Kitchen updating: costs are high for greater efficiency

"We are remodeling our kitchen instead of taking a vacation this year," a friend reported recently. He may not know it, but he has joined thousands of other homeowners who have decided to expand, remodel, or renew the house they already have, rather than buy or build a new one. According to House & Garden magazine, Americans will spend a predicted $40 billion this year on various home improvements and repairs.Kitchen remodeling is expected to account for more than $3 billion of these expenditures.

"Fifteen-year-old houses are those most ripe for kitchen renovation," claims H. Richard Hurlbrink of West Chester, Pa., who is president of the American Institute of Kitchen Dealers. "In that length of time, he said during a New York interview, "styles change, ideas change, and families change. The time comes to renew and refresh, to make kitchens more workable and up to date, to catch up with a family's current needs."

Working women want their kitchens to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Growing families love big, homey, live-in kitchens, capacious enough for cooking, eating, games, and homework.

Lots of couples today are duo-cooks who like preparing meals together, says Florence Perchuck, a New York kitchen planner.They want six-burner ranges, two sinks, two ovens, a cooking or preparation island, and loads of counter space. And everyone, but everyone, she claims, wants more and better-planned storage space.

Some people will attempt do-it-yourself renewals. They will manage their own planning and cabinet installations and simply hire the electrical wiring and plumbing done professionally. These will be the least expensive. Those willing to hire a modest kitchen done for them completely and from scratch, including plan, new appliances, cabinets, wall and floor coverings, and labor, will spend between $6,000 and $10,000 this year for the completed job. The present "norm" for a more deluxe custom-designed kitchen, according to Mr. Hurlbrink, averages between $14,000 and $18,000.

Homer Ludeberg, director of the Professional Remodelers Association in Chicago, says that buying a new kitchen today is much like buying a new car. You can get an economy model for about $5,000, or get more attractive features for $7,000 to $10,000, which he says encompasses the great mass kitchen-remodeling market. If you want a Cadillac, he says, you will go into the $15,000-to-$17,000 range.

As to whether remodeled kitchens add to the investment value of a house, Mr. Ludeberg says that, in human terms, a new kitchen brings many extra benefits and conveniences to a family. The entire family is usually involved in its planning , and the family satisfactions involved must be considered prime reasons for investment.

But, yes, and attractive new kitchen can add to the resale value of a house. How much of the cost of a new kitchen could be added would depend on going market values in any given neighborhood. He warns homeowners to check out local real estate values if they plan to add the cost of remodeling to the final sale price.

One big change in kitchen cabinetry this past year, he says, has been the addition, by almost all manufacturers, of microwave cabinets for the housing of these relatively recent cooking units. More people are demanding warming drawers as at-home entertaining increases. And trash compactors sell better and better as city trash pickups become fewer and fewer. In the past years, Mr. Hurlbrink points out, there has been a trend toward eliminating cooking hoods by placing a venting unit in the cooking countertop itself. This draws smoke and odors down and out. This type of venting allows more planning freedom and a generally more open spatial feeling.

The most radical recent style change in kitchen cabinet design has been the influence of the European cabient manufacturers, such as Boffe Glace and Salvarani of Italy, Allmilmo and Poggenpohl of Germany, and Wrighton and Conran from England.

These manufacturers have all emphasized sleek, modern styling in plastic laminates and natural, light woods. Their engineered interiors and optional "extras" have included pullout garbage pails, sliding wire storage drawers, over-the- sink drain racks, swing-out and hinged pantries. Their corner and under-sink storage racks, pullout tables, bins, chopping blocks, and utility closets help make them marvels of ingenuity.

American manufacturers have taken due note. St. Charles Manufacturing Company, among the 155 other cabinet manufacturers, has introduced its own versions of the modern European kitchen. Exteriors are straight-lined and simple; interiors are planned to a fraction of an inch. Blond oak is back in a big way, along with other natural, light finishes. Many of the ornate, heavily trimmed styles of the recent past (such as Mediterranean) are fading.

The traditional styling that holds its place firmly is American Colonial, particularly in rich, mellow cherry wood. Improved technology now produces wood finishes for kitchen cabinets that can be expected to last from 12 to 15 years, which is encouraging to those who prefer wood to plastic laminate.

The whole "country kitchen" effect remains in a class by itself and will continue. Many people may prefer to get their country flavor through antique accessories, rocking chairs, and plants, combined with very modern cabinets.

Mr. Hurlbrink definitely does not see open shelving as a growing trend, explaining that most women prefer neat kitchens with things placed behind closed doors. He does see a growing trend to the use of greenhouse windows in kitchens , and of entire greenhouse and solarium additions that can be used for dining. These, he says, can range in price from $150 for a greenhouse window projection to $8,000 for a greenhouse room addition.

As a dealer, and as one of 700 or so Certified Kitchen Designers in the country, Mr. Hurlbrink advises people to look everywhere for good kitchen ideas: at kitchen dealers and appliance showrooms, at lumberyards, home centers, utility companies, and at showrooms of manufacturers of cabinetry. Many of these sources have kitchen planners on their staffs who will give some free advice, or who will undertake the complete planning and installation of a new kitchen. Some charge a fee for the initial interview or consultation. Others consider such an interview part of their sales effort; it is wise to check.

The average planner will expect a frank discussion about the money you want to spend on a revamped kitchen, and a list of your "must-have" ingredients and expectations. The planner will want to know how many family members there are, how many of them use the kitchen, where and how the family entertains, how often it likes to shop for groceries, and what its requirements are for adequate cunter, cooking, and storage space.

The first remodeling selection of most people will be the kitchen cabinets, since their style and color will determine the overall them and scheme, including wall and floor coverings and window treatments.

Remodeling a kitchen would not be considered a vacation lark by most families , although the project might be partly funded by a trip forsaken and further underpinned by a loan from the bank or savings and loan association. Here, from "Good Ideas for Decorating," are a few tips for making the remodeling time more bearable.

* Since it would be much too expensive for the family to eat all meals out during the renovation, set a temporary cooking center in the family room or dining room, enclosed porch, or utility room, where simple meals can be prepared. Put as near a sink and running water as possible.

* Move your present refrigerator into the new cooking center if you can. Set up a card, picnic, or other table as your work surface and use TV trays or another card table for dining.

* Round up a series of small appliances for cooking such as electric skillets , toaster-ovens, and slow cookers, but don't plug them all in at once. A microwave oven is handy at a time like this.

* Reduce amount of flatware and dinnerware to barest esentials, and gets a large supply of paper plates and cups.Serve food directly from the pan to the plates. Collect things you have to wash in a large wash basket for easy toting to the nearest sink or tub.

* Keep your cool and have fun by making a picnic or a party out of mealtimes during renovation.

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