I love kitchens.  I imagine the rich aroma of homemade banana bread with just a touch of cinnamon coming out of the top double oven; the scratch of the saute pan on the five-burner Jennair stove top as my husband stirs lemon risotto; the morning sound of water bursting out of the Delta faucet as it hits the Kohler farmer’s sink. But, I only dreamt my kitchen had all these luxuries.  That’s because  millions of other Americans, like me, are in love with their kitchens and can’t get them out of their dreams or pocketbooks.  Whether you’re a gourmet cook or a take-out junkie, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  It is the number one room  that gets remodeled and it is where new home buyers spend thousands of dollars for that one, two, three or dozens of extras trying to make all those dreamt of aromas and memories come true.  Kitchens now get center stage in new home plans and are no longer stuck into a back corner of the home.  They’re open and airy with large windows, spacious islands, high ceilings and with cupboards that look like finely stained furniture.  They’re sleek, modern and almost indistinguishable from other living areas.

     But, here is where the olive oil hits the hot frying pan. It is also the most expensive room in the home to remodel or create.  There are dozens of choices when it comes to finishing a kitchen and they all add to the cost.  Cabinets have become fine furniture, although it’s not just the door and frames.  Soft closings on drawers can add $250.  Add two stained glass doors for $500.  Under cabinet lighting an extra $300, just for the outlets. Double ovens and a cook top with a fancy hood can add $7,000 to $10,000 to a standard builder’s allowance for appliances in an already half million dollar home.  Forget the four-inch backsplash.  They now extend all the way to the bottom of the cabinet. You want pulls and knobs on your cabinetry?  Add $2.50 for a modest pull and another $2.50 for each one to be installed because everyone has to be measured.   Peninsulas are out and its now stand-alone, walk-around  islands and the bigger the better.  An island that doesn’t seat at least four is almost obsolete.  And then there is the pantry.  It’s a walk-in, big enough to store the next Costco run, with a fancy glass door.   Add another $450 to your already over budget allowance.

     And that instant hot water dispenser that will save you three minutes in the microwave?  Add $750.  Kitchen floors are now hard surfaces with wood laminate being the most popular.  Next is tile but without in-floor radiant heat which if done right can add $15,000 per floor, makes for a cold  floor in Alaska.   

     Remember those fluorescent ceiling mounts?  They’ve been replaced with recessed cans and pendants over that detached island—the larger and more interesting the light fixture the better.  If that’s all you can afford to do now, replace your small pendants with new light fixtures.  That one small investment will change the character of your kitchen and brighten your morning on a cold winter day.