Renovating a Condo Kitchen: Tips from a Realtor

Who better to offer condo kitchen reno tips than someone who sees hundreds of them?

Credit: Terry Guscott

Condo kitchens needn’t be lacking in form and function

When a realtor renovates his condo’s vintage kitchen, style – and lifestyle – are equal parts of the mix

Bob Moore, a realtor, knows a thing or two about condos. And when it comes to kitchens, especially those in small spaces, he knows exactly what he likes. And equally important – what he doesn’t like.

“In my career, I’m looking at condos all day long,” says Moore. “I see hundreds over a short period of time. I tend to know what works and what doesn’t, what people like and don’t like, and what trends are overdone. Like granite countertops, for instance, in those limited colours and the same look. It’s, like, OK – enough.”

A Practical Approach to a Condo Kitchen Reno

So, when Moore purchased a suite in Killarney Manor, a converted-to-condos heritage home originally built in 1908, he knew a kitchen reno would likely go with the territory. The home was converted to condos in 1971, and when Moore bought his suite, he had choice words to describe the 10-by-12-foot kitchen: “godawful.” Needless to say, it was the first room he changed.

“For me, the redesign was all about practicality, brightness, blending contemporary with traditional, and a kitchen that was as high-end as reasonably possible within a condo of this value range. I mean, it’s not a $5-million home, so [there’s] no sense in putting in a $200,000 kitchen. I had to consider the economics. This is a pretty high-end kitchen in a condo within this price range.”

Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

Moore’s kitchen renovation came in at about $37,000, and the process started with a visit to Counterpoint Kitchen Systems in North Vancouver. Here, he met with a designer to discuss his needs and the space available. The renovation process started with the cabinets, which formed the backbone of the design.

Moore selected cabinets from the German-based company Alno – a $16,000 investment – and these were made to measure overseas before being installed. When asked to describe the colour of the cabinets, Moore responds, laughing, “Bailey’s,” referring to the Irish cream liqueur’s café au lait tone. 

Moving away from Granite Countertops

Next, choices were made about countertop material and colour, and naturally, Moore eschewed that usual go-to: granite. Instead, he went for engineered stone in a creamy off-white. “It cleans well. I thought light countertops were key, as it’s important that the place shows bright,” says Moore, hints of real-estate-speak peppering his description. 

Opposite the stove and sink, a four-by-three-foot counter features deep drawers underneath, as well as a wide, shallow drawer, where Moore claims, “You’re never gonna lose anything in here.” The counter does triple duty as a workspace for preparing food, as a dining table for entertaining, and a bright desk for when Moore is closing real estate deals from home.

The backsplash is an exotic mosaic of slate, stone and recycled glass tiles from Mexico, in shades of teal, aubergine, seafoam, and chocolate. “Counterpoint offered me many choices, but I kept coming back to the one that jumped out,” said Moore.

Space-saving Appliances

With space-saving and lifestyle in mind, Moore decided on 24-inch appliances instead of the typical 30-inch appliances. “People [today] eat out so much…we buy and shop every day. It made no sense to have large appliances in here. That oven can cook a turkey, so it passes the turkey test. There’s just me living here; this is all I need.”

Rather than being matchy-matchy about brand names, Moore chose the appliances he wanted. For example, the dishwasher is by Bosch, oven and cooktop are by Fagor, and the refrigerator is by Blomberg. All appliances are brushed stainless steel and look great together.

When asked about the smart-looking but small hood fan, Moore says, “It could not be overbearing – some are a bit much – they turn what is otherwise a nice kitchen into something a little too industrial.”

Anything that didn’t make the cut due to small space? A garburator, due to the step-on foot pedal under the sink that cleverly pops open a drawer for garbage, and recycling – hands free. That, and a microwave, which he found too big and dominating for the space.

All in all, was it a wise investment, especially for a realtor? “I wanted the finishing, the quality, and the details to be excellent, and given the constraints of an old building, and space and size limitations, I had to rely on really good quality tradespeople to make it happen. I wasn’t being frugal about it; its nice to save money, but on this – this is a long-lasting investment and in 10 years from now I hope it still is well-received.”

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.