Kitchen remodeling

Ideas: Kitchen remodeling

Kitchen remodeling

Kathy Trotter enjoys helping people design their perfect kitchen, whether they’re contractors or homeowners.

Story: Christine Walsh

Photos: Christine Walsh

Kathy Trotter enjoys helping people design their perfect kitchen, whether they’re contractors or homeowners. “The kitchen is supposed to be a happy place,” said Alexander Lumber Champaign’s designer. “You want it to be pleasing to the eye. If I can help people do that, it makes me happy.”

A design professional with 36 years of experience, Trotter offered these “Top Ten” things to consider before you remodel your kitchen:

Setting your budget. First things first. “The budget is the first step to a successful kitchen remodel,” Trotter explained. “You’ve got to be realistic about what you can afford. Prioritize a list of your wants, then separate them from your needs. Do some research and make sure you have adequate funds for your project.”

Identify your priorities. Before you begin your remodel project, Trotter advises choosing what’s most important to you in your new space, whether it’s overall appearance, high-quality appliances, high-end cabinets or abundant storage. Are you a foodie who loves to cook? Do you always entertain in your kitchen? “You really need to do your research and decide what you want,” Trotter said.

Resources like lifestyle magazines and Pinterest are helpful for finding inspiration. “You can Google just about anything you want these days,” Trotter said, “and a lot of people get a folder going with pictures from magazines. Most people are very visual; if they can see something, they can envision it in their space.”

“Magazines and HGTV have a major impact on what people think they want,” she noted. “They see it there and think, ‘I just have to have that.’” As an example, Trotter said, shiplap, a rough-sawn wooden board used in barns and historic homes, was popular for a while, but “it’s died off a little bit.”

She noted that kitchens now are often built in an open concept, connecting them with living spaces like the family room or great room. “You hear that saying, ‘The kitchen is the heart of the home,’” she said. “Nobody wants to be closed off from everything that’s happening.”

Research is one of the most important components to kitchen redesign, according to Trotter. “I can’t stress enough that planning is a major factor,” she said. “I always tell people, ‘Make your kitchen work for you. Make your life easier.’”

Hire a contractor. Once you have your dream kitchen in mind, you’ll need to identify someone to make it a reality. “Unless you are a very capable do-it-yourselfer, you’re going to have to hire a contractor,” Trotter said. “Get recommendations from family members and friends. If you’re connected with someone like me, they usually can give you a reference as well.”

There’s a benefit to working with a professional remodeler. Contractors can verify which walls are load-bearing, for instance. “It’s a process going through a kitchen remodel,” Trotter confirmed. “Discuss the process with your contractor so there are no surprises along the way. Make sure you are on the same page.”

Select a professional designer. While house-flipping TV programs and well-organized Pinterest boards can make it look easy, there are a number of considerations when designing a kitchen, and it’s best to consult a professional. “We will be able to plan out the design, style and layout,” Trotter noted. “A designer has the ability to draw from different resources, find the right price point for your budget and give you more variety.”

“It’s very important to communicate your expectations with that person,” she added, “so all of your wants and desires can be incorporated into your design if it’s at all possible.”

Determine functionality. Trotter debunked an architectural myth: “There is no ideal kitchen shape,” she revealed. Instead, you should work with the space you have and ensure your new kitchen will work optimally for your lifestyle.

For example, sometimes a client wants a 36-inch cooktop, but they only have a 30-inch space available. While dishwashers usually are a standard size, refrigerators and ranges can vary, she noted. “The floor space you have to work with determines what is possible, so you have to design with those constraints in mind,” Trotter explained. “Determine the amount of space you have to work with in your kitchen.”

The National Kitchen and Bath Association defines a “work triangle” as an imaginary straight link drawn from the center of the sink to the center of the cooktop to the center of the refrigerator and then back to the sink. “Whether it’s an L-shape, galley or U-shape, plan for the correct sizes on the refrigerator, range and sink to form your triangle,” Trotter said.

As to storage, “you can never have enough storage space,” she emphasized. 

Look behind the scenes. When remodeling, it isn’t only the finishes that matter. “Make sure your mechanicals – electrical and plumbing – are all in order,” Trotter said. “Replace old plumbing. It’s the perfect time with all the demo going on.” Besides adding new lighting, old electrical should be replaced for safety reasons, she explained. “You can never have enough outlets,” she added.

Get colorful. The color or colors you choose for your kitchen will dramatically affect your space. Like clothing fashions, styles in kitchens evolve over time, according to Trotter. “White cabinetry is notorious for coming and going, but it has been strong now for quite some time,” she said. “I’m beginning to think it’s here to stay.”

One thing that has changed in cabinetry is that it always used to be monochromatic. Now there can be different-colored top and bottom cabinets, or the island can be in a complementary or contrasting color.

As to appliances, “there are so many colors, sizes and different designs,” Trotter said. For example, dishwashers comes in a variety of sizes, and there are different styles and finishes from which to choose. The color of your cabinetry may be a factor in choosing an appliance style, she said, noting that blue cabinets are currently trendy and making a splash in the market.

Counter culture. When it comes to countertops, there is a wide range of choices these days – quartz, granite, laminate, solid surface and wood – and it’s a significant choice when it comes to overall kitchen design: “Your countertop selection is really going to affect the way the kitchen looks,” Trotter explained. “There are a ton of colors to choose from. Think about the maintenance on what type your selecting, and always check the warranty.

For those on the tightest of remodeling budgets, Trotter suggested that replacing countertops would be a great place to start: “It can really change the look of your space very cost-effectively.”

If replacing the countertops, Trotter always recommends getting a new faucet and sink as well. “It does make sense,” she said, “especially if you’re wanting to update.”

Choosing a sink. Options include stainless steel, quartz stone composite, copper and acrylic. There are porcelain farm sinks, single bowls and double bowls. There are also various colors and sizes. When selecting a sink, go for looks and practicality, Trotter suggests. “Choose a sink that combines functionality within your budget and design style,” she said. “Again, you need to be conscious of your budget. Popular farm sinks, for example, typically cost a lot of money.”

Little details make a big impact. Today’s kitchens are more than big-ticket cabinetry and appliances. “Don’t forget the details,” Trotter cautioned. “For example, ceramic tile on the walls for a backsplash in between your cabinets can make a big impact on the final result.” New hardware like cabinet knobs and pulls can also make a big difference. There are a number of options with lighting, including recessed in the ceiling, under the cabinets and even inside the cabinets if you have glass doors. Window treatments and flooring can also affect the look of a kitchen, according to Trotter.

If you have an island with a bar, there are any number of options with barstools: Metal or wood, with or without a back, with or without cushions. “The selections are just endless,” Trotter said.

Trotter advises people to think about what they do and do not like about their kitchens. “There are a lot of add-ons you can do,” she shared. For example, rollouts can be added to cabinets to maximize storage space and provide easier access, trays can be added to drawers to organize and store silverware, and tray dividers can be added to cabinets to organize cookie sheets, baking pans and cutting boards. “There are so many different accessories available that can make your kitchen work better.”

Trotter is passionate about her work and shared these closing thoughts on why she believes people should take pride in their kitchen. “Whether it’s a remodel or new construction, designing a kitchen takes lots of planning and research,” she said. “So many activities take place in your kitchen: Cooking, cleaning, eating, drinking, socializing, and more. That’s why it should be both beautiful and functional. It’s where your life takes place. Make it something to be proud of.”

For more information on Alexander Lumber, go to, call 217-352-5175 or visit them at 1720 W. Anthony Drive, Champaign.