Having your dream kitchen is as much about finance as fantasy. So we asked a well-known New York City-based kitchen designer to take a room and update it for $15,000, $45,000 and $100,000 plus, including labor costs. She began with a 16-by-12-foot Seventies holdout with one window, surface-mounted fluorescent lights, a banged-up linoleum floor, dark wood cabinets, tangerine laminate countertops and backsplash, and an ordinary 32-inch refrigerator and 30-inch slide-in range with a hood.
The key to this relatively inexpensive makeover is avoiding structural work and keeping the appliances and cabinets you already own. Focus on touching up surfaces, changing hardware, improving the lighting.
Replace the existing sink with a stainless-steel model that has an integrated drainboard, such as an Elkay. Buy a Delta single-lever faucet.
Paint the dark wood cabinets a clean white to immediately brighten the room. And change the hardware: white ceramic pulls just disappear, creating a streamlined look.
There's room in the budget for one modest purchase: a space-saving microwave/range hood from Sharp.
Use Wilsonart laminate; it's the best option for a countertop that looks good and doesn't cost tons to install. Be sure to find a good fabricator and try a beveled edge so you don't see black lines.
Pull up the linoleum to expose the wood beneath, then polish and seal it. Or paint over the linoleum to hide the tile. Try a patterned design, since a single color won't wear well.
To bring personality to the space, scour flea markets for great country furniture with the patina of age.
Fluorescence is death! Lose those lights and install an 8-foot track with 7 halogen bulbs to illuminate the entire room as well as spotlight special areas.
With this budget you can get a totally new kitchen. Do a gut renovation--knock out walls, rehang the ceiling, buy new appliances, design cabinets for specialized storage.
Install easy-on-your-back, durable cork tiles (they're used in airports). Their dark brown color will blend well with wood floors.
For a sleek look, opt for an undermounted sink and a single-lever faucet with a sprayer from Kohler.
Recess 12 Halo halogen lights for overall room lighting and add a strip of under-cabinet incandescent lighting from Lightolier to illuminate countertop work space.
Tuck banquette seats under the window and get a new table with comfortable chairs. And for a small detail that can really make a difference, purchase handcrafted bamboo drawer pulls from Carl Martinez Hardware.
Position expensive glass-fronted cabinets in eye-catching places, such as over the sink and between the living room and kitchen. Then focus on specialized storage, including: pull-out drawers throughout, which provide easier access than shelves; a stepstool designed to fit in the toekick; a Lazy Susan for recyclables in potentially wasted corner space; a sponge drawer; a pullout trash bin under the sink; a spice rack inside a wall cabinet door; and tray storage next to the stove. Add a cabinet for a TV and cookbooks. Install a prep island.
Install a second doorway to better integrate the kitchen and the living room. Hang a ceiling to hide the wiring and allow recessed lighting.
Fiber-enforced concrete, Meazzastone from Stone Source NYC, is a new material that looks like concrete, but is more resistant to cracking than the ultra-fashionable real thing.
Start with a Sub-Zero 36-inch refrigerator with a bottom freezer. Buy a 36-inch cooktop with four gas burners and a grill, such as the one from Viking; pair it with two electric wall ovens (one with a microwave), like those from KitchenAid. Get a Bosch dishwasher that can be paneled to match the cabinets.
With professional appliances, custom-made everything, and some demolition, create the Holy Grail of the Nineties: a combo kitchen-living room.
In addition to recessed lights, add antique pendant lighting that will match the feel of the room over both islands and smaller lights by the window and the cabinets.
While many people gravitate to granite because of its hard, nonporous surface, it's really become a cliché. Try enameled lavastone.
Lay a sturdy, natural-color bamboo floor, available from Architectural Flooring Resource NYC. It's the latest in stylish, practical materials.
Move them in front of the expanded window and have them custom-made by the German Silver Sink Co. in Detroit. Add a Franke pot-filler by the stove and a small sink on the island.
Go for lots of glass fronts to display collections of china and glassware. And make sure you have lots of storage: file drawers for your desk; spice and oil pullouts; a butcher-block insert with a Vance knife scabbard; and Hafele blind-corner pullouts for access to difficult corners. Get a stepstool that slides into its own storage space; a food processor on a Hafele shelf that pops up and is level with the counter; and a trash "manager."
Get two of everything to entertain and clean up with ease. Buy a glass-door Traulsen refrigerator and freezer; two U-Line mini-fridges (one for drinks, one for wine or flowers); a 58-inch La Cornue range with two ovens--Paul Bocuse and other chefs love this range--and a custom-designed hood; two dishwashers (a dishwasher-drawer unit from Fisher & Paykel in the island and a Miele with a cutlery tray and a super-gentle cycle for gold-rimmed plates and the like); and, certainly, a computer!
Enlarge the space by knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living room; add an island where the wall used to be. Enhance the light, airy feeling by installing a Palladian window from Pella.