You’d be hard-pressed to hear a homeowner say, “Gosh, I wish I had a smaller kitchen,” or, “Nope, this island is just too big; these countertops just too wide.”

Fact is, most homeowners have high expectations for the area where the family fixins are prepped. They want inspiration and coziness packed into the utilitarian space, and in today’s home, the kitchen — once the tiny room stuffed into the back of the house — has become a longed-for gathering place for good food and great times.

Randall Hall, owner of Dallas-based Randall Hall Design and Remodeling, explains that people are picky about kitchens because it’s the room where everyone gets together for special occasions. “That’s why people have always wanted larger spaces and more openness in their kitchen,” he says, “to give them a better way to entertain. It’s one of the showplaces of the home.”

With the fortune that comes from a healthy economy, it’s easy to see why Hall and others designers have been keeping busy with renovation projects. “(People) have the money,” he reports. “The way the stocks have done over the last three years, everyone is feeling they can afford to do it now.”

Neighborhood resident Margie Bankhead says she decided to completely remodel her kitchen because, as her children have gotten older, she’s realized a greater need for family space. “This is where we spend all of our time when we’re home,” she says of her husband and her children, ages 15 and 8. “We have lots of areas where we can sit and do things.” Her remodeling choices, which included adding on 1,500 square feet, were also dependent upon the time she planned to stay in her current residence. “We looked at this as a huge investment and really incorporated a lot of things we had to have if we were going to stay here forever,” she says.

Au Natural

There are two basic kinds of kitchen renovations, according to George Lewis, owner of George Lewis Custom Homes in Dallas. “Some people who do remodeling projects just want cosmetic things — new countertops, flooring, and hardware,” he explains. “In an older home, if it’s economically feasible — if the money you spend can be recouped when the time comes to sell the house — then you may want to literally gut the kitchen and begin again.”

Today’s kitchens have come a long way from the avocado- and harvest gold-colored appliance storage units they once were. According to Hall, who’s been building and beautifying homes in Lake Highlands and Lakewood for 22 years, homeowners are fixated on using stainless steel appliances and decorating in natural colors. “A lot of people want maple cabinets with a natural finish,” he explains.

Of countertops, he says his clients want a natural stone look: “Granite is where everyone is going. They’re seeing so much of it in the new homes. Usually, that’s what people will emulate.”

Lewis says the homeowners he works with are trading wallpaper for special effects, which includes texturing and faux finishes with glazes that give a two- or three-tone look. In addition, he says silver, bronze and pewter are popular colors for drawer pulls and knobs.

For flooring, some homeowners are turning to Mother Nature for stone as well as handscraped wood, according to Lewis. Hall says his clients are going for a “Old World” vibe by laying in larger-sized tiles, which are also the popular choice for backsplashes and kitchen accents.

Pretty as a Picture

Kitchen renovations require much preparation and detailing, the latter of which should be considered long before the first nail is hammered, according to Lewis. “It’s important to look at your area and see whether or not people are spending money to update,” he recommends. “Take a hard look at the resell value.”

And what about those renovators with a tight budget? Hall says that if an owner only has the funds for a partial renovation, he should focus attention on the cabinets. “It’s the most expensive item,” he says, “but when you decorate, you pick the biggest area and go from there.”

For homeowners who know what they like when they see it, but find it hard to describe what they want, remember: there’s nothing wrong with being a copycat.

For Bankhead’s inspiration for the recent renovation sprung from magazine pages. “For years, we had just torn pictures out,” she says. “We just pulled together the things we liked best.”

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