Yes! Your Kitchen Remodel DOES Need a Master Plan

16 min read Want a kitchen remodel that perfectly suits your home ,and balances good bones, good layout, and good looks for great design? You need a master plan.

A good kitchen remodel is more than pretty new appliances and tile.  It really needs to work on a number of levels. It needs to be sturdy and safe, it needs to be practical and it still needs to look lovely.  That’s a lot to keep track of. Which is why – like every home remodeler – you need a master plan to get the kitchen planned the right way!  Today we discuss how to put together a master plan for your remodel, what it is good for along the way and what it needs to include to do the job right!  

Here are (a few of the reasons) you need a master plan

What you can use a masterplan for:

  • Your own planning
  • Expanding and refining your ideas
  • Showing of or sharing with your friends and family
  • Getting buy in from experts
  • Sharing with the building department for permission
  • Communicating and getting pricing from builders
  • Ensuring that the plans stay on track as they happen

Is there a right time to start your masterplan document?  

I would actually argue not.  A masterplan is a living document.  It’s best to start with the rough outline when you first begin dreaming of your future home update.  Then slowly it comes into focus. You feed it with the various new opinions, facts and hopes that you find along your research process.  In the end you do want to lock it down fairly firmly before you break ground – or drywall – on your project. But for the entire planning process it is coming together – rowing organically out of the other steps. Want our help to Master Plan your whole Remodel?  Click HERE!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • The three elements needed for good design and their origin [0:45]
  • The making of a kitchen personalized to you lifestyle [1:45]
  • The benefit of a master plan to organize and achieve your goals [2:30]
  • A masterplan is an ongoing and living document that can change with your changing preferences [3:40]
  • Your plan can be a powerful communication tool when meeting with contractors [4:35]
  • The master plan as a whole helps document the assets and shortcomings of your home. How to create a clearer vision of the final goal [5:00]
  • Masterplanning can help to focus the scale and budget of your remodel [7:45]
  • The importance of showing your ideas to others and getting multiple perspectives [10:45]
  • The kitchen specific components of our Master Plan Package [15:30]

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Resources on Why you Need a Master Plan for your Kitchen Remodel

Read the Full Episode Transcript

(Please forgive any errors in the auto-transcription!)

So, how do you get a remodel that perfectly suits your home and balances? Good bones, good layout, and good looks for a great design.

You do it with a master plan.

Hey there. And welcome back to mid modern model. This is the show about updating MCM homes, helping you match mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season five, episode six.

All right. We’ve been digging into a bunch of the different component. Parts of planning, a great kitchen remodel, some history layout challenges. You’ll face the building code and regulation issues that’ll come up and what you want it to look like. All of these are important. But today we’re going to pull back and look at the bigger picture of planning a remodel.

At some point, you’re going to need to bring all of those pieces together to create a plan.

And here’s why a good kitchen requires all of those things and balance. It comes back to a Venn diagram. I laid out in season one, which breaks down the elements of good design into three parts, durable, useful, and beautiful.

This actually goes all the way back to Roman architectural philosopher. The trivia’s he coined what’s now known as the Vitruvian triad that good architecture must reflect the of Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas. You’ll find it written on t-shirts in architecture schools, as firmness, commodity, and delight.

And for our purposes, it basically just means, is it strong? Does it work? And is it pretty good bones, good layout and good looks.

It comes down to these basic things.

The building code helps us stay on track with buildable. So does getting familiar with the house that you have. You can’t have a great remodel that ignores basic maintenance issues, a beautiful brand new kitchen with a broken hot water heater is not going to make you happy, nor is one that sags in the middle, but practicality alone won’t make a happy homeowner.

The kitchen also needs to work for your life. It needs to have a convenient pathway for groceries and supplies to come in, be stored, accessed used, and then consumed. It needs to have good flow with the rest of the house. And it needs to work specifically for the people in your family who use it every day. That means thinking about the personal elements of what you’d like from your kitchen.

That brings us to the beautiful. The most functional and sturdy kitchen to the world will still not make you happy if it isn’t also lovely. Beauty is in the eye of the holder, but for us MCM fans, that probably means lovely. Mid-century friendly materials, a pop color of your favorite tile on the backsplash, glowing woodgrain and the cabinets, plenty of natural light and a coherence of material that ties the whole room together, both within itself and with the rest of the house to plan a great remodel.

You need to make sure that we’re balancing each of those elements. If you’ve missed that original episode, go back and give it a listen. You can find it at midmod-midwest.com/105, or just by scrolling back through your podcast app to season one, episode five. And if you haven’t checked out, the previous seasons do give them a listen. I’ve been talking about the same basic principles of building design since the beginning. And I stand by everything said.

So moving forward, how do you get a remodel that perfectly he sits your home and balances the good bones, good layout, and good looks for great design, a master plan. Of course this, you know, if you’ve heard anything I’ve said before, all the items we’ve talked about so far in the season have to come together and you as the homeowner and the driver of this remodel bus need to boil them down into a guide that you can commit to budget for and stick to through the complexities of getting into the remodel today, we’re going to talk about how to make that happen successfully.

First though, is there a right time to make a master plan and the planning process?

I would argue not. It’s kind of a living document. It’s best to start with a rough outline of your master plan when you first begin dreaming of your future home update. And then slowly it will come into focus. You’ll feed and fill it in with various new opinions, facts, and hopes that you find along your research process.

But in the end, you’ll want to lock it down fairly firmly. Do this before you break ground or drywall on your project. For the entire process, it’ll be coming together, growing organically out of the other steps, which is why I’ve waited until now to bring it up.

You’ll use a master plan for all sorts of parts of the process. It serves in your own planning to keep yourself sort of in line, as you balance different elements of what you’d like to do in your house, uh, for expanding and refining your ideas. Sometimes if you’re taking a long time to plan a process, which I do recommend you may actually forget good ideas you had in the past. Especially if you hadn’t captured and recorded them, you can use it for showing off or sharing your plans with friends and family and from getting buy in from experts.

As you go along, if you stop by a supply house or having to consult with a plumber. You can use it once you get pretty close for sharing with the building department, to make sure that it’s going to get permission and for getting pricing and generally communicating with your subcontractors and builders. Finally, you’ll use the master plan to keep your whole remodel on track as it starts to take place and make sure that things that come up during the process, don’t tip you off to make the eventual process look or cost different from what you expected.

A good solid master plan for a remodel should include a couple of features.

One, it should start with a clear statement of the house. You have its features problems and vital statistics.

Two, it should have a vision of the general overarching style of your remodeling goals. And that might just say mid century modern. Or you might define it more clearly that you have a more vintage mid-century approach, or you really like mid century with a Scandinavian collected, uh, flavor. So, so knowing that about yourself and being able to communicate it clearly will be essential in making sure that the ultimate product is what you want.

Then, you can expand on that sort of simple statement, that overall name for your style, with a personalized mood board, or ideally a style guide. And I’ve talked in the past of how to put together a style guide for your project. This will lay out a lot of the little pieces, the inspiration, the materiality, the colors that you’re going to use to pull together the project.

You can break that down even more. Typically into a list of the details and specific materials, design ideas, and products that will add up to the overall style.

You also want to talk about the major areas are going to be approaching. If you’re just remodeling the kitchen that might, that might include things like it will have a mudroom component. It will have a cook component prep component, and it will have sort of a hangout / eat in space. For a whole house, you might master plan out that you’re going to be working on a kitchen remodel, adding a master suite, updating the basement and overhauling the front door, knowing those general areas, and then breaking those down with little descriptions. So, you know exactly what’s going on. This will help you balance the various costs and timing priorities of a bigger project.

You do need a floor plan. Although it’s funny that as an architect, I actually think of this almost last, the floor plan will help you visualize the process. And you can augment that with little detail sketches or views. If you’re using a modeling program, you might use SketchUp for example, or some other more packaged house visualizer to help you pull together the parts and the way that they will move together. The space between cabinets, whether you’re building full height or partition walls spaces, but basically having any kind of floor plan of the house. Even a rough sketch on eight and a half by 11, will help you do better than if you’re simply trying to describe your goals to the people you’ll be working with.

And one last thing I like to include in a master plan is some sort of motto or guideline. This is an overall view to keep yourself on track motivated and focused on the things that were most important to you at the start. That of course, again, can change if your views change during the part of the process, but keeping that connection strong, back to who you were at the beginning, and what you were trying to get out of it is really useful because it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. When you get into the weeds of it.

Speaking of that big picture, I need to do a little bit of tough talk. Everyone has big plans when they plan a remodel and it always ends up taking longer and costing more than you hope it’s unfortunate, but I would rather say this to you now than spin a pie in the sky, hope that everything can be accomplished, especially in this, uh, post COVID building or during COVID building crunch in the timing and for the price that you were hoping.

But that said, I really do believe that planning, having a master plan, having the list of what your goals are, being able to prioritize them will help you get the remodel you want for the budget and time that you’ve got available. And I’ll also be talking next week and the week after about how to approach the scale element.

Once you’ve pulled together, everything you’d love to have in your master plan, you’ll identify what level of a remodel you’re working towards. And then you’ll be able to make some practical choices about that.

The bottom line though, is that you do need to get started if you’re hoping to take on a remodel in the next couple of years now is the time to be planning. And if you’re worried that it will be too expensive or take too again, the best time to get started as now.

One of my various nerdy businesses that I was raised on Lord of the rings, and I’m a huge token geek. So I often think of Sam, Gamgee saying it’s the job that never gets started that takes longest to finish.

With good planning we’ll shorten the rest of the stages, so they will take longer than we hope. Um, I also really, really, really, we want to underline the importance of fully planning your project out before you get started. With the caveat of a level one remodel. We’ll talk about that in a couple of weeks. In general, you want to have a fully fleshed out plan before you start in on your demolition. There’s just a rolling chaos to trying to plan just in time design decisions. I’ve done it in the past.

In fact, relatively recently took it on for a client who went into the process open-eyed and knew what they were getting into. I’ve warned them in advance that, um, if we started another project before we’d finalized all the details, we would create more chaos in the, in the actual execution. And they knew that going in. We acknowledged it as we encountered those troubles, but it does add stress to a project. So if your timing is tight, that just means you need to plan all the faster. Really it’s ideal to get your planning done fully in advance before you get started.

All right. So as you’re bringing this master plan into focus, one of the things that can be incredibly useful, both to make the master plan happen. And one of the things you use the master plan for sort of organically in a chicken and egg manner is to get buy-in for your plans. And that comes from so many other people.

It takes a village to raise a child. And I really believe that it’s hard for an individual to plan a house by themselves. This is true of myself. I have a really hard time making choices for the house that I live alone in because I don’t have enough other people to bounce it off of. So I seek out feedback from other parts of my extended team.

And I’d love for you to build your remodeling team as well. It might consist of family friendly advisers, design professionals, contractors, experts, the city building department. All of this input is invaluable. Whether you take it seriously, literally or not getting the opinions of other people does matter. Now, the opinions of your own family and household might be the most important in a whole remodel. But especially in the kitchen, typically there is one person in the household who’s driving the plan for a remodel.

I typically ask my clients to designate one core contact person for our master planning process. One recent couple who got in touch with me had already divided up their roles as point person and treasurer. In other words, a yes person and a no person. I think that’s great. And I told them so because they had agreed on that in advance, there is always by definition, one half of a couple, who’s more invested in the idea of a remodel. Both halves need to agree that it’s a good idea, and this goes double or triple in the kitchen.

If you don’t actually live alone, you can’t plan a kitchen remodel solo. The kitchen is the heart of a home, even for family members who don’t primarily cook. So you want to get the details right space, right? For the people, including the entire family, really important to get a mechanism in place to share ideas between the person who’s driving the remodel, dreaming about it. The most researching, the most learning things, the most, and the other members of the household.

There’s a couple of different ways to make that happen. It might be that everyone’s invested enough that you could create a shared online document where ideas are getting dropped in all the time. And other people who are less driven by the project can check. Occasionally. Sometimes you might not a schedule, an intermittent family household meeting to talk about what the latest ideas are, what the latest hitches, hangups, and successes have been so that everyone is up to date on what’s going on with the project.

It doesn’t have to be constant, but sometimes it’s more useful to have an official designated meeting to talk about it rather than just sort of blurt out ideas over the breakfast table in a way that they might not be fully internalized. You might find out that you thought you told someone something. And they were thinking about the news or what they had going on at work and missed it completely. When they said sometimes you’ll find you need more feedback than just your spouse to workshop a good idea into a great one.

In addition to your actual partner in remodeling, you might want to seek out outside advisors. That might be me an architect, another designer, expert advice. Obviously I think that’s a great idea. But even if you don’t have an expert on site, you still need someone to share ideas and bounce ideas off a parent, a sibling, a best friend, an older child, any of these people can take on that role.

You can reach out into your community. It’s a really fun way to stay engaged with someone you don’t get to chat with enough COVID times. You could have a remote friend who’s remodeling just like you are or who you’re simply letting dream along with you, frankly. It can be equally fun for them. If they’re your partner bouncing their dreams off YouTube, or if they’re living vicariously through your projects, since they aren’t in a position to do the same at the moment, you can invite that person to your Pinterest boards, text them your great ideas and chat about it on the phone.

This is also a really good, a great way to involve older children and a remodel. Um, they can have very creative ideas and it’s a wonderful time to get them invested in thinking about budgets, thinking about your house. And frankly, even imagining what they would use it for now and how the house might change once they’ve grown and gone.

As your ideas develop, you’ll also want to get buy in from people outside of your inner circle, from experts. That might be as simple as starting in the pricing process. You start to call subcontractors to come in, look at the house and give you their perspective.

I really encourage you during this part of the process, whether you’re working with a general contractor or margin, managing the project yourself, to take the ideas and input of experts with a grain of salt and always to get multiple versions that really helps you see it. There’s a theme. If every plumber comes into your house has the same thing to say about your underlying pipes. You’ll probably need to take that very seriously. But if one person comes in making a deal and all of the others seem to think it’s not very important, that might be their internal perspective, a recent bad experience they’d had, or simply an overreaction for other purposes. And you don’t need to take their advice as set in stone.

The more input you get from more interested and disinterested parties, the more that you can make your own educated judgments about what’s important about the house.

So I thought this might be an interesting place to talk about what gets included in one of the Mid Mod Midwest master plans that we prepare for our clients. When we’re focusing on a house that needs a kitchen update. And frankly, almost every single house we do does, uh, people generally have one of two problems with their kitchen either it’s original, never been touched before, and it’s desperately in need of some updates, maintenance upgrades, and, um, frankly, some layout changes or it’s been overhauled in the past. And it has some horrible seventies or eighties or early two thousands kitchen that doesn’t match the era of house one way or another.

We always end up working in the kitchen.

Where I generally start is with the layout. We’ll usually present our clients who are fully overhauling their kitchen with up to three layout options that have variations on how the space could be arranged. A U shape, an Island and L that opens or closes it to various parts of the house. Even though we always start by talking to our clients about what style of kitchen they’re looking for, what type of cook they are and what they might like out of the space. We still want to give them a few options to respond to directly in terms of how they might like the space to function.

After we addressed the layout variations, we talk about some general finish and material approaches that we like to make for a mid-century kitchen update. Things like the way to organize storage, an original mid-century kitchen typically organizes the storage around base cabinets and wall-mounted cabinets that ring the whole room. We like to open up the space a little bit more by having base cabinets for drawer storage. Oh, I love drawers. And then having a few areas of full floor to ceiling storage, that form a handy pantry and gathered in one area of the kitchen. That’s lets us open up the walls for more windows and shelving.

In other parts of the house, we talk about the kinds of cabinets that the particular homeowner might like to choose based on their preferences. And some of the details that they’ll find will work best for their kitchen. Some of those style guide elements that we talked about last week, metals lighting up down curtains, natural light in general.

And then we break down and talk about the features of the individual layouts for each of the three kitchen options that we have. Whether one might have a built-in seating nook, whether one has an Island with pull-ups dual space on the opposite side, the general locations of storage and how much you get. We like to explore this both in floor plan and with prospective sketches. These show you what it might look like to be in the kitchen with each of the various layout options.

Those things tie together in that kitchen, part of the master plan with the overall style and choices of the master plan. And always show up in miniature in the whole house floor plan that gets included at the start and conclusion of the package.

That give you a few ideas for what kind of things you want to be sure to include as you’re assembling your own master plan. Or maybe it’ll inspire you to give MidMod Midwest a call. We’d love to hear from you.

I’ll be talking a little bit more about specifics of layout next week, when I’m talking about level two and three kitchen remodels.

It’s not easy though, to design a good small space, which most mid-century kitchens are. Mark Twain once wrote to a friend, that he had to write them a long letter because he didn’t have time to write a short one. And I really hope that you’ll give yourself enough time and planning to create a short letter. Or a really well-designed small space or big enough space for your kitchen.

Once you’ve thought about everything you’d like to have in your dream kitchen and everything that seems realistic to you, you’re in a really great place to finalize what level of a remodel you’ll be taking on.

This is a topic I returned to again and again, because it’s really helpful to frame how much you’re trying to accomplish with your model.

A level one, remodel is a simple update that might be done and a weekend DIY project, or simply by buying and replacing a few things or adding a few things that you can purchase.

A level two remodel is a more complicated DIY that bit by bit can transform a whole room or house.

And a level three is the full gut. You’re tearing out walls. You’re tearing things back to the studs you might be adding or reconfiguring the space. And it almost always requires a general contractor to get it done.

So we’ll be talking next week about the kind of big layout changes you can make with a level two or level three remodel. and some experiences I’ve had in the past with clients doing those types of work. And then we’ll wrap up the season. For those of you who aren’t planning a big kitchen remodel right now, but have been enjoying listening along a few things you can do right now this week or this summer to give you a mid-century kitchen some love.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to make your house sturdy, useful, and beautiful, you might want to give a couple of previous episodes a listen. I’ll link to the episode on the Vitruvian triad and an episode on how to put together a master plan and a roadmap for a remodel in the show notes. You can find those at midmod-midwest.com/506. Join us in the mid modern remodel Facebook community if you’d like to have more direct input.

That’s all for now, we’ll be talking about big changes and big remodels for kitchens next week.