Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the R-word keeps coming up: remodeling. We do it for a million different, fundamental reasons. Maybe your family dynamics (and daily needs) have changed: Your elderly in-laws moved in, or your toddlers grew up into hungry, hungry teenagers—or you’re picturing how you’ll age in place here, now that you’re empty nesting. Maybe you just bought a new home that you love, but the kitchen cabinets look straight out of the 1980s—or you’re getting ready to sell your home. Maybe you’re intrigued by what’s new in appliances. Or maybe you never really liked the granite countertops you picked out 10 years ago and want a fresh look.
Cost may be the first thing on your mind, but before you run the numbers or call up with a designer or contractor, think through what you need. The options are practically limitless, but in the end we all want the same thing: a comfortable gathering space for spending time with our family and friends.
Before you plan your kitchen remodel, consider these three factors:
1. How You Cook, Clean & Organize
Is there more than one “head-chef” in your family? You may need extra prep (and cleanup) space, not to mention room to maneuver. For instance, designers typically recommend leaving a distance of 42 inches between your countertop and island. If you experience regular traffic jams, you may want to go a bit wider or consider a new configuration.
For some of us, cooking is like meditation—a quiet moment to ourselves. For others, it’s how we get the nightly party started, sharing a glass of wine while we chop vegetables or chime in on kids’ homework. Which do you prefer?
Do you whip up most meals from scratch, or prefer light prep and cooking? Be honest with yourself—there’s no shame in a semihomemade dinner. This will help determine so many aspects of your kitchen: layout, materials, sink design, appliances. For example, ask yourself if it’s easy to find food in your fridge, or if food often goes bad. You might want a new refrigerator configuration.
Walls lined with open shelves show off your dishware, and make it easy to grab everyday plates, glasses, and mugs. Closed-door storage, on the other hand, lets you hide less display-worthy sippy cups and food storage containers. You may want all one or the other, or a combination of both up top; open shelves are also an option below.
Picture your dream pantry. Is it a separate room, or do you want to store dry goods in your cabinets, close at hand?
Think about your favorite things to do in the kitchen—drink wine, or make handmade pasta, cookies, or smoothies. You may need a special appliance, such as a wine fridge, or dedicated storage space for bottles or equipment like stand mixers. You may also want to consider integrating electrical outlets into cabinets to hide your countertop appliances.
If you love to entertain, consider a cooktop set in a central island, so you can interact with everyone hanging out there while you work. There are many other options for cooking—from a standard range (an integrated piece with a cooktop and oven) to wall ovens, available in gas, electric, dual fuel, induction, and steam.
2. How You Eat & Live
Do you envision eating most meals in your kitchen, or do you want to use your kitchen for meal prep and clean-up and sit down to eat in your dining room? Depending on your space, your eat-in area could be a bar, an island, or a separate nook with a table and chairs or a banquette. No need to choose just one: If space allows, you can have multiple, to accommodate casual and formal meals.
Kitchens can be “pass through” spaces where mail, jackets, backpacks accumulate. You can build in solutions, such as cubbies and peg rails, to contain them if you don’t have designated storage space elsewhere in your home.
Bills, homework, and light computer tasks—do they often happen here? If so, consider a dedicated space for them as well.
European kitchens often have an undercounter compact washer and dryer. If you have the space, it could save you some time on laundry.
A small detail with a huge impact: charging stations for phones and electronics. Creating a central station for this will help you corral charger cords, encourage everyone to leave their phones by the door, and spend more time interacting with one another instead of their screens.
3. How You Want It to Look
Consider your home’s architecture and design style. You may want your kitchen to feel consistent with it, or draw a contrast. You may also want to highlight (or restore) any historical features that previous renovations demolished or covered up.
If you have access to a backyard from your kitchen, consider how you’ll move from your kitchen to the deck or outdoor kitchen and how they relate to each other.
Factor in your personal style. How have you decorated other rooms—are they traditional, modern, transitional, or something in between? Peek in your wardrobe—are there colors or prints you’re drawn to? Look at images you’ve saved on Instagram and Pinterest and from magazines, and visualize (or even visit) friends’ kitchens you love spending time in. Do they share any design themes: industrial, farmhouse, beach house, minimalist? Gather everything you love—these ideas will come into play later.
Then think about your existing space. An interior designer or contractor will help you bridge the gap between your dream and reality, but it’s important have a sense of what you want and need before your first meeting.
First, assess the current layout:
- Does your kitchen’s shape and size support your style, cooking, and entertaining goals as is? Maybe it just needs a face-lift; not a full overhaul.
- Could you gain extra room or flexibility by reconfiguring it? For example, repositioning your existing cooktop or range could help make your kitchen more entertaining friendly.
- Do you need to consider removing a wall or expanding into an adjacent room?
- Does it make sense to consider an addition?
- Are you taking advantage of your windows? Having your sink under a sunny window makes washing up feel so much less like work. Adding a window (or even a door) isn’t as difficult as it might sound if you’re already making other big changes.
Then, examine the existing materials:
- Floors. Do you need to replace kitchen flooring, or would refinishing them suffice?
- Lighting. Recessed LEDs are smaller and more natural now than they were even 10 years ago. Is the lighting you have sufficient? Does it feel outdated? Perhaps you’d like to add new pendants over your island or breakfast nook.
- Appliances. Are they functioning well? Most ranges last 15 years or more, refrigerators and dishwashers about 10 or more, although with regular maintenance they can last much longer. Also, standard appliance sizes change over time. If yours are older or if you’re considering updating their look, now is the time to consider replacing them—especially if they’re built-in.
- Cabinets. Do your existing cabinets look good and function well? If so, you could paint them and be happy with the results. You can also elect to replace only the fronts.
Finally, make a list of the things that irk you about your current kitchen. Do you always bump into your partner when he’s cooking and you’re unloading the dishwasher? Does produce consistently go bad because it gets neglected in the drawers at the bottom of your fridge? Do you hate the clutter on your counters? These are the kinds of questions a good interior designer or contractor will want to know the answers to. Now that you’ve thought everything through, you’ll know exactly what to tell them when you’re ready to get started.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on August 2, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.