How Much Kitchen Do You Need?

Get the most value from your kitchen remodeling project.
KB-2486070_hktrd102_kitchen2

KB-2486070_hktrd102_kitchen2

Think About Your Needs

You adored your kitchen when you first bought your home, but the once-coveted floral wallpaper has lost its charm, and you can't wait to replace those old fluorescent light fixtures. But before yanking down the cabinets and knocking out a wall or two, take a good look at both your home and your project expectations.

Will the upgrade boost your resale value, or will it be like tossing cash into a paper shredder when you put your house on the market? And how much kitchen is too much — or too little — for your home anyway? Savvy homeowners want to know.

"At a minimum, a kitchen should allow for ample, but not unnecessary, storage, ergonomics and overall functionality," says Philip Guarino, president of high-end kitchen design firm Arclinea Boston.

While a refrigerator, cooktop, oven, sink and dishwasher make up the basic kitchen staples, deciding the size, contents and quality that best fit your lifestyle and home isn't as simple as choosing between graphite and stainless-steel appliances. You might be getting ahead of yourself. So put down that hammer and back away from the wall. Here's what the experts say you should think about before you start pricing amenities for your new kitchen.

9 Tips for Picking the Right Kitchen for Your Home

1. Don't outspend the neighborhood. While having the most to-die-for kitchen on the street is definitely cool, is it worth losing a bundle when you sell? A $75,000 kitchen in a $100,000 neighborhood clearly won't pay off when you move on. Keep upgrades in line with the homes around you.

2. Match the kitchen to the house. Install futuristic, all-metal cabinets and the latest gadgets in a Victorian or tuck a tiny galley-style kitchen into a sprawling 3,000-square-foot home and the only thing you'll succeed in is running potential buyers away. Choose a look that isn't out of place.

3. Avoid quirky personal touches. Shades of hot pink and neon lemon-lime might be your favorite colors, but chances are prospective buyers won't find them irresistible. "If the kitchen is too personalized, the next owner will probably want to start over," says Susan Nilsson, American Society of Interior Designers, from Asheville, N.C. Most buyers prefer a look they can live with for a while, thus Susan says to forget the personalized mural over the cooktop or risk buyers forgetting about your house.

4. Balance your needs versus your wants. You want warming drawers, but if you only cook occasionally and think entertaining means a night on the town, do you really need them? Be realistic about what you will and won't use, and cut down on costs.

5. Evaluate your future before you start. Ask yourself where you plan to be in five, 10 or 15 years. If you see a move in your immediate future, do a spruce-up remodel, not a down-to-the-studs overhaul. And even if you have no plans of ever moving, remember that neighborhoods and circumstances change over time. The perfect place to raise a family today might not be so perfect when you hit retirement. There's always that surprise job opportunity across the country to consider.

6. Don't put a fresh new kitchen into a faded and out-of-date home. San Francisco kitchen designer Peggy Deras suggests thinking about refreshing the rest of your home when jumping into a kitchen remodeling project. "Too often remodels focus on a single room, in this case the kitchen, without examining the relationship (with) the surrounding rooms," Peggy says.

7. Don't blow your budget on one big item and go cheap on the rest. You wouldn't wear flip-flops with an Armani suit or Harry Winston diamond earrings with an old T-shirt, so don't put an ultra-expensive professional range into a 1970s tract house with the original cabinets. One or two high-end items in a low-priced remodeling job only make the rest of the redo look cheap.

8. Simply put, simplicity sells. We all want tons of extra cabinet space and lust after a huge work island, but if you've ever been in a home with more furniture than space, you know overcrowding is a very bad idea.

9. Test-drive the layout and adjust accordingly. This is where imagination and a good tape measure come in handy. Pretend you've pulled up in the driveway with enough groceries to feed a football team. It's raining buckets and you have to carry all that stuff inside. How far do you have to walk to be able to put the groceries down? Where is that in relation to the pantry and refrigerator? What about the kitchen traffic pattern in general? People like to congregate in a kitchen. If you're a frequent entertainer, will your new kitchen accommodate friends? And if it's too big, will you have to walk a football field to feed that football team?

Go Forth and Remodel

You've done your homework, looked at your neighborhood and considered your future plans. And you have a clear idea of how much your new kitchen will cost. Here's one last remodeling tip that works for any kitchen, whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or depend on the pros: Make sure to allow some extra cash in your budget for those unexpected expenses that always seem to pop up. If you err on the high side when pricing your upgrades, you won't scramble for extra cash when small jobs turn into big ones. And if you end up not needing the wiggle room, use the extra to make a dent in one of your other projects.

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