Creating Beauty Without the Hassle

In tight economic conditions, most Americans are spending more time at home. In addition to improving the value of their homes, homeowners are realizing the entire family can enjoy a kitchen or bathroom facelift, especially since even a minor kitchen remodel allows you to recoup 79.5% of the costs.

From the relaxing escape of a bathroom to the warm embrace of a kitchen, deciding to improve the most widely used rooms in a home can help increase the pleasure a haven can create. To ensure a smooth transition, planning is critical and will pay off dividends in the end.

When you’re ready to plan your next kitchen or bathroom renovation, these guidelines will help you create a beautiful new room and avoid any unnecessary headaches.

Know your designer and contractor

One of the first steps you should take when redesigning your kitchen or bath is to hire a qualified expert to help you design and build your dream room. For most of us, renovating a bath or a kitchen is not a do-it-yourself project. Take the time to check references, visit other projects the contractor has completed, and make sure their licenses are current. Getting to know your contractor can help you determine if she/he is someone you feel comfortable working with and trusting to achieve your vision.

Having a plan ready and an idea of what you want can get you started on the right foot. Sit down together—you’ll get a good read on how they plan to accommodate your needs. In the process, you’ll gain some insight on their unique approaches and solutions for your renovation.

“You should look for a firm who has experience, who listens but also adds input and adds value. Our kitchens have changed—we now entertain there, do our homework there, cook and eat there. Our old kitchen designs make no sense for our new lifestyle. You need to work with designers that think out of the box and create a new kitchen for our new lifestyle. Anyone can make your kitchen pretty, but it takes talent to create a space that is truly the center of your home,” said Nina Hackel, president of Dream Kitchens.

Know your budget, but prepare for unforeseen expenses

Before you can set your budget, a needs assessment is a critical step in your redesign. Conduct this “wish list” before you move forward. Look through each cabinet and evaluate the space. What do you want more of? What can you do without?

In this creative process, keep in mind what prompted the decision to update your space. If adding more cabinetry is a big factor, don’t lose sight of that along the way. Set a budget with a margin for error so you don’t become one of the many homeowners who are unpleasantly surprised when home improvement projects go way over budget.

“Some older homes will have rotted or deteriorated wood framing members that will need to be replaced,” said Jim Ingram, construction manager at Gardner/Fox. “Usual evidence of this would be soft walls and floor areas or sagging doorways and sloped floors. Oftentimes ceilings will not be flat and/or level. It will be crucial to remediate the ceiling to a flat and level condition so that the appearance of the new cabinets will be correct.”

“If there will be interior doors and interior moldings replaced, be sure to know if the materials will be a custom profile. Custom profiles will often cost 3-4 times more than standard moldings. It is often more economical to replace all the millwork in a room than to try and match the existing with the new. The same holds true for the interior doors,” said Ingram.

Ingram highlighted other unforeseen expenses like asbestos, which can be present in pipe and duct insulation, as well as floor tile. The removal of asbestos must be done by a licensed certified abatement contractor. Tile flooring, granite countertops, plumbing, new appliance purchases, additional lighting, and heating and air conditioning vents are also important to consider when remodeling your kitchen.

Bathrooms and kitchens are among the most heavily used rooms, so be realistic in your expectations. If your budget cannot handle all of your improvements at once, work with your designer to help you break the project into logical phases you can afford.

Know your style and taste—don’t deviate

Designer showrooms can be overwhelming. Many times, you go in with one idea and leave with another! Spending a lot of time looking through magazines and books to find spaces that mimic your style is time well-spent. Look around your house to help you home in on some of the prominent decorating themes you can incorporate into the new room. Once you’ve decided on a style—whether it’s modern, traditional or country—stay on course.

As you make cabinetry selections, consider functionality. So, if hiding bulky appliances is your style or you are simply want more storage space, keep them in the forefront of the redesign. Make a “Top 10” or “Top 5” list of must-haves from your new room.

Most homeowners only remodel a kitchen or bathroom once in the lifetime of their home. The decisions you make should be timeless and continue to work for you as your family grows and needs change.

Know your cabinetry options

For many homeowners, cabinetry was one of the primary reasons for redesigning a kitchen or bathroom. An outdated look may have prompted the renovation. But for most, choosing cabinets is a foreign concept that requires the help of a qualified professional.

To help you to start thinking in terms of what cabinets can offer you in terms of functionality, cost and style, consider these important features:

  • Drawers
  • Drawers can be used to hide away waste cans or bulky pots and pans, and store spices or cutlery. Quality   drawers should slide out smoothly and quietly and have a stop mechanism to prevent falling. Look for true   dovetailed drawers, which are stronger than other door constructions. Sides should be ball-bearing and         undermounted. Soft self-closing glides are best.
  • Storage
  • When renovating your home, it is important to consider whether you want storage to become part of your home’s design by showing it off or hiding it away instead. Integrating appliances that used to sit on your countertops into the cabinetry is a great way to streamline your kitchen and offer an unobstructed view. Special storage racks within cabinets take advantage of dead space. Installing a lazy Susan or a swing-out cookware caddy offers an excellent solution for making use of corner cabinet space. Deep pantries with high-backed pullout shelves or drawers with full-extension glides and built-in dividers help efficiently organize your things.
  • Stock or Custom
  • Stock cabinets are mass-produced in standardized sizes and often readily available. Although stock cabinets are initially cost-effective, it is important to consider evaluating the cabinets’ durability and life expectancy. Because experienced craftsmen spend time meticulously constructing custom cabinets from scratch, this cabinetry requires more careful thought than stock. However, choosing custom cabinetry with premium woods and veneers offers unique options that otherwise might not be available and add a great amount of beauty to your home. For rooms requiring specific sizes, finishes, and configurations, custom cabinetry is usually well worth the time and money.
  • Framed and Frameless
  • For generations, framed cabinetry has been produced in this country and abroad. This traditional construction takes its roots from the earliest days of cabinet making. Framed cabinets feature solid wood front frames that are attached to the cabinet body. Many framed cabinet fronts are screwed or doweled together while the highest quality frames are mortised and tennoned together. The cabinet door can be applied to a framed box in several different ways which greatly affect the overall finished appearance of the kitchen.Frameless cabinetry is a European build system based upon the elimination of the solid wood front frame and doweled together sides. Frameless cabinets are only available with full overlay doors and drawer faces—they have a decidedly more “modern” look. Frameless cabinets are constructed using several different materials, but the highest quality frameless cabinetry is generally made with an all plywood box.
  • Doors
  • When choosing cabinetry doors many options are available: style, frames, door overlays, and finish colors. Numerous styles are available sure to fit your taste; some doors have a more refined appearance while others are more rustic. Traditional framed cabinet doors are constructed using a face frame of 3/4” solid hardwood. The frameless cabinet doors offer more space with a seamless, modern look. Cabinet doors feature different door overlays, such as beaded or flush inset, standard offset, marginal overlay, full overlay, and standard frameless full overlay. An array of colored finishes exists to accentuate and maintain the beauty of the wood’s natural grain.
  • Shelves and hardware
  • Shelves should measure at least 5/8” thick to hold heavy loads. Adjustable shelves should be held in place by sturdy pins. Easily adjustable shelf clips and rollout shelves help maximize the storage space, allow for easy access, and provide a flexible design to accommodate future needs.

Choosing something as simple as handles for your cabinets can enhance a room. The possibilities are endless with various colors and styles, such as polished brass cup pulls, iron scrolls, and brushed nickel rope knobs. Cabinet hinges can be selected to coordinate with the handle colors or they can be hidden to offer a cleaner look. Under cabinet lighting, glass inlays, intricate molding, and carved accents are other options to consider.


By packing the most style and function in your home renovation, not only will your home increase in value but also appeal. Educated planning is the key to avoiding surprises and creating a look you’ll be pleased with for years to come.