Kitchen Design

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As any cook will tell you, the design of the kitchen makes a huge difference in how well the kitchen functions. The basic layout of the kitchen is a work triangle measured from the center of the sink, refrigerator and cook top or range. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends that each leg of the triangle should be between four and nine feet and the sum of the legs should not exceed twenty-six feet.  There should be no obstructions in the triangle or through traffic.  Counters should be a minimum of 42” apart for one cook and 48” for two cooks. Kitchens designed for multiple cooks should consider two sinks and therefore two work triangles.

There are three options in cabinet door construction with significant price differences. In Flush Overlay construction the doors and drawers completely cover the cabinet box. It has clean contemporary lines and hidden hinges. Flush overlay construction is always used for a contemporary look but can also work with a traditional door panel. It is the medium price option and creates a great look for the money spent.  Reveal Overlay doors and drawers partially cover the cabinet box. The reveal dimension can be varied by the designer. Hinges can either be exposed or concealed in reveal overlay construction. This is the least expensive cabinet construction type. Flush Inset with Face Frame construction is the most expensive due to the care necessary in fitting the doors into the frames. The doors and drawers are flush with the cabinet box and are crafted as well as a piece of fine furniture. Flush inset cabinets create a very traditional look with an exposed butt hinge.

The Architectural Woodwork Institute defines three quality levels of construction for cabinetry.  Premium Grade, the highest level generally reserved for special projects or features. Custom Grade is specified for most cabinetry and provides a well defined degree of control over the quality of craftsmanship, materials, and installation. Economy Grade defines a minimum expectation of work.

The next cabinet decision is whether to use stock cabinets or have them custom made by a local cabinet maker. Stock Cabinets generally have a multitude of door designs, woods and finishes, and hardware to choose between.  They come in 3” increments, so you might have to use a filler panel to fit a particular wall. Custom Cabinets can be designed as a major detail component of your house. You have an endless choice of door designs, woods and finishes, as well as hardware. They can also be made to fit the dimensions of the space perfectly. Often we find that custom cabinets are not more expensive than good quality stock cabinets.

The goal of any room design is for the first impression to be “Wow, what a nice room”. Only after the pleasing impact of the overall design should you then begin to notice the details. One important detail in the kitchen is the cabinet hardware. Traditional Hardware brands include Baldwin, the very popular Rocky Mountain Hardware and Sun Valley Bronze. Contemporary Hardware is typically stainless steel and favorite brands include Häfele, andValli & Valli. There are many Fanciful Hardware companies. The company Modern Objects gets its inspiration from nature; they have twigs, branches, shells and stones. Susan Goldstick creates little works of art of for each cabinet pull. Soko Studio has dogs, people and all sorts of fun pulls. 

Construction Costs

Many people who are contemplating building a new home are surprised at the cost of construction. The sticker shock is often due to the expectation of the same costs that were available during the recession. Our firm’s historical data of residential construction show that the average new home construction costs are still 38% less expensive than the few years before the great recession. So now is a good time to consider renovating or building a new house, while costs are greater than 2010 they are still less than 2007.

Many areas of the hot and humid South have higher construction costs because they are in a hurricane zone or an earthquake zone, or both. The requirements to mitigate both of these hazards include the following:

  • Building the first floor above FEMA’s base flood elevation which adds to the foundation cost.
  • Structural Engineering fees to design code compliant structural systems.
  •  Connecting the roof, through the walls to the foundation and footing with threaded rods, go-bolts, hurricane clips or other code approved methods. This adds to both the material and labor costs.
  • The shear walls required for lateral stability are more expensive than sheathing options available in other parts of the country.
  • Window and door openings must be protected from windblown debris. Impact rated windows can cost up to twice as much as non-impact openings.

There are several best practice options that will cost more initially but will either save money on your home insurance or utility bill that we recommend.

  • A secondary roof under a metal roof that ensure water tightness if the roof is compromised during high winds.
  • An U.L. certified lightning protection system will add $7,000 to $10,000 to a 2500 s.f. house but will protect your house and electronics from lightning strikes during our many lightning storms.
  • Spray foam insulation is typically 2 to 3 times more expensive than fiberglass insulation but is a far superior product. It stops air and moisture infiltration, will not sag, keeps dust and pollen out and reduces capacity requirements, maintenance and wear of heating and air conditioning equipment.

TV remodeling shows also add to unrealistic time and cost expectations. Those shows often have donated materials, low cost fees from the contractors and have pre-built a large portion in a warehouse prior to the show.  

Cost, square footage (both inside and outside) and quality of materials and workmanship are the triad of construction. If cost is the driving issue in your project you must be flexible in the size of the project and the quality of materials and workmanship.

What can I expect from an architectural review board?

Architectural review board policies and procedures are a common concern among
people who wish to build or renovate. The process seems lengthy,the forms can be
confusing, and people worry that the board will prevent their project from moving
forward. The first step is discuss the process with the administrator. Homeowners
who have hired an architect will find themselves at an advantage in the review board
process. Local architects have established relationships with many of the review
boards in the area. The architect will help you through the process by completing
forms, compiling submissions, and presenting your project to the board.
There are two types of review boards. In Beaufort and Port Royal, there are public
review boards whose members are appointed by the local governments. These
review board are tasked with preserving the integrity of the historic districts. The
meeting are open to the public, so they will vote and discuss projects in front of the
architects and owners.
Many private communities in Beaufort County have their own review boards.
Generally, these boards are populated with other homeowners and have an architect
advisor. The boards often meet in private but will allow your architect to present the
project and answer questions.

How do I protect my house from lightning?


The lowcountry experiences frequent thunderstorms, especially in the summer months. According to the National Weather service, central and southern south Carolina average 50 to 70 days with thunderstorms each year with approximately 395,962 lightning hits to the ground. South Carolina is ranked 12th in the nation in the number of lightning hits to the ground. 
“Home and business owners needn’t take their chances with lightning,” explains Bud Van Sickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). “A professionally installed lightning protection system which meets U.S safety standards...will prevent lightning damage by providing a safe electrical path into the earth.” 

While lightning protection system can be installed at any time, it is best to install it during new construction because it is easy to hide the cable conductors in the walls. The costs vary depending on the size and complexity of the building. Van Sickle estimates that the system will cost about one percent of the building’s total construction cost. The costs can be offset with potential home insurance savings and the peace of mind that your home is safe from lightning.