How to Create the Kitchen of Your Dreams

With a little planning, patience and the right designer, there’s no limit to what you can do with your kitchen remodel. Here are a few tips on where to start.

The kitchen is the heart and soul of the home. This is where families spend the most time together, where food is prepared, and loved ones gather. It’s where meaningful moments and conversations are often had, and memories are made. The kitchen, more than any room in the home, epitomizes the importance of form and function working together. It needs to be warm, inviting, useful, cozy and efficient all at the same time. That’s a tall order, and even the best kitchens need an update from time to time.

Beautiful, functional kitchens don’t grow on trees, and they don’t happen quickly. It takes a great deal of time, effort and money before your dream kitchen becomes a reality. Your first step is to partner up with a qualified designer who can take your fantasy kitchen out of your dreams and into your home.

Share Your Inspiration

Bryan Kruschke is a manager at Premier Woodwork, a custom architectural millwork firm that’s been creating high-end commercial and residential millwork for almost 30 years. Since 1994, Premier Woodwork, at 1522 7th St. in Rockford, has been building customized cabinets, counters, doors and furniture for homes and businesses throughout Rockford, the United States and beyond.

Bryan Kruschke

“The difference between us and other companies is that we don’t sell brand names or lines of other cabinetry from out-of-town factories,” says Kruschke, walking through the brisk and bustling shop floor. “Everything we make is built in-house from multiple local suppliers. Raw materials come in, and fine cabinetry comes out.”

Kruschke stops by Premier Woodwork’s Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router. One of Premier Woodwork’s most important tools, the CNC router works with design software to churn out custom components quickly and precisely, handing Premier Woodwork a distinct edge when it comes to kitchen design and delivery.

“Sometimes there are situations where, as a custom shop, we run into anomalies with a home that we didn’t anticipate,” he says. “In cases like that, we can create custom pieces that fit properly. You can’t do that if you buy all your cabinetry from a big-box store.”

Kruschke leads the tour into the much quieter design office, where employees use software like AutoCAD to create digital designs of a project. This is the place where the ideas and vision begin to take shape, before coming to life on the shop floor.

“There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to designing your ideal kitchen,” says Kruschke. “The best place to start is to have a vision. Find pictures or features from other homes that you like. Bring those to the table, along with pictures of your existing space when you come to see us. That gives us a great place to start.”

These pictures are the spark that starts a conversation, but there are a lot of factors that go into making them a reality. Premier Woodwork is full of state-of-the-art equipment but, unfortunately, there are no magic wands to be found. And as experienced and savvy as their employees might be, there is not a wizard among them.

“The more you bring to us upfront, the fewer headaches there will be in the long run,” advises Kruschke. “We’re going to have a lot of questions about the colors you want, what handles you’re thinking about for your cabinets, the countertops you want, the tile you want. There are a lot of decisions. The easier we can make it upfront, the smoother the process is going to be.”

Ideas are Everywhere

This notion of finding inspiration and bringing it to the table is a common thread among renovation professionals. Mark Presson is vice president at Lonnie’s Stonecrafters, 3291 S. Alpine Road in Rockford. He recently found ideas for his own kitchen renovation while relaxing in front of the television.

“We were watching movies on Netflix one night and I pointed to a kitchen on the screen and said, ‘I like that one,’” he laughs.

Matt Bronowski (left), Andy Smallwood (center) and Mark Presson

Presson also points out that, if your spouse has his or her own ideas for how your kitchen should look, a compromise is never out of the question.

“My wife and I couldn’t decide between navy blue cabinets and grey cabinets,” he says. “I eventually said, ‘Let’s do both.’ So, now we have navy blue lower cabinets and light-grey uppers.”

For almost two decades, Lonnie’s Stonecrafters has been supplying high-quality granite, quartz, marble and soapstone for countertops, flooring and kitchen fixtures. The company has also teamed up with Kiba Studios, a national design company that specializes in kitchens and bathrooms. With both a showroom for stonework, plus an on-site team of Kiba design experts, Lonnie’s Stonecrafters has become a one-stop-shop that allows customers to peruse and select their favorite slabs of stone while planning the layout and fixtures for their ideal kitchen.

Presson’s father, Lonnie Presson, started the business in 2004 after opening Lonnie’s CarpetMax, 6551 E. Riverside Blvd. in Rockford, in 1986. Presson’s brother, Luke, is also a vice president with the company.

Homeowners can also use a link on the company’s website to access Kiba design tools or simply make an appointment to talk with the design team.

“The initial consultation is going to be us asking a lot of questions,” says Andy Smallwood, the Kiba studios manager at Lonnie’s Stonecrafters. “We just want to get them thinking about their kitchen. We don’t necessarily need hard answers. We just want to get the wheels turning so they are thinking about what they want.”

Matt Bronowski, a Kiba Studios design consultant, emphasizes that the homeowner doesn’t need to bring in blueprints and have the entire designed fleshed out.

“Sometimes, it’s just a question of finding one thing that you like and building everything else around it,” he says. “You’ve got to start somewhere, so start with something that you like.”

Set It in Stone

Homeowners in search of inspiration won’t need to look far at Lonnie’s Stonecrafters to find something they like.

“I might be biased, but I think picking out flooring and stone for countertops is the easiest way to get started,” says Presson.

When it comes to selection, customers at Lonnie’s Stonecrafters are spoiled for choice. There’s plenty of stone to look at in the showroom, and there are also huge slabs of granite on hand. Presson says that, for most customers, the type of stone usually comes down to two choices.
“We carry granite and quartz,” he says. “We don’t work with a lot of marble because it’s not ideal for a kitchen. It’s just too soft.”

The differences between the two materials are many. Granite is mined from a quarry, cut down to size, and polished to a fine surface. Quartz, on the other hand, is factory-made, providing a lot more control over appearance and color. Neither surface requires too much maintenance, with soap and water being the only thing needed to clean them. Both surfaces have their fans and detractors, but Presson doesn’t favor one stone over the other.

“Quartz has become very popular over the past 10 years,” he says, pointing to the rise of home design shows as part of the reason. “It’s not necessarily a better option than granite, though.”

One advantage to quartz is consistency and convenience. Even slabs of the same granite from the same quarry can differ in appearance, but quartz, which is manmade, is always going to look the same. Also, a sample of quartz can be carried in your pocket to pull out and compare when you’re choosing cabinets and flooring. A slab of granite can’t be carried around in that same way unless you’re Fred Flintstone.

“I don’t think quartz is a better product,” says Presson, “but it sure is easier to purchase.”
While the store carries about 150 varieties of quartz, it’s the granite that sets Lonnie’s Stonecrafters apart from its competitors. While other kitchen and cabinet companies can take customers over to the quartz section, Lonnie’s is one of the few that can also lead them into a showroom filled with slab upon slab of granite. Once customers find something they like, the team at Lonnie’s goes to work.

“We do everything here,” Presson says. “We slice it. We polish it. We make sure you have enough of it. Everything is done in-house.”

Build Your Budget

For many, the only thing that truly stands in the way of creating a dream kitchen is finances. A major kitchen renovation is a major investment of both time and money. Once the renovations are complete, however, you end up with a beautiful kitchen that improves the value of your home and brings happiness for years to come.

Most designers will help you find a budget you can live with, and they stick to it with cost-saving options you might not have considered.

“Can I help you redo your whole kitchen for under six grand? Probably not,” says Bronowski, a Kiba designer at Lonnie’s Stonecrafters. “But what I can do is point you toward things like different door styles or other options that will help you keep the costs in your range. A lot of people don’t know why different items are priced differently. I can help with that.”

Chad Beasley

Chad Beasley is a business manager at Macktown Construction, 9957 N. Alpine Road in Machesney Park, Ill. Since 2015, the company has been guiding its clients through the process of designing and executing ideal additions to their homes, all while staying in budget. For Beasley, the name of the game is helping his customers dream up kitchen ideas while keeping their feet on the ground.

“Depending on the size of the kitchen, most major renovations start at around $75,000,” he says. “You can go lower, but most people want the most state-of-the-art appliances and gadgets, so that’s a good number to budget for.”

There are a few ways to keep costs from ballooning. One way is to use your kitchen’s existing layout for things like cabinets and appliances. This helps to avoid more-intrusive procedures, like knocking down walls, rewiring outlets, or tearing out and reinstalling plumbing – all of which will significantly add to your expenses. Beasley reiterates that costs can come down with smart selections of fixtures and appliances.

“A lot of it depends on what you pick out, when you’re in here,” he says. “One of the things I work on, especially at the end of the process, is telling our clients, ‘What you picked is amazing, but it’s going to take you out of your range. Let’s find something functional but still in your budget.’”

Another thing you need to budget is time. Don’t expect your kitchen to be completed in just a few days. Plan to use your kitchen sparingly, or not at all.

“Typically, we’re in there eight to 12 weeks, depending on what’s being done,” says Beasley.

Make it Fabulous but Functional

Renovating your kitchen isn’t just about sprucing it up. It’s also about revitalizing both the space itself and its flow. A designer can help with this by making sure your kitchen’s “golden triangles” are intact.

“Your kitchen’s golden triangle connects your three major workspaces,” says Beasley. “You’re going to want to make sure the space between your sink, your refrigerator and your stovetop or cooking area isn’t too close or too far.”

Kruschke, of Premier Woodwork, agrees that an optimal design isn’t just about fancy looks and bells and whistles, particularly if you’re the sort of family that cooks frequently.

“People often think of the look of their kitchen, but a lot of times it’s functionality that’s more important,” he says. “You can definitely have both, but I think it’s best to think about what you like and don’t like about your current kitchen and really focus on the flow and the function.”

However you decide to refresh your kitchen, the best judge for how it will look and feel, in the end, is you.

“The ultimate goal is to make sure the customer gets what they want,” says Beasley, “and whatever we promised them we’d do gets done.”