Kitchen-remodeling projects range from radical redos to light refreshers. On the radical side, you can call in a decorator, haul away your current cabinets and appliances and redesign the entire room. With a smaller budget, you can replace countertops, refinish cabinets, put in new appliances or opt for new wall treatments. How you approach your kitchen-remodeling project depends on what -- and how much -- you want to change.
The Basic Triangle
Before you look at a single swatch, countertop sample, cabinet finish or appliance specification sheet, assess the efficiency with which your current kitchen layout addresses the most basic of kitchen functions. A well-designed kitchen features a good example of the basic triangle--the path that connects sink, range and refrigerator. Rather than facelift your current kitchen with replacement elements that preserve its existing setup, look for ways to improve the flow of these three critical elements of cooking activity. Added together, the legs of the triangle should range between 10 and 25 feet. A too-small triangle cramps more than one person, while an overlarge triangle turns cooking into a long-distance hike from station to station.
Walls and wall treatments form a basic consideration in any kitchen-remodeling plan. Whether you choose paint, wallpaper, paneling or other materials, make your selection with an eye to cleanup and care as well as style. For an interesting take on painted surfaces, look for compounds that produce a chalkboard surface that can accommodate grocery reminders, kids' artwork and even vacation itinerary planning. You can create innovative wall finishes with products that typically adorn other surfaces, including wooden or tile flooring materials. Take color cues from your favorite places, flowers or artwork. To tie a room together, look for ways to extend your color scheme into shelving surfaces, light fixtures and window boxes for fresh herbs.
To make your kitchen a fresh expression of your personality, don't be afraid to mix styles to create a look that's distinctively your own. Look through design magazines and even the sample kitchens you see in product brochures for appliances or cabinets. When you see style elements you like, find ways to combine them rather than sticking with one traditionally identifiable set of design cues. You can pair butcher-block counters with sleek industrial light fixtures, refinished and recycled cabinets with stainless steel countertops, a high-tech computer center or HDTV with natural-finish wood.
If your current appliances lag behind today's energy-efficient technologies, look for replacements that comply with the ENERGY STAR standards. Choose your cooking technology with an eye to how it can make your life easier in multiple ways. For example, a Wi-Fi® enabled refrigerator can alert you to food with impending expiration dates.
As you make your selections, keep practicality and flow in mind. Verify that your refrigerator doors won't block pathways when you open them, and that your dishwasher door swing doesn't impede a critical aisle. To reduce the amount of countertop space you surrender to small appliances, look for an over-the-range microwave oven that can double as a range hood and cooking-surface light fixture. When you install new lighting, look for LED lamps and bulbs to reduce energy use.
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