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Some kitchens can be redesigned in a straightforward manner. There's the sink under the window, let's keep it there. This is where the fridge should be, there is room for pantry cabinets around it and a stock size IKEA fridge cabinet above. No need to alter or customize cabinets. Move the oven into a double oven cabinet with microwave, ensure adequate drawer space, clearances, position an island or peninsula that uses the kitchen "real estate" best, and voila, a lovely kitchen layout.
This is not to say that it's easy to do. Bluntly and with all my vested interest as owner of a kitchen design company right on the table (pun), it takes a kitchen designer to design an optimal kitchen. Even when it is straightforward. Every day of the week I receive draft designs done in the IKEA kitchen planner by hard-working homeowners. Some of them are OK. Most are not nearly as well designed as they could and should be.
The planner tool is a large part of the problem. If you've worked with it you know what I mean. It simply does not allow for many design features that can make a truly elegant and functional kitchen layout come together. It only allows you to line up some cabinets along walls. It is really not an adequate design tool for the majority of kitchen projects.
But what if you have a "problem kitchen." This could extend from the limitations of a really tight budget to the frustrations of aligning rectangular cabinets to odd angles; or perhaps you have very low or very high ceilings, or other architectural anomalies. You might want your sink under the windows but it simply doesn't seem to fit. You need a lot more storage in a small kitchen. You have always wanted an island but there seems to be no possible way. You could have wood flooring you love but that is far off level. You could have a load bearing wall that you would like to take out but given the cost of that (permits, structural engineer, labor), wonder if there is a way to make the kitchen bigger without taking out the whole wall (yes, there is). Problem kitchens, we call them. The lifeblood of a creative kitchen design.
This image was a problem kitchen we worked on awhile ago. It was a lovely home with the oddest kitchen wall structure. The owner planned to sell within 5 years and wanted to remodel the kitchen to enjoy till then and before going on the market, but had held off because she could not see how IKEA cabinets could work and yet did not want to spend the $36,000 she had been quoted for another brand. Did we solve it for her?