What to Consider When Tackling a Kitchen Remodel

TSG Tip 244: Heidi Piron's Custom Kitchen Design AdviceA kitchen by Heidi Piron. Photography by Christian Garibaldi.

Transforming your kitchen into the foodie or family-friendly space of your dreams can be an exciting undertaking, but without the right guidance and a clear understanding of what the project will entail your enthusiasm can quickly go up in smoke. To help those who might be about to embark on a kitchen remodel approach the project with confidence and clear expectations, we asked Northern New Jersey-based kitchen designer Heidi Piron of Heidi Piron Design & Cabinetry to discuss some key considerations that can make or break the experience; here is her expert advice:

Be aware of the timeline. A kitchen remodeling project has three phases: the design phase, the cabinetry manufacture and building phase, and the installation phase. On average, Piron recommends allowing 8 to 12 weeks for the design phase in order to achieve a beautiful and functional kitchen. During this period, which she refers to as the “creative phase,” the client and designer will decide on the layout of the space (including cabinetry and appliances) and discuss elements including cabinetry and door style, storage, finishes and colors, countertops, backsplash, hardware, sinks, faucet, lighting, and other finishing touches. Once these selections have been made, the 8 to 12-week manufacture phase begins, followed by the installation phase, which Piron says can take approximately 4 to 6 weeks from the start of cabinetry installation.

Know what to invest in. There’s no way around the fact that a kitchen remodel is expensive. The cost of materials like cabinets, appliances, and countertops quickly add up. But, when creating a beautiful kitchen within a budget, there are some ways to get maximum impact for your money, such as investing in a custom-designed range hood. “It will become the focal point of the kitchen,” says Piron. Also, increasing your countertop thickness from the 1 ¼-inch standard will achieve a more luxe look. She also suggests embracing the beauty of negative space. “Cabinetry need not fill every inch of wall space,” she advises. And for your one splurge, Piron recommends choosing a Sub-Zero refrigerator. “It’s in use 24/7,” she says. “Adjust your other appliances to fit the budget.” Know that your biggest expense in the kitchen is your cabinetry, and consider it money well spent. “Purchase the best quality cabinetry you can afford,” Piron advises. “You can often update your tile, hardware, and countertops, but replacing your cabinetry after a few years is never a good investment.” 

Think about what you want your kitchen to “feel” like. When it comes to making decisions about design, Piron likes to start with a vision. For example, is the client traditional, contemporary, or transitional in their personal style? Additionally, even if the client doesn’t know exactly what they like, they might know what they don’t like, which is helpful to the designer as well. In some cases, Piron suggests that clients pull a picture of an interior space from another room to help get a sense of their personal preferences. Above all, Piron notes, the kitchen needs to function, so deciding whether you want a showcase kitchen, a cook’s kitchen, a family-friendly kitchen, etc. is an important first step; from there, the designer can narrow down recommendations to make the process enjoyable and creative—rather than overwhelming and stressful—for clients.

Enlist an expert. “According to Remodelista, the average kitchen remodel requires 2,500 decisions,” Piron says. “A kitchen designer will guide you in making the best decisions to suit your style and needs.” When it comes to picking the right person for your project, Piron recommends first looking at their portfolio. “Oftentimes I hear, ‘My builder can design my kitchen.’ That’s great, but make sure you look at their design work before you hire them,” she says. In addition to helping you achieve the look you’re going for, kitchen designers are specialists in what is a very technical space. From helping you pick the right materials and appliances to providing you with architectural drawings and translating your vision to the cabinet maker and builder, a kitchen designer is a key team member whose expertise can really make a difference from start to finish. Finally, find someone who delivers excellent customer service. “Work with someone who cares about your project,” Piron advises. “I like to treat all of our clients as if they were my best friend, or if this were my own house.” 

TSG Tip 244 from Heidi Piron of Heidi Piron Design & Cabinetry in Northern New Jersey.