Dear Renovator,

We are in the midst of planning a whole new addition to our home. We want it to be a large kitchen with a great deal of natural light, an eating area, and a family room all as one big space. (We have three active pre-teens who are growing rapidly.) We’re envisioning a lot of large windows, which will cut down on wall space; but we also need good (and easily accessible) storage. Can you help us figure out what kind of cabinetry we could have, especially if we need to work around so many windows?

Dear Homeowner,

As someone with four children at home myself, I can certainly relate. Your project will need lots of thought. In fact, my very first piece of advice is never to underestimate the energy you will need to put into planning ‒ not just for your own family but for potential resale, so your home will, if the time comes, also be suitable for another family.

If you have three active pre-teens, you have probably already discovered that growing kids are never alone. They have friends. Two or three kids can turn into eight or 10. And so in a large kitchen the island becomes the place to be. Plan for multiple seating all the way around the island, even at the ends.dear renovator kitchen image

In your large kitchen and family room, I suggest you won’t want to be looking at the eating area. The large island should be visually connected to the family room with each room facing the other. The dining area can be off to the side.

Many windows will give you beautiful light, of course, but they can have a downside when it comes to wooden cabinetry. The portion of cabinet exposed to direct sunlight may have a tendency to age differently from the portion that is not. This, on top of the “abuse” your doors and drawers may be subject to thanks to these active teenagers may have you consider thermofoil products (PVC or polyester).

The latest state of the art 3D technology used to manufacture these finishes has brought the thermofoil product lines to another level. It not only looks like real wood (or paint), but also feels like it to the touch. Its maintenance is a breeze and it will pretty much hold up to anything. With a large active family of my own, it was the “go-to” choice for my personal kitchen reno a couple of years ago.

Another thing you’ve probably noticed about kids: they like to slam doors and drawers. So I also advise you to make sure your doors and drawers have soft-close systems. No one can slam those.

Since you won’t have much wall space but need lots of storage, you might think about a walk-in pantry: always practical, and it helps keep things tidy, too. Under-the-counter storage should probably be large drawers and pull-outs rather than cupboards.

Pierre Dromaguet is Millwork Design and Sales Manager at Potvin Construction.

This is Pierre Dromaguet’s 15th year at Potvin Construction, where he has been the cabinet design and sales manager for the past five years. With a family of six (four kids ranging from age 11 to 17), he has lots of first-hand experience about wear and tear on a home.

Pierre graduated from La Cite Interior Design in 1994, worked as an architectural designer, taught architectural and interior design, and also worked in commercial interior design, home design, and construction management.