Even beyond backsplash materials and countertop choices, the question we hear most often at Cultivate is "how do I actually start a kitchen remodel?" Truth is that while many of us want an upgraded look for an outdated or poorly functioning kitchen, we simply don't know where to begin. What kinds of professionals do you need? How do you figure out a budget? And of course, what should it look like?
To help with this all-too-common dilemma, we reached out to famed, award-winning kitchen designer Mick De Giulio to see if he could shed some light on this topic. Below is what he told us.
"Those stuck in perpetual pondering over a kitchen remodel may want to feast their eyes on a good ugly duckling story. It often does the trick. Seeing someone else’s decisiveness can lift you out of the quagmire of 'too many choices' and get you off the starting block. Have a look at this 'before:'
Photo courtesy of de Giulio kitchen design
"The kitchen had a long list of offenses and among them: cabinets/countertops jutting every which way with some of the cabinetry obscuring what could have been a spectacular window wall; and an island and peninsula jammed into too little space. The long, lean room felt crowded and bloated.
"The transformation is a testament to clients knowing exactly what they wanted—without talking renovation speak. Instead, they spoke of a serene, beautiful space devoid of clutter in which they could spread out, cook, and entertain. They wanted a kitchen to hang out in. Those emotions and that function drove the renovation.
Cabinetry includes SieMatic SL in truffle brown and de Giulio Collection in ebonized walnut. Countertops are in Cashmere White granite and cottopesto in blue abstract with molten aluminum Designed by Mick De Giulio, de Giulio kitchen design; Photo by: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers
"Being able to vocalize what you want out of your new kitchen—and getting very basic about it—is a great way to start your journey. And that’s exactly what this is and why it’s so hard. You’re not just building a new kitchen. You’re (re)figuring out how you want to live in your kitchen and in your home. You’re determining how you want the heart of your home to feel and how the physical space might be manipulated better to get you there. It’s complex stuff.
"I suggest making several lists.
"First, write down your current kitchen’s challenges. Things like: not enough storage; not enough countertop area; feels too cavernous.
"Then, write down how you envision your new kitchen working for you in the grand scheme. Things like, 'I want to be able to entertain in my kitchen' and 'I want this to be a family gathering space as well as a cooking/eating room.'
This kitchen designed by Mick De Giulio features a custom limestone hood with a polished stainless steel trim, limestone tile backsplash and a kitchen island counter finished with a custom bronze edge. Photo by: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers
"Finally, get to fantasy land. Write down specific things you would love to have but don’t expect to get. For example: a large surface to roll out dough; a small home-office space; an appliance pantry.
"During this predesign phase, I recommend suspending the budget. (In fact, I specifically advise my clients not to tell me their budget at this early stage.) That’s not to say it doesn’t matter and won’t come back. But when you’re trying to put down on paper the kitchen you desire, you should not be limited by a price per square foot. A good kitchen designer needs to know what you absolutely need and what you dream to have—and can deliver that at a variety of price points by playing with materials, finishes, appliance packages, creative interpretation, etc.
Cabinetry includes SieMatic BeauxArts on the perimeter wall and de Giulio Collection in hand-scraped sucupira on the kitchen island. Designed by Mick De Giulio, de Giulio kitchen design; Photo by: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers
"Along with making lists, assemble a box—not just a file—of things you love: tear sheets not only of kitchens but of other rooms that make your heart sing; photos of a villa in Italy that speaks to you; a swatch of leather; a vase whose shape you find appealing; whatever it is that makes you happy. This gives your designer a visual sense of the feeling you’re trying to capture.
"The client behind this white kitchen (below) was a master at that kind of self awareness. From the start, she showed and told me 'white and simple.' She was adamant about having a kitchen so very stark and white (save for a few dark elements such as the floor) that it would become dreamlike. She carried that ethereal aesthetic through the rest of her home.
This kitchen by Mick De Giulio boasts a Calcutta Gold marble kitchen island counter, Waterworks white tile on the backsplash and a custom de Giulio Collection hood in a painted finish. Photo by: Julian Wass for House Beautiful, 2009.
Designed by Mick De Giulio, de Giulio kitchen design; Photo by: Julian Wass for House Beautiful, 2009
"Bottom line: Look inward before you start shopping for marble or granite or agonizing over cabinetry. The happiest kitchen remodels start with people who understand very deeply what a new kitchen will do for them and their family life."
Mick De Giulio is a Chicago-based kitchen designer with clients around the world and author of the book “Kitchen Centric.” Since founding his firm, de Giulio Kitchen Design, in 1984, Mick has been celebrated as one of the kitchen industry's leading innovators. To see additional kitchen designs by Mick De Giulio, visit www.degiuliodesign.com.