Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips

 Remodeling and design experts offer advice on designing a kitchen

1. Think ahead.

When redesigning a kitchen, put function first, says interior designer Jacqui Hargrove. “There’s no ideal kitchen shape,” she says. “Whether it’s a galley or U- or L-shaped, plan for the sink, fridge and cooktop to form a triangle, with no more than 6 feet between each for ease of movement.”

2. Make room for storage. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The biggest mistake people make at the planning stage is not allowing for enough storage,” Jacqui says. “Use every nook and cranny. Put overhead cabinets right up to the ceiling, rather than leaving a gap on top that collects dust.” Consider deep drawers for easier access to pots and pans, and include enough storage for appliances that otherwise would clutter up countertops.

3. See the light.

Unlike in other rooms of the house, overhead lighting is insufficient in kitchens, says electrician Richard Terode. “In the kitchen, you don’t want the light behind you, casting a shadow on the workspace. You need it positioned to fall in front of you.” He likes under-cabinet lights because they shine directly on countertops.

4. Power play.

Be sure there are appropriate power sources for relocated or new appliances. Many people realize too late that they don’t have the right gas or electric lines, Richard says. Plumber Stuart McGroder also suggests measuring appliances to ensure that they fit comfortably into allocated spaces. “If a dishwasher is crammed in, it could push up against the hose and won’t drain properly,” Stuart says.

5. Space and surface.038-jcarstenhomes2011small

There’s no such thing as too much counter space. Choose a surface that’s easy to work on and care for. But keep in mind that grout between tiles is hard to maintain and that stainless steel will scratch very easily.

6. Start fresh.

Don’t reuse appliances or items from the old kitchen. It may seem as if you’re saving money, but an old appliance will stick out like a sore thumb in a new environment, says Jacqui. Find other ways to economize. “You don’t have to spend $100 on a drawer handle when cheaper ones still look fantastic,” she says. “The same goes for countertops.”

7. Safety first.

Make your kitchen as safe and family-friendly as possible by planning for good visibility to backyard and indoor play areas from the cooking area, suggests Dorothy Bell, a home safety expert. Also consider such safety-conscious elements as rounded countertops, slip-resistant flooring and ovens located at adult height to minimize the chances of accidental burns. (For more tips, visit

8. Clear the air.

A range hood helps ventilate cooking odors, says appliance consultant James Moore. “Buy one that’s efficient, quiet and vented outside,” he advises.

9. Trash talk.IMG_1146

Don’t forget to plan for garbage and recycling bins. Do you want built-in bins cleverly disguised behind a cabinet door, or a sleek, stainless-steel garbage container that’s positioned out of the way?

10. Look out below

When it comes to flooring, consider slip-resistance, ease of maintenance and porosity, suggests consultant Craig Verdon. Stone floors, which are somewhat porous, for instance, may need periodic resealing. If so, ask how often, and think about whether you want to deal with that process. “Hardwood floors are beautiful, but be aware that they wear out faster by the fridge, stove and sink than other areas,” he notes. “Hard, natural stone works wonderfully, and the earthy look and feel of it is very popular.”

Information taken from Reader Digest. Read more:

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Remodeling


Cabinets- A bit more about options

Last time I talked about the different types of cabinets. Now let’s talk about when is the best time to use them and the types of finishing.

Box Cabinets– J Carsten Remodeling will recommend box cabinets in economy situations where the customer is looking for a good quality cabinet on a smaller budget. Box Box cabinetscabinets come pre-finished (finished at the factory) and lead times are typically 4-6 weeks. Planning ahead of time is a must with box cabinets in order to ensure that cabinets are available for installation at just the right time. Typically, we will want the cabinets on the job site or at a minimum, delivered to the lumber company, before we will start demo.

Customizable Box/ Manufactured Custom Cabinets– We seldom use customizable box cabinets or manufactured custom cabinets. The main reason is the cost of these cabinets is comparable to local custom cabinets even when the cost of finishing is included.

Local Custom Cabinets- This is, by far, the cabinet type we install most often. J Carsten Remodeling has a relationship with a local custom cabinet shop where lead times are typically two weeks. In addition to shorter lead times, if errors or defects are found, we can usually get the problem resolved in 24-48 hours. That would not be possible with any type of manufactured cabinet.

Finishing on Custom Cabinets– For most installations, the local custom cabinets we install site finished cabinetwill be unfinished and then finished on site. This is preferred for two main reasons:

  1. Any handling or installation damage/ scratches can be fixed prior to finishing
  2. Nail holes in moldings (crown molding, etc) can be filled and make the nail hole virtually disappear. This is especially important with enameled cabinets.

There are occasions, though, where pre-finishing the cabinets is done.

  1. In a condominium situation where the association by-laws state that no cabinet finishing can be done on site. Then, we do not have a choice.pre-finished cabinet
  2. In a cabinet & countertop replacement only. In order to minimize the kitchen down time, the cabinets will be installed pre-finished. The kitchen is usable right after installation (waiting for countertops of course)

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Remodeling

Box Cabinets or Custom Cabinets- Just some facts.

J Carsten Remodeling has installed both box cabinets and full custom cabinets. Here are some differences:

Box Cabinets

Box cabinets, called so because the cabinet comes in a box, come in certain sizes (usually 3″ increments from 9″ to 48″ in width). They are usually made ahead of time and stocked by a distributor, in a box, on a shelf, ready for sale. Box cabinets are also usually made of Box cabinets.ashxthinner components to make them less expensive. Thus they often need “center stiles” (a divider that divides the middle of double-door cabinets to strengthen and support the overall box and shelves). Box cabinets also typically use less expensive hinges and drawer slides.

Customizable Box Cabinets

Customizable box cabinets are essentially box cabinets that can be ordered cut down in depth from the standard depths available at an extra charge. They are typically made to order. But in some cases they are essentially stock cabinets, where only the customized pieces in the order are made to order. Customizable product lines also typically encompass a greater variety of cabinets and some double-door cabinets available with no center stile (for roll-out shelves and other accessories). They might also make a few standard angled and/or radiused cabinets for use on the end of a run, where conditions are tight.

Manufactured Custom

Custom manufactured cabinets can be ordered to any dimensions as long as they do not exceed the limits the manufacturer lists in their catalog, typically 48″ wide, and 96″ Custom cabinetshigh. Maximum depths vary, depending on the type of cabinet involved. Designers can also order changes in the sizes and heights of doors and drawers, as well as customizing the mounting heights of ovens and other built-in appliances to suit the buyer. They typically use only the highest quality hardware and are made of thicker materials. So they are sturdier.

All customizations in manufactured cabinets carry an up-charge, and manufacturers typically base their standard offerings on basic cabinets very similar to stock cabinet catalogs. However custom manufacturers also offer many MORE cabinet types and accessories than box cabinets.

Local Custom

There the cabinets are designed and made in a local cabinet shop. There are fewer Custom Cabinetslimitations on sizes with local custom. The only definite ones are limitations on the sizes of materials, like sheets of plywood and sizes of the raw wood boards. Cabinetmakers can also do things like matching boards for pattern and color consistency that manufacturers find difficult. They are also free to use both thinner and thicker components, and more or less expensive hardware to meet a budget.

Cabinetmakers also routinely build their cabinets in what they call “runs“. This is building what may be an entire wall of base or wall cabinets as one long cabinet. This cuts the cost of face frame material a bit and makes the spaces between doors consistent.


Box- Typically the cheapest upfront cost and thus are typically installed in lower budget situations. The best applications are for straight forward areas without tricky areas or angles that might require special cabinets. These cabinets are usually factory finished.

Customizable Box– Used in kitchens when the homeowner wants to maximize space in tricky areas or angled spaces. Typically the installation will involve a combination of custom and stock sizes. These cabinets are usually factory finished.

Manufactured Custom– Used in middle to high end kitchens. The cabinets are built to fit the specific area and may include special moldings, space for specialty appliances, or other customizable areas. These cabinets are usually factory finished.

Local Custom– Custom cabinets used to cost more than the box cabinets in nearly all cases. But lately, custom cabinets are closer in price than you might expect. Thus, you will see custom cabinets in all budget ranges. They are also used in applications where the cabinets are to be finished on site. They can be finished ahead of time in a local paint shop before installation.

Next time, I’ll go over which I prefer depending on the situation.

Good Luck


J Carsten Remodeling

Ten Tips for Remodeling your Kitchen

Here are ten tips for remodeling your kitchen, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional (like ME!).

1. Assess the situation ahead of time and get a lot of opinions.
Let professionals come over and give their opinions. Also, talk with friends who have done remodeling in the past. They will let you know what they would change and their likes/ dislikes. Eventually you’ll start to get a feel for what is necessary, what you could do without and who you want to work with.

2. Find a creative Remodeler.
While the estimate was important in your decision, finding someone who has creative solutions is an important thing in the long run. A good remodeler will suggest things that make your kitchen look more custom and high end but won’t cost an arm and a leg. Most homeowners don’t always know what can be done, so having a professional opinion is invaluable.

3. Take your time in the planning stage.
You may be super anxious to get going, but spend time looking at magazine photos for inspiration, thinking creatively and drawing up sketches to show your remodeler. You may find solutions to what could have been very expensive fixes simply by taking the time to solve them creatively.

4. Do at least some of the prep work yourselves.
A lot of homeowners aren’t particularly handy with tools or building things. But, simple things can be done by homeowners to say some costs like removing the cabinets and flooring yourself, or doing the prep work on an old cabinet or millwork that will be refinished.

5. Details, details, details.
The key to a custom looking kitchen is in the details. That doesn’t mean fancy pants hand carved marble corbels either. You can choose things that look unique and special, or you can chose something that is plain and non-descript. It is the little details that will give your room the “ooh and ahh” factor so be unique and add some special features.

6. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
It may drive your remodeler crazy sometimes (not me though) because you want everything to be just right. But if something doesn’t look right or if you are second guessing your selection, speak up. And the sooner the better. It will cost less to fix it now than it will after everything is done.

7. Mix things up.
Don’t be boring when you can be special! Mix things up! Yes, you can use more than one style of hardware and more than one cabinet finish. We have done several kitchens where the island is finished with a different color or countertop choice. Adding glass to cabinet doors is an easy addition that adds some wow to the kitchen.

8. Drawers are better than doors.
Genereally speaking of course (you won’t be putting drawers in the upper cabinets). Save a step and use a drawer versus having cabinet doors to open and then the pullout. I like to pull out a drawer and see what is in it right away. No standing on my head to see in a deep dark cupboard and no fancy maneuvers to pull out a drawer within a cabinet.

9. Creative concealment.
Don’t spend big money to rip things out if you don’t have to. Have an ugly window? The cost to replace that with beauty? It could be $20,000 because it would involve remodeling the whole corner of your house.  Instead, a good coat of primer and paint and a little trim work can disguise what used to be ugly.

10. Work with what you have.
Keep the basic footprint of our kitchen intact. You will be able to keep plumbing and electrical costs to a minimum, as well as avoid replacing flooring by simply leaving your floorplan the same.

This list adapted from:

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling


Cherry stained kitchen cabinets- Poplar in the kitchen?

I was recently asked about using Poplar as a wood species for kitchen cabinets. Apparently there are several builders who are promoting “Cherry stained cabinets”. They are staining Poplar in colors that make the cabinets look cherry-like. Is this a good idea?

Let’s look at a couple advantages.

  1. Poplar will definitely be cheaper than Cherry cabinets. My custom cabinet maker charges 40% more for the Cherry material than he does for his standard cabinets made from Oak.
  2. Poplar is good material for paint-grade projects. I will commonly use poplar for mouldings or crown moulding where there is little chance of being damaged.


  1. Poplar is a softer wood than oak or cherry. Hardness of a wood is measured via the Janka rating. The Janka rating is a measure of the amount of force required to push a .444″ diameter steel ball half way into a piece of wood. In laymans terms, it is a way to measure a woods resistance to denting. The higher the number the greater its resistance to denting. Here are some Janka Hardness ratings for commonly used wood species:
  • Balsa- 100
  • Poplar- 540
  • Alder (red)- 590
  • Southern Yellow Pine- 690
  • Red Maple- 950
  • Cherry- 950
  • Red Oak- 1290
  • White Oak- 1360
  • Hickory- 1820
  • Brazilian Cherry/ Jatoba- 2350
  • Ipe/ Brazilian Walnut- 3684

2. As a softer wood, Poplar has a tendency to stain unevenly or blotchy if not treated correctly.

3.  Over the life of the cabinets, Poplar cabinets will be less likely to hold up to wear & tear and dents. There may also be issues with screws stripping out of the wood over time.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend using Poplar for kitchen cabinets. For painted cabinets, we use Maple. It is much harder and holds up better. For stained cabinets, I recommend the real stuff, whether it be cherry or some other wood. It may be a little more money, but if you factor in the cost of the cabinets with the cost of installation and finishing, the cost of the upgrade is relatively small.

Good Luck


J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

Know your limitations- Part 2: Being your own General Contractor.

A customer called me the other day needing  someone who can fix the broken floor joists in a early 1910’s house. He asked for a framer. I went to look at his house and see about a solution.

Here’s what I saw was needed:

  • Asbestos abatement company to remove the asbestos from the water pipes.
  • Plumber to remove the pipes that ran through the 2×8 floor joists and then reintstall the pipes
  • Electrician to remove electrical lines and reinstall them
  • Framer to sister in additional joists on either side of damaged joists

That’s 4 subcontractors when the customer thought he only thought he needed one.

When I build a new home, I may use up to 45 different subcontractors to get the job done. That’s a lot of companies. I’ve worked with each one of them. I know how they work, how long it will take, and how they handle issues after installation. It has taken me years to come up with the list of subcontractors I use today.

While I know the list of contractors is valuable (especially to me), it’s only part of being a general contractor. A general contractor also:

  • Pulls necessary permits
  • Sets up other items needed for subcontractors to do their job
    • Preps site for work to begin
    • Dumpster
    • Portable toilet- (Do you want us using your clean bathroom?)
    • Site access- especially in a remodel
    • Security- to prevent theft and control access to the site
    • Is on site to handle questions and communicate and coordinate between subcontractors
    • Sets the schedule and ensures that subcontractors complete jobs as specified
    • Is on site for all inspections
    • Warranties the work of all the subcontractors
    • Ensures that subcontractors are appropriately licensed and have the required liability insurance and workman’s comp insurance.
    • Pay the subcontractors and get the necessary mechanic lien releases
    • Ensures daily clean up and coordinates communication and changes with homeowner

Obviously, being a general contractor is a full time job for me. A homeowner can be their own general contractor. But keep in mind a project is more than just a list of contractors- there is a lot of time and experience that goes into making a successful project.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Homes

Know your limitations- Part 1: Hiring a professional versus DIY

I don’t change my oil.

I didn’t create my website.

I don’t sow my own clothes.

I don’t farm all the food I eat.

I don’t do a lot of things for two reasons:

1) I realize that I currently don’t have the talent to do something;

2) It may take a long time to learn how to do something properly and I feel my time is better spent doing something I am good at.

As a construction professional, I do a fair amount of work for the projects I have. But electrical, plumbing, and heating professionals all have separate licenses which means they have training that I don’t have. I hire them to do their respective work. I can hang drywall, paint, make cabinets, and install tile, but I choose to hire professionals for these jobs as well. They have the tools and skill sets to get the job done faster and better than I could do it.

Don’t get me wrong. ANYONE can learn to do ANYTHING with enough time and determination. But my point here is to know your limitations and realize that spending more money to have a profession do the work may be better than you spending all your time learning and still getting mixed results.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Homes