Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Be a Top Chef on a Budget

One of the best renovations to make to your home for return on investment is updating your kitchen.

If you watch HGTV even people who don't cook like to have stylish kitchens to house their microwaves! After all who doesn't harbor some deep desire to be an accomplished cook? Again with all the media exposure on cooking these days, from Top Chef to Kitchen Nightmares, cooking has become cool again. May Julia rest in peace.

So what is the right amount to spend on a kitchen renovation? Never assume that you will get a dollar for dollar return on your remodeling investment when you go to sell your home.

The right amount is what your budget can comfortably handle and what your neighborhood supports. Don't put a $50K kitchen into a $200,000 home unless the homes in your neighborhood support prices up to $300K or more. Don't make a huge investment in a kitchen remodel while leaving the rest of the house "as is". The kitchen remodel should fit the rest of the home. In style, in finishes and in scale.

Style means let the architecture of your home dictate the predominant style of the kitchen. If you have a traditional Cape Cod home in New England don't put a very modern contemporary kitchen in. By all means update but leave enough traditional elements so that future Buyers feel they are getting the best of the old and new. You can still have the WOW factor without leaving Buyers with the feeling they've lost the character they expect to find in an older home.

Finishes in a kitchen can range from Formica to granite, from laminate to custom cabinets or vinyl to real wood flooring. It's important to match finishes. Don't put granite countertops in a kitchen with vinyl floors and laminate cabinets or you will confuse Buyers. Your biggest dollar expense is likely to be your cabinets and this is where you should start when planning your kitchen remodel. Pick the best cabinets you can afford but time your purchase to take advantage of any sales, promotions or offers.

Scale refers to size and proportion. There are a wide variety of cabinet styles available and you don't necessarily have to stick with the standard upper and lower cabinet configuration. If you have a very small kitchen or low ceilings you may opt for base or lower cabinets with shelves above instead of upper wall cabinets. If you have very high ceilings you may choose a taller wall cabinet to keep the scale of the kitchen in proportion to the height of the room. Dark cabinets whether wood or painted tend to feel larger and take up more visual space than light cabinets.

For example, I'm currently designing a kitchen remodel in a home with a galley kitchen space and low ceilings. I've chosen white cabinets, with a light granite or stone countertop to brighten and make it feel larger and darker floors to "ground" the space. I'll update with photos as the remodel progresses!

Your local big box home remodel store can be very helpful when planning your kitchen. I personally like the orange aprons! Head to the kitchen and bath department and find a kitchen planner to help you lay out your design with cabinets and appliances in place. Just be sure to keep an eye on the budget!