Decorating Workbook: What Kind of Kitchen Is for You?

So you want to reorganize, redecorate or remodel your kitchen. I don't know about you, but just saying those words makes me feel overwhelmed.

Quite honestly, any one of the three can lead to frustration. Been there, done that! Hopefully some of my experiences can help make the overwhelming more approachable.

I learned a long time ago not to try and do it all at one time. No matter what the project, break it down into realistic chunks. I basically follow the phi-losophy of St. Francis of Assissi: "Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

In the case of my kitchen, I looked at it this way: Reorganizing was necessary, redecorating was possible, and before I knew it, I was tackling remodeling. Of course this didn't all happen in a week. Organizing and decorating several kitchens in the homes I've lived in over the years helped tremendously when it came time to redesign and remodel my present kitchen.

These are questions for you to either ponder or even write down if that helps you be more decisive. Mostly these questions will help you focus on areas of your kitchen rather than the whole thing at once.

What do you need to improve and what do you want to improve? One tip: Before you start thinking about what you want to improve, remember that simply organizing your kitchen will help you figure out what needs to be added or enhanced.

Do you need more storage? Do you need more room for your canned goods, baking sheets, portable appliances, spices and recyclables? What about a phone/message center? Is storage sufficient and conveniently located at or near the food-prep or clean-up area?

Do you need new cabinets? One of the most difficult decisions when remodeling a kitchen is choosing the cabinets. Although they set the style and tone, a major rehab may not be in the cards -- the cabinets may not blend as well as you would like with the rest of your home. Perhaps a mini-makeover is the way to get a new look. Painting the cabinets or redoing them is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get a dramatic change.

What do you like best and least about your kitchen? If you're planning a redesign or remodel, make notes for a couple of months on what you like the best and least in your kitchen.

Is there enough counter space in the food prep area next to the stove, refrig-erator and sink? If not, and if you have the room, you might want to con-sider adding an island. This not only increases countertop space, but it also adds much needed storage.

Consider Your Lifestyle:
Do you cook a lot? Is there often more than one cook? The size of your prep area is very important, and so is distance between the refrigerator, sink and stove. Are these appliances fairly close together? Is cooking a large meal a hassle because of the way your kitchen is laid out?

Do you have a large family or do you enjoy entertaining? The kitchen is the center of activity in most homes, and an island adds much needed counter space and storage. Just by adding a few bar stools to an is-and, you have an instant a gathering spot for friends and family.

Is the kitchen used for more than just cooking? Do you also use it for entertaining, studying or bookkeeping? If this is the case you may need a larger eating area or desk.

Affording Your Renovation:
What's it going to cost? First you'll need to ask yourself this: Will it be a minor makeover or a complete remodel? This is where the budget will rule. Set a limit on what you can afford to spend. From your answers above, decide what you need, what you want and what you can afford.

What appliances can be salvaged? You can save yourself a lot of money by working current appliances into the design of your new kitchen. If it's just the color that no longer works -- appliances can be either painted with special appliance paint or refinished. If this is the route you decide to take, you should consult a pro about refinishing an appliance.

Have you priced appliances lately? Refrigerators can easily run $1,500 (or more) and dishwashers a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. Is this something you need?

Do you need new countertops? One way to upgrade a kitchen and achieve a fresh look and feel is to replace the countertops. A solid surface such as Corian or the newer Zodiaq make a fabulous addition to any kitchen and is extremely easy to care for. Another inexpensive way to change the color of your countertops is to place contact paper over your existing tops and laminate them.

Have you thought about painting your kitchen? The easiest way to transform a room is to give it a new coat of paint. Do you like textures more than solids? Then try browsing wallpaper patterns. You would be surprised how quickly a room changes when the walls are redone.

Getting the Job Done:
Should you hire a contractor or do it yourself? The expense of the project and your skill as a do-it-yourselfer will determine if you can take on the job yourself. Redoing a kitchen requires carpentry, plumbing and electrical experience.

Just as important is your time. Do you have a block of time that can be set aside to do the job, or would it be best to hire someone? Remember, in redo-ing your own kitchen, especially if it involves heavy renovation, you will be the general contractor, and you'll have to figure out what materials you'll need and when to schedule deliveries.

Either way, good luck and try to relax and enjoy the process! It can be very exciting if you go at it with a positive attitude.

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