Good interior design and renovation need not be expensive
It is amazing just how much details go into planning the kitchen layout, no wonder there are trained specialists and companies doing just that. As a first timer attempting this herculean task, I thought we did rather well but here are some of the details we wouldn’t have thought of before. Thank goodness for the Internet, plumbers and sub-contractors – we don’t have to do much guess work.
The kitchen work triangle
This just refers to the most efficient use of space in the kitchen for food preparation, washing and cooking. I didn’t know a thing about this until our kitchen was completed. But we were right on, having laid out our kitchen quite fittingly, according to experts.
We moved our laundry area to the far corner of what used to be the maids room, where there isn’t any water outlet or inlet. The plumbers had to make sure that the new pipes they lay are angled such that water drains properly downwards and across our kitchen to the only outlet located at least 5 metres away. The longer the pipes, the higher the gradient. The magic number is minimum slope of 1/4 inch per foot and maximum 3 inch per foot. If you are brave enough to DIY, here’s how you can calculate your pipe slope.
As we’ve now experienced, it is super important to think ahead where your electrical sockets should be. Rule of thumb is to allocate one socket for every non-portable major appliance you have in the kitchen area (e.g. washing machine, dryer, dish washer, refrigerator, microwave, oven, cooker hob and hood), then intersperse sockets throughout the countertop for the portable appliances (e.g. coffee machine, rice cooker, KitchenAid mixer etc.). More tips here. One thing we should have done is make room for a charging station in the kitchen, like this one.
Gas or electric hob?
You have to decide before you even knock down your kitchen walls what kind of hobs you will be using. If you are using SingGas, then it’s easy – just leave the pipes alone and be careful not to hack them down. If you are using gas from private companies, you need to allocate space for the gas tanks. If you are using electric hobs, your electrician needs to know what is the required electric loading (it’s usually higher than usual). We decided on an electric ceramic hob and had to do special wiring to address the extra large loading. HDB has a different set of rules about wiring/re-wiring HDB flats – check their website and call 1800-2255432 to be sure. Can’t decide? Read this article about gas vs electric hobs.
Something that is often overlooked – kitchen lighting. One single light hung in the middle of the kitchen is NEVER going to be enough. I like a brightly lit kitchen with a mix of under-cabinet functional LED can lights, mood lights for a softer glow in the kitchen, and spaced out overhead lighting that ensures maximum coverage and minimal glare. More lighting tips I learnt here. Whatever you choose to do, you need to tell your contractor and electrician NOW, before any titles go up the wall. They in turn will need to do the required wiring before tiling and ceiling works begin.
How big should it be? Single or double bowl? Stainless steel or the farm sink look? What about thickness? So many details to consider. Here’s how to choose a kitchen sink suitable for your needs. Whatever you choose, you need to tell your contractor the exact size when designing the cabinets. We went with an under-mounted deep, single bowl, square sink in double thickness, padded stainless steel sink. This additional padding reduces noise when our under sink garbage disposal is working – again something to consider if you choose to have one.
Decide now if you need hot and cold water inlets, or just cold. In warm climates like Singapore, most families live with just cold water in the kitchen. If you are sucker for hot water when doing dishes, you will need to tell your plumber NOW (piping will be done differently if you are having hot water) and also allocate a budget for buying a large water heater storage tank. Think about where your storage tank will be situated. Most likely in the false ceiling above your sink. Then you’ll need to budget for a false ceiling too, and additional piping work. Faucets in Singapore are extremely expensive, so we ordered ours online from a China supplier and it has been one of my best buy so far.
I wrote an entire post on this and the untold stories about countertops. This is often the most stressful decision to make as it accounts for a large portion of renovation budget, and once you’re decided, you can’t change it for the next 20 years or so. So choose carefully.
There are many articles about colour schemes for the kitchen, but I think the best trend is one that suits you and your eye. We went with something on an updated traditional black-and-white look – chessboard-looking black-and-white 33mm x 33mm square tiles on the wall, and anti-slip black 30mm x 60mm floor tiles. For the backsplash, we continued with a black-and-white scheme, but using triangular mosaics for an updated, unexpected look.
The kitchen design process is indeed a lot more than meets the eye. Here’re more resources if you are interested:
What about you? What was your kitchen remodeling experience like?