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Save by painting, new doors or splurge and add new appliances

By Latoya Washington
April 23, 2013 - 1058 comments

Take a guess which rooms in the home are the focus of most inquiries when it comes to indoor renovations.

Is it the spare bedroom, contemplated by boomers when they become empty nesters? The living room, the family room? Transforming a semi-finished basement into a sports den or entertainment centre?

Nope, it’s none of those. According to Google Trends, homeowners searching for information on home renovations are thinking first about the bathroom and second about the kitchen. We’ll tackle kitchens this month.

Architects designing homes 50 years ago often considered the kitchen as a utilitarian area with most of the work being done by one person. Today, both partners often share the cooking and in fact, notes John McInnis of the Burlington, Ont. shop Kitchen Tune-Up, this room is more frequently being viewed as a second family room.

It’s tough to expand the size of those smaller kitchens but with careful planning and effective use of cabinetry, a renovated kitchen can become more personalized, comfortable and inviting, whether there’s one cook or two.

“It’s always been the heart of the home but often ignored when it comes to updating or decorating,” says McInnis. “However, all of that is changing with the realization that updating your kitchen is a lifestyle improvement and the quality of payback depends on attention to detail with respect to both style and function.”

Remodelling expert Jennifer Card, of Countertop Makeovers based in Hannon, Ont,, agrees.

“People have always said that the kitchen is the heart of the home and I believe that this is more true today than ever before. Look at the newer construction builds; everything now is open-concept with the kitchen as part of the family room.

“More than ever, the kitchen is part of the entertaining area and has to flow from a design standpoint with the other rooms in the home.”

Where do you start with your project?

“When looking at a renovation, do your research and understand the reasons behind the reno,” says Card. “Many people get carried away in the details and forget the reason behind the reno, and end up spending more than their budget. Take a look at the layout – does it work? If not, why not?”

Ah, there is that word: budget. Card says most people contracting with her company for remodelling are conscious of costs. “Budget everything and put in an extra amount because something (unexpected) usually pops up.”

If your original layout is good, do you really need to move the plumbing and electrical, she asks. That could be a source of cost savings. Another way to save is to consider painting existing cabinets, or only replacing doors rather than the whole cabinet.

“You don't have to spend $20,000 to $30,000 to redo your kitchen as long as the bones are good,” says Card. “For a fraction of the cost, painting the cabinets, refinishing the countertop and tile, new flooring, a new light and a coat of paint will make your kitchen look brand new.

“As long as the reno is done cost effectively, it definitely adds value. We have, however, seen homeowners that over-renovate and don't get the return.”

How can you avoid making a big mistake with colours? A few decades ago, people were buying green or yellow appliances that, in a matter of years, stood out as achingly out-of-style.

McInnis and Card have slightly different takes on this issue.

“The vast majority of new kitchen cabinets are white,” says McInnis. “Having difficulty envisioning this as personal? Think of how often you’ve personalized everything from a suit to jeans with a crisp white blouse and accessories. The magic of white is that it’s always fresh and helps everything else to look good.

“For many years, the cabinets were the focal point of kitchen decor. Today, countertops, floors, appliances and backsplashes are very important and need something to allow all of these strong elements to become features. The answer is white cabinets or a clean off-white like ‘bisque’.”

“Colour changes almost seasonally,” says Card. “A few years ago, it was mainly light cabinets and darker countertops, with black being extremely important. Today, the colour combinations are a little more subtle with browns/neutrals being the most popular for countertops.

“Also the trend of the backsplash and the countertop being the same colour is more prominent than before but it is still neutral for the major components – cabinets, floors, countertops.”

As for appliances, here is a chance to really modernize your kitchen. Today’s appliances come in broad range of prices, with the top-end models offering impressive functions you have probably never even considered.

Says McInnis: “Appliances need to do more than just look good so it’s important to understand the benefits of adding upscale appliances like a gas range, convection microwave, warming oven, wine cooler or the latest innovation, the Kitchen Cultivator, a self-contained growing environment for herbs and micro-greens.”


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