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Create the perfect kitchen for you

How to make smart choices that stand the test of time

Published: July 02, 2015 06:00 AM

What makes some kitchens a joy to be in, whether you’re the one cooking or a guest perched at the island? And why do other kitchens fall short even when they clearly cost a lot? Every kitchen is unique, but the best ones share certain key elements whether they cost $15,000 or $150,000. (Speaking of money, learn how one homeowner redid her kitchen on a budget.)


It all starts with a functional layout that will let you, family members, and guests move about easily. The trusty work triangle, connecting the range, sink, and refrigerator, works well in smaller kitchens. In larger ones, adding an island countertop creates more space for food prep and casual dining.


Another essential is ample, efficient storage designed around your specific needs. Look for ways to minimize the back and forth. Place the pantry near a convenient landing spot for groceries, or choose easy-access drawers instead of shelves.


Next decision: countertops and floors that match your lifestyle. They look great when new, but you want them to stand up to daily life. Consume Reports' Ratings include the hardest-wearing materials, as well as sinks and faucets that stand the test of time.


Your appliances should also address the way you live. Manufacturers have developed many innovations to make life easier in the kitchen: versatile double-oven ranges, speedy induction cooktops, and refrigerators with flexible storage.


Don’t leave lighting to the end. A good plan will include task light in all the right places, as well as general illumination from recessed canisters or pendants.


To contain odors and prevent grease build-up, you’ll need adequate ventilation. Range hoods are best at venting fumes and smoke; make sure yours is at least as wide as the cooking surface below. An over-the-range microwave is a space-saving option, but it won’t clear the air as well.

Are you remodeling your kitchen? Tell us about your project below.

Kitchen trends that endure

The average American spends more than 12 hours per week in the kitchen. (For families, it’s a lot more.) Plan properly, and your new kitchen will be a source of pride and pleasure for years to come. With the average cost to remodel a 200-square-foot kitchen ranging between $19,226 and $56,768, it's worthwhile to take your time and make smart choices such as the following:

Quartz is tops for countertops

Quartz has been the most durable countertop material in our tests for the past few years. More expansive design options are adding to its appeal. A cool, new look: Caesarstone’s concrete collection in a trio of finishes, all with the hand-poured patina of concrete and the toughness of quartz. Prefer the look of marble? Check out Silestone’s Lagoon or Lyra patterns.

You can't go wrong with white

White and off-white are the most popular kitchen color schemes, used by 81 percent of certified kitchen designers last year, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. After coming on strong in 2014, the color gray is projected to see the most growth in 2015. Consider pairing the two hues, with white on the cabinets and gray on the island.

Give a wave to hands-free

More kitchen products are eliminating the handle. There’s Miele’s new dishwashers that open with just a knock; cabinets that you open with a wave of the hand across embedded sensors; and hands-free faucets that offer convenience and water savings—many turn off automatically when you pull your hands away.

Keep it simple with Shaker

Shaker cabinetry, known for its clean lines and square corners, was the most popular style in the latest Kitchen Trends Study by Houzz, the home design website. With its simple rail-and-stile construction, Shaker cabinetry tends to be an affordable option that works well in kitchens that straddle the line between traditional and contemporary.

Photo: Mark Lund

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Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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