Vern Yip

on Remodeling Your Kitchen
Designer for TLC's hit show "Trading Spaces"

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Exclusive Interview

Vern Yip on Kitchen Remodeling

This interior designer has finished whirlwind revamps on a shoestring with TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” outfitted Oscar parties and overhauled the décor of exclusive clientele as part of his private practice in Atlanta. As the host of HGTV’s inspirational makeover show "Deserving Design," Yip transforms the homes of those who need it the most. The recipient of many design awards, he also serves as a judge on HGTV Design Star and has been featured in everything from The New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, CNN to Oprah. With his characteristic thoughtfulness and attention to detail, Yip shares his thoughts on the kitchen renovation experience.

What advice do you have for people who are preparing to remodel their kitchens?

The most important thing with a kitchen remodel is to be armed with as much information as possible, all the way around. Know what your budget is; know what you want. As a client working with a designer, as your own designer working with a contractor or if you’re installing it on your own–information is your friend. The most important thing is to be an informed consumer.

Do as much planning ahead of time as possible. If you can have the patience and time to actually plan out your kitchen, you’ll be in much better shape than if you haphazardly go about it. Are you remodeling your kitchen to be a good investment or are you planning on staying in this house for 20-30 years? Unlike couches and artwork, you are not going to take your kitchen with you. Somebody will look at your kitchen, and is this someplace they want to live?

What makes a kitchen remodel unique, as opposed to doing the rest of the house?

It is the only room in your house to approach like building a machine. Your kitchen is mechanical, even down to the cabinets. They’re actually built-in components; make sure all the parts and pieces fit together well to accomplish your end goal. If you don’t know how to do a physical plan, then use a computer program. Many are free, and you can download them online. If you’re not computer savvy, doing this on graph paper with a pencil will get you the same result. Lay it out. There are a lot of decisions to make; it’s better to make those before you even get started with the renovation process.

What should people consider in terms of materials?

For cabinets, other than planning it out, make sure you’ll be happy with the end result from a performance standpoint. It’s worthwhile to spend money on a good cabinet, but it depends on how you utilize your kitchen. Is it a showplace or are you a real cook, cooking for your family every night? Have that understanding and buy accordingly.

Don’t skimp on your countertop or your backsplash. A lot of people want limestone, which is beautiful, but very soft and porous. Marble is the same way. Look at what’s going to be very durable, because your counters are the workhorse of the kitchen. Granite is a great choice, as are other solid surfaces, like Corian. Aesthetically, granites with a lot of movement and patterning are not going to be as timeless. Black is the most adaptable to a lot of paint colors.

For lighting and flooring, don’t go inexpensive. Laminate and vinyl flooring are easily cleanable but also an indication that this was remodeled on the cheap. It calls into question everything else that was done on your house; you will save in the short term but lose in the long run. Recycled wood and bamboo flooring are renewable resources. All those things are supremely important for consumers.

What do you believe is the biggest benefit to remodeling your kitchen?

The biggest benefit varies from person to person, but the kitchen is a portion of your house that many people think you will recoup your investment in. A house that’s got a remodeled kitchen will sell faster and be more attractive than one without. It’s a very competitive housing market.

But if you’re not looking to sell, there are also lots of other benefits. You get to enjoy it. The kitchen is the heart of the home, the one part that every person in your home uses every single day. You can’t say that of any other room in your house. You’re going to derive the most communal benefit from your kitchen. A remodel can also save costs on energy bills if you pick energy efficient appliances.

What are some challenges to look out for during the remodel that people might not expect?

They don’t anticipate that there are going to be things that you can’t anticipate. As you remove appliances that have been blocking things, your house is beginning to unravel. There will be things that will happen, unless you’re working in new construction. With structural, mechanical and human elements combined, something is bound to happen. If you’re creating a budget, have a little bit of contingency in there that nobody knows about, because you will probably have to tap into it.

What is an aspect of kitchen design that you feel gets neglected or is not considered?

It’s the less glamorous elements of the kitchen that aren’t as fun to pick out and get neglected. People neglect to think about their kitchen five or ten years down the road. Don’t get so caught up on spending all this money on a kitchen renovation that’s going to look dated, unless you can afford to redo it in a couple of years.

I also think something neglected is that glass cabinet doors are super popular. People love open shelving systems. It looks so great in the showroom and magazines, but remember that they’ve kept it to an absolute minimum. If you don’t have all coordinated accessories or have a mismatched coffee mug collection or open cereal boxes, it won’t work. Design your kitchen for the way you really live.


What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?

I am one of those people who looks for the upside on something. I do believe that it’s not life or death and it’s probably happening for a reason. I will take the situation, problem solve and try to figure out what I need to do from that point forward to end up with a better result than my own.

The best thing about change is… allows you to continue to grow and learn. Without change you don’t have that opportunity. That’s what makes you feel alive.

What is the best change you have ever made?

Being honest with myself about following my passions. I think you feel so much societal pressure, especially as a kid growing up, to meet expectations. Listen to your inner voice and follow your passions to pursue what’s in your heart, as opposed to what people are telling you to pursue. You will have a much easier time meeting up with success.

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I like bright cheerful colors