Food & Drink

Top creative space ideas for your dream condo kitchen

Renovation floor plan for condo kitchen.
Renovation floor plan for condo kitchen.

On average, North Americans will do some kind of renovation on their kitchen every 10 years, so it stands to reason that a 20-year-old condominium kitchen will benefit greatly from an updated look. More than 30 years old and the kitchen renovation is sorely overdue. More than 40 years old and you should hang your head in shame.

Of course, it may not be your fault. You may have scored the deal of the century because you have bought a piece of prime real estate that was cared for but not updated. Or, you may be the owner of a home that was recently converted to condos. It certainly can’t have anything to do with the $55K price tag attached to a kitchen overhaul.

Here are five important things to do when you’re considering a kitchen renovation

1. Do the math. It should go without saying that a kitchen (and bathroom) renovation in an owner-occupied unit should be about practicality, personal style and, of course, cost. It’s important to closely match the amount you will spend with the value of the unit. Depending, of course, on where you live, a moderately priced $15,000 bathroom renovation could return up to 71 percent of your investment, while a high-end reno, say a $50,000 expenditure, will return almost 59 percent.

Spend a moderate $55,000 for a 200 square-foot kitchen renovation and expect a 70 percent return. Even a high-end renovation of $110,000 can return more than 66 percent of the money spent.

I have estimated the kitchen renovation pictured here to be $38,000, about $18,000 of that going toward custom-colored cabinets. It would have been a lost opportunity if we didn’t address the tiny main bathroom as well. Here, I added more than 1.5 square metres (15 square feet) of space and an opportunity to give the skinny, mini bathroom a Charles Atlas upgrade, which I estimated to cost an additional $18,000.

2. Preparation is essential. With unauthorized renovations, there can be no way for the building administrators to know how that work might affect the rest of the building. A poorly installed dishwasher can cause a flood; work performed by an unauthorized electrician can cause a fire; inexperienced work crews could weaken a building’s structural integrity. Enforcing the building code, which ensures a consistent level of quality in construction, your local municipality will require permits and inspections when many basic renovations are done.

To be safe and to ensure that there are no costly delays in your project, it is always a good idea to contact the property manager or administrator. They will be able to help schedule times that workers can enter and exit the building, coordinate waste pick-ups and oversee and prevent damage to public spaces.

Home renovation is never without stress, but for condo owners, that stress can easily intensify due to the unique rules and regulations that may be involved. All condo associations have a covenant document that lists conditions and restrictions for condo owners. Even after studying the document, it is still a good idea to check with your condo association about what is and isn’t allowed because rules will vary from building to building.

In a building renovation, most condo associations will restrict the hours when contractors may work, in an effort to minimize disruptions to other residents. Crew parking, material deliveries and waste removal will pose unique challenges in a condo.

To ensure your project goes smoothly, you would be wise to hire a contractor who has experience and who understands the importance of complying with a building’s rules and regulations. Many condo associations will maintain a list of recommended contractors.

3. Choose materials and finishes wisely. In a recent survey, 61 percent of respondents said being able to store and find things was the No. 1 priority in a kitchen design. Armed with that information, I decided that an over-abundance of light wood cabinets was the best way to keep everything in its place, and to have a place for everything.

Countertops should be a highlight of the kitchen design. Granite has always been a perennial favourite, but because of its limited color range and the same, basic look of one slab to the next, engineered alternatives are becoming more popular. I chose an iridescent, off-white engineered stone that helps keep the space bright, cleans up well (and camouflages crumbs) and overall just looks beautiful. In this kitchen, the backsplash is recycled glass tile, and all the appliances are brushed stainless steel.

A real-life kitchen demands all standard-sized appliances. Ours has that, plus a five-burner cooktop and a state-of- the-art exhaust fan that is as silent as an exhaust fan ever has been. I have also incorporated double wall ovens, and have designed a cabinet to hide away the microwave, behind tambour doors.

4. Make a personal effort to inform your neighbors and your condo’s staff about workers that will be in and around the building. It is no fun living next to a construction site and your neighbors will appreciate a heads up on what they can expect and for how long. And when it’s over, a housewarming party for all concerned will be a nice token of appreciation, and may help to mend bridges.

Besides, you know your neighbors are dying to see what you have done to the place.

5. Buy the best you can afford. Ensure that the finishing work, the overall quality, and the special details are all topnotch. Good, experienced tradespeople may cost a little more, but they will ensure your project is finished to a higher standard.

It’s great to save money, but your condominium home is an investment, and in 10 years, when it’s time to tweak the décor a little, it should still stand out proudly as well-designed.

Read more about kitchen design on my blog at www.topcreativespaceideas.com. You can also join

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