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Renovation Solutions: Carving out a better kitchen

Published: Monday, Nov. 12 2012 5:31 p.m. MST

It is hard to believe it is already November. Now that the election is over, everyone can all start thinking about the next big event in November: Thanksgiving.

With its focus of a wonderful, home-cooked meal, there is no doubt that Thanksgiving wins as the holiday with the most time spent in the kitchen. What a perfect time to see just what our kitchens can handle, see the shortcomings, and to dream a little.

With the economic difficulties we are enduring, many people are staying put rather than trying to sell their homes and move up. Total remodels may be out of our financial reach, but many of us are treating ourselves to some sort of a remodeling ‘consolation’ prize — often by updating the kitchen in some way.

While it isn't realistic to design a kitchen around a once-a-year event like Thanksgiving, we thought we will focus on kitchens this month, just in case you are craving such a remodel. When planning a kitchen remodel, there are two aspects to consider: aesthetics and function.

The aesthetic inadequacies of a kitchen are easy to spot. You can't miss the avocado green countertops and harvest gold appliances. If your kitchen needs some updating, there is a wide range of cosmetic options — meaning surface improvements.

You can choose new wood or metal cabinets that are stained or painted, with flat or raised panel profiles. You can trade green counters for granite, soapstone, tile, modern plastic laminate, quartz, concrete or stainless steel. Then you can finish it off with floors of wood, cork, tile, stone, linoleum or vinyl.

Choosing the new look of your kitchen is the fun part, but if you are planning to update your kitchen we recommend that you consider making functional improvements at the same time. The functional shortcomings of your kitchen are harder to spot. Are you always bumping into a counter, screaming for more storage space, piling papers on the bar or getting trapped by bad flow? If so, then your kitchen is lacking the functional design you and your family need.

To help improve the function of your kitchen, ask yourself some questions: Do you want a one-cook or two-cook kitchen? Do you want room for a table and chairs or a bar and stools? Do you want a bigger pantry or more counter space? Do you want to improve circulation with an island rather than a peninsula? Do you need room for a desk, wet bar or access to a mudroom or laundry? Do you wish your kitchen was more open to the dining, living, and/or family rooms?

Your answers and the help of an architect will make sure that your investment will result in the creation of your dream kitchen.

Now here comes the budget question: How much is it going to cost?

In general, you are looking at spending $25,000 to $100,000 on a kitchen remodel, depending on the scope of the work and the materials and appliances you decide to use.

Typically, cabinetry will take up the bulk of the budget. Other costs include labor, countertops, appliances, flooring, fixtures, faucets and lighting. For a more extensive project, structural, plumbing and electrical costs will also affect the budget.

If you want your kitchen to reach its full aesthetic and functional potential, don't forget to budget some of your resources for design fees. If you are doing any structural changes to your kitchen such as removing walls to open it up, or relocating your kitchen altogether to fit in the larger design of a remodeling project, then an architect should be involved.

If you are just doing a face lift or partial remodel, an interior designer or cabinet supplier who specializes in kitchen design can help. If you use the services of a professional, they will charge either an hourly fee or a percentage of the total cost of the construction budget or the goods purchased (usually 10 percent to 15 percent). The payback for spending part of your money on an architect and/or interior designer is to make sure you receive the biggest bang for your buck both aesthetically and functionally.

The kitchen is the heart of a modern home, as well as one of the main features that will affect the resale value of your property, so you don’t want to waste any opportunity to make sure your investment will be maximized.

As we have said before, the design and remodeling process takes time. So whether your kitchen gets a face-lift or a total redo, start planning now. By this time next year, you will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner in your beautiful, functional dream kitchen.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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