home equity

How to design an efficient kitchen

Any homeowner -- regardless of the size of their current kitchen -- can turn their dreams into reality. But, before you start remodeling, go through a checklist to make sure you will make the right decisions.

Kitchen remodel checklist
  • Check out the space. Is it adequate? Will you have enough counter space, storage space and floor space? Does the shape of the counter or the position of your refrigerator need to change?
  • As a cook, think of three things: storage, preparation and cleanup.
  • Traffic flow is important in remodeling your kitchen. How many cooks are in the kitchen? Is there enough room around the main workspace? Do you want an open kitchen plan, so you interact with your guests?
  • Consider the efficiency of your kitchen. Outdated appliances may be costing you in higher electric, gas and water bills. New appliances with new technology can save you money.
  • Families with children need to decide if the kitchen is hazardous. If your family is growing, you may need lower cabinets for the children's food or more room for cooking for more people.
  • Think about the location and design of your current kitchen. Do you plan to keep it the same or add a deck? Do you want a door leading from the kitchen to the deck? Are you keeping the windows where they are or changing their location?

Get answers for these questions before remodeling starts. When interviewing kitchen designers, you should have spent some time looking at shelter magazines, books, newspaper articles, Web sites and television home shows to see what options you have. Determine your personal taste. Your kitchen remodel can have a Victorian, modern, southwestern, traditional, eclectic or even a country look.

Most importantly, you need to determine your budget in advance. How much can you spend? How much can you borrow, for example, from a home equity loan? Typically, to start the project, you will need to put 20 percent to 50 percent down. More money is expected when the old kitchen is torn out and the installation of cabinetry, countertops and appliances begins. A final payment is due at the completion of the job, when it has passed your final inspection.

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"Some kitchens are so large they almost seem too large," says Alan Vaughan Hilsabeck Jr. of Hilsabeck Design Associates in Flower Mound, Texas. "To be efficient, I always use the old cliche "form follows function" as a general rule of design. If the outcome of the design maximizes the storage needs and functioning requirements of the client, then there is an efficient kitchen design no matter what the size of the kitchen environment."

However, in designing an efficient kitchen for a client, the designer must consider the number of people in the family, their ages, how many cooks, the cooking styles they like (baking, culinary, family style), the appliances requested and lifestyle schedules. "With all of these crucial items taken into consideration, the designer then will be able to create an efficient kitchen for the client," Hilsabeck says.

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