you and your family actually live. Great design is the product of a professional's evaluation of the client's stated (and sometimes unstated) need, combined with the established budget. Be prepared to spend some time with your designer on this one. Every single material, finish and surface, with the exception of paint colors, must be finalized before any work begins. This will help the project to proceed smoothly. Why wait on paint colors? Because they must be selected and sampled in the actual space under the actual lighting conditions. Any designer worth their salt will do exactly that.

What Budget?

Sometimes clients are hesitant to disclose the budget to their designer. This is a big mistake. These clients are the ones most likely to faint of sticker shock. Other's say "but if I tell you the budget, you will just spend it all". Chances are, you're right. A design professional will make sure that every dollar is well spent. Your budget is one of the main factors in determining the design. So how do you set the budget? I recommend this exercise. Go online and select all the appliances you would like to include in your kitchen. These need not be the final choices but a starting point. Include everything, large and small, from the range to the disposer. Add all these prices together. Then multiply by a factor of 5. If all your appliances totaled $10,000, then you are working towards a $50,000 kitchen. This means if you are selecting top of the line appliances, you would not combine them with melamine cabinets or laminate counter tops. A good rule of thumb is that your kitchen should cost between 14 and 19 percent of the overall value of your home. This gives you a good starting point.

Work the Plan

Once your professional designer has the space plan complete, you are ready to start on the fun part: material selections. Cabinetry styles, counter tops, decorative lighting and cabinet hardware are just a few of the many choices that must be made. We work differently than many companies. We follow, what I call, the "Rule of Diminishing Availability" meaning that the first things to be selected are those of which there are the fewest possible choices. For instance, there may be countless paint colors that will work with a particular counter top but few counter tops that work with a particular paint color "I want my Kitchen painted 'High Desert Peach'" is probably the worst way to start off. A particular wall color will dictate what does and doesn't work. It is far better to keep a general picture in mind: light vs dark, warm vs cool. Then the process flow from there. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of choices in the market so rely on your designer to guide you. They have the experience to help you avoid problem suppliers and finishes. For example, high gloss lacquered exotic wood cabinets are certainly dramatic, but far too delicate a material to be used in the kitchen of a busy family.

Trending Materials

A review of kitchens on our website can be very informative. It is quite hard to tell which ones are the most recent vs those that were done 10 years ago. Why? Because including "the latest, greatest thing" is the quickest path to "dated". Remember the white washed oak cabinets of the 90's? If you really want something that is trendy, bring it into the space with paint. Paint colors are the simplest things to change down the road. "We don't play Frankenstein with our client's homes" is one of our mottos. There are some very exciting innovations but avoid the "Trends". Select classic and proven materials to insure that your kitchen looks as good in 10 years as it does the day it was completed.

Ceramic Roosters?

You have no doubt heard the line from Channel that says "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory"? Well there is some real truth in that as it relates to Kitchen design. If your eye has nowhere to rest, if there are too many things that call out for attention, you will just end up with visual noise. If everything is shouting for attention, nothing gets to be special. So how do you make the space your own? "Curated" is a trendy term that gets used a lot these days but in a real sense, that is what you have to do. Maybe you love all those chicken figurines or Aunt Betsy's teapots. Select the most important and use them well. These are the kinds of things that will make the space your's and your's alone.

Alex Dahlgren is senior partner of The Ancon Group, a platinum level design build firm based in Dallas, Texas with projects all across America. From design/build to home organizing and logistics, The Ancon Group is a turn key solution.

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