Cooking Up a New Kitchen

You’ve heard it said before and we’ll say it again, kitchens sell houses. Especially with the rise of eat-in kitchens and breakfast nooks tucked in an out of the way corner, the kitchen is a place where your family is likely to spend a considerable amount of time together.

It is also very often located either in a central part of the home or one of the first places you walk through when entering from the garage, making it an area that you are at least going to pass through several times a day, even if you eat out two out of three meals.

As such, kitchens are a prime target for any home remodeling projects.

They are also one of the places where you can get yourself into trouble, spending far more money than you are ever going to see back. If you recall from chapter two, a mid-range kitchen remodel has a much better ROI than a more expensive job will provide.

Therefore, we’ll be steering towards a combination of the kind of simple, quick fixes you can use if you are on a budget and other, more ambitious projects that you can tackle if you have the time and money.

If your budget is high and you have to have those marble floors and countertop, go right ahead. And send pictures, it will look great, but that isn’t going to be our focus here.


Unless you have a very modern kitchen with point of use refrigerators, drawer microwaves and everything else hidden behind cabinet doors, a buyer’s eyes are naturally going to be drawn to the appliances.

If they are clearly old, whether a white that is dingy with years of use or even the dreaded avocado green they will be sure to turn the buyer off. A relatively cheap solution is to replace your older appliances with new ones sporting a stainless steel finish.

 It offers the same look, feel, and protection of full stainless at a lower cost. And if you are not listing for a while, don’t feel like you need to replace all at once. Take it one at a time, just make sure they all match when it comes time sell.

As for what to get, stay away from the luxury brands as they just don’t bring enough return. Look for a good consumer brand with good reviews. Another key element to keep in mind when replacing appliances is that sleek is in.

If you have an old electric coil stove, get rid of it, replacing it with a smooth top stove. Where possible, and budget allows, but in a cooktop separate from the oven. And put in the oven in the wall, opening at approximately waist height.

If your fridge has a massive ice-maker with tons of buttons, consider looking for a replacement with a water filter mounted on the inside, keeping it out of sight. In general, the less busy the visible surface, the better.


Cabinets can easily be the second, or even most expensive aspect of a kitchen remodel. If you have the money, replacing all the cabinets with a contemporary style that focuses on simplicity will serve you well.

When doing this, get cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling, adding valuable storage space and getting rid of dust and junk collection points on top of lower cabinets.

If you already have wood cabinets and doors, a simple paint job will accomplish much the same effect.

White is a commonly popular color for kitchens, though grays are also in vogue. Make sure you get a good quality paint for the cabinets that will take the beating a kitchen often receives. Going cheap here can lead to several scratches and chips within weeks or months, ruining the effect for a buyer.

Also on the cabinet front, one can give an updated look to existing cabinets by replacing the hinges, handles and pulls. Feel free to go with a uniform brushed nickel look or add a splash of color with accented pulls, breaking up the white.

Another excellent feature to add, either as part of a full-scale remodel or as a separate project is drawers and shelves that slide out. This allows the contents to be organized and accessed easily without having to bend over and reach into the back of a cabinet, groping for that can of beans you swear you put there last week.


Laminate counters were once the norm throughout many kitchens. These days, options like butcher-block tops, quartz and even concrete have grown in popularity. Granite was once the go-to option for a counter top upgrade and is still very popular, but it has lost much of its luster in recent years. Part of the reason is that it has mainstreamed considerably.

Others should be resealed annually to prevent stains. They are also very unforgiving to anything that is dropped on it. Because of this, crushed quartz tops have become immensely popular.

Quartz is available in more colors, is more forgiving, lower maintenance and lower price that granite, making it an excellent option if your budget allows. Butcher block is also a great option that won’t break a moderately healthy bank account. It also provides a look that sharply distinguishes itself from the look of natural stone.

Barring any of those options, going with a fresh laminate is a very budget-friendly option and there are many styles now that imitate the look of granite and quartz. Using the same material for the backsplash can also help give a modern look to your kitchen at a fraction of the cost.

One project to take on if there is any room in the budget is to get rid of any choke points.

As stated earlier, the kitchen is often a very high traffic area with people often having to pass through it get from one end of the house to another. Considering this, it is somewhat surprising that it was once common to have a peninsula come out directly across from the refrigerator.

The refrigerator is one of the most commonly used parts of the kitchen and is frequently being opened for snacks or gathering food to cook whatever meal is coming up next.

This creates a natural bottleneck that should be removed by moving either the peninsula or the fridge.


The sink is easily the most used area of any kitchen. From dumping unfinished beverages, cleaning, or getting a drink of water, any homeowner visits their sink several times a day.

As such, it should be one of the more eye-catching parts of your kitchen as well.

The simplest thing that can be done to modernize a sink is to replace the faucet. Go with something contemporary with multiple spray settings, and extendable nozzle and a built-in filter.

If you’re also doing the countertops anyway, consider spending another bit of money to replace your old sink with a modern under-mount sink. These result in a cleaner looking counter and even make cleaning said counter easier as food can be swept straight from the counter to the sink with a garbage disposal.


As stated in the section on lighting, increase your wattage and replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs and consider an update to your fixtures. There are some kitchen-specific ideas to consider though.

Light is very important for food preparation, yet all too often, the counters can be left in the dark as much light can be blocked, by you or by the old cabinets.

A quick fix for this is to get adhesive lights, or rope lights to put under the cabinets. You can turn them on and off as needed and if they are placed intelligently, add to the value of your kitchen with a very small investment.

These are a great solution for any dark pantries or cabinets in your kitchen and throughout the home as well.

Naturally, if you are already doing things like replacing cabinets or the backsplash, it will make more sense to just install the necessary wiring for installed lights under the cabinets.

Think outside the box

You’ve taken all of our advice and done the simple fixes to update your kitchen and still get a good amount of money back.

Yet, it still needs something. Time to get a little creative.

Do you have any empty wall space? Put up some open shelving. It is low cost, leaves the space feeling more open than if you installed cabinets and can turn your normal-use dishes into a display piece.

What about the ceiling? If it is tall enough or if there is space in an area where no one will walk directly under it, you can put in a ceiling rack for storing pots and pans. This creates an interesting atmosphere and lets you see what you need without having to rummage through a stuffed drawer.

Is there a lot of open floor space? If so, you can install a separate island. A simple countertop with some additional drawers for storage will do a lot to improve both the efficiency and look of your kitchen.

As with many projects, less is more when talking about a kitchen remodel. Especially if you are selling soon, spend as little as possible to refresh your kitchen and give it a contemporary feel. Keeping it simple will not only save you money, but it will help you get on the market faster so you get on with the business of searching for your new home. 

Relates To  -  home seller tips