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What's cookin' now: trends 
in kitchen remodeling



Knowing that they can recoup 100 percent of the costs of a kitchen remodel might bring peace of mind to homeowners contemplating renovation but is rarely the deciding factor in kitchen updates.

According to Milwaukee-area kitchen experts, cost is certainly a consideration, but comfort, not price, is the driving force behind consumers’ decisions. On your way to the bottom line, here are some things to keep in mind when planning your dream kitchen.

The first thing to consider is your family’s lifestyle. What do you like about your current kitchen, and what do you want to change? Changing traffic patterns and creating a more open look are often the goals people hope to achieve. Some seek a desk for writing recipes, while others want spacious counter tops or a wet bar for mixing cocktails.

"A good place to start is to think about what things you want to hide, and what things you want to display," says Tom Blau, president of Blau Bath & Kitchen in Milwaukee. He also says people should pay attention to a kitchen’s bottlenecks, which can be remedied by creating a better traffic flow through the kitchen.

High-priced woods

Even if you’ve got a good handle on your remodeling budget be prepared for some sticker shock when visiting showrooms, since the price of wood, in particular, has skyrocketed. And there’s a lot of wood used in kitchen remodeling.

Homeowners who choose upscale woods such as maple, birch or natural cherry increase the project’s price tag. "Oak used to be the standard," says John Meiners of Stone and Banister in Pewaukee, who adds that oak is still popular for its look and durability.

Shifting from oak to top-of-the-line cherry cabinets will add $2,000 to a typical remodeling project. "And many people are willing to pay the cost," Meiners says, since they know they can get their money back if they sell their home within five years. Even homeowners who aren’t interested in selling their home enjoy the more luxurious luster and character of these upscale woods.

Cooking is job one

In today’s high-end kitchens, the traditional stove is being replaced by two separate heating sources. The first is a cook top, which can be installed in an island or in a counter top. The second is a double oven. "Double ovens have become increasingly popular, especially for families who do a lot of holiday dinners," says Meiners. Cook tops typically are down vented through the basement, which eliminates the need for an obtrusive hood.

Kitchen showcase

When more square-footage is added in a kitchen remodel, it gives homeowners the opportunity to display some of their prized items. These display spaces can exist almost anywhere — from new space created above cabinets to illuminated, glass-fronted cabinets and open shelves. To compensate for the loss of cabinet space, many homeowners are installing a pantry.

Uber granite

In terms of materials for counter tops, stand-alone islands or peninsulas, hard-surface materials, both natural and synthetic, have generally replaced Formica, Meiners says. In addition to granite and Corian surfaces, a material called Zodiac is popular. This synthetic surface resembles granite — without the routine maintenance required to maintain granite, a natural surface. Zodiac costs about 15 to 20 percent more than granite, Meiners says. "It looks great and will last forever."

In the spotlight

These days, many consumers are more aware of the potential lighting can bring to a project, says Paul Greenspan, president of Milwaukee Kitchen and Bath in Glendale. Task lighting, in particular, is effective in eliminating shadows and increasing the kitchen’s brightness. "This is an important factor, as more activities are happening in the kitchen than ever before," he says.

Lighting is used for two purposes. The first is to brighten the area. This is typically done with the addition of recessed canned lights in the ceiling, and task lighting above the counters. Sometimes Greenspan recommends adding a row of rope lights above cabinets, to "fill in" an otherwise empty space. Ceiling-mounted fixtures are often installed above a work island or dining area as a special accent to a room. Greenspan says the purpose of these fixtures is to complement the other lighting, instead of "trying to make a statement."