If I can’t afford a complete kitchen remodel, what should I do first?

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"As a design professional, I tend to look at the space as if it is a work in progress and ask questions. First, I ask what is the focal point of the space? If there is not one, then we want to create one," says Annette DePaepe, Certified Kitchen Designer, certified member of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers), and Kitchen Designer at Klaff's.

Here are Annette's suggestions to maximize your kitchen's potential:

A new kitchen island will have the biggest impact on an existing kitchen and can go beyond the decorative aspects and help to solve functional issues. I make it a focal point by incorporating a complementing finish, style and special details such as furniture posts, feet and paneling.

Then, I add function for example by incorporating a built-in waste bin to eliminate the need for a freestanding trash can. Or a new drawer microwave to replace a countertop model and alleviate clutter.

Cabinet accessories such as a knife drawer insert that will get rid of a countertop block will help update and organize, too.

The possibilities are vast and can be customized to the specific needs of the homeowner; additionally it can be an effective way of phasing into a total remodel down the road.

If, however, you're doing renovations to a small kitchen that can't fit an island, look at the overall light, color and timelessness of the space:

  • If the space is dark, add under cabinet lights, cove lighting or lighting under the recessed toe area.
  • Changing cabinet handles and knobs is a must for an older kitchen. Just imagine replacing old wood or brass knobs with a shiny new decorative pull.
  • Only if you have no plans for a cabinet change in the future do you then want to look at changing the backsplash and counter. These items cannot be reworked down the road, but will have a big impact on the space today and for resale.
  • Trends are to choose calm colors and patterns that are current and timeless. I find that neutral colors, natural materials and mixing up the sizes/textures of materials will add the greatest value and visual impact.