A kitchen redo can make living — and marketing — a breeze


Kitchens designed by Kathryn Reece and her partner, Jennifer Sherrill, are customized to reflect the way their clients live.

By Arnold Wayne Jones

Defining-Homes-Cover-FALL-2012If there’s one thing Mary Kathryn Reece has learned in eight years designing kitchens, it’s that every family is unique.

Reece includes herself in that assessment.

She and her partner, Jennifer Sherrill, were in corporate consulting when they adopted their first child and decided they needed jobs that required less travel and were more personally fulfilling.

“I like the kitchen — I’m a culinary enthusiast,” says Reece. “She likes to lay tile and rewire homes and put up sheetrock. We thought, ‘This may be a perfect thing: I get to talk about kitchens and she gets to remodel them.’”

The result has been two companies — Kitchen Design Concepts and Snappy Kitchens — that the two run.

So why concentrate just on kitchens? It’s more involved than you think.

“A kitchen is the second thing after curb appeal” in terms of convincing a home purchase, Reece says. “Kitchens can make or break a real estate deal. The Wall Street Journal just wrote about that, and Forbes before that — stories about low ‘attractive inventories,’ where there are not enough [good] homes for buyers who are ready to buy.”

A kitchen redo not only can make your life easier, it also adds significant value to a home, Reece says. If done thoughtfully — good use of color, good design principles — it should expect to pay off.

”If you spend $25,000 on a kitchen, you should expect at least 70 percent of that back handily in the value of the house,” she explains.

“We had an evaluation recently that was in the high 80s/low 90s, which beats the national average. We do a fair number of second projects for people who get a second home because they know the advantage.”

And that’s where the uniqueness figures in.

“Our philosophy is to focus on how people will use the kitchen — both from a culinary standpoint and an entertaining standpoint,” Reece says. “Not everything will work in every situation. [We design differently] whether it’s a family of one or nine. Me, I don’t use a microwave, but we had a family who had two microwaves; [the woman] couldn’t have cared less about the ovens.”

There’s even a tool on the Kitchen Design Concepts website called a lifestyle assessment that allows people to figure out what’s right for their family, from how long are they going to be in the house, to what they use the kitchen for. Still, there are some trends that seem basic — at least in recent years.

“For at least 10 years, the idea of the kitchen being the heart of the home where families hang out has been on the rise,” says Reece. “Almost every family with children, we ask, ‘Where do your kids do their homework or sit with their friends and do projects?’ And everyone will say at the breakfast nook at the island — within 15 feet of the kitchen sink. With the advent of technology, I also want to see my kids on the Internet.”

That often means making the kitchen merely the center of a larger concept.

Soft-Blue_Matteson“Of our new clients this year, at least [20 percent] want to open up their kitchens to the great room,” Reece says. That means the job isn’t just about kitchen remodeling but home remodeling. “You cannot just drop in a good looking kitchen in a dated environment. In Plano, you have these built-ins and when you make a kitchen look fabulous you have to make sure it doesn’t make the rest of the room look un-updated. We might tweak it, like replacing a door to tie [the rooms] together.”

Kitchen designs, while situation specific, can even improve relationships — at least indirectly.

“We see many couples today where both people want to cook. Not every kitchen — in fact, very few — are laid out to make two cooks happy,” Reece says. Offset sinks, separate prep areas and two ovens can make a difference — turning a generic food space into “his and his, or hers and hers, kitchen,” she says. “We are also seeing more multigenerational families [in one home]. That can mean one meal eaten at three different times, so we recommend installing warming boards.”

Someone looking to buy a house (or sell one) should keep a checklist in mind when looking at (or redoing) a kitchen.

“We do think about surfaces. Linoleum flooring is not great for resale,” sighs Reece. “Wood is the most common flooring material we use. One entrance into a large kitchen can tie up foot traffic.” If possible, a second entrance is preferable for flow. And while it may seem obvious, “make sure you can open the refrigerator doors and the [crisper] drawers inside. So often they touch next to the dining room door and it won’t pull out.”

For older homes with original appliances, make sure the oven works and that there are plenty of electrical outlets in the backsplash area.

“And we don’t recommend microwaves over the range — if you are past a certain age, or below a certain height or insufficiently strong, they can be dangerous.”

Even colors can make a difference in marketability; soft blue is popular right now, and gray has been hot for several years. Another trend is a simplified aesthetic: Flexible cabinet, mixer lifts, blind corners by the sink with inserts to make them more accessible. There are a lot of space considerations (for example, frameless cabinetry can knock off three-quarters of an inch per cabinet, which may not seem like a lot but can add up quickly). But there are also visual considerations.

“Glass-front cabinets can be nice, especially in a smaller kitchen or a dark kitchen,” Reece says. “You have to be fastidious though — people can see what’s inside.”
Of course, if you’ve come out of the closet, showing off your cabinet is a no-brainer.

For more information, visit KitchenDesignConcepts.com and SnappyKitchens.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 5, 2012.