Ultimately, your kitchen will reflect how you live. Because there are no hard and fast rules on where the budget should be spent in the kitchen, how you spend your money will depend on what’s most important to you.
The gourmet cook can justify a large budget for appliances and splurge on a professional range. The entertainer sees a warming drawer and wine cooler as necessities. The busy family needs storage. And then there’s the question of resale: How important is it for you to get a nice return-on-investment for your project? Or, are you designing a kitchen for the home you plan to live in forever?
If you’re planning a kitchen you’ll live in for the next decade and you can’t afford certain materials you want today, consider placeholders. For example, rather than installing a granite countertop today, choose a laminate look-alike for at least half the cost that can stand in as your work surface until your budget allows for the upgrade.
What do you value in the kitchen? Here is some general advice on where to save and splurge:
Be practical and look for energy-efficient appliances with warranties. Arguably, you’ll use appliances more than other features in your kitchen. But be sure to maintain a balance between what you spend on appliances and cabinets. If you choose appliances first without considering cabinets and hardware, countertops, or other features, you can box yourself into a floor plan and end up without enough money to spend on other features.
But be careful which appliances you spend on. For example, a refrigerator may need to be replaced in 15 years or sooner, but a cooktop will last longer. Spend your money there. If you have children and dirty dishes are a way of life, invest in a quality dishwasher or dishwasher drawers that make your life easier.
Across the board, stainless steel is the most popular choice and what buyers look for in a home.
If the countertop will be the focal point of your kitchen, you might spend more. In fact, a showpiece countertop could dictate the design in a kitchen—you may base decisions about cabinetry, color scheme and furniture like stools on the surface you choose. But remember, beauty is subjective. A buyer might not be that impressed. (Read our article “Countertops: Granite vs Quartz“.
There are shortcuts if you want the beautiful surface on a budget. For instance, there are assorted grades of granite (rated 1-5 or on various scales depending on the manufacturer). Rather than going for a grade 5, consider a grade 2, where you’ll get a better return-on-investment.
Also, some laminate products cost half the price of granite and mimic the design. You can’t put a hot pan on that surface, but you’ll get the appeal you want. You can even install an undermount sink with laminate countertops today.
If you want to splurge a little, choose a statement surface for the island—a remnant piece of granite with a beautiful pattern, for example.
Some costs that can hike up cabinet prices: delivery, tax, and installation. Drawers, roll-out trays, extra shelves, and extending cabinets to the ceiling also add to the price tag. So will fitting out a corner cabinet. A Lazy Susan could add $1,500 to your budget.
Invest in a waste-recycling center and be sure to choose cabinets with soft close drawers and doors, which has evolved from luxury to a “must” for convenience and resale. The place to splurge is on functionality. Drawers in base cabinets are more ergonomic and provide better storage access; paying more to build wall cabinets up to the ceiling will give you much more storage.
Save on the actual cabinet material. To the naked eye, you can have a veneer cabinet next to one that is solid wood and most people cannot tell the difference. Today’s finishes can offer rich looks without the big price tag.
Don’t save on installation: let the pros take care of that. To install a kitchen is much more than hanging boxes. And don’t spend your budget on fancy drawer inserts that you can buy at a home store. However, do spend on one good pantry with pull-out drawers and deep base cabinet drawers. Extra drawers are so much better than door cabinets. You won’t have to bend as much and they’ll be comfortable to use for years if you plan on staying in your home.