In today’s world the kitchen is often the hub of the home. It’s no longer just a place for the chef to cook in solitary but also a center for casual dining and gathering informally with family and friends, often around a big center island.
The possibilities are endless when upgrading a kitchen — and even a few simple budget-friendly changes can refresh and modernize your design and add value to your home.
You can actually do a lot with a minimal budget. A typical minor kitchen remodel can include updating cabinet fronts and drawers, replacing the stove, countertops and flooring, installing a new sink and faucet and painting.
But one of the keys to a successful remodel is to set priorities: Do you want a full-blown or surface-level renovation? Either is fine, but make sure you know the pros and cons of each. And know your budget.
Cabinets are key
When it comes to renovating kitchens, the experts agree: A good set of cabinets is the key.
“You wouldn’t want to waste your money and put a stone top on a cabinet that was basically garbage,” said Gary Trapanotto, owner of Designer Kitchens East in Mattituck. “As long as you’re starting with a decent foundation in place, the cheapest option is to replace the countertops and appliances.”
All-wood construction cabinets are the sign of good quality; some cabinets are made from “flake board” or “fiber board,” which are made of scrap wood that’s glued together with resin to make a new board, Mr. Trapanotto said.
“It’s not as good as a plywood cabinet, but it also doesn’t have the price tag,” he said. Plywood cabinets are often 10 to 15 percent more expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment.
“It’s substantial, but what you get is substantial,” he said.
Heading to a showroom, or going to home design websites to get a sense of the style you want for your renovated kitchen is a good first step. Most showrooms will have a “design team” that will walk customers through the different options available.
Start with the cabinets
Traditional American-style cabinets are called front framed or “face framed.” These cabinets have a frame around the front of the cabinet to which the door is attached, making the cabinets sturdier.
More European-style cabinets — called frameless — are becoming more common, however. These have doors that attach directly to the cabinet itself, providing a “little cleaner line,” said Louis Nardolillo of Cabinets Plus in Aquebogue.
Custom cabinets may appear to be pricier as well, but when you take into account having to pay for modifications on semi-custom or stock cabinets, the price evens out, Mr. Nardolillo said.
As the term implies, custom cabinets are designed to fit a particular kitchen, so few adjustments should need to be made.
“They start a little higher but they don’t charge as much for modifications,” he said. “It is actually a lot less.”
The next step is to look at the finish on cabinets.
“The cabinet is really only as good as the finish that’s put on it,” Mr. Trapanotto said. He suggests looking for custom cabinets that offer a warranty on the finish — generally a sign of a quality product.
As for the color, painting cabinets is current trend. An economical way to reface old wooden cabinets is to sand them down to the bare wood and apply polyurethane — or stain them an entirely different color. An economical update and freshening for cabinets can also be achieved simply by changing out the hardware.
Another inexpensive way to spice up the kitchen is to paint an island with an accent color that either complements or contrasts with the rest of the kitchen, Mr. Trapanotto said. “It’s not so cookie-cutter-ish anymore,” he said. “It’s a way to create a nice high-end custom look without costing you any more.”
Customers are tending to steer away from glazes nowadays and seem to favor walnut wood tones.
“For the last 10 years it was cherry,” Mr. Nardolillo said. “This is just sort of starting a new cycle, a new trend.”
The aesthetics of countertops
Granite countertops are still popular and are resistant to heat, but quartz countertops are gaining in popularity because of their aesthetics, Mr. Nardolillo said.
“It is non-porous, so it’s very easy to keep clean,” he said. “It will look more like a stone countertop.”
Formica countertops, which are much better looking these days, are a cheaper alternative.
In the end, though, the decision on what kind of countertop to purchase is primarily about looks.
“Most of it is just aesthetics,” said Erik Scheibe, a partner at East End Tile, which does flooring and renovations. “It’s really just getting a feel for what your style is and what you want for your home.”
“Floating” floors are popular in flood-prone areas, since they are easier to repair or replace should they get soaked.
More exotic options, like glass or boxes of tile with slight variations in the color to get a “randomness” to the design are also in vogue, Mr. Scheibe said.
“You’re hearing people say they want a little ‘pop’ in it,” he said.
It takes time
The most important thing for anyone about to renovate a kitchen to understand is that the process takes time. A full kitchen renovation could take up to four months, Mr. Nardolillo said, and even the cabinets alone might take eight to 10 weeks.
“It’s a pretty all-encompassing process,” he said.