Do you have kids?
Your perfect space could be a kitchen/family room combination where kids play or do homework while you whip up supper.
- A peninsula or island creates a casual, low-maintenance eating area.
- To encourage self-service, install a snack bar with pull-out cooling drawers and a microwave at kid height. Plates and utensils should also be within easy reach.
- A planning desk is ideal for the family's headquarters. Include a place for a bulletin board, calendar, telephone, message center, keys, files and a computer. Plan for plenty of individualized storage and sorting to handle mountains of mail and school papers.
- Floors, countertops and cabinets should stand up to heavy use.
Are you a career-minded single person or a working couple?
Time-saving or work saving items are top priorities.
- Consider an instant hot-water heater, a timed start dishwasher or oven, and a microwave oven.
- No-fuss surfaces are essential to reduce clean-up time.
What is your cooking style?
Do you like to work alone or with other people?
- A galley kitchen with counters, cabinets and appliances arranged in corridors along opposite walls, works best for a one-cook kitchen.
- If space isn't a limitation, an island gives you enough room for two cooks, plus room for cabinets, a cooktop or range, a vegetable sink, a wine rack, or an eating bar.
What do you want to change about your current kitchen?
- Do you have to take too many steps to reach the tools you need? Dial in convenient storage for the items you use most.
- Do you shop in bulk? You'll need a roomy pantry with plenty of storage options. Think about extra freezer space, too. Perhaps you'll need a chest freezer to supplement your refrigerator/freezer set up.
- Do you recycle? Make it easier with accessible, easy-to-clean bins.
- Are there areas where you do too much bending or reaching? Lower cabinets with pull-out shelves are terrific back-savers.
- Do you have lots of small appliances? Well-placed power outlets are a must.
- Are you working in the dark? Use under-cabinet lighting, overhead task lighting and recessed lighting to create an attractive and functional space. Dimmer switches help you fine-tune your lighting options. And you'll need storage for those appliances, too.
- Are you taller or shorter than average? Most countertops are a standard height of 36 inches. Have them installed at a height at which it's comfortable for you to work. If there are multiple cooks in your household, have two separate work areas.
Are you doing a major overhaul or putting on a new face?
Small projects can improve your kitchen without busting your budget. Better lighting, updated windows, new cabinet doors or a fresh color scheme can give your kitchen new life for less money.
What's on your wish list?
Is it a warming oven, a wine cooler, a fireplace, an indoor grill? Do you really need that interactive fridge with the HDTV screen? Your pocketbook will ultimately drive your decisions, but be honest about your "must-haves." And before you toss your dreams out the window, consult with a professional for workable alternatives.
Turn to other sources for ideas and inspiration--friends, neighbors, magazines--but adapt the ideas to fit your needs. Try to avoid the merely trendy and go for solutions that you'll enjoy for years to come.