There is no doubt that Pennsylvania is one the most historic states in the entire country. Drive down almost any street in West Chester, PA and you’ll be immediately transported back to the roots of America – which is great for architectural appreciation, but it is slightly less exciting when your kitchen feels like it harkens back to the days of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The reality is, a kitchen doesn’t even need to be very old to look and feel dated. The average lifespan of a kitchen has gotten shorter in recent years, now lasting typically less than a decade before homeowners will update and renovate. That’s where Jennifer Laurens, owner and designer at Tiny Anchor Studios, comes in. With nearly 20 years of experience in the design industry, Jennifer has created one of the fastest growing design firms in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area. Her “no one design fits everyone” mentality has been a huge contributor to her success, and she’s even collaborated on the DIY Network’s show Stone House Revival during both the first and second season. Laurens has also been featured locally, appearing as a presenter at The Pennsylvania Home Shows, and has been featured on 6abc.com.

When clients of The Cyr Team are looking to revive their kitchen – the heart of every home – they recommend Tiny Anchor Studios. We sat down with Jennifer Laurens for an exclusive interview about how she’s helping people revive the heart and soul of their homes.

Where Does a Remodel Start?

Usually, by the time someone reaches out to Tiny Anchor Studios, Jennifer says they’ve been planning their redesign for months, “and dreaming about it for years.” But even so, it can often be difficult for people to articulate what they’re looking for in a new kitchen or bathroom. Afterall, the average person isn’t a designer – that’s why they’ve hired one!

Laurens has found that people tend to be pretty visual, so in addition to sending them a questionnaire that covers lifestyle, usage, and style preferences, she also asks clients to begin a photo collection. Sites like Houzz and Pinterest are great places to collect pictures of kitchens or bathrooms you like. From these, Laurens can determine likes and dislikes that her clients might not even be consciously aware of.

“Picture collections are the best way to visualize trends. Like maybe they have a tendency towards brass, or certain color schemes.” The questionnaire and the photos are simple but powerful tools in helping Tiny Anchor create spaces that make sense for each specific client. “I don’t think kitchens are one-size-fits-all. You can’t just throw up new cabinets and shiplap and have that work for everyone. It’s not like what you see on design shows.” People’s tastes and preferences are so incredibly diverse; for a truly customized space, you have to really be paying attention. “I’m very personally engaged with my clients when I design for them.” A quick peek at her photo galleryshows this is clearly true – the breadth of styles and designs is truly unique.

We Know What We Want – Now What?

Equipped with the information she collects from the questionnaire, photos, and a home visit, Laurens is ready to bring her clients’ ideas to life. 3D rendering allows Tiny Anchor Studios to show clients a super realistic version of how their project will look upon completion. It’s a playground for acting out ideas and playing with concepts, without any real-world consequences or expenses.

“Just about anything can be moved, if you’re willing to pay for it,” but tearing down walls or making other major renovations can be incredibly costly. “When people think that’s a direction they want to go, we want to be sure that what they’re getting is exactly what they’re imagining.” And this doesn’t just apply to moving fixtures like walls and sinks. Patterns, colors, and design elements can be displayed and modified easily in the renderings, significantly cutting down “disappointment and misunderstanding that can arise from miscommunication. They’re looking at pictures of their new kitchen and they know if they’ll like it or not. If not, we change it until they like it.”

“People are very passionate about their kitchen,” Laurens explains. But they also struggle to express their vision and might not be aware of how their lifestyles can (and should) influence material and texture choices in their kitchen. Luckily, these are all things that Jennifer goes over with her clients during the design phase. “Sometimes people really want marble countertops, but can’t or won’t keep up with the maintenance. Or they want leathered granite but their kids will be doing homework everyday on that surface. It’s not going to work with their lifestyle.” Taking these kinds of details into account, Tiny Anchor can design a kitchen space that clients will love at first glance and after years of use.

Making it Come to Life

Depending on the scope of work being done, the cost of a new kitchen and the time to completion can range significantly. Remodeling a kitchen can cost in the $60,000-$100,000 price range, depending on how much construction is being done, and on what materials and appliances are being used. For a kitchen with all new appliances and extra features like two ovens or refrigerated storage drawers in the island, the appliance package alone can cost $20,000. Laurens believes that “it’s important to be very grounded in reality with clients when we’re talking about projects and costs.” In reality, Laurens says, most people have been researching for months before they pull the trigger, so they have a good general understanding about the price and timeline coming into it.

For projects that require major construction, like moving walls, vents and ducts, or water lines, Tiny Anchor uses licensed contractors. Full scale projects like these can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 4 months, and require the clients to completely move out of the kitchen. Depending on the scope of work, it may be possible to set up a “second kitchen” for microwaving food, but full scale cooking is pretty well out of the question at this stage, which clients need to understand and be prepared for.

What to Expect During a Remodel

While it certainly can be a major inconvenience to be kicked out of your kitchen, it’s worth it in the end. Jennifer got a taste of this “chaos” herself when she remodeled her own kitchen. It is a chore to get everything out of the area, but it can also be a great time to evaluate what you own. Donating kitchen items that are no longer needed or used can be cathartic and beneficial to the local community, and finding more appropriate storage spots for cherished heirlooms that are rarely used is practical and rewarding. Remodeling can be the push you need to get these tasks done, and when it’s time to move back into the new kitchen, you’ll be able to do so with a fresh, new approach to not only the space, but the items it holds. In this way, an inconvenience can actually be an opportunity for release, community service, and growth into a new life stage.

A common question Laurens receives is “when is the best time to remodel?” And the truth is, there is no best time. It’s going to be disruptive, and you’ll have to live around it for a while, and then you’ll have a space you’re proud to show off for years to come. “Most people,” Laurens notes, “are remodeling because they are planning on staying in their house. They are cognizant of  how their remodel affects resale, but they also want it to be theirs.” 

Laurens gave a perfect example of this. In a project recently completed by Tiny Anchor Studios, the family home was in desperate need of an update to accommodate their growing family. Their number one priority was a space where the whole family could sit down together for meals. The Tiny Anchor team combined a small eat-in area and the even smaller island into one large island to accommodate their request. This small layout change had a huge impact on the feel of the room. It works well for weeknight dinners and doubles as prep space when the kids want to lend a hand in the kitchen. The homeowner summed it up best when she said “I never dreamed this would be possible in my home. It makes me so happy – I never want to leave!”

If you’re interested in a kitchen or bathroom remodel in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, Jennifer Laurens can be reached at Tiny Anchor Studios at (215) 694-5597 or by email at jen@tinyanchorstudios.com. You can also follow her on Instagram at @tinyanchorstudios.

Improving Home Ownership  With The Cyr Team

The Cyr Team delivers superior client care to those looking to buy or sell real estate. We educate, advise, and guide our clients through one of the biggest transactions of their lives by bringing a structured, process-driven methodology to build consistency and clarity in a real estate transaction. Located in SE Pennsylvania, we are licensed in PA, DE, and NJ to better serve the tri-state area. We also help our clients improve their home ownership experience with our network of experienced professionals. Not only do we help our clients with their real estate needs, we also help them enjoy the home they have created – or would like to create.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.