A kitchen remodel will provide the 'biggest bang for your buck'
by: Scott Keith Diane Keaton, of Diane Keaton Interiors in Beaverton, says, “A kitchen will sell a house — or won’t sell a house, if it’s really bad.”

The kitchen is not just a place to grab a quick beverage or butter your morning bran muffin. It's a strong focal point of a home and, in some cases, it's the part of the residence that most impresses visitors.

Whether you simply want to improve the appearance of your home this fall, or you are intending to impress potential home buyers, a kitchen makeover may be just the ticket.

Diane Keaton, of Diane Keaton Interiors in Beaverton, is in the business of full-service interior design. She says kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular areas for home makeovers.

'You entertain in your kitchen a lot,' says Keaton. 'Parties always end up in the kitchen. The kitchen will sell a house - or won't sell a house, if it's really bad.'

The kitchen is probably the most important room of the house, says Keaton, in part because everybody has to eat.

'It's a place for everyone to get together. Homework gets done there. It doesn't matter how big your house is. Everybody ends up in the kitchen,' says Keaton.

If you're going to sell your home, consider investing in a kitchen makeover. The first step, according to Keaton, is to clear the clutter.

'Pack it up, put it away and make it as clean as you possibly can.'

After the clean-up, Keaton suggests you evaluate your kitchen. Determine the age of your appliances and whether they are functioning; home buyers may not be interested in replacing appliances or adding new countertops. Depending on your budget, you may want to paint the cabinets, if they're in good condition, or get new cabinets.

Consider the cost of your house: 'When you get into upper levels (cost of house), people want a really nice kitchen. That will sell your house.'

When it comes to how much value a kitchen makeover will add to your home, Keaton says it depends on factors such as your neighborhood, but a kitchen remodel will provide the 'biggest bang for your buck.'

You don't have to be selling your home to consider a kitchen makeover. Now may be the time to think about replacing some of those out-of-date appliances or adding new countertops.

'There are so many new features,' notes Keaton. 'Dishwashers are quiet now . . . I go to so many people's homes where they tell me only one burner works.'

Keaton points out that some homeowners prefer solid surfaces to place their hot foods on, such as granite. A less expensive counter top is laminate, but you have to be careful of hot foods.

Before you do a kitchen makeover yourself, consider the experience an interior designer can offer.

'I like to be there from the very beginning, the minute they first start thinking they're going to want to do some things to their kitchen,' says Keaton, adding that an interior designer can look at the function of the kitchen and how well it's laid out.

When Keaton arrives at a home, she'll take a look at colors throughout the house and see if the kitchen may need a neutral color.

Hiring an interior designer can save you from making mistakes.

'We do this for a living,' she says. 'We've been through it many times. We know some of the things (such as wrong surfaces) that can go wrong.'

Interior designers gather knowledge from working with products and working on other projects, she says, and that can give them experience with more expensive and less expensive products.

The client and designer can search for products - appliances, countertop material, paint, flooring, etc. - together, but, according to Keaton, you can save time if you let the designer do the legwork. This is a particularly helpful option for the busy client. The designer can return with some choices and help the client make a decision.

Keaton has a few pet peeves about kitchens. One of them is a refrigerator in the corner, where you can't open the door all the way. Another is an oven next to a doorway, where the heat can be dangerous to people walking past. Sometimes, she acknowledges, these can't be avoided, because of limited space.

Whatever the reason you're considering a kitchen makeover, Keaton advises that you talk with an expert, whether it be a designer, contractor or someone else (a neighbor, perhaps) who has done a remodel.

The cost of a kitchen makeover can be tough to nail down.

'Every single project is different,' Keaton says. 'It depends on what you need and what your house is worth and how far you really want to go.'

One thing she does know: 'You'll be very happy when it is over. You'll have a beautiful kitchen. You won't remember the pain. It's like giving birth. It's over.'

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