Chris Chidester, Senior Design Manager for Atherton Kitchen Design Studio of Redwood City, finds that using a designer—and one with Eichler experience—is important because it will help you avoid mistakes. "Eichler homes have restrictions that other homes do not," says Chidester. "Traditional designers do not realize you just cannot drill into the floors and ceilings, and they may not understand how to preserve the integrity of Eichler's original designs." He also believes that planning a kitchen remodel should be fun and not stressful. "Most clients are initially overwhelmed and do not know where to start." To counteract this, he cautions homeowners to avoid getting distracted by initially trying to make decisions about cabinet styles, colors, or countertop materials rather than looking at the fundamentals.
"Our design consultations are free of charge and structured so that we break things down to the basics of space planning," adds Chidester. "Working in our kitchen showroom and using our 3-D software, we work with clients to determine the location of the cabinets and appliances." Other details will flow from those initial decisions. The most important thing to remember is that form follows function. If the space is functional, it can be filled with any combination of color and materials.
When homeowners approach a kitchen renewal project, early in the process it is important to put pen to paper and note a few important considerations. There are several questions to ask yourself as you navigate through the planning process. For example:
• How long do I plan to live in my home? If you plan to stay in your Eichler permanently, your approach and budget may be very different than if you expect to move away in a few years. If you plan to sell soon, you may want to focus on cosmetic changes, such as painting the cabinets; replacing the old Formica with new, more contemporary looking Formica; and installing modest appliances. If you plan to remain in the home for a long time (say, more than five years), extensive upgrading or remodeling may be more appropriate.
• How do I want to use the space? If you envision the space being used for helping your children with schoolwork, it may call for a different approach than if you intend to entertain large groups. It is also customary in Europe for the laundry facilities to be located in the kitchen. If this approach is important to you, it needs to be taken into account upfront.
• How much do I want to spend? One of earliest decisions that should be made is the budget. While budgets are certainly subject to change and revision during the remodeling process, it is very important to begin with a budget in mind. From this figure, you can work with your designer and contractor to estimate the costs of various options, adjusting where needed to arrive at a comfortable combination of quality and price. A homeowner with $5,000 to spend may choose to reface the cabinets and replace the countertops with newer Formica. Someone with $15,000 may use higher-grade materials for the countertops and perhaps also install all new appliances. With a budget of $50,000 and higher, walls may be moved and the footprint of the kitchen changed entirely.
• Should I upgrade or do a full remodel? What approach is best for me? This involves thinking through whether it makes more sense to restore, to upgrade, or to fully remodel the kitchen by gutting it and creating a new space. This decision will be based on a whole host of considerations, including needs around budget and timing.
• Is cooking with gas important, and do I want an exhaust hood? Some cooks prefer gas, especially professional chefs or those involved in stir-fry cooking, where the greater control and higher heat is important. It is more difficult to run gas lines into Eichlers, since they are on slab and do not have crawl spaces or attics, but it is not impossible. Gas lines can be run over the roof or underneath the overhangs. This is also the best time to think about whether or not you want to add a hood for venting kitchen odors. Ron Key observes that "the majority of our kitchen remodel clients dislike their original exhaust fans, since they are small and mounted in the ceiling. Hoods are a real improvement because they cover your entire cooking area and are made of metal. It is much easier to clean grease off of a metal hood than off of your ceiling." In some areas, code may require the addition of a hood.