3 Kitchen Makeovers, 3 Budgets

Smart strategies to help you get more for your money in the kitchen.

$15K or Under: Countertops

Kitchen surfaces get a lot of wear and tear. While precious marble or stone will most likely be a budget-buster at this price point, there are economical choices that are now virtually indestructible, too. CaesarStone, for example, is 93 percent crushed quartz that’s combined with polymer resins to create a tough-as-nails, nonporous surface, according to Janice Anne Costa, author of Everything and the Kitchen Sink and editor of the trade publication Kitchen and Bath Design News.

$15K or Under: Cabinets

Often the biggest expense in a kitchen, new cabinets will probably be out of reach at this price point. If you have an older kitchen, it may be wiser to repaint or refinish the existing cabinets, which are likely wood. It will cost half as much as the price of new wood cabinets, and it's smarter than downgrading to particleboard to fit the budget, Costa points out. Or consider tearing out cabinets completely and going for a trendier open-shelving design, like this look from Pottery Barn.

$15K or Under: Hardware

The easiest and cheapest way to update a kitchen (other than painting the walls) is to install new cabinet hardware. Choosing from plenty of styles makes it one of the easiest and least expensive ways to inject a pop of personality.

Dishwasher Matches Other Kitchen Decor

$15K or Under: Appliances

If your existing appliances work well, forgo new, costly replacements. \"Consider putting a new panel over your current refrigerator door,\" Costa suggests. But don't squander the potential to increase the kitchen's functionality for the sake of cost, she adds. If a new dishwasher or a convection oven will make life easier, take the plunge and invest in that new appliance.

$15K TIP: Creating a focal point in the kitchen goes a long way. Renew your kitchen sink by replacing your chrome-finish faucet with an antique bronze farmhouse style, for example, or personalize that shelf over the window by adding a collection of Depression-era glass vases.

$40K or Under: Cabinets

Decorative options like glazes and moldings make stock cabinets an attractive choice. Installation is important as well. Consider raising low-hanging cabinets up another six inches to allow for undermounted appliances or racks for stemware to save interior cabinet space.

$40K or Under: Sinks

Make a design statement with an eye-catching color, like this turquoise-hued apron-front sink from Kohler. \"Homeowners have become more sophisticated consumers,\" says Diana Schrage, interior designer at the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wis. This is the price range where add-ons like a water purification system or an instant-hot water system are the little extras that can really make your kitchen perform better than ever for you.

$40K or Under: Appliances

\"This is the level where you may want to splurge on a Viking range if you’re someone who entertains a lot,\" Costa adds.

$40K TIP: Who can forget that ubiquitous avocado green kitchen of the '70s? Before you pick out that Jadeite green countertop, remember that timeless neutral colors won’t date your kitchen as quickly as trendy, stronger hues.

$70K or Under: Cabinets

Want ornate French country or Queen Anne-style moldings? Here’s where you can take the chance on more luxurious woods, like mahogany, and decorative styles. In fact, highly decorative or period styles, advises Costa, should only be chosen at this price point because, at the lower budget ends, the risk of authenticity is too high.

$70K or Under: Appliances

Look beyond appliances with merely new features. At this price point, you’re seeking out cosmetic add-ons like furniture features for a family-room look or more than one of the same appliance so you can dedicate each to a specific function. A trio of sinks relegates food prep, dirty dishes and a beverage station to separate areas while multiple refrigerator drawers make it easy for on-the-go kids to grab snacks and drinks.

$70K or Under: Countertops

Go natural with marble, granite and other long-lasting materials. Granite tends to be the most coveted because of its captivating combination of texture and durability along with its ease of use: Put a hot pot directly on the surface, roll out dough and even cut on it without a scratch. Kitchen design by David Stimmel, www.stimmeldesign.com.

$70K or Under: Floor Plans

Opening up the conventional kitchen space so it blends into the dining or living room is one of the most popular high-end requests, according to Carmen Giralt, New York design director and showroom manager for Bulthaup in New York City. \"Cooking becomes part of your entertainment when you host in such a well-designed and beautiful space.\"

$70K Tip: When you have the ease to choose your style, consider your clutter factor. Old World styles (think rustic Tuscany or Spanish Colonial) are more forgiving of everyday kitchen messes than sleek and streamlined modern European styles, according to Costa. Driven by a minimalist aesthetic, your collectibles and family photos may look misplaced in this contemporary, utilitarian setting.

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