What made your kitchen/bathroom awesome?
June 7, 2012 6:49 AM   Subscribe

We just bought a house and have to gut the kitchen and master bathroom. Damn. ... but we get to rebuild whatever way we want. Outstanding. What made your kitchen/bathroom awesome?

The kitchen's a pretty decent size (16'x11') for an old house, and the master bath is probably 10'x15' and has a door out to the second-floor screen porch (where we're putting a small sauna), so we've got some space to deal with.
We're both tall, so we're probably going to raise the cabinets by 4-5 inches.
We like hosting people for dinner, so the kitchen will be well used.
The kitchen has a 48 inch custom vent hood (previous owner was a chef) that we'll keep.
We're in Texas, so while I've seen heated floor bathrooms as a suggestion on here before, it's probably not our biggest priority when the winters get down to 35F at the worst... Thanks!

Bonus points for low-cost, high-mileage ideas or warnings about high-cost, low-utility crap. (We know we'll spend money, but if there are situations where the delta between price and quality is extreme, that's a good factor to incorporate.)
posted by Seeba to Home & Garden (45 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is all based on reflecting on the last major remodel of my family's home, done in the mid 90's (when I was still growing up there.)

Kitchen stuff:

Watch out for cabinetry mfg. cost-cutting on non-visible materials and hardware, especially when you're buying otherwise fancy (and heavy) fascia. My parents have had nightmares with expensive cabinet fronts (multilayered, beveled, glass, etc) with crap material in the drawer sidewalls, cheap hinges, tracks, etc, that have made the whole thing into a creaky and visibly repaired mess.

Very useful:
-Full length, narrow, multi shelf pull out pantry-cabinet-rack-thing for cans/boxes. Right next to the fridge nook. Maybe more than one, depending on your needs and other storage, etc.
-Insta-hot water dispenser
-Detachable faucet
-Double ovens, imo.
-Commercial range with char-broiler. Makes grilling easy. Sounds like you have the vent-hood to support it.

Water closet for the toilet, with a smoked or beveled glass door. If you're as unapologetic as my old man, phone on the wall.
Medicine cabinets behind the mirror panels over the sinks.

Constantly used -- steam-head in shower stall (with built in bench) for steam baths.
Occasionally used -- jetted tub.
Seldom used -- side nozzles in shower stall.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:03 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Basically, I am lazy and focus on cleaning efficiency (or better yet, things that just don't get dirty as easily) when I do updates in my house. So, I have seamless sinks in both my kitchen and bathrooms. I have a kitchen faucet a bit like this one and I love that the whole area around my sink is minimalist - VERY easy to clean. (Mine was cheaper than that, I'm sure, I just picked one so you get the idea - search for "single hole kitchen faucets").

Other than that, lighting is key. Under cabinet lights in the kitchen make prepping much more pleasant. Nice, soft bathroom lighting is well worth the investment. I used to have an ugly single can light in my 80s condo bathroom. When I updated it to a nicer fixture I found, frankly, that I felt better about myself because I didn't look like a ghoul every time I looked in the mirror. I got a fixture with three lights (something a little like this) and the diffused illumination is much more flattering than one light pointing directly down over the sink. It was a cheap update that has made me happier.
posted by katie at 7:05 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Low cost, high utility improvements we made in our kitchen:

Slide out drawers in the cabinets for pots and pans.

Put your waste and recycle bins on sliders, too.

A couple of big, deep drawers for small appliances. We added two ~30" wide drawers with ~24" of headroom each. Keeps all that stuff off the counter, out of sight, but in easy reach.
posted by notyou at 7:07 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bathroom awesomeness:
- Walk-in shower with no door, no curtain, no glass = easy cleaning. Search the web for images and ideas.
- Big soaking tub, but no jets to clean

Kitchen awesomeness:
- plenty of uninterrupted counter space between stove and sink.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:08 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, not having a kitchen/bathroom combo, for one. :P

Walk in shower, big soaker tub. Sauna, I approve! His and hers sinks and medicine cabinets (though I actually keep pharmaceuticals in the kitchen - bathrooms are too moist). His and her towel racks, space for roll out laundry hampers as applicable, room to read /shelve bathroom reading in the toilet space (little built in bookshelf) and an ultra quiet vent fan.

What about a huge eat-in kitchen? Big sink, spine-free lazy susans, pull out drawers instead of cabinets and shelves. Movable butcher block island. If you're going for electric stove, not a cheap flat top cooker but induction. If you're going for gas, yay! Might want to think about wall oven(s) instead of bending under the stove all the time.

Don't break up the food prep triangle.

Have a space to install entertainment, a flat screen TV that hooks up to your cable or internet, great place to look up recipes, watch streaming media, et cetera. Put the screen on a movable mount to be able to angle it to different spaces.

Look for a good dishwasher that has the features important to you - sterilization, crystal setting, et cetera. I've always gone with "cheapest" so I envy you that decision!

Think about the fact that with taller cabinets you'll have to accommodate the dishwasher and other built-ins. Maybe put the washer and dryer in there, free up your washer dryer space for something else (huge pantry! Mud room!)

Think about disposal, too. Trash? Trash and recycling? Trash, recycling, compost?

I've found narrow shelves for spices helpful, "garages" for appliances, open display and storage for counter-top fruits and drinks. Handy space for kitchen towels if you use them instead of paper towels (I have an entire narrow cabinet dedicated to those).
posted by tilde at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a thread on another site that asks this question, which I bookmarked because I thought it was so useful.

This thread may also have some useful responses, I won't bother duplicating here what I wrote there.

Now our kitchen is done I love the lighting. We have slimline fluorescents all the way along the top and bottom of the cabinets, far enough back to not be directly visible. Semi shiny white paint on the ceiling makes it into a big reflector. There is no light fixture in the middle of the ceiling, hurrah! The under-cabinet lighting happens to backlight the hanging ladles and whatnot, and they look unexpectedly fab.

We put the hooks for the big spoons right next to the stove, and the wall-mount magnetic knife block above the big prep surface which is over the fridge. This is SO convenient.

We have a wok burner on the stove and I love it.
posted by emilyw at 7:11 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you go get a big pan of heavy stuff and stand up with it, you can measure exactly how far off the ground your oven should optimally be in order to get that heavy stuff in there safely.
posted by emilyw at 7:13 AM on June 7, 2012

Best answer: I've customized new construction and I've reno'd older houses.


1. More cabinets and counter-space. Our current house had and "eat-in" kitchen, but the dining area was right outside of it. We opened up the wall, so now the dining area is rightthere, and used the area for the dinette in the kitchen to add another run of cabinets and counters.

2. Broom closet.

3. Pantry.

4. Those sliding-out shelves in the cabinets, making it easy to get at what's at the back.

5. Light, light, light.

6. Gas Stove and oven.

Waste of time and money:

1. Lazy susan, corner unit. Our cats sit double decker in it for fun. It's useless. Anything you store there will eventually fall out in the back, never to be seen or heard from again.

2. Butcher-block counters. I love the old-world charm, in reality a complete nightmare to keep nice looking, ours expanded and contracted with the weather and looked horrible on a regular basis.


1. Rainfall shower head.

2. Two sinks, one inside the bathroom, the other on the other side of the door of the commode.

3. A deep soaker tub.

4. Light, light, light.

5. Tile the tub/shower to the ceiling.

6. Tankless hot water heater. For filling your huge soaker tub, endless hot showers and general energy efficiency and happiness.

Things I wish I had done differently.

1. Those beautiful cabinets with the feet. A giant PITA to clean under. Get cabinetry that seals at the bottom.

2. Combining your tub and shower. The shower should walk in, the tub should be a separate deal, especially as we age.

3. Don't use real marble for countertops. EVERYTHING stains it, but especially my hair color.

4. While I love that our oak floring expands into the bathroom, I can't help but thing that tile would have been smarter. After 6 years, it's holding up fine, but it seems so counter-intuitive.

5. Nthing the hassle and uselessness of jetted tubs. Mold bath anyone?

Hire the best contractors you can afford. If it's a toss up between doing it yourself and hiring a guy, hire the guy, he's got the experience and tools and you can watch TV while he works.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:16 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

*The biggest double basin sink that you can fit.
*Drawers for base cabinets, rather than standard shelf cabinets.
posted by Buckshot at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Deep Lazy Susan

Commode sink
posted by tilde at 7:28 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would stab someone for one of those vent-looking things in the floor where you flip up the lid and sweep crumbs right into it. (And then when it's not attached to a central vac system, you pull out the basin and dump it into the trash.) I can actually sweep crumbs right out my back door, which is pretty good. Also if you have or are going to have small children, a space where you can put a high chair (or locate the eat-in counter) right by the sweep-in thingie or the back door is really convenient, because you spend a LOT of time sweeping up. It's great to be able to kick open the back door and just sweep all the cheerio crumbs right out the door instead of stooping down with the dustpan twice a day.

Other things other people have that I want: shelves tall enough for a full-sized cereal box. A pull-out-from-under-the-cabinet cookbook holder by my favorite prep counter (I'd also think about one that could easily hold an iPad or something for the future). I had a stand-on-the-counter cookbook holder but I never want to give up the counter space for it, so I gave it away and just lay the cookbooks flat. A "kitchen desk." As a messy person who always ends up with dough all over her hands, I would like one of those "tap to turn on" faucets if I were going to splurge on something, even though I know they're not necessary.

If you're tall, maybe you want to raise one counter area for more ergonomic chopping. I'm short, and if I ever custom-redo my own kitchen, I'm going to have one counter lowered a few inches so I'm not always chopping with my elbow up by my ear and no leverage.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kitchen flooring -- rubber tiles of the right kind can be great, but not all products are created equally. The current examples I'm seeing online don't resemble what we put in, back in the '80s (and had trouble finding a supplier for in the 90s) which looks like terracotta at a glance, is slightly raised and is grouted (not in a sheet or interlocking like industrial rubber or vinyl flooring). It is slightly springy. Better on the back than anything else I've seen that's practical for kitchen use, easy to clean, durable.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:33 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I disagree with the work triangle concept so we made "zones" in our kitchen. The fridge is the anchor, with island landing space right in front of it to make putting away groceries easier. So I have a baking zone, a prep zone, a clean-up zone, etc. This is what you see in most professional kitchens and it's what works best for me.

We bumped out the counter space against the walls, too, which has helped so much. There's four or six additional inches of counter space so that when the toaster is out, for example, there is still ample room to work.

Eyebrows McGee OMG I have never seen those vent-like things you describe but I too would stab someone for them!!! Best idea ever!
posted by cooker girl at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I put my washer & dryer in a bathroom. Bonus: I can put my towel in the dryer for a couple minutes so I have a warm towel after a shower. Make sure you have space near the washer & dryer to hang things to dry. Due to the plumbing layout, I was able to put a shelf into the tile above the tub. Very nice to have a good sized space for shampoo, shaving cream, etc.

I did a pretty straightforward Ikea kitchen, and am still happy with it 2 years after. Be cautious: some of the staff have no clue about kitchen planning; some do. It all worked out with the able assistance of a staffer in the admin offices, but was a pain. Ceilings in my house are not high, so I ran the cabinets all the way to the ceiling, and it worked well. I hate that extra space on top of kitchen cabinets. The Ikea planning tool was a really big help.

Make things easy to clean. In my old house I had tiled counters. It's easier to wipe down a seamless surface.

I love under-cabinet and in-cabinet lights, and wish mine were LEDs, which are now available. They're cooler and cheap to run. It seemed like I was going nuts adding lights with a 3 light track light, over the sink light, under-cabinet, and in-cabinet, and alight on the fan above the stove, etc., but it's really not overkill.

I added a breakfast bar and like it a lot.

Assume that any worker, contractor, builder, plumber, electrician, etc., is a raving lunatic, alcoholic, drug-addicted, lying, incompetent jerk. Most are not, but the few that are will make your life miserable and cost you time and money.
posted by theora55 at 7:52 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think about how you entertain, and think about flow. Parties always wind up in the kitchen. We've got a pretty small kitchen, and when we renovated, we put an island in. Our contractor tried to convince us it should be a peninsula. We would have gotten considerably more counter and storage space if we had gone with his plan, and it would have been handy, but it would have created a bottleneck. We decided to prioritize flow, and for us it was the right decision. Think about how you'll use the space in general.

I disagree with Ruthless Bunny about butcher blocks. I really like having one. It looks well-used because it is, and I'm fine with that.
posted by adamrice at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2012

Here's my question from 2010 about my total kitchen reno and there are some great ideas there. We used a kitchen designer just to make the floorplan, buy the cabinets, and coordinate the manufacture of the countertops, and I'm really glad we did. She suggested the big drawers mentioned above and THEY ARE GREAT!

If I had a do-over, I would not get a counter-depth refrigerator. It looks great but really isn't big enough. I have a dual-fuel range like this that we really like because you get double ovens in a small footprint. Vent your cooktop to the outside if cooking smells bother you at all.

The finishes are important and fun to pick, but in the beginning you really need to focus on the floorplan and the flow. We made large cardboard cutouts in the dimensions of the components and laid them on the floor to work out the best plan for us.

Also, this is a long, drawn-out process. Make sure your temporary kitchen has a small fridge, counter space, and access to a sink to wash dishes. I used my utility sink in the basement. There will be many days when the water is turned off for long periods of time, so figure out a bathroom plan beforehand. Everything takes longer and it can be very trying after the initial excitement wears off. I only cried once, on a particularly bad day.
posted by raisingsand at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2012

We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, and here are a few of the things that make it super awesome to me:
(1) drawers, drawer, drawers. all drawers, all the time. Out of like 15' of base cabinets, there's only the sink cabinet and the corner cabinet that aren't drawer units of some sort (some have 3 or 4 stacked drawers, and some are taller pullouts with 1 or 2 shallow interior drawers at the top). And even those two non-drawer units have swing-out/pull-out components.

I even hacked our IKEA over-the-fridge cabinet into a pullout drawer, so everything inside it can be pulled out into the light of day rather than disappearing into a cavernous 24" deep pit of darkness.

(2) When in doubt, arrange things so you can use the widest cabinets possible. A 36" wide cabinet (with drawers!) is much more flexible than 2 18" cabinets.
(2) 39" uppers rather than 30" (especially if you're tall).
(3) Arranging as much of the storage space for things that get washed in the dishwasher or sink to be within reach of the dishwasher/sink corner. I can put away about 90% of the clean dishes without taking a step.
posted by drlith at 8:13 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

(not counting the pull-out pantry, there are 23 drawers in my kitchen, and it's not a huge kitchen by any means)
posted by drlith at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2012

I am in the middle of a total gut and remodel of my bathroom. I am most excited about the inline bathroom exhaust. The fan motor is in the attic, so there is minimal noise in the bathroom while it is running. Bit costly, but I think worth it.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:24 AM on June 7, 2012

When we built our guest bathroom in our previous place (a loft), we put in a tall narrow custom mirror with neatly finished edges but no frame that went down behind the sink. The chrome faucet was mounted directly into the mirror, it was a great look, although the mirror would get splashed and need wiping after use.

The toilet was the floating, wall-mounted type more common to commercial bathrooms, which makes cleaning the floor a breeze. The tank and flushing mechanism were concealed in the wall behind as we had access to that space from the other side which was a closet, so all we had on the wall was the large flushing button.

The one thing we really splurged on was the floor and shower tile, from Bisazza: mosaic for the shower, a sparkly red tile for the floor. It didn't cost all that much in the end, as it wasn't a large surface, but it looked amazing under the tiny but bright recessed ceiling lights.

We used a round sink mounted on an antique (?) round Asian nightstand, a bit like this, which we finished in polyurethane to make it a bit more water resistant.

Clearly, we took advantage of the fact a guest bathroom is not as frequently used as a hard-working master bathroom, but I wanted to share some ideas with you and ways you can think outside the box when planning your design.
posted by Dragonness at 8:25 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I added a breakfast bar and like it a lot.

Oh I forgot that when we got a butcher block Ikea kitchen island we also added a matching breakfast bar and loved it, a bit like this.
posted by Dragonness at 8:35 AM on June 7, 2012

  • Pot-filler faucet over the stove.
  • Raise not only the cabinets but also the counters.
  • Lid storage, either in a dedicated drawer or behind towel bars on all unused walls
  • Magnetic knife racks on walls (because knife blocks are dirty and gross)

posted by nicwolff at 9:01 AM on June 7, 2012

I agree with the toe kick crumb vacuum. For the murderous among us, there are free standing ones that don't take up too much space.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:05 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I were redoing my bathroom, I'd get rid of the glass enclosed shower and have a walk in one instead. The silicone that was used on mine was covered in mold when we bought the house, come to find out we have to re-set the glass and scrape all the old off to get rid of it. Gross. A door on the WC would be good too, with it's own exhaust fan. Two sinks PLUS a vanity area - I sit in front of my sink but I'm bumping my knees constantly.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:11 AM on June 7, 2012

My mother made sure that her kitchen had a billionty outlets, and had super-slim spice drawers on either side of the stove so she wouldn't have to search or bend down to add spices.

My parents throw lots and lot of parties, so the main sink is on one side with a dishwasher next to it, and the prep sink is on the other side of the kitchen with a dishwasher next to that. This improves flow at parties, so not everyone is crowded around a single sink to help with the cleanup.

They also took the extra time and material to build in their fridge for a nicer look.

The pantry is extra deep for their Costco purchases, and there are slide-out bins for the stuff purchased from regular stores. The cabinets have built in covered bulk bins for flour, sugar and rice, like this but without the clear fronts:
posted by hmo at 9:11 AM on June 7, 2012

Best answer: We redid both our kitchen and bathroom, the biggest thing for us was the flooring.

I recommend Marmoleum (the real stuff) in each. We used it in both the kitchen and bathroom, the stuff looks great, installs easy and is essentially bulletproof and cleans incredibly easy as well.

Buy a 2-3x capacity bathroom fan than you need, same with the range hood.

If you do a tub and need a surround and want easy clean up, I recommend swanstone tub surrounds. They clean up, have minimal seams for mould to grow and because they install easily there is less risk of water damage.

If you end up replacing the subfloor in either the kitchen or bathroom, spend some extra bucks and get a water resistant ply/osb in there rather than the cheap stuff. It costs more but it won't swell/react if you ever have a leaky faucet and minimize any remediation work you have should that happen.

Spend on good primer, spend on good high quality paint. Will pay off down the road in terms of of clean up and how it holds up.
posted by iamabot at 9:15 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The main thing that makes my bathroom awesome is that I put in base cabinets that were meant for a kitchen, meaning they're taller than bathroom-height bases. Not having to bend over the sink as far really makes a huge difference. Huge.
posted by Dolley at 10:17 AM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

-I wish we had two sinks side-by-side. It hasn't happened yet but I'm convinced that one of us is going to spit tooth paste into the other's hair someday.

-Dual shower heads (or at least one shower head for every person that might be in the shower at the same time)

-I bet Mrs. VTX would like a tiled bench or ledge of some kind for when she shaves her legs

-I've always wanted to have an island with a range on it (just the range, no over under it) oriented so that, when I'm cooking, I face out of the kitchen into the rest of the house. Our current kitchen has a range/oven against a wall so I sometimes feel like I'm being forced to stand in the corner by myself while other people are doing fun stuff. If I could face the rest of the house, I wouldn't feel so cut off. If we were the kind of people that had dinner parties, I'm sure I feel more like I was cooking in the middle of the party rather than everyone else being at the party while I was stuck in the kitchen cooking.

-The separate range would let me have a wall oven (or two) so that I wouldn't have to bend over all the time.

-I kind of like the idea of having pots and pans hanging by their handles in the kitchen. They always seem like a PITA to get our and put away in the cabinets and I feel like there is a lot of wasted volume. If would hang the pots and pans and then figure out a better way to store the lids. I haven't actually done this though so I don't really know if it would work the way I think it would.
posted by VTX at 10:22 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I re-did my kitchen 18 months ago, and two bathrooms 5 years ago.

Bathrooms: We have space for a separate shower and bathtub, and got the longest, deepest tub we could fit. Its awesome, and my 6'1" boyfriend appreciates having a tub he can actually fit into. Agreed on having your vanity cabinets go down to the floor. Ours are floating and its just a horrible dust trap. We put a ton of spray heads in our shower - a rain head at top, three wall spray things and a hand spray. Love it. However, we didn't think through where the wall sprays were aimed at, make sure they aim away from the door! Definitely get a tankless water heater. If you can get sinks with an old-fashioned plug that physically comes out of the plughole, then do it. Ours have those silly pop up plugs and I bloody hate them. They get all gunked up, and its impossible to clean out the plughole. Stupid idea.

Kitchen: Best money saver is ikea cabinets. Frees up a ton of money to spend on really good appliances. Yes drawers, drawers, drawers!! Drawers are so ergonomic! They're sturdy, each ikea cabinet drawer is rated to hold 50lbs. I store all my plates, bowls, pots, pans and baking dishes in drawers. Don't buy ikea appliances though. In terms of work space, maximise the countertop space between the oven/range and the sink. This is typically the most used bit of countertop (unless you have them on opposing walls). Make that as big as you can. I love my fridge freezer with the freezer as a drawer at the bottom. Undercabinet lighting is the bees knees. Make sure there is plenty for the aforementioned countertop between sink and oven/range. Caesarstone or other quartz-based countertop materials are fantastic. No maintenance, doesn't burn, doesn't scratch.
posted by Joh at 10:25 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you redo the shower, tub enclosure or anywhere that water is a problem use Kerdi board instead of drywall or concrete board. It is more costly but it is 100% waterproof, easy to install and built for tile. They even have neat corners and stops that fix some of the mold problems in those areas. They even make it thick enough to make steps, counters, vanities and such on out of. It is far superior to any other system I know of to waterproof a shower enclosure.
posted by bartonlong at 10:51 AM on June 7, 2012

snuffleupagus, i thought my parents were the only ones who put a phone next to their toilet!
posted by mlo at 11:06 AM on June 7, 2012

For the kitchen: as much worksurface as you can fit in the room, and more plug sockets than you could ever possibly need. You'll need more within six months.
posted by ZipRibbons at 11:45 AM on June 7, 2012

Best answer: Nth-ing drawers in the kitchen. Everything below the countertop in my new kitchen is drawers (not counting two lazy susan things in the corners). They are awesome -- shallow ones for silverware, tin foil/plastic wrap, utility stuff like scissors, etc., deep ones for pots and pans, mixing bowls, bakeware, appliances. Because of the way they open, the light shines in and the access is super-easy. No more dark scary back of the lower cupboards appliance graveyard.
posted by statolith at 11:58 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always wanted (thought I invented it) and discreet hole in the kitchen that I can sweep dirt into and can be emptied from basement etc.
posted by beccaj at 12:47 PM on June 7, 2012

Try to build with old or disabled people in mind. Handrails in the bathroom, wheelchair-accessible everything, roll-in shower, etc.
posted by pracowity at 12:59 PM on June 7, 2012

Our kitchen has the island that VTX wants, with the range that is oriented so you can stand and cook and be facing people to chat. I *love* that feature. The other thing I love about our kitchen that cannot take any credit for is the trash compactor. No matter how much trash is generated, there is always room for more. So awesome.

Definitely under-cabinet lighting, but take into account lighting types. Our last place the previous owners installed halogen lights, I think they were from IKEA, and they made the cabinets hot. Not good.

What I wish was different: room for a bigger, wider fridge.

I have to disagree with Ruthless Bunny about the rainfall shower head. We put one in our guest bath and if I could do it over again I wouldn't. It looks beautiful, but it has the water pressure of, well, a rainfall. Duh. Takes forever to rinse shampoo out. Never again.

Seconding, thirding a water closet (with fan!) for the toilet, so that one person can poop in peace without making the other person wait to brush teeth or whatever.
posted by ambrosia at 1:23 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

A waterless urinal.
posted by theperfectcrime at 2:48 PM on June 7, 2012

- open circulation, no dead ends
- as few corner cabinets as possible. if you can get away with none, do.
- drawers (full extension) in base cabinets give 40% more useable storage than doors + shelves
- the work triangle is an outdated practice in kitchen design. it's now zones for prep, cooking, recycling, composting, etc
- have a minimum width of 18" for landing spots on either side of sinks, ranges, fridges (can be shared between two zones)
- quartz countertops are the best bang for the buck. low maintenance, non porous, very hard
- xenon or LED undercabinet lights are better than halogen, fluorescent or none.
- microwave drawers or compact microwaves are better choices than wall mounted ones over a range, which is a safety no-no as well as shortens the life of the mwave from being over a heat source (though there are billions of installations done that way routinely.)

disclaimer: I design kitchens.
posted by yoga at 5:01 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kitchen advice:

If your layout dictates a galley kitchen, or a kitchen island, the standard layout is to allow about 3' for the aisle between counters. 4' makes SO MUCH DIFFERENCE - you don't feel crowded, even when there are many people working in the kitchen. More than that doesn't make much difference.

If you like to cook, get a real, functional hood for your stove, the more powerful the better. Downdraft stoves SUCK by comparison.

+1 on full extension drawers, as many as you can afford.
posted by mr vino at 6:19 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I may be alone in this but I think the least efficient invention ever was all the hundreds of little cabinets, which splits up where everything is. You can't see anything, you can't reach anything. You forget things. They're also usually not so attractive. I like big old-fashioned real wood furniture, discreet large appliances, plus:

* A pantry with lots of shelves for cookbooks, dry goods, ugly small appliances, spices, where you can see everything at once.


* One deep closet with hooks on the walls and lots of shelves where you can put all of your pots and pans and major cookware.

Then just a few cabinets or a big built-in for all the dishes. Ah, yes, my dream kitchen.

For practicality's sake, also lots of cutting board space AND a deep double-sink.

Classic. Time-tested. And will not look dated.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:15 AM on June 8, 2012

There is a lot of good advice here. I will add only this; clutter is stressful (for me anyway). There is no such thing as too much cabinet-space, or too much closet space. So when we were planning our remodel, I thought very hard about the stuff we had, the stuff we might want someday, and the concept of "a place for everything and everything in its place".
posted by vignettist at 9:26 AM on June 8, 2012

This is a tiny small thing, but it really makes me happy with my bathroom remodel: we have a bathroom exhaust fan that has a timer for the fan and a dimmable light. So first thing in the morning, I can have a shower in low light, when my eyes haven't adjusted yet before I'm fully awake. And after my shower, I can leave the fan in the bathroom on for an hour to help dry out the shower curtain and bring the humidity. I love BOTH of these features.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2012

A couple of things I think not mentioned yet:

Kitchen: your tap/faucet should be tall enough that you can easily fill a large saucepan or bottle (etc) even if the sink is full of stuff. I can't stress this enough.

Nice to have: I've got a small built-in combination oven (basically a microwave with grill & various oven functions. By "grill" I mean what Americans call, um, a braiser? That element up at the top of the oven that heats stuff from above). For quick tasks, this is SO much handier than using the big oven, and is probably used about 10 times as often. Also doubles nicely as a dish warmer, and allows you to roast or bake different things at once.

Bathroom: love the heated towel rail, wired to a programmable timer switch. The electricity kicks in early in the morning & late at night, when it's cheapest, and to ensure that towels are dry & warm by morning.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:01 PM on August 8, 2012

The faucet height thing is important!

I live in my grandparents' former condo, and they didn't cook much by the time they got here. The building is from the late 60s, I think. It's a largely original (repainted and papered in the 80's apparently) galley kitchen with a lot of horrible design flaws that--one of which is a shallow, porcelain double basin sink that had a low faucet. My sink was always covered in gray scrapes from my pots and pans, the fittings leaked and grunged up the backsplash, and I literally bashed the low faucet off of its pedestal after a couple years. (The rust inside the escutcheon probably helped.) Though the kitchen really needs a thorough makeover, if not a full remodel, this was one of my biggest gripes.

I recently replaced it (last week) with a fairly inexpensive pull-down longneck faucet, and it's been so much better I'm kicking myself for not doing it years ago. Here's a picture, the faucet head pulls down all the way to the sink bottom. (Pardon my leaky coffee maker).

On the pots pans and utensils storage thing, especially in the small apartment/townhouse/condo kitchens I've had--I like to make DIY pot-racks out of curtain rods, towel bars (using pole mounts on the sides and a big shackle in the middle for support, and a dowel through the middle for hollow, telescoping poles) or small-gauge hosepipe (with 90 deg. elbows threaded into mounting plates, and standoffs/clamps for support). Forged rings slide onto the rod, and then S-hooks and pot hooks hang from the rings.

When you think about it, these kinds of efficiency kitchens all tend to have upper cabinets on both sides of the sink (usually on either side of a window). You can put a bar over your sink and hang the most used items there, and they don't have to be perfectly dry before you slap them up.

Like this. (Here I used a telescoping rod, dowel inside, and shackle in the middle.)

I find this looks better in this small of a space than any of even the smallest oval or square hanging racks.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:53 AM on August 12, 2012

Oh: and as to the top element--I think you mean broiler. I like having a toaster/oven (with a broiler setting) and a separate microwave so I can use both independently. I tend to use the micro more to speed along certain prep tasks than to actually cook with, whereas things tend to sit in the toaster/oven for a while. And I use it quite a bit, despite having double ovens. (Its temp control is actually a bit more accurate than my ovens).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:55 AM on August 12, 2012

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