To Cook, Perchance to Dream

Once I've determined what's wrong with my kitchen, I jump to the other extreme and visualize what I would do if I could do anything, cost no object. The point here is to find out what you most love. Dream big now; you can always scale back later. You may find that you can have your dream kitchen, but phased in over several years. Whatever it takes to organize the space for a sound design that will last-knocking down walls, putting on an addition, rearranging doors and windows-is money well spent. People tend to think that major restructuring of space is prohibitively expensive but it might not be, depending on your house's structure. The lion's share of kitchen renovation cost is the finishes: cabinets, floors, lighting, appliances and the labor to install them.

To feed your dreams, page through design magazines and books and visit (or, better yet, cook in) other kitchens. Talk to people about what they did right and what they would change. Browse kitchen showrooms to see what kinds of cabinets, faucets, appliances and special features you might want in your kitchen. The whole point of this phase is to gather ideas so that you can make the best use of your time with an architect or designer.

Next, make a wish list of features you'd like to have in your new kitchen. You might want a kitchen with a comfortable place for guests to sit and talk while you're preparing dinner. Or your list might be very specific, down to the type of flooring or the features of the range. Think about the style of kitchen you want and how you plan to use that kitchen. How many members of your family cook? What non-cooking activities, such as homework or bill paying, take place in the kitchen? When compiled and prioritized, this kind of information will help you see more clearly what you want your kitchen project to accomplish.
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