New Versus Remodeled Kitchen

Kitchen design and construction fall under four major categories. In your pursuit of the ultimate kitchen, be sure to find the one that works for you.

New Construction

"New construction" refers to work done on a house that's being entirely built from the ground up. Normally, the decision to build a new home rests on more than just the need for a new kitchen. But the decision to build from scratch often provides the most leeway for creating the kitchen configuration you want. If, for example, you'd love the formal dining room, kitchen/breakfast room, and family room to all flow into one another, with the kitchen as the hub, new construction can make that happen for you with the stroke of a pen. If you want the washer and dryer right off the kitchen, you can have it -- and a mudroom, too! If you want to watch the sunrise from your breakfast room and the sunset from your dining room, your wish is the architect's command.

Of course, the overall house and lot size will affect your kitchen's size, and your kitchen budget is just one part of your entire home-building budget. But in new construction, you can trade off square feet and dollars between the kitchen and other rooms for maximum flexibility.

Remodeling

Small details and flourishes can enliven a kitchen space that has become stale.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Small details and flourishes can
 enliven a kitchen space that
has become stale.

Remodeling involves major changes that may take your kitchen in a whole new direction. A remodeled kitchen is what you're up to if you need to change the whole "footprint" of your kitchen to add space or reshape the room for better views or better access. While your existing home's size and site will affect how radically you can change your kitchen, you can make surprisingly big changes.

Remodeling doesn't depend on what your old kitchen looked like, only on what your needs and wishes are and what your budget dictates. New built-in appliances and cabinetry, new windows and skylights, a new eat-in area or home office niche, a family room/ kitchen combination, and more -- anything's possible with remodeling.

Renovation

Renovation involves significant changes but is faithful to the spirit and overall look of your existing house. Renovating means making improvements with very few, if any, structural changes. If your home is historically significant, you may need -- or even be required -- to handle any upgrades with great respect for the existing style and structure.

Since kitchens have changed much more radically over the past century than, say, dining rooms, the challenge of renovation is to preserve the best of the past while giving you a workable kitchen for today's lifestyle. Luckily, pre-WWII-vintage kitchens tended to be large, with an eat-in area and adjacent pantries. So creating a good-size kitchen in the existing space may prove easier than you think.

Decorative Changes

Decorative changes, or a kitchen face-lift, involve sprucing up without tearing down. This is cheaper and easier than remodeling or renovation but won't address major problems, such as lack of light, space, and connection to other rooms. If your kitchen basically suits you as it is, but you'd like a bit more efficiency or a fresher, more stylish appearance, decorative changes may be what you need. At its most ambitious, a facelift may include replacing some appliances, countertops, and flooring with high-performance, stylish upgrades. Or it may include simply changing the wallcoverings and window treatments and adding fresh accessories. A new look can make a well-planned kitchen more enjoyable to work and live in.

Whatever you choose, be sure your expectations are in line with what's possible, given the scope of the work and your budget. Veteran homeowners who've been through any of these productions agree: Even the ultimate kitchen is only a small part of your life, so keep things in perspective.

However you decide to update your kitchen, you will want to keep a firm grasp on the costs. Home projects always end up costing more than you would think, and careful budgeting is the only way to keep the price in check. In the next section, we will learn how to design a kitchen on a budget.