10 Smart Tips for a Successful Kitchen Renovation

Helpful advice as you start planning.

Every home renovation project causes its share of headaches, but kitchen overhauls can be particularly frustrating—as well as pricey. Because it's not just the look and feel of the space you're contemplating; there are also a whole range of appliances to select, plumbing concerns to consider, and storage issues to work through. Not to mention, you and your family still need to eat three meals a day, and takeout gets old in a hurry.

But don't let the added logistics of a kitchen redo convince you to stick with an outdated space or one that simply doesn't work for you. We've rounded up 10 smart tips that'll ensure that the path to your dream kitchen is pain free.

White Kitchen Easy Updates
Laurey W. Glenn

Plan Ahead

"In a perfect world, you would stay elsewhere [during the renovation]," says designer Jill Howard of Jill Howard Design Studio. "But you know it rarely works that way." If you're staying put for the duration of the project, carefully think through the logistics. Because of the time involved in a kitchen renovation, a temporary kitchen in the dining room or laundry room is likely unavoidable, so try and have some fun with it. "I've never seen a kitchen renovation completed in under 12 weeks," says designer Taylor Hill of Taylor Hill Interior Design. To save yourself a whole lot of unnecessary frustration on the project's backend, go ahead and count on the construction taking at least ten-to-twenty percent longer than the contractor's original estimate.

Study Your Current Kitchen

"The first thing I ask clients to do is to really look at their existing kitchen," Hill says. "Study it. Tell me what you love about it. Tell me what you wish you could change." Also, unless you're adding on to your home's existing footprint, remember you're working with a specific square-footage, so it's important to "understand your why," Howard says. If you a huge island is at the top of your wish list, but the space just won't allow for it, don't force it. "I encourage people to dig a little deeper when they want something specific," Howard says. "Ask the why, and you'll find the reason often has other solutions that might work better in your space."

If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It

"If the windows you already have work well with the new kitchen plan, keep the windows," Hill says. "That's hundreds of dollars in savings, right there." The same advice applies to maintaining other fixed elements such as current plumbing locations, which will not only create room in your budget for the inevitable surprise, but also save you precious time, meaning a few less nights eating Cup-o-Noodles and boxed mac-and-cheese.

Consult the Experts

"I don't file my own taxes because I'm not an accountant," jokes Hill, who suggests working with a designer and/or architect in addition to a contractor if your budget allows. "You're making big costly decisions, and honestly, it can become overwhelming fast without help." If you're working on a shoestring, though, check locally for designers who offer consultation services by the hour. Most importantly, if you're going to pull in experts: "Have your whole team put together from the beginning," Howard says. "You'll end up with much better results."

Make Function a Priority

Whether you're channeling your inner Ina Garten every night and scouring farmers' markets on the weekends or you're pretty much living out of the Costco frozen foods section (we get it), your kitchen needs to work for you—and your lifestyle. "Function comes first," Hill says. "You can make anything pretty." To land on a layout that meets your needs and offers plenty of storage, take detailed inventory of what you have (pots, pans, stand mixers, spices, oils, etc.), and examine how you use those items. When choosing finishes and other materials such as counter tops make sure to acknowledge your tolerance for maintenance.

Choose Appliances Early

With refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, electric and gas cook tops, microwaves, ice makers, wine fridges, and more, appliance costs can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upwards of a $100K and will represent one of the largest chunks of your overall budget for the project. The appliances you select will also dictate the kitchen's overall layout and design, so make those decisions at the start. (Pro tip: Add an electrical outlet to the pantry and hide unsightly microwaves for a cleaner look.)

Let the Space Inform Design Decisions

Before you make any design choices, consider how your kitchen fits into the house as a whole. Does it open into another room? If so, are there elements within that space you need to balance out in the kitchen? "My number one rule is to make sure all of the elements can sit at the same table," Hill says. "They don't need to be dressed the same, but they all need to communicate."

Soften the Space

Function is a priority in the kitchen, yes, but the room should be comfortable and beautiful, too—a space you and your family can enjoy together. "You don't want your kitchen to feel like the back of a restaurant," Howard says. "I like to treat the kitchen like any other room in the house." Choose finishes and textiles that soften the space and add personal touches like art.

Open Concept Isn't the Only Concept

While we admittedly love a wide-open kitchen that's built for entertaining, not every home needs one. "Sometimes people get a little overeager when beginning a renovation," Hill says, "and they start taking out walls that should really be there from an aesthetic standpoint." Take your time, and think about how your family lives.

Aim for Timeless Over Trendy

The thing about trends is that they rarely age well, especially in kitchens. "To be quite honest, I try to avoid them. Nothing dates a kitchen faster," Howard says. However, if you do find yourself drawn to a particular trend, incorporate it in places that are relatively inexpensive to change—barstools, lighting, drawer pulls, and the like.

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