Step One: Find Your Inspiration
If you're ready to begin a kitchen remodel, ask yourself why. It'll help you frame your goals for beginning a large project and put costs in perspective. A kitchen designed to maximize resale value of your home will likely look very different from a kitchen designed for entertaining. Take notes, flip through magazines, and source ideas and perspectives from your family and friends.
Once you've answered the important question of "why", you can begin working on create a budget for materials, appliances, cabinets -- and a reasonable timeline for project completion. Use a spreadsheet to determine how much you are willing to spend, including any incidental costs associated with not having a fully-operational kitchen. Be sure to discuss this time budget with your designer.
When you meet with the designer, bring a book of magazine clippings and internet images that represent your wish list and all your notes.
Step Two: Planning Your Total Budget
Setting a budget isn't one of the most glamorous steps to designing a kitchen, but it's very important. Start with a careful audit of your finances and be realistic about what you can afford -- and if you'll require financing or lines of credit to complete the work. Consider how the remodel will potentially increase the value of your home compared to the average value of homes in your neighborhood.
Budget for the unexpected, too. Last minute changes carry a time cost and can exceed your budget if you don't build in a small cushion for incidentals.
Step Three: Laying It Out
Think about how the space will be used. Personal taste aside, a kitchen show not sacrifice function for form. Reference your original goals: if you are remodeling for entertaining, think about how people might congregate in your kitchen when deciding where to place islands, countertops, and additional storage. Note: any kitchen design that includes an island should accomodate 42 inches of space from all sides. Your designer will offer options that fit within your budget and represent the best value for your investment.
And don't forget the lighting! A dim, ill-lit kitchen simply won't function well.
Step Four: Choosing Flooring
The majority of kitchens see a lot of foot traffic, so you'll want to choose a flooring material that's durable and wears well. There's a wide variety of flooring options available to suit your taste, but don't just think about appearance. Durability and ease of cleaning are important factors to consider.
Step Five: Buying Appliances That Fit
No kitchen remodel is complete without appliances, but there's a dizzying variety of options available. Choosing the appliances that fit your lifestyle and personal taste will be much easier in consultation with a designer. Built-in appliances and custom built cabinetry will create a modern seamless look in your new kitchen.
If you are keeping your existing appliances, paneling the front surfaces in a material that matches your new cabinetry is a budget-friendly choice.
A word about energy efficiency: New appliances are designed to run efficiently, so you'll see considerable savings on utilities over a lifetime of ownership. Look for the Energy Star rating. The higher the rating, the less energy the appliance will consume during operation.