Get the most out of your kitchen

Your kitchen functions as the heart of the home. It’s where family and friends gather to celebrate just about every occasion in life. Before everyone comes knocking at your door this holiday season, see what you can incorporate and what savvy tips you can use to make these special times more enjoyable for you and your guests.


Spiff up the entire kitchen with a new color scheme. The big trend now is going gray! Yes, gray is in and it’s more beautiful than ever. “There’s a subtle shift in introducing gray stains and paints in cabinet finishes,” says Mike Myers, designer and owner of Kitchens Plus.

A neutral background like gray allows for splashes of accessory color that sets the tone for a clean design and a new look. A grand finish of gray cabinets highlighted by a bright and cheery cantaloupe color on the walls steals the show.

“Gray is big,” agrees JoAnn Arthur, designer for Quality Kitchens. “And so are whites.” She suggests you can get ready for the holidays by combining white painted cabinetry with a neutral like gray. It's a safe way to go if you’re planning on turning your house in two years or less.

You can add a splash of pizzazz by taking your pick among the four choices in appliances. Colors still available today include black, white, bisque (replacing the almond color we all remember) or silver (stainless steel).

If you’re working on a small budget, you can stain or paint your old cabinetry and place your dollars in new appliances. You’ll end up with a marvelous new look to your kitchen without a big investment.



“The number one thing people want in their kitchens,” stresses Mike, “is a snack bar, an island.” The size of the house doesn’t matter. “You make do with the space you have.” He says the “open concept” is the dominant force in the marketplace.

Designer Jennie Trenka at Freyenhagen Construction notes that shaped islands are now en vogue. “Island shapes aren’t always square or rectangular anymore. They can be kidney-shaped. It’s more organic.”

It boils down to designing your kitchen to work for you. Whether it’s just the two of you and you enjoy entertaining friends or you look after a large family, the performance of your kitchen is important. We tend to cluster, so an island creates the perfect space to share ideas, conversation and food.

“A circular table top can also be attached to the rectangular part of an island,” adds Jennie. “It looks and functions like a table but people can sit around it on bar stools while someone prepares food at the cook top. It’s all the same level.”

If budget allows blowing out walls and revamping the area, then opening up your kitchen space to socialize is definitely on the menu. Otherwise, determine what size of island your space can handle.

“It’s how creative can we get with a small space,” says Mike. “It’s designing to a budget and helping people maximize storage and visible options.”

An edgy way to add countertop space for about three more people is to extend the countertop.

JoAnn Arthur mentions, “It’s easy to add a countertop at the end of a peninsula using hinges.” Swing it up for the festivities and put it down when the party is over.



Don’t forget some comfy barstools around the island or snack bar. You can get in the mood with some geometric or bold color retro stools or even some metal industrial-style ones. Or you’ll find a wide variety of wood stools. “There’s a good amount of the rustic look out there,” advises Mike. “It’s a hot commodity.”



Today a laminate countertop featuring a quality stone ‘look’ visually compares to a granite countertop. “There are good prices on faux-stone laminate counters,” says Mike. The look of granite just became more affordable with these countertops.

They offer a simple and practical option for a small to mid-sized budget. Say goodbye to regular boring-looking laminate countertops and check out the new faux-stone. This low maintenance countertop will have you entertaining in your dream kitchen just in time for the holidays.

If you’re looking for a dream come true along with some space age technology, an under-the-counter built-in microwave might be the answer. “It’s a drawer just like your cabinetry,” says Interior Designer Tana Hergenraeder at Rimrock Cabinetry. “It’s totally like the Jetson’s!”


Organize your many utensils and cutlery with new cabinet storage options. Tana says drawers in the kitchen are on the fast track. “There are pull-out towel bars and spice racks that are easily concealed, as well as, pot and pan drawers with wood organizers within. And there are plate drawers.” You’ll enjoy the holidays more with an organized kitchen like this!


Stainless steel appliances never go out of style, however, opt for a brushed finish. This way you glean more time with family and friends rather than wiping off streaks and fingerprints.

Countertops really dress up a space. Think of them as jewelry…a nice accessory. Keep them tidy and clean from the beginning. Whatever type of countertop you’re craving, do the spill and squeeze test first. Spill red wine on the top or squeeze a lemon on it. If it’s an absorbent stone like limestone, it will stain.

Lighting hits the mark when it comes to accenting a high-performance kitchen. Add pendent lights over the island, creating a design statement. Install some recessed lighting to pull it all together. Good lighting defines your kitchen and sets the mood.

Changing out the sink faucets add a spark of personality. Burnished bronze warms it up while metals like nickel, chrome and stainless steel cast their silvery sheen for that professional look. Tana says go for the sensor-activated ‘touchless’ faucets now on the market at places like Ferguson Kitchen, Bath and Lighting Gallery.


Make room for what’s really needed in the kitchen. Toss the extra lids that don’t fit any of your pots and pans anymore. You can buy a see-thru universal lid that fits most pots for under $15.

Metal pans that you just can’t scrub the spots and stains off will shine right up when you use cooktop cleaner and a cloth.

Paper plates work for picnics and for liners between your stacks of pots and pans.

Keep and display those test tubes with corks from the kids’ college days. Clean and fill with your favorite spices using a paper funnel you make yourself. Write the name of the spice on the top of each cork and pop them standing upright in a wooden or metal box.

Maximizing the heart of your home can be done on a small scale and minimal budget. We’re talking a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. For expansions and mid-size to high-end remodels including new cabinetry, countertops, flooring and appliances the investment starts around $15,000.


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