The Kitchen: Where to Begin the Remodeling Process?

The Kitchen: Where to Begin the Remodeling Process?

Part 2: Appliances

This kitchen boasts ‘panel ready’ appliances for a clean seamless look

Kitchen remodeling may seem like a daunting task, and without the proper planning, guidance, and a well thought-out renovation process, it can be. With over two decades in the design business, I know the necessity of a well-laid plan. The ‘Kitchen Series’ is designed to help you start the process and enable better research when contemplating your renovation project. This is the second part of our Series, which as a whole, covers the necessary steps to take when approaching a kitchen remodeling project. The discussion started in the last issue with cabinetry which can be the most expensive item that needs considering. Visually, it is the most impactful and typically sets the design tone of the space. However, we need to take a step back and consider another equally important and financially impactful part — the appliance package.

It is highly recommended the cabinetry finishes and style selections mesh well with the appliances you may be considering. While appearance and functionality are very important, what is often not discussed is the proper order of steps to take to ensure a successful project. An early discussion between the interior designer, kitchen designer, and client, can save the homeowner a good deal of time and relief from unnecessary frustration with cycles of kitchen design revisions.

“When I start the design process with a new client, one of the very first and most important questions I ask is about the appliance package.  This is important for the proper spacing and clearances in the design, as well as ensuring the appropriate cabinetry is accounted for.”

Jeff Waggoner, Cabinet Designer, NKBA

The Average Life Expectancy of Appliances:

  • Refrigerators: 9 – 14 years 
  • Oven/ranges
    • Electric: 13 – 15 years
    • Gas: 15 – 17 years
  • Dishwashers: 7 – 10 years

Syntha’s Design Tip:

When selecting appliances it is important to consider the handles, knobs, and appliance design to insure it coordinates seamlessly with the look you want to create. While 2-D and 3-D kitchen rendering is necessary, it doesn’t always give you the drill-down with how the specific items selected work together. 

“This is when we create a mood board that features all of the items in the kitchen; including finishes, appliance door handles, hardware, cabinet door style, and lighting, to help visualize how they work together as a whole.”

Consider The Appliances Early

Appliance selection is really the next necessary step before actually putting pen—to-paper and laying out your kitchen design. It is at this stage that a kitchen design professional should ask you, “what appliances are you considering?” 

Why is having your appliance package in place so important at this early stage? Because, not every item is a one-size-fits-all. A four-or-five burner cooktop will require a 30” cabinet base, while a six burner will require a 36” cabinet. A well designed kitchen should allow for at least 12”-to-18” on one side of your stove and at least 15”-to-24” on the other. All of this must be taken into consideration when laying out the design of your cabinetry. 

Each appliance will have similar necessary spacing requirements to ensure a properly functioning kitchen. Considerations abound and a knowledgeable designer will walk you through the process to ensure that the final result is your dream kitchen.

What are the FIRST STEPS in selecting your appliance package?

Just as we discussed with your cabinetry, the appliance BUDGET plays a critical role. Setting a realistic budget for appliances will help you hone in on where to shop. Considering the flow of your kitchen, and if you are constrained by a particular layout, will narrow the appliance choices. As an example, if you do not already have gas and need to run a gas line, that can significantly increase the cost of construction, as will moving plumbing.

Another consideration is how you live; what is your LIFESTYLE? Are you a baker? A gourmet? If you often entertain, then adding a warming drawer, large capacity or double ovens, or a designated ice maker to the list of necessary appliances may be important in your design. Think about the length of time you will be living in your home and if aging in place is a consideration. Therefore, larger temperature displays and easy turn knobs might be a good choice for the future. Microwaves can be counter drawers or built into the upper cabinetry, which requires different appliances. Where to place your microwave may seem like a minor issue but once considered in light of young children or wheelchair assisted homeowners, the location takes on greater strategic importance.  Consider what is important to you and how you live, then make your wish list of items based on your lifestyle, function, and future plans. 

Moving to the AESTHETIC, but with equally important decisions, start focusing in on the style and finishes of appliances that appeal to you. These selections should also complement the interior design and style of your home. There are countless options in this category as well.

Stainless Steel continues to be the number one seller of appliance finishes, therefore making it a  good choice for the long-term. However, as kitchens are becoming more integrated into other rooms of the home with open floor plans, appliances are taking on a new look. Back are the days of panel ready appliances so they seamlessly blend into the design. Additionally, more vibrant and unusual colors are becoming popular, as are different finishes like black stainless steel.  

Keeping in mind that the unusual colors will not “visually” age as well as other options. Whatever you choose, seamlessly tying them into the rest of the home’s design is important.

Appliances in this kitchen are from Wolf Cooking – part of the Sub-Zero family

Appliances At a Glance

Cooktop vs Range

This is an important decision in the plan and layout of your kitchen. The first question is whether you prefer a separate cooktop and wall oven/s, or a free-standing range which has both appliances in one. Often available space dictates the decision. An advantage to separating the cooktop and oven is the increased space and ability to have more than one cooking zone in use at one time. On the other hand, freestanding ranges are often more economical and easier to install.

Wall Ovens

Options range from the standard 27” to 30” sizes, to single or double ovens. The latter is a good choice for those who entertain, have larger families, and a good option for resale value if the kitchen space can accommodate. An additional choice can be adding a convection oven with a standard oven to give the option for quicker and often considered more even cooking.


There are many options to choose from, the first decision is the installation type. Fully integrated, which seamlessly blends into the rest of your cabinetry; built-in units which are generally taller than freestanding and also have a more seamless look, and finally the freestanding option. All options come in various sizes and configurations. Selecting a counter depth style is always a good choice for a clean look.


Two items that appear on most consumers list when selecting a dishwasher are noise and style. Dishwasher noise is rated in decibels; the lower the decibel the quieter the machine. Look for a rating of 45 decibels or lower. Select a style for your dishwasher that coordinates with the rest of your kitchen design, like a fully integrated panel ready machine if you want a seamless look. Dishwashers come standard in 24” models, and should be installed flush with the kitchen countertop.

Important Items of Note When Purchasing:

  • When shopping for appliances, research your retailer, check reviews. Additionally, look on the company website for possible rebates and promotions for additional savings.
  • When to buy can also be a consideration, there are many sales and deeper discounts around major holidays, so plan your purchases accordingly. 

Syntha Harris

The visionary and the creative force behind her boutique interior design firm in Northern Virginia, Syntha Harris has been the principal designer at Syntha Harris Interiors since 1996. Before founding her company, Syntha was a runway and print model for European and American fashion houses for over two decades. Surrounded by style icons, Syntha has had the privilege to be a part of the creative process and behind-the-scenes in making fashion. With a trained eye for all things style and meticulous attention to detail, Syntha’s vision sees no boundaries when creating a living space that’s equally beautiful, functional and inviting. For the past 20 years, she’s earned a reputation for her transformational designs informed and inspired by her clients’ needs, desires and aspirations.

Pictured at top:
Syntha Harris Interiors

Photography: Stylish Productions

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