by Roberta Scher
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What are the symptoms of a kitchen needing a remodel? For us it was 2 out of 4 non-functioning cooktop burners; a double oven with torn insulation; 2 un-repairable melted cabinet doors (no more laminate cabinet doors for us!); a non- working icemaker; a trash compactor which hasn’t been used in years, a pantry filled to the brim with hidden-in-the-back foods; and an aging Corian countertop.
We deliberated for over a year whether to take this major step. . . there was always that little voice inside, remembering that we grew up in homes with kitchens the size of closets without any of these “fancy” appliances; we had the basics - a refrigerator, a sink, a small range and a single oven. One of our grandmothers did not even have a refrigerator. . . just an icebox. By the way, the meals in our childhood homes were delicious.
We read an encouraging statistic which helped with our decision: In the current real estate market, experts say that you likely can recoup up to about 80 percent of your kitchen remodeling investment when selling your home. Ok, true, we are not selling, but . . .
Yes, we decided to go forward.
Part 1: Planning Renovating a kitchen is a costly undertaking -- one that involves a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of stress. Once the decision is made to go forward, the next step is deciding on the extent of the facelift. Very soon after making that decision, that remodeling disease we are all too familiar with enters: “Since we are already doing it, we might as well. . .” And the “might as wells”, with the possible add-ons, seemed endless - at least they were for us:
• Should we refinish the 18-year-old wood floors in the kitchen and adjacent rooms? YES.
• Should we paint not just the kitchen, but the adjacent rooms as well? YES.
• Since we have to move everything anyway for the floors to be refinished should we send the 18-year-old kitchen chairs, and the 30-year-old sofa and family room chairs to be re-upholstered? YES.
• Should we update the 18-year-old fluorescent kitchen light fixtures? YES.
As is evident, the simple single kitchen update project expanded well into the “might as wells” territory.
Prior to launching the project we also waivered as to its management. Should we find individual contractors, and act as the project managers ourselves, or should we hire a general contractor to oversee it all? After consulting with friends and other homeowners, we decided to hire a general contractor. And so we did. That was a great decision for us because we did not realize how many moving parts are involved in kitchen construction. When things go as planned, there are no issues. However, when unexpected problems arrive, it is re-assuring to have a knowledgeable, experienced contractor in charge.
There are no reliable estimates for how many people in the United States keep kosher, however, it is very interesting that most of the major appliance manufacturers have now installed a Sabbath mode in their models. There obviously is sufficient demand and financial reward for appliance brands to include Shabbos compliant features in their products. As we know, many kosher consumers order two of each appliances. But this could not be the only rationale. For information on Sabbath compliant appliances, visit the Star K: http://www.star-k.org/cons-appl.htm
First Step: The plans
Several meetings were set up with a kitchen designer to share the requirements for our newly designed kosher kitchen. We planned for two of each appliance and created a design, which would offer efficient placement and lots of storage space. We went through several plans and finally settled on one similar to our prior layout. We were not remodeling due to dissatisfaction with the functionality of our space; we were remodeling due to the age of our appliances and cabinets.
Emptying the kitchen:
What a job! Both labor intensive and lengthy. We gathered empty boxes and bins and more boxes and stacks of old newspapers and plastic grocery bags. We emptied the kitchen in an organized way, used markers for labeling, and then we cleared space to store the boxes. We were fortunate to be able to use our basement for storage, but do be aware before starting to have an ample storage space. And, remember to not pack up essentials needed for kitchenless meal prep.
Every cabinet, every drawer, every counter top appliance, all cookbooks had to be emptied or moved – that’s years and years of accumulation. We did discover one shortcut: we took some of the old cabinet drawers, still full of flatware and utensils, to our basement storage area and left them until it was time to set up the new kitchen. This reduced part of the work. In addition to preparing boxes for storage, we prepared a huge trash box and a huge giveaway/donation box. This was our chance to purge cracked, broken and no longer needed items.
Shop ‘til you drop!
As we planned for the new kitchen we visited appliance stores both online and in person. Factors to consider in appliance selection included customer satisfaction ratings, repair records, price, visual appeal, energy efficiency, ease of operation and cleaning, and of course Star-K Shabbos compliance.
Researching appliances is a full time job . . . especially adding the kosher kitchen factor. Here’s a quick summary of what we chose:
Some of our choices were budget friendly, and some were in the splurge range.
• 2 small GE microwave ovens with trim kits
• 2 Kraus sinks – from Overstock.com
• 2 Hansgrohe Faucets
• 2 Insinkerator Disposals
• 1 GE Monogram Double wall oven
• 1 Wolf 4-burner gas cooktop
• 1 Bosch warming drawer
• 2 GE Profile Dishwashers
• 3 pendant lights from Restoration Hardware
• Backsplash: 6” clear glass tiles
• Cabinet hardware by HickoryHardware.com
• Under cabinet LED lights from Home Depot
• Wood painted cabinets with full pullouts
Happily, we were able to keep our Subzero refrigerator - 18 years old and still working well!
Since all of our new appliances are just 3 months old, we can’t yet fully evaluate the wisdom of our choices. However, we have some initial thoughts:
The dishwashers do a great job in washing, but do not thoroughly dry dishes, especially on the 30-minute express cycle (even when we add a 15-minute power dry). This was a disappointment. GE stated to us that the dishwashers are functioning as they should. However it is obvious and cnfirmed by the service techs that the new energy efficient features impact the drying. We do feel that this issue should be stated in their product "care and use" manuals and in on-line descriptions of the dishwashers.
One feature that we do appreciate is that the model we chose has a “door wake-up mode” on/off capability. This feature allows you to turn off all lights and sounds which normally would be active when you open the door. When off, you may open and close the dishwasher on Shabbos or Yom Tov if you need to store your dirty dishes there.
We love, love, love our Bosch warming drawer. It is absolutely perfect to keep our Shabbos meals and our challahs warm. We have never had a warming drawer, so it is truly a luxury.
Our new sinks are extremely large and are deep single bowl models. The size of each is amazing. However, we notice that the stainless finish is already scratching a bit.
We had no intention of using the red knobs with our Wolf cooktop, but they are so much fun. We put the boring black ones away. Also, I particularly like the low-simmer burner feature - a cook's dream!
We use the microwaves for warming, not cooking, so the small size (compared to our mid-1980s Panasonic) works for us.
The faucets are pull down, magnetic latch models - and do a great job.
We chose the GE Monogram double oven because the racks fully extend, easily slide in and out, and they can stay in the oven while the cleaning cycle is on. However, we have not used the cleaning cycle, so stay tuned.
Our countertops are quartzite - a marble look-alike but with much easier upkeep. One reason that we chose honed quartzite, aside from the look, was that according to our Rabbi, it can be kashered for Passover. Do ask your Rabbi.
Knobs and Pulls: Another decision, and an important one both visually and functionally. Our kitchen would be described as “transitional”, somewhere between a contemporary and a traditional feel. So, when searching for cabinet hardware, we looked for both durability and style to complement the white, beveled look of our cabinetry. We consider the knobs and handles as the jewels of the kitchen, the finishing accessories. They complete the look. Finally, we came across some sparkling, chrome that we just loved:
We chose Eclipse Bridges chrome pulls in two sizes and Concord chrome knobs which coordinated beautifully. They are both from from Hickory Hardware, a company we found online.
Our designer suggested placing knobs on cabinets and pulls on drawers. The finished look is just what we envisioned . . . a bit of sparkle in every part of the room. Hickoryhardware.com
With our appliances, knobs, lighting, and other items selected, our shopping was almost complete; it was time to start filling this now empty kitchen.
Part 2 and Part 3 of Kosher Kitchen Remodeling with more photos may be viewed by clicking here: Part 2 Part 3
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