Planning Your Dream Kitchen


So what does your dream kitchen look like?  Do you know exactly what you want?  Or, do you need to do some exploring?  Even if you think you know what you want it is a good idea to go out and look at what is available before you make a final decision.


A new kitchen is a significant investment so take some time to decide exactly what you want and need.  Sometimes, to balance our budget we need to make some adjustment in want versus what we need, but that is okay.  In the end, with careful planning you will have a kitchen you will love spending time in no matter what your budget.


Start your plan by really taking time to look around your existing kitchen.  Make a list of all of the features that you like.  Maybe you love the way it is laid out.  Maybe you love the pantry access or maybe your favorite part is the view out the window.  List everything you like about the current kitchen so you keep these features in the new kitchen.


Now make a list of all of the things you dislike about your kitchen.  Do you want to change the color scheme?  Is it to dark and you need to add additional lighting or bring in more natural light? Is the stove in an awkward location?  Do you love the cabinets but hate the countertops?  Maybe you want to add an island to create additional workspace and provide a place for guests to sit when you are entertaining.


Here is an example of one of our kitchen remodel lists:


              What we want to keep in our kitchen:

  1. Kitchen layout is great.
  2. Efficient work triangle.
  3. Great natural lighting from windows.
  4. Appliances in great shape and already matching.


Planning Your Dream Kitchen


              What we want to change in our kitchen:

  1. New cabinets – old, outdated.
  2. Replace laminate tops with modern stone product
  3. New flooring to replace outdated tile (wood?)
  4. Increase lighting at night (under cabinet lighting?)
  5. Bring modern, classic look into the home


Now you have a place to start planning your new kitchen.  I can tell you that moving walls, appliances or the water source in your kitchen can significantly increase the price of your remodel, but sometimes these moves are necessary to create a kitchen that is truly functional or a work of art.


If these moves are important, you will find a way to work them into your final budget.  However, it is good to have a backup plan, though in the event they prove too cost prohibitive.  If necessary, a good designer can help you work around these issues so don’t dismay.


So where can we look for inspiration for our new kitchen design?


Magazines & Books


There are several magazines dedicated to home improvement and specifically kitchen design.  Kitchens, Beautiful Kitchens, Kitchens & Bath are just a few of these currently available.  Look for them online or at your local home improvement store.  These magazines showcase the latest trends in design and products as well as offer helpful tips and advice.


You can also visit your local library to look for design magazines or even remodeling books.   Remember, you can choose your kitchen cabinets from one magazine, the countertop pattern you like from the internet, then a backsplash plan from a local do it yourself store.  Combining what you like from all of these different sources is what makes the kitchen unique and not a carbon copy of someone else’s plan.


Model Homes


Visiting model homes is another great way to see the latest and greatest out there in kitchen design, materials and colors.  These models are designed and decorated by professionals to get your attention.  Their goal is to make you want to live there so why not use their expertise to help you plan your own amazing kitchen.


To avoid the sales pitch and hassle be upfront with the real estate agents at the model home.  Tell them you are looking at remodel ideas, not planning on purchasing a new house.  As long as you are respectful of their potential clients, they will let you look as long as you like.  You can even snap a few pictures of things you like to take with you.


One of the best things about model homes is you can see the actual materials performing in person.  This means that the floors are being walked on, the counters and cabinets are being touched.  You will notice some of these materials show dirt, dust and handprints more readily than others.


This is something to take into account when you plan your own materials.  If you have a very busy kitchen, especially one that will have lots of little hands helping you, you might not want a material that shows every handprint.   Some stainless steel appliance and high gloss cabinet finishes are very beautiful but require a lot of maintenance to keep all of the smudges, handprints and water marks off them on a daily basis.  They may not be the best choice for a busy family kitchen.


Other materials will be more forgiving, you won’t have to clean them every day.  Overall, lighter materials seem to show less dirt and handprints than darker or shinier materials, however, using the darker materials can make the most dramatic looks too so take some time and choose your materials carefully.


Besides looking for material you like, look at the color combinations you are drawn to as well.  Also, decide what you don’t like so you can eliminate those options right away.  It is so much easier to judge the colors on a big, room-sized scale than looking at the small samples you will see in the design center of the contractor or local showroom.  Often the real estate agents have display boards in their office that will give you the manufacturer’s name and color.  You can take this information to your contractor to match with similar products he offers so don’t be afraid to ask to see the boards.


Model homes are also a great way to get inspiration for your kitchen backsplash or accent paint.  A backsplash area has a lot of options from flamboyant colors or dramatic patterns to simple and elegant designs, depending on your taste and design choice.  Model homes often have a combination of these using tile, paint and even countertop material to create unique looks.  Check them out and make notes or take pictures of the things you like to show your designer or contractor.


Another way to use model home kitchens when planning your kitchen is you can find them in a huge price range.  What I mean is, there are lower priced homes and higher priced homes.  This means that the kitchen materials used in the homes will be lower or higher priced as well, depending on the home price.  So, you will see the best of the best in your price range no matter which range you are looking.


One comment on visiting model homes is to be careful not to fall in love with the half a million dollar home kitchen when your home budget would realistically fall closer to $20,000 – $50,000.  Stick to looking at things that are practical for your home and your budget.  Look at model homes priced closer to what you would spend on a new house, which will help you stay within a reasonable budget for the home you are remodeling.


After all, you will never see a good return on investment if you overbuild your home for its current area.  This means that if your house and the houses in the surrounding area are valued at $200,000, your home won’t automatically be valued at $275,000 if you put in a $75,000 kitchen remodel.  Be reasonable about what materials to choose and dollar amount to invest in your home.


The best return on investment for a kitchen remodel is to plan to spend between 6% and 10% of the home’s value.  This price range will give you the correct materials and features suited to your home in a resale market.  If you are not sure about your home’s current value and how much you should reasonably invest in a remodel, talk to a local real estate agent.  They will offer some free advice in the hopes that you will remember their helpfulness and will pass their name along or you will use them yourself if you find you are in need of an agent.


So, by visiting a few model homes you get a quick peek into what is new and trending in your area. You can get an idea the types of materials you should plan for in the price range of your current home too.  After you check out the kitchens in these model homes, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision about what you want your kitchen to look like.

Planning Your Dream Kitchen


Create a Checklist


By now you have a collection of design ideas for your kitchen. Although you would love to use all these ideas to build the ultimate kitchen you need to be mindful of the fact that you will have a budget to adhere to. This means you will need to prioritize and shortlist these ideas until you establish the biggest priorities for the new kitchen.  It is important that you include must have items first, then you can include a separate wish list if there is money left over in your budget.


The best way to do this is to create a checklist of what is important to you. Keep in mind what you really want and need. For example, if granite countertops are very important to you, you may need to look at less expensive woods for your cabinet doors than you originally planned.  Staying within budget will be a balancing act, but one that you can win if you keep good records to track your budget and expenses.


Another great way to stay on budget is to have a secondary plan or choice for some items.  This way, if you have to bump up your spending in one area, you are prepared for where the money will come from by decreasing your spending in another.   If you decide to put in those extra fancy door pulls, you might need to find some less expensive lighting to keep your funding balanced.


If you are hoping to change your kitchen layout, create rough drawings that you can share with designers who will use their expertise to convert them into detailed drawings for contractors to follow.  Remember, changing plumbing, walls, cabinet or appliance locations can greatly increase the cost of your project so make sure you get several bids before make your final decision to do this.


If you have pictures of things that you like, gather them in one place to show your contractor and/or designer because this will help them share your vision for the new kitchen.


As you decide what look and functionality you are going for it becomes easier to choose your actual materials.


Here is an example of a kitchen remodel checklist of priorities:

Planning Your Dream Kitchen

              Our Dream Kitchen

  1. Modern looking cabinets with more drawers/slide outs
  2. Granite or quartz countertops
  3. Enlarge island to provide seating for guests
  4. A good air fryer like the Ninja foodi
  5. New flooring-wood look (can tear out / lay new ourselves if necessary to stay in budget)
  6. Under cabinet lighting (can install ourselves)
  7. Bar Stools for island (can purchase later)
  8. New dining table and chairs to match kitchen (can purchase later)
  9. Large single bowl undermount sink
  10. Matching granite or quartz backsplash (if in budget)
  11. Matching cabinet/stone vanity in guest bathroom

Author: Ryan Mahon

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