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Smooth Solutions to Kitchen Counter Corners

The designers of these kitchens found creative ways to ease the transition from counter to walking zone.

Erin Carlyle April 26, 2020. Writing about the cost of renovation and what it takes to remodel. Former Forbes real estate reporter. Fascinated by cool homes, watching the bottom line.

It’s pretty standard for kitchen cabinets to run in a straight line until they meet the end of a wall or the start of a doorway. But sometimes, that isn’t the smoothest route. These six kitchens employ clever alternatives for ending a run of cabinets. Though the solutions vary, each makes the nearby passageway feel a little more smooth. Could this be a solution for your kitchen?

1. Curved Toward Walkway

For this Northwest Washington, D.C., kitchen by Case Architects & Remodelers, the designer gave the countertop a curve to soften the lines and give the space a transitional feel. The curve is also a practical choice because the counter abuts a walkway that heads toward a door. A curve in the pebbled quartz countertop means there’s no sharp corner to hit should you make a misstep.

2. Recessed by Door

Another way to pull the counter back from the walkway is to recess it, as Shannon Eckel-Braun of Design Factory Interiors did for this Waterloo, Ontario, kitchen. Instead of a full-depth cabinet abutting the door that leads outside, a 12-inch-deep cabinet creates some breathing room. “I wanted it to be recessed back so you feel like you can smoothly walk around it,” Eckel-Braun says. “I didn’t want the countertops to just end.”

3. Angled by Door

This kitchen in Stockholm, Sweden, by Stylingbolaget has a range that sticks out farther than the doorway wall. One option would have been to stop the run of counter where the range ends.

But the designer found a solution that also adds storage: angling the countertop to the left of the range so it forms a wedge that looks interesting but not awkward. More important, it creates a smooth route in and out of the kitchen. And with the space used for open shelving rather than a traditional closed cabinet, all that space is easily accessed.

Here’s a more traditional way to angle a counter near a doorway: with a corner cabinet. The shape of this end run of cabinets in Oakland, California, by Kitchens by Francis invites you into the room. It also smooths the way out — you can glide right by via an efficient diagonal route.

4. Rounded on End of Run

The designer of this kitchen in Hampshire, England, used curves to soften the lines of this long, narrow kitchen. The curve of the tall breakfast table echoes the curve of the cabinet by Lewis Alderson & Co. Both curves distract the eye from the otherwise long, straight shape of the space. The cabinet’s curve also allows space for a walkway around the table.

5. Rounded on Island

In this Minneapolis kitchen by Crystal Kitchen + Bath, squared-off cabinets at the perimeter maximize storage, but the curved shape of this island’s end zone offers a practical way to avoid uncomfortable bumps where people tend to hang out. As with the first example in this story, rounding the island adds to the room’s transitional feel, as do the speckled countertops and horizontal bar pulls on the cabinets.

10 Design Tips for Planning a Family Kitchen

When planning a new kitchen, it’s important to consider the requirements of everyone who’ll be using it. For family homes, this means having an adaptable space that can meet your needs and those of your children, both while they’re young and as they grow into teenagers. This is just as important for anyone planning a kitchen who hopes to have children in the future.

A kitchen is not just a place for cooking and eating, it’s also a sociable space for gathering, doing homework and simply spending time together as a family. So, with that in mind, here are 10 design tips to help you plan your ideal family kitchen.


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1. Choose the Right Layout

Getting the right layout is essential for any kitchen, but your best possible layout depends on whether you have (or intend to have) children.

The ideal layout also hinges on what sort of environment you want for your kitchen. If you want to create a child-free zone, a peninsula or U-shaped kitchen that closes off access at one end is ideal. This will keep family members clear of the area and out from under your feet. In a busy household, restricting passage in and out of the kitchen in this way can be safer during cooking.

If you prefer to have a bustling, family-centered space, an open-plan arrangement with an L-shaped or island layout that flows into a living area is the best option. With this type of layout, the family can freely access the kitchen, creating a welcoming feel.


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2. Create a Safe Prep and Cook Area

Many families prefer an open-plan kitchen. If your does, it’s important to let your designer know this, along with details such as how many people live in your household, the ages of any children, your family’s preferred cooking styles and who typically cooks. This will help them plan a safe and comfortable working environment that accommodates everyone.

For example, if you want a kitchen that allows teenagers to access the fridge or microwave, it’s better to have these appliances on the periphery of the kitchen, so they’re within easy reach but safely away from the cooking zone.

Similarly, a kitchen island with seating at the far end will let you keep an eye on young kids during cooking, but it also safely separates them from the hazards of the food prep and cooking area.


3. Decide How You’ll Use an Island

If you have space for an island, think about the ways you want to use it. An island with seating, for example, makes the kitchen more multipurpose. It becomes a place to eat, study, do homework or relax with a glass of wine once the kids have gone to bed.

An induction cooktop on the island makes it more sociable and enables children to watch and learn as the parents cook. In this kitchen, the sink is on the perimeter behind the cooktop, but it’s staggered to the right rather than directly behind. This staggering means you can check that it’s clear before turning toward it, which is important if you’re carrying a knife or a pan of boiling water, especially if there are children or pets present.

Alternatively, having a sink on the island itself allows easy cleaning up of splashes and spills.


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4. Include Work Surfaces at Different Heights

In a food prep zone, it’s best to choose a work surface at a height that’s best for the person who does most of the cooking, but it pays to include work surfaces at different heights too.

For example, an island countertop would be too low to tuck a baby’s high chair under, whereas a breakfast bar might be the perfect height. A breakfast bar could also accommodate older children on stools and be used for doing homework. If there’s space, an adjoining part of the island could also be at a lower level to accommodate a more formal family dining area.


5. Consider Appliance Safety

Safety is key for a family kitchen and care is needed when children and appliances come together.

Some types of appliances are safer than others. Induction ranges are ideal for families because, unlike a gas stove, they have no flame and the surface remains cool during cooking. They also have essential safety locks.

It also pays to raise ovens to eye level so they’re out of reach of small fingers. This can work well for adults too as it saves them from bending down.

Wine fridges and cupboard doors can be locked, while sink cupboards especially should be secured, preventing access to hazardous cleaning fluids.


6. Let Appliances Make Life Easier

Opt for appliances that are designed for convenience to ease the pressures of family life. Choose a dishwasher that sanitizes, thus eliminating the need for a separate baby bottle sterilizer. Similarly, go for a hot water dispenser and a fast-cook oven to save time. An induction range is faster at cooking than a gas one.

Look into the different types of washers and dryers, too — many have features and programs designed to cope with a high turnover of laundry.


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7. Opt for Fuss-Free Surfaces

Sticky handprints can be a constant problem with young children, so opt for surfaces and finishes that are less likely to show up smudges. Fingermarks are less visible on a matte surface than a gloss one, and even less so on a textured stone or wood door, so consider this when choosing door and drawer fronts.

When it comes to countertops, look out for materials such as Corian or quartz, which are stain-resistant and durable (but can also be repaired if broken). Similarly, Silestone is non-porous but also antibacterial, making it a popular choice for parents of very young children.

Go for easy-maintenance flooring, too, especially if you have pets as well as children. Ceramic, concrete or porcelain are popular, hard-wearing choices.


8. Ensure Generous Storage

Storage is especially important in a family kitchen, where a place has to be found for child-related items, such as bottles, sterilizers, baby food and bibs, as well as any additional cooking utensils. As your family grows, you’ll also need more food storage, especially if children start to develop a preference for a greater variety of foods.

Plan your storage so that anything dangerous, such as knives, are safely locked away. Similarly, breakables, such as glassware and delicate dishware, should be stored high out of reach.

As children get older, you might want to assign them their own low-level cupboard that they can access. For example, their plastic cups, glasses and plates could be stored in kitchen drawers. Not only will this help your children feel independent, it’s also safer than them trying to climb onto countertops to reach these items in a wall unit. Plus it means they don’t have to rely on you to fetch things on demand.


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9. Look to the Future

Plan your kitchen so it accommodates the changing needs of your family. A growing family generates more garbage, so include sufficient bin space in your kitchen plan that’s easily accessible. Also, if you’re eager to teach your children to recycle and compost, install a system like this one to encourage it.

Opt for a fridge and oven that’s large enough to accommodate food for a family of four or more. And factor in enough seating and a big enough table for your growing family, along with space for future school friends or other house guests.


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10. Enjoy Your Kitchen

Make sure the kitchen is a fun place where your family enjoys spending time. Include casual seating areas, such as a breakfast bar or adjoining bench, to encourage people to linger. Add in some eye-catching accessories to provide bursts of color, or try a blackboard wall, which is handy for shopping lists, reminders or kids’ art. It might even keep them entertained while you’re cooking.

What’s Popular for Kitchen Islands in Remodeled Kitchens

Homeowners often add or upgrade an island as part of a kitchen renovation, choosing features that make the island both stylish and functional. Cabinet styles, countertops and colors that differ from the rest of the kitchen are commonly used on the island, according to new research from Houzz.
The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from nearly 2,600 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. Read on to find out what homeowners are choosing for their kitchen islands.


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More Than 60% of Renovated Kitchens Feature Islands
Islands remain a mainstay of renovated kitchens, with 61% of upgraded kitchens featuring them. (The numbers in the chart have been rounded down.) One-third of renovating homeowners remodeling their kitchens are adding islands, while others are upgrading an existing island (22%) or simply keeping it as is (5%).

Homeowners who have a kitchen island and completed their kitchen renovation in 2019 said they use their islands for eating (58%), entertaining (49%) and socializing (45%), according to the study.


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Nearly 2 in 5 Choose a Contrasting Island Cabinet Color

Among renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island with storage, 39% select a contrasting color for the island cabinets. Gray is the top choice for contrasting islands (26%), followed by blue (19%), black (11%) and medium-tone wood (11%).


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More Than 1 in 10 Choose a Contrasting Cabinet Style for Islands

Among renovating homeowners adding or upgrading a kitchen island with storage, 13% are opting for cabinetry door styles different from the perimeter cabinetry. The most popular contrasting style is flat-panel (31%), followed by louvered (27%) and glass-front (21%).

Notably, Shaker is the island door style for only 6% of renovating homeowners upgrading a kitchen island with storage and choosing a contrasting door style for the island cabinets. Given that Shaker is the most popular door style for cabinets overall, this makes sense.


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1 in 4 Upgraded Islands Features a Contrasting Countertop Material

More than a quarter (26%) of upgraded kitchen island countertops in renovated kitchens feature a different material from the perimeter counters. The top choice for these contrasting kitchen island counters is butcher block or wood slab (41%), followed by engineered quartz (28%), granite (15%), marble (7%), quartzite (5%) and solid surface (2%).

Nearly 3 in 10 Kitchen Island Counters Have a Contrasting Color

Twenty-nine percent of added or upgraded kitchen island countertops feature a contrasting color in relation to the perimeter counters. Among these, the top contrasting color choice is wood tone (35%), which includes medium wood (21%), light wood (9%) and dark wood (5%). White is the second-most popular contrasting island countertop color (23%), followed by gray (10%) and multicolored (10%).


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Storage Is a Top Feature of Most Upgraded Kitchen Islands

Almost all renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island include at least some storage in it (98%), with cabinets with doors (79%) or drawers (70%) the most popular options.

The majority of upgraded kitchen islands in renovated kitchens are rectangular or square (84%). A smaller share are L-shaped or U-shaped (11%).

A large share (39%) of upgraded kitchen islands are 6 to 7 feet long, while 32% are longer than 7 feet and 29% are less than 6 feet.


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More Than Half of Upgraded Islands Include Appliances

More than half of renovating homeowners (52%) adding or upgrading a kitchen island include a a new appliance in the island. Thirty-two percent of this group include microwaves, followed by dishwashers (31%), garbage disposals (24%) and cooktops (21%).


Lighting Above the Island Remains Popular

A majority (92%) of renovating homeowners who add or upgrade a kitchen island install new light fixtures above it. Pendant lights are the No. 1 choice (66%) among this group, followed by recessed lights (32%), a chandelier (11%) and a fixture with a fan (3%).

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from 2,598 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. The study was fielded between June 19 and July 2, 2019.

The Most Popular Styles and Cabinet Choices in Kitchen Remodels

The majority of Houzz users who remodel their kitchens upgrade the cabinets, and they frequently choose white Shaker-style cabinets. Shaker is a good fit in a transitional-style kitchen, which remains the most common choice among homeowners who change their kitchen’s style as part of a renovation.
These insights on how homeowners are choosing to remodel their kitchens are from the 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, which gathered information from nearly 2,600 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. Here are five trends for kitchen styles and cabinets based on what these homeowners said.


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1. Transitional Is Again the Top Kitchen Style

A majority (85%) of renovating homeowners change the style of their kitchen when renovating. And among them, transitional is the most popular look (21%), followed by contemporary (16%), modern (15%) and traditional (11%). Transitional, a blend of contemporary and traditional styles, has been the most popular style for renovated kitchens undergoing a style change for three years in a row.

Farmhouse style, by contrast, has fallen in popularity, this year capturing 11% of kitchen remodels that included a style change, compared with 14% in last year’s study and 12% two years ago. (Farmhouse style also is declining as a choice for renovated master bathrooms.)


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2. Nearly All Renovating Homeowners Upgrade the Cabinets as Part of a Kitchen Remodel

Cabinets are among the most popular features to upgrade as part of a kitchen remodel: Ninety-four percent of renovating homeowners include some work on the cabinets as part of their kitchen projects. The majority (68%) choose to replace all of the cabinets, while 1 in 4 (27%) chooses a partial cabinet upgrade.


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Among homeowners who are only partially upgrading the cabinets, 64% opt to refinish the cabinet exteriors. Twenty-five percent replace some cabinets, while 18% replace only the doors. Refinishing cabinet interiors (14%) or adding cabinets (7%) are other alternatives.


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3. White Is the Most Popular Cabinet Color

White kitchen cabinets continue their reign, gracing 45% of renovated kitchens, according to this year’s study. Wood-tone cabinets are the No. 2 choice (22%), with medium wood the most popular of the wood tones. Gray is the third-most-popular color choice for cabinets.


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4. Shaker Is the Most Popular Cabinet Door Style

The majority of renovating homeowners who upgrade their kitchen cabinets choose a Shaker door style (61%) for the new cabinetry, with flat-panel (21%) a distant second and raised-panel (18%) the third-most-popular.

The majority of upgraded cabinetry in renovated kitchens is custom (40%) or semi-custom (36%), with stock (12%) and ready-to-assemble (11%) less common.


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5. Specialized Cabinet Storage Is Popular

Many new cabinets — inside as well as outside the pantry — contain specialty storage. The most popular cabinet organizers are cookie sheet or tray organizers, chosen by 50% of those upgrading their cabinets. The most popular specialty drawer types are pullout waste or recycling drawers (63%), followed by lazy Susans (40%) and pullout or swing-out drawers (36%).

Additionally, more than half of renovating homeowners upgrade their pantry cabinet (45%) or walk-in pantry (7%).

The 2020 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from 2,598 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition in the previous 12 months, were working on one or were planning to start one in the next three months. The study was fielded between June 19 and July 2, 2019.

How to Remodel Your Kitchen

You’ve decided to remodel your kitchen. Now what? Not knowing where to start, many homeowners fall into two camps. Some start by looking at appliances. Others start by collecting inspiring kitchen photos. Some decide they need more room. Others simply want to upgrade their current kitchen. Homeowners may find themselves in this exploration stage for a year or longer before they start interviewing kitchen designers or general contractors. 

Once you’ve pondered long enough and you’re ready to green-light a kitchen remodeling project, then what? We’ll start with the first 9 steps and we’ll get into the nitty-gritty details under specific steps as we move through the complete kitchen remodel workbook.


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Step 1: Think about what you need in your kitchen remodel

This step is all about how you use your kitchen, and finding the layout and features that fit your household’s lifestyle.

Think about your priorities: how many people will be cooking and gathering here, and how they’ll need to move around in it. Do you need an addition? Or can you work with your existing kitchen footprint?

If you haven’t already, start saving photos of kitchens with features that suit your style. Your collection can be organized and beautiful like a scrapbook or it can be filled with random, unorganized images. I actually prefer the latter, because I like to randomly stuff images into my folders and ideabooks and go back to them later on for edits.


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Step 2: Research and plan

Ready to green-light that project and take the plunge? The best place to start is by formulating what’s commonly referred to as a scope of work and figuring out your preliminary budget. 

Both of these may be subject to change, so don’t feel like you have only once chance at this. Budget and scope are intertwined and often change many times during the kitchen design process as you become more educated and able to reconcile what you want and what you can afford. As a homeowner, you’re not expected to walk into this knowing what everything should cost. Remember, this is an educational process. 

Step 3: Find the professionals you will need

Even if you’re going the DIY route, unless you’re building your own kitchen cabinets and doing your own electrical and plumbing, you’re going to have to work with a professional at some point. It may be as brief as leaning on your salesperson to help you in selecting and ordering your appliances or cabinets, but it’s something to plan on either way. 

Some people start by visiting big-box stores or cabinet showrooms where they can see everything. Many homeowners get referrals from friends or colleagues and start by hiring an architect or designer. Still others might work on their own with a builder or contractor. Pros are available to help you with everything from contracts and permits to space planning, budgets, choosing finishes and fixtures, shopping, ordering products, helping you set up a temporary kitchen, and managing your project from start to finish.


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Step 4: Schematic design

This phase includes sketches, space planning, preliminary floor plans and elevations showing the layout and cabinet sizes. I try to keep my clients focused more on layout and space planning, even though the temptation is to talk about what the kitchen will look like. But I find that getting caught up in the look too early can distract from the space planning phase. 

Plus, you need a plan in order to figure out what materials will go where, and how many square feet you will need, and ultimately how much this will cost. I like to begin the contractor interview process early and give them a preliminary drawing packet and scope of work so we can get some ballpark construction numbers. At the same time you can be sending out drawings for estimates on some top choices of kitchen finishes and fixtures.

Step 5: Fixture and finish specification

Throughout this process, and probably long before, you have been saving photos of kitchens you love into your ideabooks and folders. You’ve found your kitchen style, whether it’s modern, classic, traditional, cottage or a personal style in between. You probably know if you want a white kitchen, a natural wood kitchen, or some color. 

Now you need to make your final selection of finishes and fixtures. This usually includes: 

  • Cabinetry construction type, doorstyle, finish and color

  • Countertop material

  • Refrigerators and other appliances

  • Kitchen sink and faucet

  • Light fixtures

  • Flooring 

  • Backsplash

  • Decorative hardware


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Step 6: Work on design development and construction documents

This is the stage when you finalize the design and prepare final floor plans, elevations, details and, if applicable, mechanical and electrical drawings, lighting switch plans, and exterior elevations.

This is where your final permit set or Construction Drawings (CDs) come into play. It’s important to have finishes and fixtures selected at this time, since this is what will be considered in the final pricing from the contractor. 

You’ll submit drawings for permits. These have a lead time, so check the timing with your local village. You’ll need an architect, designer or licensed contractor signed up to finalize the paperwork and pick up your permits, so get ready to hire someone in the next step. I often find that we’re submitting for permits around the same time or a little bit after we’ve placed the cabinet order, due to similar lead times. 

Step 7: Get contractor estimates

If you don’t already have a licensed contractor on your project, your next step is to find one to carry the project through. I always recommend to my clients to get at least three different contractor estimates. I like to do preliminary walk-throughs with the contractors once the schematic designs are done so we can get some ballpark estimates and find out if we’re on the right track or need to pull back some to fit the budget.

Step 8: Get ready for demo

The big day is upon us, most likely something like 4-8 weeks from when you submitted for permits. Time to get that schedule firmed up and plan on cleaning out the cabinets, putting what you don’t need in storage and — if you’re living in the house during construction — setting up a temporary kitchen so you don’t lose your mind!

You may be moving out of your house temporarily, but most homeowners white-knuckle it and try to live in the house through construction. Preparation and organization can save your sanity. 

Discuss the logistics ahead of time with your contractor. Will you meet once a week for updates? Will you have to be out of the house for certain tasks like demo or flooring? What about debris removal and dust? Are there any family allergy issues? What is a typical work day for the crew? Getting all this on the table beforehand can set expectations and make for a smoother ride. 

Step 9: Surviving the dreaded punch list

Once construction is over, well … almost over … there’s always this annoying little list of items that are missing, wrong, or simply forgotten about. A missing light switch plate, a caulk line that shrank and pulled away from the wall, paint touch ups — small things like this, and sometimes bigger things like the hood doesn’t work, or there’s a big scratch in the newly refinished floor. 

Sometimes the homeowner does the punch list. It can be as informal as an emailed list of items that need to be fixed or finished. I like to use a little form I put together that identifies the item to be fixed or finished, the responsible party and the date of completion. I send it to the client for review, changes and additions, and then off to the contractor. 

It’s inevitable that the contractor may have to make multiple visits back to the house to finish these items; prepare yourself for more than one visit and you’ll be fine. The best way to approach this is with a Zen attitude. Things happen, little things get missed. It’s sort of like making a list for the grocery store and still forgetting some key ingredient. We all do it.

5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

By: Moorea Hoffman 

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


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How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel yourself or with a kitchen designer, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


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1. Daily Use vs. Special Events

This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


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2. Cost vs. Value

As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


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One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


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3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite. 

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


4. Speed vs. Patience

Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one. 


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5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.


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Smart Investments in Kitchen Cabinetry — a Realtor’s Advice

By Tiffany Carboni

The kitchen is the most expensive room in the house to build. The national average cost of a kitchen remodel is $50,000, though the real cost can vary widely, depending on where you live, the scope of the project and the materials you choose. New cabinetry can take up much of that expense. Make the most of this big purchase by treating your new cabinets as an investment. 

Realtor Victoria Gangi offers insider tips on how to get the best return on your cabinet investment, even if you’re not moving in the foreseeable future.


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Create an optimal layout. Long before a kitchen starts to take actual shape, there needs to be a well-crafted plan for how the kitchen will be laid out to offer maximum benefits to the homeowners and their guests. 

“Layout is the number-one feature home buyers are looking at in a kitchen,” says Gangi. “You will lose your audience if cabinets aren’t designed in a functional way with good flow.”


A kitchen or cabinet designer can help you get started. Don’t make any rushed decisions in the planning process. 

One way to help visualize a designer’s plan is to tape out the dimensions of the new cabinet configurations on the floor and walls. Granted, you’re going to need a really good imagination for this to work, but it will give you an opportunity to literally walk through the measurements to see if things feel well spaced.


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Invest in quality cabinetry. Once you’ve got a plan for where everything’s going to go, decide on a style and quality that will age well and withstand trends and changing tastes.

Quality cabinets are one of the smartest investments in a kitchen remodel, says Karl Keul, owner of Cameo Kitchens. “The lesser grades of cabinets tend not to age gracefully and often need more upkeep,” he notes.

The quality to choose will depend on your long-term plans. “Midrange cabinets are generally a good bet,” Gangi says. “If you intend to sell your home, these cabinets will look attractive to buyers, and you’ll likely see a return on your investment.”

She adds, “Even if you plan on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, this is still a safe option, because they’ll last. Choose top-of-the-line cabinets only if you have the money to create the kitchen of your dreams without any worries of recouping the money.”


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Integrate the door style. Choose a door style and color that integrate well with the rest of your home, especially rooms that look directly into the kitchen. If the rest of your house is traditional, you’d be better off steering toward a more traditional or transitional door style than going completely modern, and vice versa. 


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“Don’t choose a style that’s too ornate or too modern,” Gangi advises. “Modern is good; people like clean lines and clean finishes. But ultramodern or any style that’s too out of the norm isn’t what buyers tend to want.”


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In general the best kitchen designs are those that work in harmony with the rest of the home’s architecture rather than try to fight it. A harmonious house is easier for potential buyers to understand and, in turn, to want to outbid each other for. 

A savvy designer can help navigate you toward the best cabinet options that will work for your home and budget.

 

 

 

 


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Choose light colors. Lighter-colored cabinetry will appeal to more buyers. “Dark kitchens are out,” notes Gangi. “People prefer light and bright.”


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To integrate the appliances or not? Integrated appliances significantly increase the cost of a kitchen, not only because of the added cabinetry door fronts, but also because the appliances needed to facilitate this option are more expensive.

While this feature may look attractive to some home buyers, especially in a price range where integrated appliances are an expectation rather than an exception, your may not see the return on this high-priced detail in a midrange-price house.


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According to Gangi, your cabinet investment can be safe even if you don’t integrate the appliances. “Stainless steel appliances are still very popular and well accepted by buyers,” she says.


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Choose cabinet details that matter. What’s inside the cabinet is just as important as what’s on its outside. “Buyers are on the lookout for rollout and quiet-close drawers,” notes Gangi. “This is where that choice of midrange versus low-range cabinet quality becomes important. Spending the extra money it takes to get good-quality slide rails and quiet-close features will come back to you.”

 

 

 

 


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Opt for clean-lined hardware. “Buyers prefer drawer pulls and handles to be just as clean lined as the cabinetry,” says Gangi.


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If you like ornate hardware, go for it. However, should you sell your home, expect to replace those fancy pulls with a more streamlined set that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. The good news is that your fancy hardware can move with you.

New Kitchen: 7 Questions You Didn’t Know You’d Ask

Some of the questions you ask when planning a new kitchen are obvious, such as, “Do I want white cabinets or wood?” and “Do I want stainless steel appliances?”

But there are many design decisions that you might not even know to consider until the project is well underway. To help you avoid surprises and unfortunate mistakes, here are seven questions you should ask yourself before you begin your kitchen design.


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1. What are the rules? I’m not talking about design rules for what colors will match or what wood goes with what stone. I’m talking about the actual rules that are laid out by your local building code, which can affect many decisions or none at all, depending on your area and project conditions.

For example, many building codes dictate what type of hood fan you must use to ensure proper ventilation. These rules are especially important to know during a major renovation or new construction, as a surprise inspection that finds violations will leave you with a serious headache.

2. How should my cabinet drawers and doors open? Designers often point out that changing out the knobs on existing cabinets can make a kitchen look new in a snap. Putting knobs and hardware on new cabinets for the first time, however, can take a surprising amount of thought to get right.

One of the trickiest parts of designing a kitchen well is making the cabinet door and drawer fronts look elegant and consistent while the cabinets themselves serve different practical functions in a variety of shapes.

You might find a single handle that works for all your cabinets, but you may need two or even three coordinating styles to address all your different sizes of fronts.

Once you’ve chosen hardware, you should give careful consideration to where to install it to best achieve a sense of visual consistency. Free software can be found online to model your kitchen in 3-D, and you can adjust details such as the directions that doors swing until the hardware lines up in a pleasing way.

Or you can skip the issue altogether and use knob-free touch-latch cabinets.

3. What profile should I use for my countertops? The shape of the edge of the countertop may seem like a mundane detail, but it can make a world of difference to the look and function of your counters, and the kitchen as a whole.

This kitchen shows an “eased edge” stone counter (essentially a crisp rectangle with slightly softened corners) on the left and a cove edge wood counter on the right.

An eased edge is currently a popular choice for contemporary kitchens because it gives a simple, modern appeal. More ornate profiles usually carry a traditional air and a sense of warmth and personality.


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One of the most popular choices for a counter profile is the “bullnose” or “demi-bullnose” option, which means essentially a half circle or quarter circle. The look is less “sharp” than a minimalist eased edge, but so is the experience of bumping into it by accident. Ultimately it’s a decision that comes down to personal priorties.

It should be noted, however, that a very rounded edge like this is not always the best choice for laminates: The edge tends to give away that the material is fake because the curves look unnatural and the pattern does not align at the seam.

To simulate the look of a true stone when using a laminate, look to a simple rectangular profile in a dark color so the seams and edges appear natural and subtle.

4. What finish should my fixtures be? Selecting the material for your kitchen fixtures isn’t all about trends and pretty color palettes. Metals come in various finishes, and there can be major practical considerations as well. Try mixing stainless steel with brushed brass for a subtle contrast, as shown here.

For instance, brushed finishes tend to hide fingerprints and light water spotting much better than polished ones. Brass and gold-tone finishes tend to be warmer and more dramatic, while stainless steel and silvery-tone finishes tend to blend into the color palette more but add more sparkle.

There are lots of details to consider, so it’s best to research the pros and cons of a style that you like.

It can also become even trickier when trying to coordinate multiple metal elements.

It’s usually recommended to choose appliances from the same manufacturer, if possible, especially if they’re situated very close together, because differing product lines can have subtly different finishes that become more apparent once paired together.

Tip: Take one sample of a handle you’re considering (or other metallic element) to an appliance showroom to get an idea for how the different finishes will interact. If the pairing seems off, you can exchange the handle for a different finish.


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5. How will I mount my sink? Choosing an undermount sink or a drop-in model, as shown here, affects more than just the look of the sink itself, so it’s a decision that should be thought through early.

Undermount sinks, like the one pictured, are generally easier for keeping the surrounding countertop area clean because the neater edge of the counter allows you to sweep crumbs and debris directly into the sink without getting caught on a high lip. However, undermounts can’t always be installed in a laminate counter because the counter cutout would leave a raw unfinished edge in the core material.

Knowing what style of sink you prefer will affect what materials are available to you, so it’s best to answer this question as soon as possible and then research from there.

6. What finish should my stone be? Besides choosing what material you want for your counters, backsplash and flooring, you also need to decide the finish of the material itself.

Popular stone materials such as granite and quartz can take on a polished finish, like the one shown here, which gives a hard face and an almost reflective look. A honed finish appears much more soft and organic.

A honed finish, as seen here, also has the advantage of hiding scratches that can stick out in a gleaming polished stone. However, they can be more easily stained if not well-sealed, as the material tends to be more receptive to absorbing oils. Each has its advantages, so you should research your choice and not make a snap decision when meeting with the supplier.

When looking at stone samples, be sure to ask what finishes are available and look at each individually, as the finish can greatly affect the appearance, even radically changing the apparent color. Applying sealant can also darken the appearance to a degree, so you should ask to see a sealed sample — it may be extra work for the supplier, but it will save you a potential surprise on installation day.


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7. What material should my toe kicks be? You might assume your toe kick has to match the material of your cabinets. But what if your cabinets aren’t one consistent color? Or what if you’ve used a sparkling white cabinet, but you don’t want the toe kick to get dirty every time it gets, well, kicked?

If your island is a different material from the rest of the cabinets, you can let its toe kick differ from the main cabinets. Another option is to use a third material that ties all the cabinets together: Stainless steel makes a great toe kick if you have stainless appliances or handles, tying the whole palette together.

10 Smashing Black Kitchens

Article by: Becky Harris

White kitchens have reigned for several years now, but black kitchens are gaining ground. They can add a sleek touch, put the focus on a view and contrast materials like nobody’s business. Whether it’s used in an industrial space in Brooklyn, a fashionable apartment in Australia, a villa surrounded by forest in Sweden or a library-turned-home in Oregon, there are good arguments for going dark in the kitchen in all kinds of homes.

1. In this Oregon library-turned-home, the interior designers at Jessica Helgerson Interior Design let the kitchen recede into the background and put the focus on the fantastic windows, which were painstakingly replicated from the originals. Black was used on the trim and built-ins throughout the open plan. Between the open shelves full of cookbooks and the rolling ladder, one can see the library spirit is still alive and well in the home. 

2. In this flawlessly chic Miami, Queensland, Australia, apartment, interior designer James Dawson had the freedom to go graphic. When facing in the opposite direction from the view here, you have a full view of a marina. When facing the kitchen, the eye goes up to an op-art “wallpaper” treatment on the ceiling. (Dawson drew the pattern, then had the wallpaper crew cut and apply the shapes.) 

Sleek black wood-veneer cabinets and black marble countertops keep a streamlined look, while mirrored backsplashes on either side bounce the light around. Using the black created a strong contrast that doesn’t compete with the view. 

3. This black kitchen also opens to much lighter rooms with coastal views, so it recedes into the background in a sleek, sophisticated way. The designers at LDa Architecture & Interiors were inspired by the rocky Massachusetts coastline right outside the home when choosing the countertop. This large slab creates a stunning middle ground between the black and white. 

4. This villa perched in the forest outside of Stockholm, Sweden, emphasizes different views, that of trees and moss. (In fact, it is named Villa Vy, and vy is Swedish for view.) Suitably, the designers at Kjellander + Sjöberg Architects put the focus beyond the glass on the trees and the moss by creating a black kitchen. The color also helps the space look less like a kitchen within the open plan.

5. The Aussies certainly have the black kitchen thing down. Auhaus Architecture chose a matte black finish for the laminate cabinets here. The finish is just the right complement for all of the natural wood, which includes spotted gum flooring in a Bona Natural finish and an island top of grey box (a highly durable hardwood). Both the woods and the black laminate take a backseat to the stunning graphic Moroccan tile cement tile backsplash.

6. Jeffrey Douglas of Douglas Design Studio recommends making sure that a kitchen has good light showing through from different angles before going black. This kitchen gets plenty from the large windows and doors and another window in the backsplash (not shown). This is also a story of wood — the cabinets are Canadian red oak with a charcoal stain. Engineered white oak flooring, a light ceiling and a rich wood island add warmth. 

7. Interior designer Candace Cavanaugh specified black-brown when coming up with a custom color for these cabinets. The hue adds an unexpected warmth to the dark room. She then custom designed taxicab-yellow counter stools to add a playful dash of color. The overall look is glamorous and unexpected.

8. Renovation Design Group gave this bungalow the contemporary loft-like feel that the owner preferred. The black cabinets fit right in with the industrial-style corrugated ceiling, glass garage door, concrete countertops and stainless steel accents.

9. This industrial kitchen in Brooklyn, New York, used to be an industrial woodshop. Appropriately, the island is a well-worn vintage workbench. Dark cabinetry and appliances put the focus on items that homeowner Alina Preciado has collected on her worldwide travels, including spices and unique teapots. 

10. In this creative Toronto loft, the galley kitchen’s appliances and cabinets have a sleek, streamlined look, putting the focus on the exposed brick and unusual light fixtures. And, of course, on the chalkboard wall, which invites clever artwork (in fact, this made our chalkboard art hall of fame). Note the way the lighting helps highlight the objects along the top shelf. 

Colorful Ways to Make Over Your Kitchen Cabinetry

Article by: Nelly Reffet

As much as we love white kitchens for their timeless versatility, bringing in color with the cabinetry can add a wow factor or brighten up a tired scheme. If you are a renter or want to introduce just a touch of color, you can add it subtly with hardware or occasional furniture. And if you’re ready to go bravely into a more permanent change or a bold new look, you can splash color in or on cabinets. See what a difference color can make in the kitchens below.

Bravery Level 1: Change Your Hardware

For a change that’s not too dramatic but still effective, replace your knobs and handles. Ceramic knobs and handles come in many colors, shapes and designs, and replacing them can bring a subtle but welcome change to your kitchen. It’s quick, cost effective and totally doable in a rental. Just make sure you keep the landlord’s old handles to screw back on again. Never underestimate the smaller changes. The details and finishing touches are often what make a room sing.

Bravery Level 2: Paint Occasional Furniture

What if you are renting or you don’t feel like painting permanent fixtures, such as cabinets? You can paint occasional kitchen furniture, such as a butcher block, stand-alone pantry or kitchen island. 

The best result is when the chosen color contrasts with the rest of your kitchen. In this kitchen, see how the red stands out, strong and vibrant, against the blue floors and the white everything else? To make sure your painted piece doesn’t become the elephant in the room, try using the same color again for accent items and decorative accessories, such as the door handles.

Painting furniture can be a little bit tricky and messy, and the result can look far from spotless if you rush it. First, take your piece of furniture to a well-ventilated, well-lit space, and make sure there is plenty of space to walk around it while it’s drying. Remove any knobs, handles, drawers and even doors if you can. Use painter’s tape to mask areas you do not wish to paint, such as glass on doors.

Next, prepare the furniture. No matter how much the paint packaging claims sanding is optional, be sure to sand your piece of furniture thoroughly. Even if you can apply paint without sanding, doing so will improve the longevity of your work. After sanding, clean your piece to remove any wood dust particles. 

Depending on the paint you choose, and what the furniture surface is like, choose whether to use a primer before applying two coats of your finishing paint. Start by painting the frame. Then proceed with painting doors and drawers. Always make sure the paint is fully dry — not just touch dry — before you put the piece back in place.

Bravery Level 3: Dress Up the Backs of Your Cabinets

For cabinets with glass doors (or no doors), applying wallpaper or painting the backs of them is a fantastic way to add color and create a strong background to display your glassware against. For cabinets with only solid doors, adding color to the backs can be fun update that adds a little quirkiness and makes you smile every time you open the doors.

You can also paint the backs of your cabinets. For a nice professional finish, remove the shelves if possible, and apply painter’s tape to the frames and other surfaces you do not wish to paint. As I have an unsteady hand, I tend to opt for a wide tape — that way even if my brush slips a bit, my cabinets are still protected.

This kitchen scheme goes the extra mile, with a painted panel of sunny yellow above a white-tiled backsplash. This simple DIY trick really adds dimension to the kitchen.

Bravery Level 4: Paint the Shelves

Open shelving has made a strong comeback in kitchen design during the past couple of years. But more often than not, finishes are limited to white or wood. If you feel like adding an accent color, why not step gently out of the norm and paint your shelves a different shade of awesome? Don’t hesitate to go for a strong color — a shelf is reasonably small and is not going to overwhelm your space. It can easily be repainted if you grow tired of the color, so be brave and embrace that strong hue you have been dreaming of.

Bravery Level 5: Paint the Cabinets 

Perhaps the boldest change you can make to your kitchen cabinets is to paint them. While the process can be time consuming, the results can be striking and take your kitchen to a new level. Whether your cabinets are wood or laminate, you can find the right type of paint in a wide range of colors. My biggest tip is that no matter how impatient you are and how promising the paint is supposed to be, don’t skip on the preparation phase, which is even more important for frequently used cabinets than for occasional pieces. Thorough sanding and priming are essential for a smooth and long-lasting finish.

If you have a compact kitchen that doesn’t get much natural light, a bright color might be just what your space needs. These colorful cabinets have been paired with a graphic black and white tile floor. You could accessorize yours with superfunky pendant lights or gutsy artwork. Adding more boldness to the room will complement the cabinets while preventing them from overpowering the room, especially if it’s small.

If you have always had a neutral kitchen and are not quite ready for a dramatic change, opt for cool, timeless or light shades such as navy blue, sage green, duck-egg blue and mint green. The color will add dimension and interest without being overstimulating.

You don’t have to paint all of the cabinets, either — you can leave some white and paint others. For a partial color makeover, I often recommend that my clients paint cabinets that are already visually different from the rest — for example, a tall pantry versus standard cabinets or glass-door cabinets versus solid doors, and even upper cabinets (usually shallower and higher) versus base cabinets. The paint will enhance their differences, and since they are already different to start with, they might as well be really different and stand out.