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Design Studio:
325-C Arlington Avenue

Charlotte, NC 28203
*By Appointment Only

Billing & Deliveries:
3421-M St. Vardell Lane
Charlotte, NC 28217

(704) 759-3920


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What’s the Best Kitchen Design for a Growing Family?

A great kitchen design isn’t just about the traditional work triangle. Particularly for a growing family, kitchen design should also be inclusive of the myriad ways your kitchen will be used –for which activities, when and by whom. The traffic flow in, out and through a family-friendly kitchen should be a critical factor in space planning, not just during meal times, but throughout the entire day. This young family tasked us with the challenge of opening up the previously remodeled kitchen of their 1950’s Myers Park home, after hearing from other contractors that what they wanted to accomplish couldn’t be done.

Kitchen Design Goals

While not the original kitchen to the home, the remodel by the previous owners had addressed aesthetic concerns, but not the space planning. With two young children at home, our clients’ most important goal for the remodel was an open kitchen design for increased visibility and traffic flow. Their secondary goals included maintaining a formal dining room and foyer to stay in keeping with the age and style of the home; transitional style with modern amenities such as professional-grade appliances; more functional storage and additional pantry space; a large island with seating for four and to repair the faulty hardwood floors from the previous renovation.

Cream kitchen with brass pendants over the island and a large window over the sink

The angled walls with bar height pass through helped the kitchen to feel somewhat connected to the den, but it was still impossible for our clients to keep an eye on their kids while preparing meals. The tiny vestibule at the back door was tight and included two-floor transitions since the tile and den floor was higher than the kitchen and foyer, creating a tripping hazard. The light from the kitchen window couldn’t filter into the hallway or living space, creating a dark atmosphere. The plan was to remove the walls between the den and kitchen to open the space, but the challenge was ensuring enough wall space for cabinetry and appliances without sacrificing valuable storage.

A Family-Friendly Kitchen Design that Works

Ultimately, after reviewing three different kitchen designs, our clients elected to close the doorway between the formal dining room and the kitchen. This allowed the kitchen to take on a functional L-shape and kept all the major appliances out of the island, increasing usable counter space. Because the formal dining room was right next to the kitchen, losing the extra doorway didn’t impede traffic. Opening the backdoor to the kitchen made it easier to haul toddlers and groceries to and from the car.

The new kitchen design features an open plan from the den and kitchen, making it easier to drift between the two spaces seamlessly. Reframing a portion of the existing floor system to bring the whole area down to the same level eliminated tripping hazards and made floor clean-up a breeze. We left the original window in the same location, but with the removal of the walls, light pours deeper into space, making it feel more spacious. Ultimately, there was extra space to fit an even larger island than what was in the original kitchen design, providing ample seating for the whole family.


BEFORE – The awkward, angled counter with dropped soffit kept the kitchen and den separate, preventing an easy flow for daily childcare or entertaining. The barstools blocked traffic to and from the back door—the main point of entry for this family.


AFTER – Working extra storage into this kitchen design was simple thanks to the large island. Hidden base cabinets under the seating area provide adjustable shelving for less frequently used items.

Maximizing Space

Simplifying the bar design made it visually recede and increased functionality. Removing the bar sink in favor of a dry bar allowed versatile counter space to act as an everyday drop zone or a serving space for entertaining. To delineate the bar from the kitchen while keeping some visual continuity, we repeated the same cream cabinets and used the quartzite slab material as a solid backsplash. Now guests (and kids) can easily mingle between the formal living room, the den, the bar, and the kitchen during gatherings.

The cased opening and original glass transom that were formerly separating the kitchen and foyer hallway were relocated approximately 6′ to incorporate some of the former halls into the new family-friendly kitchen design. As requested, a proper foyer was maintained in keeping with the formal architecture of the home.

An HVAC return and a tiny coat closet were relocated to create space for a custom pantry cabinet under the stairs. Increasing dry goods storage was an important goal for this growing family. Tall pantry cabinets with easily adjustable roll-out shelves are a great solution for maximizing the space available within a small footprint.


BEFORE – The stepped design of the bar cabinetry made it feel heavy and intrusive and the sink and ice-maker were never used.


AFTER –  A built-in beverage center provides space for wine, beer, and mixers outside of the main refrigerator.


DETAILS – The built-in maple spice rack keeps herbs and spices organized and accessible. The fully integrated refrigerator with custom panel blends into the surrounding inset cabinetry for a traditional look.

Finishing Touches

A critical part of making the kitchen design feasible was incorporating two large steel beams —welded on-site—to support the second story floor above. Our engineering team created a structural design to ensure the integrity of the proposed kitchen design, resulting in the family-friendly entertaining space they desired.

In the den (now visible from the foyer) the colonial fireplace surround was replaced with a transitional cast stone design. Using the same material for the hearth, surround and mantel created a soothing contrast in textures as opposed to color, allowing the artwork to be the true focal point.

Custom cabinets, hidden storage accessories, matching appliance panels, and one-of-a-kind quartzite counters elevate this family-friendly kitchen design while maintaining a classic, transitional style.


BEFORE – The hood overpowered the range top and the soffit and pass-through to the den dated space. Angled walls are an inefficient use of space.


AFTER – Open site lines and clear traffic patterns are all part of this redesigned kitchen. Shades of cream, taupe, and sage green offer a soothing, timeless look.


DETAILS – Wide island drawers with built-in drawer organizers keep knives and flatware neatly sorted, right where they’re needed most.

If your current kitchen design has you frustrated and disorganized, we’d be happy to talk through the possibilities with you. Schedule a call and our team will reach out shortly.

February 29, 2020 by lazarus

3 Ways to Create a Custom Kitchen Design

Whenever we begin working with a new client to redesign their kitchen, they almost always fall into one of three categories: A) They know exactly what they want and rely on us to translate their vision; B) They have strong opinions about a couple of key areas, but mostly they’re open to any solutions we suggest for their new design; C) They don’t know what they want, but they know what they have isn’t working. Regardless of where you fall, here are three ways to create a custom kitchen design that feels personal to you and your family.

1. Utilize Custom Cabinet Modifications to Serve Your Needs

Higher quality, made-to-order cabinet lines are going to allow customization to some degree. This can be a game-changer for making the final kitchen design feel truly custom since it means we can make the cabinet as specific to your functional, aesthetic, or architectural needs as possible. There are few kitchens that don’t require at least one cabinet to be modified to maintain the best-finished look.

Backless wall cabinets over windows to allow natural light into kitchen

More often than not, we’re modifying most cabinets to give our clients the best possible design. Modifications can include custom sizes, combining boxes to avoid seams in inset designs, adding special storage accessories, or finishing the ends in a specific manner just to name a few. The options are endless.

Bar height white kitchen island

2. Incorporate A Design Element with A Story

One of the easiest and most satisfying ways to set your kitchen apart from your friends’ kitchens (even if you have the exact same taste) is to incorporate something personal that tells part of your story. On more than one occasion, our clients have approached us with special pieces to include in their custom kitchen design – from hundred-year-old barn beams, they found in an outbuilding on their property, to a favorite light fixture that came with them each time they moved, to a custom colored range to match the label of their favorite bottle of champagne – incorporating these personal touches into our clients’ kitchen designs set them apart from their neighbors.

Custom farmhouse kitchen design with reclaimed beam

The vertical beam next to the staircase was salvaged from an old barn on this couple’s property. Having a piece with a story gives extra life to this farmhouse kitchen.

Don’t already have something you’d like to include in the new design? No problem! Choose one item that has yet to be selected and pick something you absolutely love that can act as a statement piece. It can be something semi-permanent like a light fixture, unique cabinet hardware, or backsplash tile, or it could be something you find on your own like vintage stools for the island or a beautiful painting to hang in the breakfast area.

orange range in a modern kitchen with mosaic tile backsplash

3. Plan Storage to Support Your Daily Habits

Just because you make coffee and take supplements every morning as part of a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean they have to be out on the counter in full view 24/7. From everyday dishes to serving pieces, pantry items to charging stations, our kitchens are responsible for storing a LOT. When everything has a place where it’s easily accessible and hidden from view, you’re able to move more efficiently and feel better in your space without visual clutter. Planning ahead of time, which tasks take place in which zones of your kitchen will help your kitchen designer suggest the best storage solutions to help your day run more smoothly from the get-go.

Built-in coffee station

One of the best ways to make a kitchen more functional is to store items where they are used and not necessarily with like items. For example: Instead of keeping all glasses and mugs together in one cabinet, store drinking glasses near the refrigerator for access to filtered water, and store mugs near the coffee station. Customizing the design for the way you move in and around your kitchen saves time as you won’t be crisscrossing as often while you’re preparing meals, snacks, and everything in between.

Custom-designed spice and tray pull outs in peacock green kitchen island

Narrow, pull-out storage cabinets for cutting boards and spices were placed close to the cooktop for convenient access during prep.

Want to speak with someone about your custom kitchen design? Schedule a call to speak with one of our project developers. 

December 30, 2019 by lazarus

How to Choose Cabinet Hardware for Your Home Remodel

When it comes to kitchen cabinet hardware, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options available. Do you want knobs or pulls, all pulls, a combination of both, or something else entirely? What about finishes and materials? What size and how many? Just like jewelry can make or break an outfit, the look of your cabinetry can enhance your whole kitchen and give your home a more custom look.

kitchen cabinet ideas for your next remodel

A combination of knobs and drawer pulls keeps this traditional Myers Park kitchen from appearing weighed down by cabinet hardware.

So, where do we start? Since no one wants to spend hours obsessing over knobs and pulls only to realize they made the wrong choice, it’s best to lean on an experienced designer who will help you make the right choice for your kitchen. After 15 years of designing and specifying hardware for each of our kitchen and bath remodeling projects, we’ve developed an effective system for narrowing down the options quickly. Let’s explore what this could look like in your home.

Things to Consider When Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware


Function always comes first. By asking yourself three important questions, you can narrow the pool of options quickly:  What kind of cabinets are these going on, how much use do they get, and who is using these cabinets the most?

Kitchen and bath cabinets get heavy usage, so delicate materials like leather or woven tab pulls, or semi-precious stones aren’t going to hold up over time. Those built-in cabinets flanking the fireplace on the other hand, are probably opened and closed less frequently, so a more decorative selection would be appropriate there.

If you or a member of your family have large hands, some pulls are going to be much more difficult to grasp than others (like cup pulls, or short pulls). People with arthritis in their hands should avoid knobs as they are almost impossible to grasp. Instead, opt for pulls since they can be opened by hooking something through them if necessary.

In some cases, it may be preferable to order all of your cabinetry with hidden, built-in touch latches, so you can bump the doors with your knee or elbow, allowing them to pop open effortlessly. Contemporary designs tend to work best with this application, but it’s not a requirement. If you’re interested in this solution, make sure to discuss it with your kitchen designer during the design phase as it’s best to order the cabinets like this from the manufacturer instead of trying to retrofit them later.

Material and Finish

Cabinet hardware, whether it’s in the kitchen, bathroom, or elsewhere throughout the home, can vary wildly in cost depending on the manufacturer, material and finish. A chrome knob made out of a metal alloy from the local hardware store could be $2, while a solid brass appliance pull for a panel-ready refrigerator could be well over $350. Most people want good quality pieces that aren’t going to tarnish or discolor, but don’t find it necessary to splurge on solid brass or bronze. They may feel richer in your hand, but most of our clients don’t find it’s worth the extra investment.

kitchen cabinet remodeling ideas

In this master suite remodel we mixed chrome faucets with brushed brass cabinet hardware, lighting and mirrors for a less predictable look.

When it comes to finishes, don’t fall into the “every single metallic element in the house must match” trap. Production builders use this strategy because it’s easy and it saves them time (great for them, not so great for you). Mixing metals creates a much more custom look and really sets your home apart from your neighbors. Nowhere in the house is this more evident than in a space with a lot of metallic elements such as the kitchen. It’s ok to have stainless appliances, oil rubbed bronze hardware on your interior doors, brushed brass light fixtures, and a polished nickel faucet with polished nickel cabinet hardware. As long as each finish makes sense with the rest of your design, don’t be afraid to mix it up!

Should your cabinet hardware have knobs, pulls, or a combination?

Now that you know how much usage your cabinets are going to get and who is using them the most, consider the breakdown of knobs and pulls. While it’s easy to decide to use all knobs or all pulls, the finished kitchen cabinet or bathroom hardware will look much more custom and function better when you take each individual cabinet into consideration.

kitchen cabinet hardware tips

In this farmhouse-inspired kitchen cabinet remodel we used a combination of knobs on the doors, cup pulls on the drawers and longer pulls on the paneled appliances.

Drawers and pull-outs tend to operate best with pulls, while doors can easily be opened and closed with knobs or pulls. We prefer a combination of knobs and pulls of various sizes to keep them proportional with the cabinets. This is where things can start to get confusing. Our designers calculate the size and quantity for our clients, but in case you’re trying to do it on your own, we’ve broken down our system below.

Here’s an example of the same kitchen elevation, three different ways:

Knobs with Short Pulls

home_ design_studio_in_charlotte_nc

Most higher quality hardware lines offer their pulls in several different sizes, but if you fall in love with one that doesn’t you may want to double up like we did here. On drawers over 24” wide, two pulls look more proportional than one small pull in the center. This look is most often seen in farmhouse style kitchens where cup pulls have been selected. Unfortunately, most cup pulls don’t come in various sizes.

All Pulls

The best way to determine the right size pulls for a set of drawers is to take the width of the cabinet box and divide it by 3. It’s unlikely the pull you’ve selected will ever be that exact measurement, so on wider drawers, choose the next size up. For smaller drawers it usually looks best to size down. If the cabinets are inset, first subtract the size of the frame (typically each side is 1 ¼” or 1 ½” wide, so 2 ½”-3” total). If your chosen cabinet hardware has wider stiles, you may need to size down.

If you’re still worried you’ll make the wrong choice, just remember to ask yourself three questions: How often are these cabinets getting used? Who are the primary users? What sizes do I need? 

If you’d like this attention to detail on every aspect of your kitchen or bathroom remodeling project, schedule a call with us today to speak to one of our project developers about your goals.

July 10, 2019 by lazarus

Must-Have Kitchen Appliances for Your Remodel

One of the most common questions our kitchen remodeling clients ask us during the design phase is, “which appliances should I buy and what do I need to look for?” While lifestyle factors influence the needs of every household differently, there are a few basic rules that apply to everyone.

Which Kitchen Appliances Do I Need?

At the very least, every kitchen must have a cooking surface with burners, an oven, and a refrigerator. While it’s true that not every home has a microwave or a dishwasher, we’ve never done a kitchen remodel without them and wouldn’t advise choosing to forgo either. Whether you need a single oven or two, four burners or eight, a separate refrigerator and freezer, a wine chiller, an ice maker, or a warming drawer are all going to be specific to the needs of your family and how you live. A couple with two young children will have very different needs than an empty-nester couple who hosts large family gatherings, or a bachelor who travels for work three weeks out of the month. For a helpful guide on how to take stock of the kitchen appliances you currently have and the ways they are or are not serving you, download our complimentary appliance shopping guide here.

must have kitchen appliances

Choose Your Kitchen Appliances Early

One of the most important features in your kitchen remodel will be the appliances. While there are standardized sizes for every appliance, specific cabinetry clearances, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical requirements will vary by manufacturer and installation method.

Thermador range with custom cabinet hood

Knowing which appliances you intend to purchase will be critical for finalizing your cabinetry layout and getting accurate quotes for the electrical, plumbing and mechanical changes that may be required to accommodate them. Older homes tend to have smaller electrical panels than newer homes, so there may not be enough space in the panel to add a second oven and a microwave drawer without an electrical service upgrade. Knowing limitations ahead of time will prevent surprises during construction that could increase the cost or delay the project.

Some of our clients have very specific needs when it comes to appliances and in those cases, we design the kitchen to fit what they require. Other clients care less about the appliances and prefer the best layout to address other concerns. Their main goal may involve the removal of a wall between the kitchen and the formal dining room to improve traffic flow, or perhaps they need to increase functional storage space. In those cases, we design the kitchen based on their priority and show them which appliances will fit the best in a particular layout.

Stainless Steel Appliances

Ten years ago another common appliance question was whether or not we thought stainless steel would go out of style. While newer finishes have popped up over the last couple of years, stainless steel is still the most popular finish and that probably won’t change anytime soon. That being said, if you find that so much stainless feels cold, or maybe you’re just sick of wiping fingerprints off the dishwasher every day, consider adding a few panel ready appliances to your suite.

What Are Panel Ready Appliances?

Panel ready appliances are designed to accept a custom cabinet panel to hide it from view. Not all appliances come panel ready — dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers are the most common, followed by wine chillers, beverage centers and warming drawers. While the inner guts of the appliance are exactly the same as the same model with a stainless steel front, panel ready appliances have to be ordered that way from the manufacturer. It’s not as simple as picking up any old dishwasher and sticking a cabinet panel over the door.

Panel ready appliances are great when you want to hide something to create a cleaner look. While a range and hood are often the focal point of a kitchen, the dishwasher is not, so why not hide it from view? The downside of panel ready appliances is that generally speaking they are only offered from higher-end brands. While many dishwashers come panel ready, only built-in or integrated refrigerators will have that option, making them more expensive than an entry-level model. When discussing pricing with an appliance professional, keep in mind the cost does not include the custom cabinet panel itself. That will have to be ordered with the rest of your cabinetry.

For additional guidance on deciding which appliances would serve your family best, the pros and cons of each type, and worksheets to help you narrow down your options without leaving the comfort of your living room, download our complimentary Kitchen Appliance Shopping Guide!

March 27, 2019 by lazarus

6 Bright Ideas for Using Bold Colors at Home

No matter how confident you are, if you’ve ever considered remodeling or redesigning your home it’s inevitable that you’ve asked yourself, will I still like what I choose today, ten years from now? The truth is, trends will continue to change as product lines and designers continue to innovate. Sure, the classics will continue to repeat themselves as they are reinvented in some shape or form indefinitely (think white kitchens and black and white bathrooms), but overall, styles evolve, and yours likely will too.

Paradox of Choice

We live in a society of instant gratification and constant comparison. The paradox of choice is a very real phenomenon – we sometimes see it with our clients as they’re going through the design phase after months of Pinterest addiction. Quite simply there are too many options, and the fear of finding something better paralyzes them into indecision. But here’s the thing – there will ALWAYS be something better. When we make a suggestion for a material or product it’s because we know it will get you the result you’re looking for, even if you can’t see how it relates to the big picture. If you’re one of those people that’s drawn to a bold color palette or designs — as designers, we can totally relate —choose one thing and truly make it your own. Everything else will fall into place.

Consider Your Long-Term Plans

If you’re still worried about committing to a bold design, it’s important to consider which phase of life you’re in and how much longer your family intends to stay in your current home. If you know you’ll be moving in the next 3-5 years, erring on the more conservative side would be wise. You don’t want to deter a potential buyer by choosing something highly trendy that’s difficult or incredibly costly to replace. Nothing is truly permanent, but purple kitchen cabinets are going to be much more difficult to change than kitchen faucets or decorative lighting.

Sticking around for ten years or more? Do what makes you happy. Ten years is a long time to live with something you don’t absolutely love. You can tone it down when it’s time to put your house on the market after years of enjoyment.

Bring On All the Colors

As a design-build remodeling company, our design team loves any opportunity to flex our creative muscles to create something you’ll love. At the annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), colors were huge for 2019. We’ve been seeing a resurgence of bold color slowly creeping back into the market for a couple of years now. As consumers get exposed to new trends, and let go of the fear of avocado green trauma from the 1970’s, we’ll be seeing more and more color introduced into the home.

Whether you’re a classicist, or a trend-setter, we thought you’d like to see some of our favorite new products from KBIS and how you could work them into your kitchen or bathroom remodel.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Kitchen Faucet

You know we love mixing metals, so it may come as no surprise that we are absolutely smitten with the new ombré finish on Kohler’s Sensate Touchless kitchen faucet. Your kitchen faucet is the most used fixture in your house, so choosing one that’s made of high-quality materials is always worth the cost. In addition to the innovative two-tone finish that transitions from rose gold to polished nickel (or titanium to rose gold) we also love the touchless technology. The last thing you want to do when you have raw chicken juice all over your hands is touch anything. Touchless technologies ensure you can wash your hands without spreading grease or bacteria, saving you clean-up time and creating peace of mind for you and your family.

Add Some Personality to Your Kids’ Bath

It’s not uncommon to want to choose more cost-effective materials for your kids’ bathroom in order to splurge on your master suite. But cost-effective doesn’t have to be boring. Why not introduce a colorful stripe pattern in the shower using the new Color Wheel Collection from Daltile?

Classic stripes are synonymous with laughter-filled summer afternoons by the pool – who doesn’t want that feeling year-round? If navy is the new black, then emerald is the new navy. We’d love to see an emerald and white stripe paired with a black painted vanity, white quartz counter for easy maintenance, and brushed brass plumbing fixtures. Anyone ready to remodel their kids’ bathroom?

Add Some Flair to Your Front Entry

Not ready to commit to bringing a bold color palette indoors? How about setting your house apart from the neighbors with some colorful exterior door hardware. While we are huge proponents of a colorful front door, this is an either-or situation. Turquoise hardware on a red door is probably not going to give you the look you were after, but turquoise hardware on a black, mid-century, modern style door may be just the thing to make you say, Welcome home, at the end of a long day. While we don’t expect anyone to rush right out and buy this hardware, we thought it was a clever way to introduce a bold color in an unexpected place. This could easily be repeated around the front door by adding matching, colorful planters.

Marble fireplace with reclaimed beam mantel

Whether you’re on board with the bold color trend or you think that neutral is always the way to go, don’t be afraid to stretch your limits — especially if you’re planning on staying in your home for a long time. Unsure of where to start? Our design team would love to help guide you through the home remodel of your dreams. Give us a call today to start a conversation.