Ever wonder what the pros at Consumer Reports choose when they remodel their own kitchens? Michael DiLauro, a senior market analyst specializing in cooking appliances (and a professional chef to boot), recently finished a gut renovation of the kitchen in his Connecticut home. Here he discusses some of the key decisions.
What I did
“Like a lot of consumers, our kitchen was outdated, with vinyl floors, laminate countertops, and a wonky range hood. Plus it was closed off from the rest of the house. So our goal was to open it up and put in the appliances and finishes we’ve always wanted—now that the kids are past the age of spilled milk and crayons on the cabinetry.”
A real chef’s range
“The 36-inch, six-burner range offers the power and flexibility I need on an everyday basis. Its high-Btu burners bring water to a fast boil and provide searing heat for sautéing and wok cooking. The full-surface grates make it easy to move things around and fit my oversized cookware. Appearance played a factor as well. We knew the kitchen would be visible from the living area, so we wanted a range that would attract attention. So far the red knobs on the Wolf have delivered.”
The island of my dreams
“Knowing that the countertop would take the brunt of our daily lives, and a fair amount of abuse, we knew this was not the place to go for anything but the best. Although expensive, with prices higher than most other materials, including granite, our quartz countertops are proving durable and easy to clean. On the island we splurged on a waterfall effect, carrying the material down either end so that it’s visible from the living area.”
DiLauro splurged on waterfall counters that run down the side of the island to the floor.
“The biggest surprise was definitely the cost. We had some plumbing surprises, plus material and service costs are going up as the economy improves. You often hear that you should allow a 10 to 15 percent cushion with the budget. Based on my experience, I think you really need to allow for an extra 20 percent.”
Easy bake (and broil and roast) oven
“Even with a full range, I wanted a separate wall oven, since it keeps food at eye-level and makes it a lot easier to handle roasts and other large dishes. Electric ovens generally bake, broil, and roast better than ranges with gas ovens in our tests. So I ended up choosing our top-rated electric wall oven, the Whirlpool WOS92EC0AH, and so far the results at home have been consistent with our findings in the lab.”
Mixing and matching brands
“We went with KitchenAid for the other major appliances. Since everything is in stainless steel, the look is plenty coordinated. I wanted a cabinet-depth French-door refrigerator with an internal ice and water dispenser. This provides a clean built-in look with the added capacity of a freestanding unit, at a quarter of the price of a true built-in. KitchenAid is one of the few brands that offers the configuration. The model I selected isn't in our Ratings, but the Jenn-Air JFC2290VEP is similar and it scored very well overall.”
Faithful to a favorite dishwasher
“For the dishwasher, we wanted to stick with KitchenAid, which we had prior to the remodel. The KitchenAid KUDS30SXSS offers superb cleaning, solid energy efficiency, and many helpful convenience features, including ample flatware slots and an adjustable upper rack. Though I have noticed it's not as quiet as models at the top of our Ratings.”
—As told to Daniel DiClerico
The old range was moved to free up space and a pro-style range added for its high heat.
Mark Lund Photography
Kitchen Planning Guide
More ideas and inspiration. To find top-rated appliances, flooring, and countertops check our Kitchen Planning Guide. You'll also find tips on how to hire a contractor and make a budget.