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Below is an edited response to the question above from one of our blogs:

Kitchen design and cabinetry is complicated. And because customers are always looking to price compare and copy the design work done by kitchen designers, the cabinet industry intentionally makes it very confusing to shop for cabinets. One way this is done is that the same cabinet companies have different names at different locations and even if the brand name is the same the doors styles and finishes can have different names at different retailers.

Wayne pa

Getting reliable cabinet reviews is also hard because Consumer Reports and other review sites don’t ask professionals to rate cabinets, they ask consumers. And reviews are written by staff reporters that know nothing about cabinets. Often customers that aren’t aware of what to expect complain when surveyed about the construction, style, and finish they selected, or about problems that their installer was responsible for. Here are the two most extreme examples of misleading and inaccurate cabinet company reviews:

IKEA is constantly reviewed favorably by almost everyone except professionals, here’s why:

  1. IKEA cabinets are inexpensive, easy to purchase, consumer expectations are low, and the finishes that IKEA carries are simple and don’t vary much so “what you see is what you get”.
  2. The instructions to assemble the cabinets are not frustrating and people are happy that they got a new kitchen that initially at least, looks pretty good.
  3. Consumer Reports, JD Power, and on line consumer reviews are all published or posted a short time after a kitchen is purchased.

No one follows up 20 years later and sees the IKEA kitchen that is falling apart. And even if they did they would need to compare it to the same kitchen in a better made product to understand the profound difference in cabinet longevity. As a professional I see these IKEA kitchens 20, 10, and even 5 years later when I am called upon to replace them.

Kraftmaid (which Main Line Kitchen Design does not carry but is the best example of the other extreme) consistently gets bad or mediocre reviews from consumer publications and home owners. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Customer expectations are much higher because they are purchasing the more expensive cabinet at the home center or showroom they are working with.
  2. In more expensive cabinet lines wood characteristics and cabinet finishes can be inconsistent because they are supposed to be, and this can lead to buyers remorse.
  3. Kitchens designed in a high end semi-custom line like Kraftmaid can be complex and this makes mistakes more likely. And since home centers like Lowes and The Home Depot carry Kraftmaid and their designers are less experienced in general, and because the environment in a home center is loud, confusing, and interruption filled, problems and misunderstandings are almost guaranteed.
  4. Home center customers tend to be price driven, that’s why they are shopping for a kitchen at the home center in the first place, so they often don’t pay for needed cabinet and hardware upgrades. They may not even be told that they should be getting them, but they could expect them to be standard in a more expensive cabinet line.

The issues above create a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction.

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The best example of this disparity between what is real and perceived was 11 years ago when Consumer Reports gave IKEA a top rating while Krafmaid received a relatively low rating. At that time Kraftmaid was on a 7 year winning streak for the best value in cabinetry as rated by cabinet professionals. Those same professionals would agree for the most part that IKEA was just junk. Kraftmaid may not be quite the same cabinet line it was then, but IKEA is, and IKEA continues to be rated near the top in Consumer Reports and in JD Power rankings.

Some consumers mistakenly focus on a cabinet lines warranty as a way to judge quality. However, many well made cabinet lines have the industry standard 5 year warranty, while IKEA has a 15. A lifetime Warranty doesn’t mean much either as all life time warrantees on cabinets are limited lifetime warranties, and cover very little. And, several terribly made cabinet lines offer a limited lifetime warranty.

For a consumer wanting a great kitchen, shopping for a kitchen designer and cabinet dealer is a better strategy than focusing on a cabinet line. When looking for a kitchen designer to work with make sure that they have a minimum of 10 years experience, and because kitchen design is such a complex profession a bright well educated person often makes a better designer than one with a design degree or certification. Some of the best kitchen designers I have met are on second careers or never studied design in college. The best designers are all very bright people with great spacial relations skills and a willingness to learn and to teach. Educating customers about what to value and expect is the hallmark of a good designer. So learning a lot from a designer in a short time speaking with them is a good sign. And if they give you a few ways you can save money without compromising on quality, that shows that they also are looking after your best interests.

Hoping your research helps you find the best designer and the best cabinet for you… and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul

With so many types of countertops available we thought shedding a little light on the topic would be helpful.

Soapstone Countertop

Soapstone Countertop

Here is a comprehensive list of the most common types of countertops used in kitchens, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and approximate pricing.

Laminate – Sometimes referred to by the brand name Formica, plastic laminate countertops are actually made by several different companies. Formica and Wilsonart are the most popular brands. The popularity of laminate countertops in the past was due to it’s substantialy lower cost than solid surface countertops like granite, quartz, and Corian. However the price for laminate tops has gone up over time while the cost of many solid surface tops has gone down. Nowadays, laminate tops rarely make financial sense.

There is one exception – If you have a galley type kitchen, straight premade laminate tops called blanks are much less expensive than custom tops. They can look very similar to solid surface tops and cost a fraction of the price. L-shaped or U-shaped tops are more sensibly done in an inexpensive granite if you are trying to stay on a budget.

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Granite Countertop

Granite – Granite is a natural stone and is very hard to scratch or chip. It does not etch (lose it’s shine from exposure to acidic liquids like lemon juice) and especially with the less expensive colors does not stain easily. Granite should be sealed yearly, an easy process that takes about 20 minutes. Now that most granite comes from third world countries, it can be the least expensive of the solid surface tops.

There is no limit to how much exotic granite patterns can cost. Level 1 colors start at around $43/sq ft in our area. The more expensive colors are higher priced not because they are “better”, they are simply less common, or more fragile and so harder to fabricate or mine.

Marble – Recently marble has become a popular stone to use for kitchen countertops. But be careful and make sure you understand it’s limitations. Marble looks beautiful, but is very soft. A dinner plate dragged across a top can scratch it. It also stains easily and so should be sealed often. The biggest complaint about polished marble tops is that they etch. Etching is when acids like lemon juice, cleaners, or even ketchup remove the shine from the top. If you decide on a marble top then treat it gently and expect it to have a worn and used look over time. Many feel this is still beautiful, and as long as this natural look is something that appeals to you, there will be no surprises. Marble prices start at around the price of level 5 granite so approximately $85/sq ft.

Quartzite – Quartzite is a natural stone that can look like a marble but has more of the properties of granite. It is very hard, and like granite is difficult to scratch, chip, or stain. However some quartzite tops can etch (lose their shine) when expose to acids. Ask you sales person or better yet test a sample of your quartzite with lemon juice to see if the color you are considering etches easily. Quartzite prices start at around the price of a level 5 or 6 granite.

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Quartzite Countertop

Serpentine – Serpentine is a striking and veiny  natural stone sometimes used for countertops. While it can be quite beautiful, it will also scratch, chip, stain, and etch easily. Choose it understanding this. It is also not inexpensive and prices start around the cost of the more expensive stones.

Quartz – Quartz countertops, also called engineered stone, are man-made tops composed of pieces of quartz, glass, and a bonding resin that glues everything together. The resin is a not stone and melts at 440 degrees Fahrenheit. So don’t treat quartz tops like other stone tops, they can be burned. Since quarts tops are artificial they have some advantages. They never need to be sealed, can’t be stained, and are almost as hard as granite. They are also somewhat flexible and don’t need the exacting installation requirements that real stone does because they are less likely to crack. There are many quartz manufacturers such as Zodiaq, Avanza, Silestone, Cambria, Ceasarstone, and Hanstone. All engineered quartz tops use the same patented manufacturing process so the differences from one line to another are purely aesthetic. Quartz pricing starts at about $70/sq ft with the most popular colors costing much more. The exception is the Cambria  line where all the colors are the same price. Presently Main Line Kitchen Design sells Cambria for $80/sq ft.

“Green Tops” – Beware of the over priced “green” and “recycled” tops. The construction of these tops vary with the majority being quartz tops with some recycled glass or paper added to their resin mix. Other type tops include, 100% paper tops, Bamboo tops, recycled glass tops, and new ones pop up every day.  The companies making these tops are smaller and less reliable than larger manufacturers and many of the claims to be green are dubious upon close inspection. Most reputable fabricators steer clear of these products even though consumers ask about them constantly because they find the tops through Google searches.

Concrete and resin tops – These tops will be more expensive than either concrete or quartz but have unusual finishes and unlike concrete are not porous. These tops usually start at at least $100/ sq ft.

 

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Concrete Countertop

Concrete – Concrete countertops have some beautiful acid washed finishes. They  also start at the cost of the more expensive stone tops and the need to be sealed to be sanitary. Usually bees wax is used as the sealer.

Acrylics – Corian, Wilsonart Gibralter, Formica, Meganite, HiMax, and other brands make 100% acrylic countertops. The difference in brand is only aesthetic, but the bigger name brands definitely have nicer and more dramatic patterns. Be careful with hot pots. The melting temperature for acrylic is just over the temperature of boiling water so things taken out of the oven or off the stove cannot be placed on the countertop EVER! Pricing for acrylic tops will range between $60 /sq foot and $100 /sq ft depending on the color.

Glass – Solid glass countertops can be as dramatic as they are expensive. $200 /sq ft is not an uncommon cost for a glass top. Modern and Contemporary kitchens are usually the style that compliments a glass top.

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Granite Island and Quartz Perimeter

Solid Wood or Butcher block – Butcher block and single piece wood tops can be beautiful. They start at around $80 /sq ft. Particularly striking solid slices of old growth timber can cost twice as much as butcher block tops. Wood tops come polyurethaned or sealed with oil. Tung oil is a common sealant. If you plan on cutting or chopping on your top then use the oil sealant. Wood tops scratch and burn easily.

Stainless Steel Countertops – Custom stainless steel countertops are most often used in restaurant settings. While they can be used in residential applications, finding an installer that will fabricate custom residential stainless steel tops can be a challenge. Tops start at over $100 per square foot. Outdoor kitchens frequently have stainless steel tops although most are pre-made tops incorporated into the design.

Tile Countertops – Ceramic, Porcelain, or granite tile countertops have lost popularity because the costs to build and install the tile no longer makes these tops less expensive than lower level solid surface tops. If you are making a tile top yourself the materials will be inexpensive but be prepared for a lot of work. If you are hiring an installer then you may be spending the same or more for what most people consider a less desirable top.

Soapstone – Soapstone may seem familiar to you since it is typically used for high school or college chemistry class countertops. Soapstone can’t be damaged by anything hot found in a kitchen. It also is not porous and so can’t be stained. Soapstone colors range from dark black to grey/black with white or green veining. Soapstone turns grey over time. However, it’s original finish will return when treated with mineral oil. Soapstone is also soft and scratches and nicks easily, but scratches are minimized when it is refreshed with oil. Soapstone top prices start at level 5 or 6 prices and go up from there.

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Soapstone Countertop

There are positives and negatives about any type of countertop. So don’t be afraid to ask your designer or stone supplier questions to make sure you are getting the right top for you.

Hoping your countertop selection makes you as happy as our cabinets will ….and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul

 

Realtors, HGTV, and home magazines often quote numbers on the return home owners receive on their home improvements. A 70% or 80% return on investment for kitchen renovations is a commonly quoted figure. But be careful.  Simplistic formulas placing values on renovations are misleading.

Wynnewood kitchen Before

Wynnewood kitchen before. See the finished kitchen in the next photograph!

Lets examine why these numbers are meaningless using a few examples:

A beat up kitchen that’s 30 to 50 years old was designed in a era when kitchens were usually small and overcrowded with tall cabinetry. Typically, they didn’t have enough countertop and had soffits built over the tops of the wall cabinets. Installing new cabinetry, countertops, and appliances, without updating the kitchen’s floor plan will probably not make your home much more attractive to prospective buyers. Often the new owners would plan on gutting the room you just renovated. Possibly removing walls and soffits, or moving doorways, to change the outdated floor plan you reinvested in. In this case you would most likely get very little of your investment back.

Finished Wynnewood PA Kitchen

Finished Wynnewood PA Kitchen.

Another example is when homeowners select a style or type of wood that’s very unpopular. Oak cabinets, cabinet doors with arches, or white thermafoil doors are presently so unpopular that any kitchen remodeled in these styles will recoup almost nothing. Outdated stains and paint colors will also severely limit how much of your investment you get back when you sell. Choosing a pink color kitchen cabinet would obviously be unpopular. Choosing a Burgundy stain on a raised panel cherry cabinet might not be obviously out of fashion to people other than kitchen designers. But since that color and style is identified with the 1980’s and 1990’s it also has less resale value.

Berwyn PA Kitchen Before

Berwyn PA Kitchen before. See the next photo for the after!

What types of renovations pay off?

Transforming a kitchen by removing a wall, adding part of another room, or making other major design changes is much more than an update – it can fundamentally change your home. Even simpler but less substantial changes like moving a doorway or raising a window to allow cabinetry and countertop below make dramatic changes in a kitchen. When Main Line Kitchen Design designers eliminate serious problems in prior kitchen layouts, it is actually common for Main Line Kitchen Design customers to get over 300% returns on their kitchen renovations.

And, any additional construction costs for the new floor plan that make a kitchen space work have little impact on what people spend on their complete kitchen. Instead, nearly all overspending occurs on cabinets, appliances, and countertop decisions that break a budget while having a smaller effect on how much a prospective buyer actually likes a particular kitchen.

Berwyn PA Kitchen after

Berwyn PA Kitchen after.

Being a good kitchen designer means understanding the value of design changes and helping your customers maximizing the impact of the more expensive materials used in their renovation. Less experienced designers and non professionals tend to focus on what matters less, often placing great importance on subtle color differences, brand names, or design preferences that don’t work in a particular space.

Kitchen design is a challenging, and complex profession. And much like Julia Child felt rewarded sharing her love of cooking and fine food, it’s very rewarding creating kitchens that transform homes, maximize their value, and improve the lives of the people using them.

Hoping your kitchen renovation is the best it can be… and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul, Ray, Tom, Ed, and Julie

Main Line Kitchen Design

 

On Wednesday evening Main Line Kitchen Design and Eric Spiro Inc won The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s 2016 DelCY award for the best kitchen in Delaware and Chester counties between 60 and 100K. The kitchen was designed by Paul and the construction and installation done by Eric Spiro. The kitchen’s  open floor plan required removing two walls and installing a 18 foot long laminated beam comprised of several beams “sistered” and bolted together.

A bar area and a home office were also part of the project. Cabinetry was the Bishop Utica birch door style in a light finish. A two level island, color coordinated granite countertops, and  a distinctive porcelain tile floor and backsplash helped make this simple functional design an award winner. Photos below:

Mainline Kitchen Designs kitchen remodelling in Berwyn PA

New Kitchen Cabinets in Berwyn, PA

Natural lighting for this Berwyin PA Kitchen

Remodelled Pennsylvania kitchen

 

Recently my sister Alison remodeled her kitchen.  While her kitchen was one of more than 100 kitchens Main Line Kitchen Design sold this year, the intimate perspective I got from working with a family member helped me better appreciate the value of taking the necessary time to make important decisions.

Broomall PA kitchen

During the early stages of the design process, Alison and her husband Kevin wrestled with some of my design suggestions. Removing the load bearing wall between the dining room and the kitchen was something everyone agreed on, but closing a doorway and choosing a peninsula instead of an island were two recommendations that were difficult for them to feel comfortable with. It took examining other alternative designs and time before these choices felt right for everyone.

New Kitchen Cabinets in Berwyn, PA

Once the design was done, as with many of our customers, there was some delay while all the pieces in a complex renovation were resolved. Finding a contractor was especially difficult since my sister lives several states away from me. I recommended using Houzz.com, Angie’s list, and her friends as the most reliable resources to find a general contractor. After several meetings with contractors that just didn’t feel right she met Terrence. Alison’s willingness to devote time until she found a capable contractor paid off! The help she got from Terrence and his attention to detail were invaluable.

As with many of our customers, Alison’s kitchen continued to change as she and her husband made all of their selections. The traditional door style they originally chose became a more transitional style. The color of their cabinetry became an egg shell instead of a beige. And the tile design over the range became simpler and less dramatic.

The granite countertop they picked was also affected by Alison’s extended timeline. She began to notice the level one granite colors used in restaurants and hotels, and as she became familiar with them she began to like those colors less.

Main Line Kitchen Design Kitchen

In the end, my sister got a beautiful kitchen that she loves. She told me she sometimes finds excuses to go down stairs just to look at her kitchen, and it always cheers her up if she is stressed. But some of the elements that she loves the most wouldn’t have been her selections if she had rushed into her renovation immediately.

Often time is the investment people aren’t able to make to get themselves the best kitchen for the best price. Plan carefully and get professional help making your selections and in learning about the products you are considering. And if you give yourself a little more time like my sister Alison, your kitchen can be a place that will lift your spirits each and every time you enter it.

Alison's kitchen

Alison’s kitchen

Hoping you take the time to get the best kitchen…  and of course …

Bon Appetit!

Paul

Kitchen renovations are one of the most expensive home remodeling projects. And, regardless of economic conditions and interest rates, financing a large home renovation can be challenging.

Kitchen Financing

A  recent development helping homeowners to pay for large renovations is online banking institutions offering nearly instant financing at competitive rates. While we don’t endorse any of the many lenders that offer these programs, below is a video on one such lender – Lightstream.  We met a Lightstream representative at the January 2016 National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Their rates seem good and they get great reviews considering the fact that everyone they turn down could easily post a negative one.

YouTube Video on Lightstream Lending

YouTube Video on Lightstream Lending

Homeowners should also beware of predatory lenders offering free financing for 12 to 18 months and then charging retroactively over 20% interest rates on the balance. Many kitchen companies and home centers promote this deal to their customers through lenders like GE. This is unfortunately not the only unsavory deal promoted by GE. For example, GE is paid by The Home Depot to allow their brand name to be used to sell low quality knock off water heaters.

Hoping you find reasonable financing for the project of your dreams……and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul, Ray, Tom, Julie and Ed

Main Line Kitchen Design

KBIS – The National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show was held last week in Las Vegas. This year’s changes included an increased presence of Asian made cabinetry often sold by US companies and a decrease of American cabinet manufacturers. The quality of the Asian cabinetry and countertops also dramatically improved.

The Fabuwood display particularly stood out. Close to 50 salespeople were on site answering questions and providing product demonstrations. Their extensive displays of custom finishes, hoods, and other features showcased Fabuwood’s move into the higher end cabinetry market.

Display of New Fabuwood Doorstyle

Display of New Fabuwood Doorstyle

Appliance manufacturers were in higher attendance than I have ever seen. Below are photos from a tiny sampling of their displays:

KBIS 2016 4

KBIS 2016 5

KBIS 2016 7

KBIS 2016 8

KBIS 2016 9

KBIS 2016 17

The Rev-a-shelf display was also a standout and included new and unusual cabinet interior conveniences.

Coffee Drawer

Coffee Drawer

Multi-use Drawer

Multi-use Drawer

Top cabinet swing out

Top cabinet swing out

Wall cabinet pull down shelves

Wall cabinet pull down shelves

And faucets, showers, and tubs were everywhere. Several convention goers could be seen taking a break in an empty tub. Some of the water displays were fun to watch:

Kohler waterworks

Kohler waterworks

But nothing seemed to impress this shower occupant.

 

KBIS 2016 16

 

The Main Line Kitchen Design team wishes you a warm and safe winter and of course a hearty …

Bon Appetite!

Main Line Kitchen Design’s new office and cabinet selection center is now available for meetings with our designers.
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Office Sign
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Our address is :
19 Bala Avenue Suite #305
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
610-500-4071
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If you feel like venturing out this winter, make an appointment with your designer and see all our cabinet lines, door styles, and finishes on display. At our office you can make changes and view your design on a 42″ flat screen monitor. Or, stay in the comfort of your own home viewing designs on our laptops and we’ll bring you the cabinet samples you are considering. Design changes and samples can be easier to evaluate when you see them in the kitchen you are renovating.
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Happy New Year … and as the sign in our office says…
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Bon Appetit!
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Paul, Ray, Tom and Julie
Main Line Kitchen Design

Over the past twenty years, kitchen cabinet storage solutions have become increasingly diverse and popular. Chef’s Pantries, Tall Pantry Pull Outs, Spice Pull Outs, Corner Drawers, Mixer Lifts and Blind Corner Solutions like the Lemans and Magic Corner  are very popular. But usually, as the “cool” factor increases on these cabinet interior devices their practicality decreases. Let’s look at some examples:

chefs pantry

 

Spice PO

The above Chef’s Pantry, and Spice Pull Out at first glance all seem like great conveniences. However, think about each this way: First, having all the shelves pull out together means that the shelves above obscure what’s on the shelves below. You may need to crouch and look at each shelf from the side to see what’s on it. What if each shelf just pulled out individually? Well then, you could simply examine each shelf and pick up what was on it without needing to turn cans and bottle sideways to get them over the metal side runners on each shelf. Not to mention the stress cabinets are put under when the cabinet’s contents cantilever out of the cabinet or the weight of heavy canned goods is put on hinges.

The Chef’s Pantry, although seemingly convenient, actually diminishes usable storage space. While less convenient, simple shelves use up 10% of the space inside a cabinet. The more convenient roll out shelves give the easiest access to the cabinet while only using up 25% of it’s space. The Chef’s pantry eats up almost 50% of the usable space inside the cabinet to allow for moving parts and the gaps needed for them to operate.

Pantry roll outs

 

Above is a pantry with simple roll outs. It will cost, on average, $1000 less than a Chef’s Pantry and provide for 50% more usable space. The cabinetry will also last longer without the added stress of the mechanisms.

Corner drawers

 

The corner drawers above are a favorite with many kitchen designers who don’t realize how much storage space they eat up. The drawers only make available 40% of the space of the cabinet. The Easy Reach cabinet or Easy Reach Lazy Susan make available 90% or 75% respectively. See the example below:

Super Susan

Mixer bases are another example of sacrificing storage space for “cool”. As the photo below shows, mixer bases take up close to an entire medium size cabinet.

And if you thought lifting the mixer up would save a step – think again. You probably won’t want to be operating the mixer anywhere but on a stable countertop where splashes don’t land on the floor and where you can work effectively. So you will find yourself moving the mixer onto the countertop most of the time, anyway.

Finally, the three very popular corner devices pictured below are equally flawed. Kitchen designers should use these storage solutions as a last resort when Super Susans, Easy Reaches or Corner Lazy Susans aren’t possible.

As with many things, the simple solution is often the best. However, if you have a large kitchen and aren’t concerned about storage space, then all these storage solutions do add a WOW factor.

After understanding the limits of “cool,” below is a link to just some of the storage solutions Main Line Kitchen Design can incorporate:

Link to Storage Solutions

We look forward to helping you to get the kitchen of your dreams …

and of course…

Bon Appetit!

New Kitchen Cabinets in Berwyn, PA

 

  1. Select a cabinet dealer and a kitchen designer to work with.
  2. Have this professional measure the kitchen and come up with a preliminary design.
  3. Rework and refine the design until it is close to complete.
  4. Decide on type of flooring, heating, lighting, doors and windows.
  5. Get estimates from contractors and select a contractor.
  6. Finalize the cabinet line, door style, and finish of the cabinetry.
  7. Select appliances, sink, and usually countertop.
  8. Order cabinetry and schedule contractor start date.
  9. Order doors and windows.
  10. Order appliances and and sink. Schedule an approximate delivery date.
  11. Select and purchase flooring.
  12. Purchase backsplash tile or material, backsplash grout colors and spacing.
  13. Select and purchase lighting, faucets, and garbage disposal.
  14. Select handles and or knobs.
  15. Decide on paint colors for walls, ceiling, and trim.
  16. With construction nearly complete, shop for furniture.
  17. Purchase kitchen table, chairs, stools, and countertop appliances.
  18. Clean kitchen, rest of home and put everything back into the kitchen.
  19. Shop for your first real dinner in your fabulous NEW kitchen.
  20. Bon Appetit!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Natural lighting for this Berwyin PA Kitchen

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