decor, interiors
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On kitchens, cabinets, and the cost

In our home, the kitchen is the center of it all, the hub of energy around which everything else revolves. Sure, we have an open plan apartment with one large living space and the kitchen has a big physical presence, but it’s more than that. We spend the great majority of our time in the kitchen, cooking, snacking, hanging out, having meals, chatting. We’ve had evenings with friends when we never even left the kitchen area and, in fact, we had some friends over for brunch this past weekend who said, “you know, I don’t think we’ve ever sat at your dining room table or in your lounge area before!”. And they’re right, we’re just always hanging out in the kitchen or at the amazing counter bar we created for just that purpose. Because of all this, as I spend hours head-down in proposed layouts for the new house, I’m constantly coming back to the kitchen: it’s placement, it’s size, it’s organization, it’s aesthetic. And recently, while wandering the Internet for inspiration and guidance, I came across a pretty exciting resource for kitchen planning and design.

First, the backstory. When we renovated our apartment in 2012 I fell in love with henrybuilt, a Washington-based artisan furniture and cabinet design and build firm. I desperately wanted them to do our kitchen (and all the rest of our casework too) but when we received the quote we realized that we simply couldn’t justify the price. We’re talking out of this world craftsmanship accompanied by appropriately handsome prices and for a apartment renovation we just couldn’t make it work.

What I didn’t know at the time was that henrybuilt has a sister company, Viola Park, that is intended to bring thoughtful design and quality craftsmanship to the cabinetry world at a more affordable price point. As I said, I only just discovered Viola Park recently but I find their model fascinating. They engage the client in the design and configuration process (theirs is a somewhat modular system, not custom) by providing planning and design tools on their website. If you’ve ever shopped for modern cabinetry before, you know that you’re looking at IKEA, the European brands (Poggenpohl, Bulthaup, Leicht etc), or custom, and that with the exception of custom, each of these options involves a showroom of sorts. Viola Park brings the showroom online, allowing you to figure out what you want and price it out right there on their site. For people like me, wishing to do more and more home planning and design on the internet, this is pretty appealing.

Viola Park walnut kitchen cabinetry

I was thrilled when I stumbled upon their awesome budgeting guide. I remember renovating our apartment and wondering how much I should be spending on the different components of the renovation, and now as I look at this massive renovation ahead of us, the same question looms larger. For me, finding an explanation of what a kitchen renovation should cost and how to break out the component costs of the renovation has shone a light on the usually dark and cavernous world of budgeting. There’s a planning document that gives guidelines and explanations of expenses and then there’s an excel-based calculator tool that helps you figure out your own budget, both in terms of the overall kitchen number (they recommend allocating 5-15% of your current home value) and the breakdown for the different components. How helpful is that???

Viola Park bread box

Suffice it to say I think Viola Park — both the designs and the business model — is pretty cool. So if you’re renovating your kitchen and trying to understand what it all could/should/would cost, go explore the Viola Park site, which will give you all sorts of insight into planning, budgeting, and of course the best part, designing, your own new kitchen.

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