Cook Up a New Kitchen!

Whether it's a minor cabinet shuffle, wall-to-wall paint job or complete renovation, any upgrade to your kitchen is sure to raise the market value of your home.

Regardless of size, today's kitchens are no longer merely places to cook a meal. Instead, most new kitchens are bright, airy and sizzle with all kinds of activity. They are often extensions of family rooms, dining and other living areas.

With the variety of materials, unique design ideas, colour choices and modern appliances available today, you can transform almost any kitchen into an attractive, pleasant and efficient hub of activity.

Improving a kitchen can, however, be costly and time-consuming. A kitchen is typically the most expensive room in a house to remodel - appliances, cabinetry, counters, floors, walls, plumbing and wiring - it all adds up!

The key to spending your money wisely when contemplating a complete kitchen renovation - or even just some upgrades - is planning.

Begin by taking an inventory of your present kitchen - what do you like and dislike about it? Is it too dark, too big, too stale-looking, too small to work in or eat in? This list will quickly give you a good idea of what you want in a new kitchen.

Next, ask yourself how your present kitchen fits in with your family's lifestyle. Do you want your kitchen to be the hub of your home? Do you want to look up recipes on the Internet when you cook, or entertain friends as you chop vegetables? Or do you like to cook alone, away from the noise? If you don't want people migrating to the kitchen, you may not want to knock out walls and extend the existing space into other living areas.

Also consider the time of year you plan to start remodeling. If you are going to be knocking down walls and windows, stay away from cold months like January. As well, you should avoid remodeling before many family or holiday events.

Finally, decide what kitchen style you like most. The old-fashioned country kitchen is one of today's popular designs, but you may prefer something more contemporary, or even a combination of styles. If your budget is tight and bite-sized projects are what you are aiming for, here are a few ideas:

Resurface or repaint old cupboards

Paint is inexpensive and can transform wooden cupboards in a matter of hours. Try a new painting technique, a textured look or a zesty combination of colours. You can also resurface old cupboards with wood laminate or one of the new, non-traditional plastic-based materials that resist chipping, denting and staining. Formica counter tops, for example, provide the look and feel of expensive solid surfacing at about half the cost.

Use more glass Replace a few cabinets with glass ones. Glass and mirrors in a room add the illusion of more space, as well as glamour - especially if you add interior lights to your new cupboards. Go ahead, display that 18th century tea set you inherited from your great grandmother.

Say it with hardware

It's amazing how new cabinet and drawer handles can change the look of a kitchen! With the many choices in colour, size and style of drawer knobs and handles, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

From gleaming chrome to floral ceramics to unique designs in the shape of spoons, forks, roosters and rabbits, you can easily find something that will give your kitchen that personal touch.

Floor and wall facelifts

Paint, wallpaper and flooring in a variety of textures, styles, colours and patterns can easily spice up a bland kitchen. Add a matching border around a window, below a ceiling or between the cupboards and the counter tops and you can change the mood overnight.

Flooring options feature a wide variety of colours and styles in do-it-yourself, easy-to-install linoleum sheets and tiles, or trickier ceramic and wood floor applications. Be careful not to go overboard. Too much contrast in a small kitchen can make it appear even smaller and more cluttered.

Be innovative

Vary counter heights to suit the task and the person. Dough-kneading and pie-crust rolling need a special height; so do eating and cooking areas.
Whenever possible, incorporate counter space next to each appliance.
Try to achieve a "work triangle" where the stove, refrigerator and sink/dishwasher are within easy reach of one another.
If you are replacing cabinets, go for the "custom" approach, even if this costs a little extra. Under the customized approach, cabinetry is designed and built specifically to fit your particular kitchen space.
A good kitchen should not only look great but stand up to daily wear and tear. It should function well and enable people to move freely between it and related areas of the house.
If you plan to completely remodel the kitchen, be honest about your ability. You may want to leave this important job in the hands of an expert who can do the work quickly and professionally.
A kitchen designer/contractor can suggest unique ideas and come up with creative solutions to particular problems. Be sure to get at least two quotes on the work you plan to do and compare them carefully.



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