When it’s time for a new kitchen, it’s tempting to jump right in and start picking out your semi custom cabinets and paint colors. But hang on: There are a few things you should do first, to ensure your new kitchen comes together efficiently and cost effectively—and it’s the kitchen you dreamed of at the beginning of the journey:
- Seriously consider hiring a professional kitchen designer to help.
If something can go wrong in the designing and building of a new kitchen, they’ve experienced it. Take advantage of the wisdom they’ve gained over the years to avoid making mistakes. A professional kitchen designer can also help you to efficiently plan your layout, recognize what is possible or not in your new kitchen, find clever ways to maximize your budget, and even recommend trusted contractors and favorite brands—such as semi custom cabinet manufacturers.
- Realize the layout is more complicated than you think.
Although there are a limited number of ways to lay out a kitchen, and we describe them here, it’s much more complicated than simply, “Here’s where we’ll put the sink.” You have to take into account efficient movement and amounts of storage but you must also take into account the wiring in the walls and where electrical outlets need to be (you’re going to have to do this to code, remember); where plumbing lines are; the locations of doors and windows and how these might impede traffic flow. (I once had a kitchen so ill-designed that to pull out the cutting board, I had to first open the refrigerator door. We gutted and redid that kitchen!) You also have to consider lighting, especially task lighting, and even the location of the light switches.
- Have a wish list to guide your decisions.
Have a wish list that’s divided into three parts: what you absolutely positively have to have no matter what, what you’d really like to have but can live without if absolutely necessary, and what you’d love to have but really don’t need, if you’re honest. Stick to this list when prioritizing and making decisions!
- Be honest about how you’ll use your kitchen.
Are you a gourmet cook or a casual one? Does the family do homework in the kitchen or is it really just a cook-and-leave space? Are you a big entertainer and you want plenty of room for visitors to chat with you while you cook? Is your family getting bigger as you have children or smaller as your children grow up and move out? Do you need a lot of storage or only a little?
- Start collecting ideas.
Pinterest is a fabulous way to start brainstorming and collecting ideas you like. (See our Pinterest advice here.) But paper and scissors are also still valuable tools for collecting ideas. Buy some decorating magazines and sit down with a cup of tea or glass of wine and start cutting out all the pictures you like. Don’t think. Just react and snip snip to start your idea file.
- Be realistic.
After you’ve been collecting ideas for a while, you might need to do a reality check. Maybe you’re drawn to the super ornate semi custom cabinets, but life with messy toddlers means you’ll never be able to keep the detailed parts clean, for example.
- Start creating a budget.
Ouch, you knew that was coming, right? The planning and daydreaming and envisioning is fun, but reality requires you to know how much to spend and how. We say “start” creating a budget because you’ll probably have to adjust it as you get started and learn what things really costs—and where/how you can save money. As you start on the budget, go back to step 3 above and revisit your priorities. Do you need to adjust those as you do your budget? How does your budget line up with the priorities and wish lists? If you made room for an expensive range on your budget but your priorities show you’d rather invest in hardwood floors, then you know you have some aligning to do.
Making a new kitchen is reality is a lot of hard work, but if you start out smart by doing these seven steps first, the process should be faster and easier once you get going. And at the end of it? You’ll be standing in your brand new kitchen glowing with pride!