Tag Archives: kitchen renovation

Basics of Kitchen Layouts

Kitchen by Greentea Design

Greentea Design Kitchen by Trilogy Builds

For those lucky enough to be able to remodel their existing kitchen, the project probably seems totally daunting what with budget, space, time, and building constraints to consider. And of course storage:  between furniture, appliances both big and small, and the cook- and bakeware already in your possession, it’s a challenge to figure out how to fit everything in, let alone fit together.

But do yourself the favour and let utility be your guide.  Before you get carried away with aesthetic elements, be sure to think of the flow and function you require.  Who will be using the space, how often and why?  Meal prep of course happens in the kitchen, but so often now it’s where families and guests gather, where groups are tackling not just the eating, but the making of a meal, where plans for the future are hatched and work – business, family, grade school – is tackled.  So figure out what applies to you and what your space can realistically accommodate.

Your first order of business is to figure out what layout is best suited for your kitchen’s space. Kitchen designers use three basic kitchen layouts that get the best flow of movement, and enhance manageable work efficiency in your available kitchen area.

Open Concept Layout

Kitchen design - open concept layout

Both small and large kitchen designs can fit an open concept layout.  There’s no better internet past-time for me then scrolling through design sites that feature those jaw dropping images of immense open concept chef’s kitchens, but really the open concept layout started gaining popularity as living spaces started to shrink with the rise (quite literally) of condo living.

In an open concept space, all kitchen elements are designed in a straight line on one side of the kitchen space.    With the open concept kitchen, it’s all about the glorious island:  this hardworking piece of furniture is positioned at the centre to separate the kitchen from the other living space, typically (but not always) the dining room.

Greentea Design kitchen by Trilogy BuildsGreentea Design Kitchen by Triology Builds

Galley Kitchen Layout

kitchen design - galley kitchen

For maximum mobility in the kitchen, the galley kitchen is actually your best bet.  This kitchen layout organizes your kitchen furniture and appliances on opposite sides to establish a walkway through your kitchen area. More space means fewer obstacles.  The galley concept is a takeaway from ships, where space was always at a premium.  If the space you’re looking at is small the galley is a great option.  It’s also good for those who want their kitchen space, in all its messy glory concealed from guests.

Image via Zsazsa Bellagio

The U-Shaped Kitchen

kitchen design - u-shaped layout

The u-shaped kitchen is a truly efficient layout, really working hard for accomplished home cooks. With the perfect triangle of fridge, sink and stove all a pivot away and miraculously still affording ample counter space, this layout works well in both small and larger spaces.  For those lucky enough to just be drowning in space, this layout can create a cozy smaller space in a larger expanse all while adding counter space.  U-shaped kitchens are also wonderful for those who want an open concept look, but still prefer to keep guests on the other side of the peninsula.

Images via Houzz

Good luck with your kitchen reno!

Heart of the Home: The Kitchen Island

It’s Foodie Tuesday and the launch of Greentea Design’s Kitchen and Bath Event!

Greentea Design custom islandGreentea Design custom island.  Image via Trilogy Builds

Once upon a time, not too long ago, once the dishes were stored, groceries unpacked, and the kitchen aid mixer and espresso machine made their homes on the counter permanent, there was precious little room to actually cook in most kitchens.  What was the serious home cook to do?

Concrete island.  Image via Josephine Interior Design

The answer?  The glorious kitchen island, a relatively new piece of kitchen furniture, gaining in popularity in homes in the 90s and really proliferating along with open concept design schemes.

Image via Greentea Design

Suddenly the kitchen was a home’s show piece, growing in size,  guests welcomed in! The buzz of the house really moved from the hearth to the kitchen all thanks to one centrally located standalone counter-topped piece of furniture.

Image via Digs Digs

Not only was there suddenly room to whip up a grand feast like the TV chefs do, there is a new place to gather, where families catch quick meals, homework is done under parental eyes, meetings are held and everything from the easiest to the most elaborate of meals are made.  The kitchen island is a hardworking piece of furniture, perhaps the hardest. (It sure is in our home!)

4 Drawer Greentea Design kitchen islandImage via Greentea Design

While kitchen islands were really first devised by kitchen designers to up the counter space, today islands can be customized to accommodate appliances and plumbing and can double the amount of kitchen storage in a space.

Reclaimed wood island.  Image via Beautiful Life

Lego island.  Image via Digs Digs

But it’s not all about utility.  The kitchen island is a great way to add some character and warmth to your space.  Ultra modern cabinets can be paired with a rustic reclaimed wood island.  Heck build one out of LEGO if that’s your thing.  Bottom line, it’s a piece you can have fun with, that can really reflect your design tastes and will certainly be the focal point of your kitchen if not open concept space.  And if there’s one place you want to put your design dollars and sense it should be the heart of your home.

Counter Intelligence: New Choices for Kitchen Countertops

We bought our condo from plans and were presented with several upgrade options: stainless steel appliances, porcelain tiles, and hardwood floors, to name just a few.  Our consultant realized our budget constraints and waved most of these options aside, insisting that we could probably do them ourselves for less money than the builder was asking.

(Granite; Photo: Charles Luck Perspectives)

But the one change that she insisted upon was switching out our laminate countertops for granite. It seems like granite has become de rigueur in most kitchen renovations, to the point that I find it a little boring. Needless to say, we stuck with the laminate but lately I have been wondering what other options are out there to give our kitchen a little kick.

recycled glass(Recycled Glass; Photo: Vetrazzo)

Recycled Glass:

As someone who is always looking for a way to be more environmentally conscious, I love the idea of recycled glass countertops, which contain up to 100% post-consumer waste. Like granite, they are beautiful and unique; no two are going to have the exact same pattern. But, like granite, they tend to be expensive, at least until more manufacturers get on the bandwagon.

recycled bio glass(Recycled Bio-Glass; Photo: Interior Design)

Despite the high price point, there are a lot of benefits. Glass surfaces are easy to maintain, require no special cleansers, and are heat- and scratch-resistant. They will need to be resealed every few years but otherwise should last for decades if you can manage not to crack or chip it. Best of all, they come in a variety of colours and finishes, many of which mimic more expensive stone counters.

petrified wood(Photo: Houzz)

Petrified Wood:

Wood countertops have long been a popular choice, bringing warmth to the décor that granite or other stones cannot. And, depending on the variety of wood that you choose, it can be affordable. But wood is porous and I am not disciplined enough to keep it properly sealed and stain-free, and too uptight to not be bothered by discolorations in the surface.

close up petrified wood counter(Petrified Wood; Photo: Concetto)

But petrified wood is a relatively new option that solves many of these issues. It has the warm tones of wood but, depending on the pattern of the slab, it can look like wood or stone. It’s a show-stopper and conversation generator; only those in the business will probably have seen one before. And it’s durable! But, not surprisingly, it is a very expensive option.

Alkemi, a recycled material combination of post consumer acrylic and aluminum(Alkemi; Photo: Renewed Materials)

Recycled Metal:

The increased popularity of cooking shows has led everyone to express their inner chef through stainless steel countertops but it can look at little sterile. Maryland’s Renewed Materials has developed Alkemi, a surface that combines post-industrial and post-consumer acrylic with aluminum scraps.

alkemi colour options(Alkemi; Photo: Materials and Sources)

The metal filings under the surface provide a gleaming metallic finish, while the acrylic is available in several colours. Like acrylic counters, Alkemi is easy to clean but it is susceptible to scratches and burns.  And it is about half the price of traditional stainless or copper countertops.

Greentea Design kitchen

Concrete counters with a reclaimed wood Maru table in the Greentea Kitchen

(Photo: Greentea Design)

I’m very tempted by several of these finishes, though it might have to wait until our next place. If you are in the market for new countertops, don’t be afraid to break away from predictable granite. You might even want to do two different types: one for the main counter and the island in another; the options for some kitchen experiments are endless!

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Renovation Tips

Greentea KitchenImage via Greentea Design

Planning your dream kitchen but worried about your environmental footprint?  It’s easy to introduce some eco-friendly elements.  Some will even save you money and won’t sacrifice style.  Indeed they elevate it.

Another Person’s Trash…

It starts before your demolition.  After all one person’s trash is another’s treasure, so ask around – friends, family, neighbours, charitable organizations, salvage and secondhand shops – to see if anyone might be interested in what your getting rid of.  From appliances to countertops, flooring planks and parts, sinks, cabinets, and tiles, divert as much as you can from the landfill, perhaps turning your refuse into an incredible gift.  In some jurisdictions, Habitat for Humanity and like-minded charitable orgs can issue charitable tax receipts for these donations.  If this seems like a lot of work and research on your end, then consider hiring a local green contractor (here’s a reputable one in Toronto) who will ensure your materials and components are reused, donated, and processed properly.  These experts are a wonderful resource to guide you through eco-friendly choices that fit your function and style needs.

Beware of VOCs

paint cansChoose natural or zero-VOC or low-VOC paints.  Image via Please Conserve

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds and these are the chemical substances that vaporize easily into air.  It’s one reason the EPA has stated that indoor air generally is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoors. Paint, sealants, adhesives, the processing of particle and MDF boards, even expensive granite – gas off chemicals from formaldehyde to radon that have been linked to everything from asthma to cancer.

The good news is that there are lots of natural and low to zero VOC paints, primers and sealers now on the market.  Do some research and talk to retailers about your options, especially if someone in your home suffers from asthma.  Likewise talk to the retailers of your furniture and ask where the wood comes from and about their company’s sustainability guidelines.

Green Materials

If eco-friendliness is a priority for your renovations, choose sustainably harvested materials such as cork and bamboo where the trees and grasses respectively aren’t killed in harvesting (regrowth happens relatively quickly too, another plus).   Recycled materials like glass, concrete, marmoleum and reclaimed wood are also good options but do ask about the processing as some treatments are more green than others.  The design of these materials has come a long way in recent years and the market is full of stunning options.

beautiful Bamboo FlooringBamboo flooring, via Build Direct

Patterned cork floorCork flooring via Cork Flooring Pros

Recycled glass for countertops via Vetrazzo

Butcher block counter top made out of bambooButcher block countertop made of bamboo via My Home Ideas

Energy Efficiency

energy efficient appliances

Choosing energy efficient appliances will save you a bundle on your electricity bills over their lifetime.

And better yet get a thermal energy map of your home done to locate particularly drafty places.  In older homes, because of their placement in the house, kitchens are big culprits.  Investing in eco-friendly insulation is well worth it.  Your choices run from natural batts made from old denim, fire resistant recycled newsprint, and soy-based spray in foam insulation.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Whether you repurpose old furniture, shop vintage, or seek out recycled and reclaimed products, using old furniture and materials is a wonderful way to add character, integrity, and beauty to your space.  Think of the stories these pieces tell; and their age also attests to their strength to still be in use today.

Reclaimed wood to create floating shelvesReclaimed Wood to create Floating Shelves via Apartment Therapy

Salvaged wood, recycled glass and GFRC concrete are just a few recycled products that can elevate a space with their beauty and character, harmonizing with many design schemes.

Beautiful GFRC CountertopGFRC Countertop via Concrete Countertops

Greentea Design uses only reclaimed wood to build their kitchen cabinetry.  Even their handles, hinges, and pulls are hand-forged from recycled iron.

Best of luck with your kitchen renovations!

How to not go hungry during your kitchen reno

image via Design Sponge. BBQ-ing is a great way to get you through a kitchen reno if the weather's on your side. Click on the photo for a delicious and deliciously easy portobello and peach burger recipe!

Are you planning for your dream kitchen?  Have you saved your pennies for this big investment in your biggest investment? It’s a fact that with any renovation, especially a sizable one, timelines can easily extend and budgets are stretched to the max.  That’s why it’s so important to consider how you and your family will eat well and on a budget without the, uh, kitchen.

Here are a few tips to stay healthy and stuffed:

Plan ahead
The best advice I got when preparing for the arrival of our little one was to cook and cook lots and freeze it all for those first hectic, sleepless, joyous months.   If felt so good to have a wholesome and hearty meal only a few minutes away by microwave or stovetop.  I made several litres of four kinds of soup, lentil-walnut burgers, veggie chili, chicken pot pies and it really only took a couple of weekends of work.  The payoff is so worth it. This advice works just as well for a kitchen reno too – a great way to not blow your budget on crappy take-out or less than special restaurant excursions.

Set up a mini kitchen elsewhere

via 7th House on the Left, this is pic of the makeshift kitchen set up during Ashley Brown and her husband's recent renovation

  • Warning: You may never move your coffee maker out of the bedroom once it enters, but enjoy this caffeinated perk during your kitchen renovation.
  • The dining room is a great spot to set up a hotplate, toaster oven and microwave.  The table itself can be used as prep room.  Do yourself the favour of being organized though, diligently cleaning as you prep meals and getting dirty dishes done after eating because it’ll quickly feel like chaos if you don’t. If possible set up a shelf of dishes, editing your flatware choices to the bare minimum to keep clutter contained.

We haven’t renovated our kitchen but we did have our kitchen roof collapse in the dead of winter once. All tolled we were without a kitchen for a month as we patched and painted and waited for the new roof. But we still had lovely breakfasts of waffles and cappuccinos thanks to our waffle iron and espresso machine. Soups and stews were easy with the hotplate too.

  • You’ll also need a place to wash up, which most likely means the bathroom sink or tub.
  • Hopefully you’ll still have access to your fridge, if not invest in a bar fridge and stand alone freezer which can be set up elsewhere, however awkward.

Focus on one-pot meals and foods that only get better with time
In the cooler months a chili or hearty stew can be made in one pot and will keep for a few days.  If it’s summer pasta, bean, or couscous salads really only improve with a day or two of marinating (just add your favourite sandwich for a full meal).  Making large batches of these will make for quick and easy meals for at least a couple of days.


image via Big Girl Small Kitchen. Click the pic for the barbecue lentil recipe. While the name is a bit of a misnomer - she doesn't use the BBQ - it'd be quite easy to do so. Simply cook your lentils using a hotplate and finish the recipe using a cast iron pan on the barbe!

If the weather is on your side and you’ve got a garden or patio, the barbeque will be your best friend.  Get adventurous, you’re really not limited to hot dogs and burgers!  My favs this summer have been roasted veggies and lemon garlic shrimp.  Plus you can put your cast iron grills and pans directly on the barbeque to really expand your culinary options.

Black and Blum have created this Hot Pot Barbeque. It looks like a terracotta planter, perfect for your herbs, but lift off the top to reveal a small charcoal grill with a heat insulating ceramic coating. Great for small outdoor spaces like a tiny balcony and super attractive planter when not in use!

Accept friendly neighbours’ offerings
If friends and neighbours offer to bring you food or have the family over for dinner, for the love of a decent meal, say yes!  You can repay this remarkable kindness in full with a gourmet dinner in your brand new kitchen a few weeks hence.

Community dinners and picnics

Locally grown produce and artisanal meats, cheeses, breads and preserves as far as the eye can see at our local farmer's market. Also prepared meals served on real plates with cutlery, perfect if you're feeling nostalgic for a proper meal. Hit up your local farmer's market for the community vibe and tasty offerings.

Toronto is a great city for parks as I assume many urban centres are.  Many of our city’s parks and parkettes also have a strong community contingent that informally evolved out of a sense of camaraderie and pride for one’s neighbourhood and public spaces.  I can think of at least two west-end parks that host weekly community dinners offering healthy meals for the whole family.  Countless others host farmer’s markets one day per week.  So if you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner and don’t have a kitchen, wander over to one of these spots and dine with your neighbours for less than take out.  Or just pick up some healthy offerings at the farmer’s market for a quiet little picnic.

These markets are a really great place to introduce kids to our food system. Not to mention there’s lots of entertainment just for them: Homegrown talent, Chris Patterson has a fun kids' album out called Small Potatoes and he was out wowing crowds with his songs about new siblings and smelly belly buttons.

Take out and delivery
Of course this might be what you end up doing more often than you’d like but hopefully the ideas above mean it won’t have to be an everyday thing.  Do your research beforehand too and find out which of your favourite healthy haunts deliver so at least it won’t be fast food every night!  And now’s a great time to try various international cuisines: Thai and Indian curries, affordable falafels and west-Indian roti, handmade pierogi and cabbage rolls – make it a theme night where the family travels the globe one night a week for dinner.

Bon appetit!  My fingers are crossed your reno goes smoothly and you’re soon cooking up a storm in your dreamiest of dream kitchens!