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An eye for design or just wasting time

Tod Riggio

One of my more enjoyable moments in any creative process is to imagine the possibilities. Whether it’s writing or woodworking, I like to envision what can be accomplished before I sit down at the computer or ever pick up a tool.

The hardest part of writing is organizing your thoughts beforehand. I often struggle with the introduction, spending hours or days thinking about the first couple of paragraphs. Most of this happens while driving to and from work, or when I have some alone time. The words flow effortlessly after I’ve cleared that first hurdle.

It’s the same in the shop. My wife has caught me more than once just staring at the walls. “I thought you were out here working,” she’ll say. My go-to response is that I’m just thinking it through, which doesn’t seem to be very convincing.

So, as I begin a kitchen remodel, I’ve spent considerable time imagining the possibilities. The old kitchen has yet to be demolished. I haven’t discussed the new layout with anyone. I just kind of stare at the space or imagine what it can be. When I’ve got it, progress will begin.

This is a 70’s kitchen in a fairly modest New England home. The goal is to attract a renter or buyer with a more modern, functional design. I’m thinking about adding an island, finding a better home for the refrigerator, and creating more storage. And I’m thinking about playing it safe design wise, which means white cabinets and appliances, gray walls, a subway tile backsplash, and vinyl flooring. I’ll have another staring contest after demolition. Then the work will begin.

I’m curious if anyone else works this way? Granted, I don’t have any other jobs on the schedule and can proceed at a somewhat leisurely pace. But does anybody else just stare and think, or should I seek help? It works for me.

My kitchen design is pretty basic, calling on design elements – Shaker doors, granite countertops and neutral colors – that are quite common in my neck of the woods. But we’re all looking for the next big thing and here are some pretty safe bets:

Quartz countertops: This engineered stone has it over marble because it’s more affordable and less prone to stains. It isn’t porous like granite but costs a little more. Its rise in popularity will continue.

Luxury vinyl flooring: Easy to install, extremely durable and waterproof.

Pantries: Anybody who’s ever had one appreciates the extra storage space. Not to be confused with a pantry cabinet.

Butcher block countertops: They’re natural, low maintenance and break up the sterility of an all-white palette.

Reclaimed wood: Use it for cabinets, trim and accents. The notion of recycling materials plays very well in today’s market.

Black appliances: Manufacturers are adding shades of black, slate and “black stainless steel” as tastes begin to change.

Open shelving: A great way to display decorative items or increase accessibility.

Concealed range hoods: Hiding anything in a kitchen, including appliances, seems like a good idea for a less cluttered look. 

This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.

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