Know your way around the kitchen to plan a perfect one

The kitchen is the heart of the home, where family and friends gather to share special meals and everyday moments. It’s also the room home shoppers often look forward to most in each property they tour.

If a house checks every box but the kitchen, include it during negotiations, then upgrade or renovate what doesn’t work post-sale. Sellers of great houses with lackluster kitchens may consider tackling the project before listing to ensure their home gets the attention it deserves.

“If I was going to put money into two rooms, it would be the kitchen and the bathrooms,” says RE/MAX luxury broker Terrie Cox. “You can’t put too much money in a kitchen because that’s where everybody lives.”

Understand your must-haves

Realtors often get requests from buyers to find a listing with a “gourmet kitchen.” While they’re usually referring to high-end appliances, the term can have dozens of interpretations: gleaming marble countertops, a butler’s pantry, abundant storage, etc.

So once you decide to take on the kitchen, also decide what you want it to become. What do you want and need in a kitchen? Is your style trendy or timeless? How do you and your family really use your kitchen? Which features do you rely on every day, and which are used just a few times a year? And, most importantly, what can you feasibly do with the space you have?


Understand your habits as they are. Do you love to cook? Go for the high-end gas range (designers say stovetops get used more often than ovens). Big family? Splurge on a dependable dishwasher. Consider a built-in espresso machine if you can’t get going without a morning latte, but skip it if Mr. Coffee will do.

Be aware of the wiring, plumbing and ventilation in your kitchen when you’re evaluating appliances. Never fall for something on looks or price alone; if it breaks down, you’ll wish you had done your due diligence. And always measure — then measure again.

At the showroom, don’t shy away from negotiating on price, especially if you’re buying several appliances from the same place or if the store honors price matching. Be sure to ask for repair referrals, as well, so you know who to call in case anything goes wrong.

Countertops, Islands & Backsplashes

Sleek countertops can elevate an average kitchen to showstopper status. Granite, quartz and marble are particularly popular for their looks, as well as their durability and resistance to heat. Butcher block, concrete and stainless steel are other elegant options for this hardworking kitchen fixture.

Plan plenty of room for prep, cooking and clean-up, as well as countertop appliances you don’t plan on storing. Islands are perfect for these purposes, as well as seating and a place to serve buffet-style meals.

As far as backsplashes go, some homeowners select bold tile designs, though clean white subway tile is trendy, too. Still others opt for something simple and easy to clean, such as glass or stainless steel.


From the materials to color to configuration, there are unlimited choices for cabinetry. Note that quality wood will last longer, stand up to restaining or repainting, and clean up more easily.

If your cabinets are in good shape but dated, change out the doors or swap hardware to get a quick facelift for a smaller investment. Using open shelving allows an opportunity to displace special pieces and break up enclosed storage.

Take stock of the dishes, utensils and appliances you have and use. Consider the pantry: Will it be a walk-in, a closet or a few dedicated drawers and cabinets? Organizational upgrades such as dividers, concealed pull-outs, Lazy Susans and other inserts are great space maximizers. “Soft close” drawers and doors are a nice touch, too.

Lighting & Smart Gadgets

Because there’s so much activity and traffic in the kitchen, bright lighting kitchen is a must. Start with a great overhead fixture or recessed lighting to illuminate the room. Suspending pendants or a chandelier over the table or island will set the mood for meals. Don’t pass on under-cabinet lights to see what you’re doing during food prep.

Major brands are introducing lighting, as well as appliances, switches, outlets, countertop appliances and other kitchen gadgetry that can be operated a smartphone. Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home devices also are helpful devices in the kitchen; both can keep track of shopping lists, set timers, help with recipes or turn on some tunes while you cook, eat and entertain.

Additional features

If features like an outdoor kitchen, butler’s pantry or wine cellar are important fixtures for your meals and gatherings, now is the time to consider those, too. These upgrades become at-home attractions of their own — and they may add to the value of your home, should you sell someday.

An eye for design

Terrie Cox isn’t just RE/MAX’s leading individual broker in Washington and Oregon, she’s also an interior decorator with a talent for creating luxurious spaces. Terrie helps her clients visualize what’s possible and is happy to offer referrals to some of the area’s best contractors and service professionals. To get Terrie’s advice or get a private tour of any of her listings, call or text her directly at (360) 607-4100 or email