10 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before Remodeling Your Kitchen

Are you making these common kitchen renovation mistakes? Before you start ripping out your cabinets and shopping for new appliances, answer these 10 key questions that can save you time, money and heartache.

White Kitchen

White Kitchen With Subway Tile Kitchen and Open Shelving

White cabinets and a white subway tile backsplash lend a bright, clean look to this kitchen.

Photo by: Vivian Johnson

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We’ve all been tempted to take a sledgehammer to something in our homes, perhaps after binge-watching Fixer Upper or Property Brothers. Before you go all Jonathan Scott on your kitchen, check out some advice from two real world pros, Charleston-based interior designer Kim Nielsen and Eric Benjamin of Keller Williams in Atlanta. 

1: Are you loving or listing?

Unless a homeowner is about to put their house on the market in the next 12-24 months, any rehab project in the kitchen should be with their personal lifestyle in mind. 

“I see so many clients spend tons of money remodeling their kitchen for a supposed resale and they have no intention of selling any time soon,” said Benjamin. 

And if you are listing, be advised that most potential buyers are more concerned with the condition of the roof than the types of counters you have. 

2: Are you respecting the home’s architectural integrity?

A bold retro oven is featured alongside white and gray cabinets in this midcentury kitchen makeover by Savannah-based designer Celestino Piralla.


In this midcentury modern kitchen remodel, the original turquoise wall oven was left intact.

In this midcentury modern kitchen remodel, the original turquoise wall oven was left intact.

Benjamin said there is almost nothing worse than walking into a midcentury modern home that has had its kitchen gutted, especially if it was a flip. 

“If you’re flipping, look at comps in the area,” said Benjamin. “You’d be surprised how much people will pay for an avocado-colored kitchen with all the original appliances.”

When it doubt, go on eBay or Etsy and see what your burnt orange oven you’re so eager to kick to the curb is fetching. 

“And make sure your new kitchen flows with the rest of your home,” said Nielsen. “This is important for resale as well.”

3: Are you skimping on cabinetry?

Putting in cheap cabinetry is not the way to go. 

“Cabinetry should be one of the biggest investments in a kitchen even it’s a rental property,” said Nielsen. “No one wins if particleboard ends up in a landfill.”

4: Do you really need top-of-the-line appliances?

Detail of Oven Knobs

Stainless Steel Cooktop For the At-Home Chef

Unless you're a serious chef, skip the pro appliances and spend your money on more practical features.

Photo by: Eric Perry ©2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Eric Perry, 2013, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Unless you're a serious chef, skip the pro appliances and spend your money on more practical features.

While investing in quality appliances is always advisable, assess all your needs before going cuckoo with that 24-month same as cash credit offer. Do you really need a chef-grade six-burner stovetop? Probably not, but having a large family does merit the need for the Cadillac of dishwashers. 

“Consider how often you use them and how much wear and tear they will get,” said Nielsen. “Choose appliances offering you the most features that you’ll actually need to suit your lifestyle, remembering to be honest with yourself.”

5: Do you trust your contractor?

Nielsen and Benjamin both had this in their top 5. 

“Do your research before hiring a contractor,” said Nielsen. “It can easily turn into a complete disaster if you don’t.”

Benjamin concurred. 

“When was the last time you got a job and you weren’t put in the hot seat?” asked Benjamin. “It’s not rude to ask for references; it’s just common sense.” 

If you get a bad vibe from the person, don’t hire them. 

6: Is your kitchen too trendy?

Blue Kitchen

Sunny Blue Kitchen With Open Shelving

Open shelving is hot right now, but is it practical?

Photo by: Vivian Johnson

Vivian Johnson

Open shelving is hot right now, but is it practical?

We’ve all seen in magazines beautiful open shelving with all of the white bowls and cups stacked so perfectly. Pretty to look at, right?

“Let’s be realistic, people. How often can you keep it organized and perfectly stacked,” said Nielsen. “Too much open shelving, if unorganized, can create clutter and dust, three things totally not worthy of display.” 

7: Is your kitchen functional?

Everything should have its own place. Nielsen advises taking inventory of what you have and how you can store it. 

“Think about all of your pots, pans, plates, spices, cutting boards, gadgets, serving platters, baking equipment, trays, wine bottles, and even think about where to store your appliances and garbage can,” she said. “Use simple dividers to get organized and consider using deep pullout drawers instead of lower base cabinets for everyday pots and pans.” 

Nielsen even said that she often receives random “thank yous” from clients for installing deep drawers in their kitchens. Someday your lower back and knees may thank you as well.

8: Are you maximizing headroom?

Contemporary Kitchen

Contemporary Kitchen With Dark Wood Cabinetry

Consider how much you want to spend cleaning the dead spaces between your ceiling and cabinetry. 

Photo by: ©iStockphoto.com/hikesterson


Consider how much you want to spend cleaning the dead spaces between your ceiling and cabinetry. 

Nielsen says that it always best to take your cabinetry all the way to ceiling. 

“Having a dead space creates clutter, dust and outdates the kitchen,” she said. “Filling in spaces, even with false cabinetry, will make the room look bigger even if your ceilings are low.” 

9: Do you need help?

If you want your home to hold its value, function in the real world and look good at the same time, investing in a pro can be the way to go. Calling in designers and real estate agents may seem like a costly undertaking, but we think earmarking a percentage of your redesign budget is worth it, especially when it comes to lighting. 

“Lighting is everything, and make sure you have enough in your budget at the end,” said Nielsen. “A designer or lighting specialist can help you figure out the correct size, quantity and spacing for pendants to go over an island, for example.”

10: Are you playing it too safe?

Bright, Open Blue Eating Nook

Bright, Open Blue Eating Nook

Unless you're selling your home soon, don't be afraid to infuse your kitchen with color and personality.

From: Design on a Dime

Unless you're selling your home soon, don't be afraid to infuse your kitchen with color and personality.

When Benjamin’s clients’ kitchen needed an upgrade, he convinced them not to turn it into a Stepford kitchen until they were sure they were ready to sell. The Atlanta family of five with a penchant for the eclectic assumed their space would need a complete sterilization if they ever wanted to sell.

“They brought me in to advise on ‘maximum resale’. I laughed and said we will deal with that after your last kid hits freshman orientation, which is in 10 years,” said Benjamin. “They redid their kitchen with super fun colors that match their [wackier] tastes.” 

Nielsen agrees that your kitchen should not be bland and that not everything needs to match. 

“Hardware, faucets and lighting do not need to be in all of the same finish,” said Nielsen. “Mixing materials and textures can create warmth and interest. Have fun it.”

After all, the party always ends up in the kitchen. 

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