By Diane Cowen

Published September 15, 2017

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Those who hire contractors and interior designers will get their professional advice, but those on more limited budgets will make decisions on their own – some driven by wants, others driven by needs.

“Pinterest” and “Houzz” websites are full of great ideas and are great places to begin your planning. Save photos of the kitchens you love to either of these sites, and then assess the common threads. It will help you determine your style.

Decide in advance what you want your focal point to be, and stick to one, maybe two things, suggests Houston interior designer Missy Stewart. It could be great tile for the walls, a splash of color on your cabinets or island or an interesting light fixture or range hood.

Here’s a list of current trends in kitchen design, from Missy Stewart Designs:

  1. Cabinets: Nothing dates your kitchen faster than out-of-style cabinets. Modern cabinets inherently come in a sleek, flat style. If you opt for transitional or contemporary styles, look at flat-panel or Shaker-style cabinet doors.

While you can’t go wrong with white paint, you also should consider gray paint or a dark espresso stain.

  1. Counters: Our countertop vocabulary used to include laminate, marble and granite. Now, consider Quartz. It’s more durable than granite or marble, and won’t stain or nick. Big sheets of it can wrap an island and can be placed as perimeter counters, just as marble would. Look for veiny gray-white styles that mimic “Cararra” or “Calacatta” marble. You can use this same porcelain for your backsplash, in a smaller tile.
  2. Island: The island does not have to match your perimeter cabinets or counters. If you have white cabinets, a splash of color could work on the island. Right now, Stewart loves navy. Homeowners also should think about their favorite colors – and what would blend with rooms visible from the kitchen. If your budget allows, consider installing a microwave drawer or refrigerated drawer in your island.
  3. Flooring: Rule No. 1 – square is out when it comes to tile flooring, Stewart says. For a bigger kitchen, go with a 24 x 32 format. For a smaller kitchen, use plank like tile that’s 8 inches wide by 36 inches long. When you’re shopping, look for “rectified” tile – the edges are a sharp 90 degrees – which allows it to be set with a super-thin grout line. Let your installer know that you want tight, almost non-existent grout lines; most will use the wider grooves by default.
  4. Lighting: This could be one of your most important decisions. You’ll want a combination of recessed lighting and ceiling fixtures. Consider one large hanging fixture or a group of pendants for over an island – and pick something with personality.

If your kitchen is stripped to the studs, consider where you have/want electrical outlets. Think about tucking them underneath cabinets so they don’t show on the walls.

  1. Plumbing: Stewart recommends Delta’s Touch2O Technology for faucets. If your hands are full or messy, all you have to do is tap the faucet with your arm or wrist, and the water comes on. (Motion-sensor options may not work as well as you think; they’ll come on any time you’re near whether you really want the water or not.)
  2. Hardware: For cabinet knobs and pulls, satin brass is in. It looks great in a modern kitchen, especially combined with dark cabinets. Mixed metals are another option, combining gold/brass with silver/nickel.
  3. Minimalism: If your post-storm mantra is “less is more,” apply that minimalist philosophy to your kitchen. Don’t keep small appliances out on the counter; they just add to visual clutter. Another option is to use floating shelves instead of upper cabinets. It will save money and look like a contemporary update. Just don’t pile too much on them. Nice glass, pretty dishes and serving pieces should create an attractive display.
  4. Appliances: Even if you can’t afford high-end appliances such as “Gaggeneau”, “Thermador” or “Wolf”, you can take cues from all they have to offer. If you have room for a double oven, get one with an oven warmer or steam option – you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

When buying a refrigerator, get one with plenty of pull-out drawers for fresh produce. If you like to entertain, consider using some under-the-counter space for a wine/beverage refrigerator.

  1. Window treatments: Roller shades with or without valances give you privacy while allowing diffused light in. Hang the valance so that it covers the base of the roller shade, but not so low that it eats up a lot of window space. “Those arched roman valances over windows are long gone,” Stewart says of ’80s-style window treatments. “Today they’re very linear.”
  2. Kitchen tech: Create a hidden charging station in a kitchen drawer. Have the electrical wiring installed in the back of the drawer and tuck away phones and iPads while they’re charging. This will help eliminate clutter.
  3. TV: Do you really want or need a TV in your kitchen? Your kitchen is likely the heart of your home, where family and friends gather. Are they really there to watch TV?
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