1. Remember the work triangle: The sink, refrigerator, and cooktop should be spaced closely to minimize steps between workstations when preparing a meal. As a general guideline, the sum of all three legs of the triangle should be no more than 26 feet.
2. Planning or computer centers and catchall spaces have increased in importance as open floor plans encourage family members to spend more time in the kitchen. They’re easily added by extending a run of cabinetry or leaving room at the end of a built-in. Be sure to incorporate knee space and extra file cabinets and cubbies nearby.
3. Cast lighting, undercabinet lighting, and down lighting are stylish alternatives to fluorescent lighting. Incorporate dimmer controls for mood-setting flexibility.
4. Appliance drawers — warming drawers, dishwasher drawers, and refrigerator drawers — allow your kitchen plan to stretch its boundaries. These units are offered by many manufacturers at several price points.
5. If there are children in the household, consider letting them help themselves or even help you. Bring the cabinets down to the countertop, lower the microwave oven, vary countertop heights, and include a pantry cabinet to make the kitchen more accessible.
6. Walls are coming clean! Kitchen decorating is all about color blocking and being bolder with hue. Choose a warm palette to stimulate appetites.
Mix it up
7. Consider segregating your space into distinct areas by using different finishes on cabinetry or incorporating furniture-style pieces.
8. Update over a weekend by switching to decorative hardware or upgrading items that receive daily use, such as an extra-deep sink or handheld spray faucet.
9. For the best resale value, avoid painted cabinetry and choose basic stains in darker finishes that won’t typecast your kitchen. Popular decorative finishes emulate an antiqued look.
10. When you consider flooring options, keep in mind the amount of traffic you have in the area and determine how long you expect your flooring to last. Vinyl is reasonably priced, and newer styles add depth and texture. Laminate is growing in popularity, and some types offer do-it-yourself installation. Ceramic tile and hardwood offer long-lasting appeal but can cost more than other options.
11. Create workstations by developing specific areas where you can perform tasks like mixing, cutting, or serving. Organize cabinetry and appliances in these stations so you can work effectively.
What you’ll pay
12. For a very basic kitchen remodeling, expect to pay a minimum of $100 per linear foot, measured along the backsplash areas in your kitchen. Be sure to double the measurement where you want both upper and lower cabinetry. High-end projects can cost $1,200 per linear foot or more.
13. If your budget is $5,000 or less, consider surface changes. New countertops and finishes on the walls can create a whole new look for the space.
14. With $10,000, you can add one or two new appliances and address lighting updates in addition to surface changes.
15. A full kitchen remodeling including low-end cabinets, basic lighting, and basic appliances generally costs at least $15,000.
16. Don’t underestimate the cost of labor, as many homeowners do in the early planning stages. Anticipate labor to account for 25 to 50 percent of the total cost.
17. Include specialty cabinets in corner areas to take advantage of lost space. Incorporate specialty appliances such as wine coolers and undercounter refrigerators outside the work core so they can be used without disturbing the cook.
Getting Ready to Remodel
18. Investing in kitchen renovations reaps greater rewards than refurbishing any other room in your home. Remodeling magazine reports in its 2003 Cost vs. Value Report that, in a resale, homeowners can recoup 75-80 percent of the costs of a kitchen remodeling project.
19. Because styles and technology change so fast, you might wonder how often you should consider remodeling. According to Leticia Tapia, a Dallas-area certified kitchen designer, "after seven to 10 years, there is usually a need…. After 15 years, most homes could benefit from a full kitchen remodeling."
20. Resource and idea guides are bountiful. A search of one online retailer’s offerings, for instance, turns up 957,000 books, planners, catalogs, and articles related to kitchen planning. Check out one of our favorites: The Kitchen Idea Book by Joanne Kellar Bouknight; The Taunton Press; 1999; $29.95.
21. Find a free kitchen-and-bath workbook, a list of working guidelines about kitchen design and safety, or a certified kitchen designer in your area at the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Web site: http://www.nkba.org.
22. Dirt, dust, and clutter go hand in hand with remodeling. To make the best of things while living with the mess, develop a plan to manage your everyday activities — and consider a temporary kitchen in another part of the house
23. Consider creating a storage area specifically for today’s electronic devices. Phone chargers, personal digital assistants, and cell phones can hide behind tambour cabinetry or nestle in cubbies.
24. Many semicustom and even some stock cabinetmakers offer the flexibility of customized pieces without the hefty price tag. Include bread-box drawers, pullout shelves, and extra-deep drawers for pots and pans.
25. Remember to plan for more electrical outlets than you think you’ll need. You will need them.