Sometimes Two Kitchens Are Better Than One

By Kimberly L. Jackson
Originally Published For The Star-Ledger

For a contractor and husband, it might have been the ultimate challenge: Renovate two kitchens at once. For your mother-in-law. Frank DiPasquale was asked to not only update the main kitchen, but to save the cabinetry so it could be retrofitted in the basement of the East Hanover home of his in-laws, Mina and Frank Vasilopoulos...

Working for family did not make the job easier, he said. "It's just as nerve-wracking, maybe even more so, because of the level of perfection required," DiPasquale said, comparing the project to those of regular clients. "If you do something wrong, you'll never hear the end of it because you can't get away."

The Renovation

Mina Vailopoulos cooks in her basement kitchen every day, but felt the upstairs kitchen of their 1978 center-hall colonial needed a makeover "to look pretty." It's the gathering space reserved for holidays and other special-occasions.

She and her husband, who own investment real estate, have lived in the 4,000-square-foot house with two kitchens for nearly 25 years, and they have been updating the 4-bedroom, 31/2-bathroom house room by room.

For the main kitchen, they splurged on granite for the counters and center island. They selected GE Profile appliances and KraftMaid cabinetry. DiPasquale had previously replaced the kitchen floor, so the new cabinets and other elements were selected to complement it.

"Now I'm finished," Mina Vasilpoulos said. "My house is what I wanted. I love my kitchens."

She selected the main kitchen's features with her daughter Antonia (Franks' wife), and decided to move the old cabinets and appliances to the basement kitchen for an economical update.

The decision had an eco-friendly benefit; old cabinets are usually demolished and discarded when a kitchen is renovated, contributing their bulk to ever-growing landfills. Increasingly, however, homeowners are opting to have old cabinetry disassembled rather than demolished when it's in good shape.

Cabinets can be reused to increase storage space in a garage, basement workshop or other areas, DiPasquale says. Sometimes they can be donated to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity's ReStore locations, which sell higher-quality programs. Renovation Angel in Fairfield specializes in recycling luxury fixtures from home renovations. The company will remove, pack and take away donated kitchen cabinetry that passes inspection free of charge.

In the Vasilopoulos home, DiPasquale's crew carefully disassembled the old cabinetry and worked on it in the garage, cutting and rebuilding it to fit the basement kitchen.

"We marked out dimensions and made up a mock kitchen. It's a little more of a challenge to make cabinets fit in another place, but you can do it," he says.

The Vasilopoulos home had a basement kitchen when they bought it. Such kitchens are known as"summer kitchens" because they kept excess heat and cooking odors out of a house in the days before high-powered exhaust fans.

Recycling cabinetry from the main kitchen added about $5,000 to a $55,000 job, DiPasquale said. Asked about a discounted family rate, he said he was able to give his in-laws a better place on materials -- but not labor costs.

"It is what I would charge everybody," he said. "I have too many guys helping me, and they'll make the same rate regardless."

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