When JoAnne Vasquez decided to remodel her kitchen, she took it slow.
"We spent a good year doing the research before we started this venture," the Gilbert resident said. "We didn’t walk into it blindly."
Vasquez said the most important part of kitchen remodeling is preparation. Instead of just replacing cabinets and countertops in the same configuration with new materials, she took time to figure out what she really wanted.
Designers agree that good kitchen remodeling starts not in the showroom, but in the mind of the homeowner.
"One of the common mistakes people make is not thinking about how they use their kitchen," said Eric Bron of Bron Design Group in Phoenix. He suggested making a "wish list " before starting to shop.
People should not only consider what they want, but what they don’t want, said Marcia Gonzales, a designer with The Design Place Associates and instructor at Scottsdale Community College. People should "look at what’s wrong with their kitchen now — what they don’t like about it," she said.
One thing Vasquez wanted was more space. Her cabinets were shallow, so she made them deeper. Her pantry didn’t hold enough items, so she called for swing-out shelves and doors lined with more shelves in order to almost triple the space. And she had an island built in an off-kilter L shape instead of a simple rectangle. It visually separates the kitchen from the rest of the space, which is used as a family room.
Vasquez got many of her ideas from home shows, model homes and warehouse stores. Then she called three contractors to visit her home and give her quotes and ideas.
She decided to have her Southwest-style kitchen custom-made by Country Casa, a furniture and cabinet builder at Williams Field and Higley roads near Gilbert. It cost a little more, but she got exactly what she wanted.
"I guess it depends on if you’re doing it to resell your home," she said, "or like us, we’re going to stay here until we go to the old folks’ home."
What’s hot in kitchens
• An "integrated" appearance. Appliances are completely hidden behind wood fronts. Cabinets look like fine furniture. Sub-Zero refrigerators are encased in what look like giant armoires.
• Stainless steel and commercial-looking kitchens. This look doesn’t seem to be fading.
• English oak. It has a finer grain than American oak, which is passé. The grain is too busy and dates the kitchen.
• Natural cherry, warm chocolate brown and mahogany finishes.
• Marble countertops. Three out of 10 clients at Julian’s Fine Cabinetry in Scottsdale are putting marble in the kitchen. While marble is more porous and requires more maintenance, people love the look.
• New looks in granite. All-black granite counters are de rigueur, and granite tile is a popular alternative to granite slab because of its affordability.
• Combination countertops. Many people are using more than one surface on counters, combining marble, granite or stainless steel with butcher block areas to provide work areas as well as soften the room with a wood grain.
• Classic colors, with bright accents used in moderation. While a red sink and stove handles can be classy in an otherwise muted design, be wary of trendy pastels such as baby blue and mint green because they can date your look quickly.
Give your kitchen a face lift
If you don’t have the funds for major kitchen remodeling, consider making minor changes to freshen the room’s look:
• Thoroughly clean cabinets and hardware; replace hinges and attach small magnets to the edges so doors stay closed. Visit www.lowes.com and search on "cabinets" for instructions on deep cleaning. Or, call Kitchen Tune-Up, which uses oils, cleaners and stains to restore wood finishes to their original luster. Stains, nicks and gouges are removed, and hardware is repaired or replaced so doors hang right and drawers close. Call (480) 507-8400 for a free in-home estimate.
• Update the look of pulls and knobs. For instance, replace gold-tone with a brushed nickel finish.
• Sand and re-finish or paint cabinets.
• Replace the countertop. If your cabinets are in good shape but your Formica counter is scratched and has burn marks, get quotes on just changing the countertop to Corian, granite tile or another material.
• Fix the grout. If you have tile countertops and the grout is stained and coming out, fill in loose grout, stain it and seal it. Materials are available at home warehouse stores, or hire a tile repair company (look in the Yellow Pages under Tile & Grout Cleaning and Restoration).
• Replace an old vinyl floor with tile.
• Paint the walls and put up new blinds or other window treatments.
Before you begin
Before hiring companies for home improvement projects, contact the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to check a firm’s license and get information about complaints and bonding. Visit www.rc.state.az.us or call an automated line 24 hours a day at (602) 542-1525. You will need the contractor’s business name, license number or the name of company’s owners or operators.