Top 10 Kitchen Remodeling Ideas

(You can also view more Pankow Construction services for Kitchen Remodeling in Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ and see why it’s a good time to invest in your Phoenix home)

1. Determine a Kitchen Layout that Suits your Needs

Do you ever find yourself in the kitchen at a house party or during the holidays? It’s safe to say the kitchen is the heart of the home and over the last 50 years the kitchen has moved from the back burner, to the center attraction. Once a dead end in the house, the kitchen’s contemporary application is often found  in a “great room” setting promoting  open floor plans. Although the kitchen’s modern appeal has doubled it into a social gathering space, one thing has remained the same, the importance of it’s functionality.
Diagram showing the Kitchen Work Triangle

Most of us are probably familiar with the work-triangle. This refers to the optimal relationship between the sink, stove, and refrigerator, being spaced no more than 6 feet apart. A proper “work-triangle” is designed to reduce needless steps while cooking in the kitchen.

2. Use Quality Materials

Cabinets provide the heart and soul of the kitchen as well as help set the tone and style of your entire home.  Whether you prefer a traditional or a contemporary feel, the drawer fronts and cabinet doors you pick accentuate the beauty of your kitchen but also determine much of its durability.  It is essential to consider both the aesthetics, including color and style, along with the function and strength of the material.

Choosing the structural style of your cabinets is generally the first step.  Cabinets generally come in two major styles: European or face frame.  In the European style of cabinets, the doors and drawer fronts serve as a full overlay completely covering the cabinet and space behind them.  This style provides increased storage capacity.  Face framing style allows the wood between doors and drawer fronts to be seen, giving a more craftsman style.  Because of the wood spacers, the face framing style requires that the pullout shelves be smaller than those of the European style.

Once the overall structural style is chosen, the material type can be picked.  Although there a multitude of different cabinet materials available, these solid hardwoods, wood veneers and synthetics are currently the most popular.

Common Solid hardwoods:

Alder: This solid hardwood has remained popular due to lower cost, broad range of available stain colors, and subtle grain appearance.  Alder’s natural nut brown undertones allow it to take stain similar to a light colored maple, a dark walnut, or even a red cherry.  It is a softer wood within the hard wood category, so not very resistant to nick and dings. Great economical choice for raised panel stained wood with a high end look in the rustic and traditional kitchen styles.

Poplar: This hardwood is best suited to be painted because its natural green undertones make staining more difficult. It is an economic choice for the white cabinet look such as a French country kitchen; however, it is a bit softer than maple or oak so it’s not as good at resisting nicks.  Lifestyle and function determine if this is the right choice for you.  For example, families with small children or high traffic should expect more nick repair and refinishing over time.  Poplar is a good choice for high end decorative trim such as wainscoating and crown moldings and is more durable when compared to standard medium density fiberboard (mdf).

Cherry Cherry is a beautiful traditional choice offering durability and those classic rich red undertones. It is often chosen for formal traditional and studies.  Cost is the greatest limitation of a cherry wood choice.  Alder can be stained to match much of the red undertones of cherry but it lacks its durability.

Maple: This hardwood is both strong and versitle with a mild grain pattern.  It can be stained in all shades from natural to very dark and will hold paint with excellent durability.  The cost is a bit higher than poplar or alder, but maple will hold up better in the long run.  It is a great choice for high traffic and where durability is the major concern.

Wood Veneers: A wood veneer cabinet door consists of a thin sheet of hardwood which is applied over a thicker resin particle board or MDF (medium density fiberboard).  Most hardwoods can be made into a veneer so there are many wood choices possible.  Wood veneers are best used for cabinets fabricated in a flat wide style that do not have a raised panel.  Solid wood doors constructed in this style do not resist warping, but the resin particle board or mdf can.  Natural wood veneers provide a clean flat finished look commonly seen in contemporary kitchens.  The strength of the natural hardwood used for the veneer determines the durability of the surface.  The cost for wood veneer cabinets is about the same as that of a solid wood door.  Traditional raised panel cabinets are not typically done in wood veneer as they resist warping.

Synthetic: Cabinets are made in a similar fashion as the wood veneer except the veneer is a synthetic PVC material.  These cabinets are typically more durable and cost less than hardwoods.  They are frequently used in utility areas such as garages and laundry rooms.

Accessorizing your cabinets with specialized hardware dramatically affects the operation, function, and feel of your cabinets.  The following hardware options can be installed in all of the cabinet construction styles discussed:

Drawer glides: Full extension side mount drawer and pull out shelf glides:  Typical drawer extension leaves 15-20% of the drawer under the counter even when fully extended.  Adding full extension features provides much better access and durability.  An auto close option can be added to the full extension glide system to prevent the drawer or shelf from boucning back open.   The auto close feature essentially pulls the drawer closed and holds it tight.  The glides come in a under mount option which allow them to be hidden from view.

Hinges: The soft close option for hinges is a wonderful feature which prevents doors from being slammed.  This feature protects cabinet panels with glass.

Cabinet Body: The structure of the cabinet, behind closed doors and out of view, is typically constructed from thermofused melamine.  Although not seen except when doors or drawers are open, they can come in a variety of colors.  Lacquered birch plywood is an upgraded material option for the cabinet body construction.  The drawer body and pullout shelf is also typically constructed from thermofused melamine but can often be seen upgraded to laquered birch plywood with dovetail joints for added strength and durability.

There are an endless amount of cabinet accessory options that enhance the function and feel of a kitchen.  Interior cabinet options include carousels, lazy susans, spice drawers, vertical tray dividers, and multitude of trash pullout combinations.  Many popular exterior cabinetry style options include: decorative hoods, large multistep crown moldings, plant on door side panels, flush toe kicks (furnature look), island furniture legs, and integrated appliance panels.

Choosing cabintry and accessories is one of the most exciting parts of kitchen remodeling, yet the variety of options can be duanting. Choosing an experienced, knowlegable, and quality contractor can help ease the process and ensure the creation of your beautiful kitchen remodel.

3. Decide Whether to Paint or Stain

To paint or to stain, the debate continues. I’ll leave my biases out of this one (even though stain is easier to maintain, paint is often still preferred) and list the major pro’s and con’s:


Colors come in variety of shades  (embedded)
Repair and touch-ups are easier. Easier to keep your cabinets looking good for a long time.
Less expensive and fewer steps.
Distressing or glazing make the maintenance easier.
Great choice for the “Do It Yourselfer’s”


Probably the most popular look amongst home owners.
More process steps than stain and more expensive to finish.
Touch-ups can be difficult.
Refinished cabinets often require professionals to match your existing colors.
On average 10-12% more expensive than stain (i.e. $2,000 more on a $20,000 kitchen remodeling package).

4. Choose Appropriate Colors

Color Theory Website
This might seem easy to do, but choosing the right colors can either bring harmony to a room, or a create a wrong impression. In basic color theory, colors have different meanings and are generally either stimulating or relaxing. Here is a list of the colors of the rainbow and their meanings:

The kitchen should be a combination of both relaxing and stimulating colors. It is difficult to work in a kitchen that is too relaxing but at the same time it shouldn’t be too stimulating that it makes you hungry.

5. Break the Horizontal Line

Stagger the height, length, and depth of wall cabinets. Horizontal lines at the top and bottom row of cabinets can make a kitchen look rigid and static. A break from the horizontal line can give your kitchen remodel an updated look.

Kitchen Remodel Phoenix

6. Build Bridges, Not Walls. Islands and Peninsulas are the New Kitchen Walls

Over the last 30 or so years, the open floor plan has become increasingly popular and the function of a great room (containing kitchen, dining, and living space) is becoming the norm.   Many remodels we’ve done in Arcadia and Central Corridor of Phoenix and Scottsdale AZ in the past have been transforming compartmentalized floor plans   into a contemporary, open floor plan by knocking down any barrier walls between kitchen and living room. Instead of walls defining the kitchen’s borders, peninsulas and islands provide a  better alternative. They prevent the kitchen from spilling over visually into other spaces, and also allow the cook to maintain visual and conversation contact with family members and guests.

7. Find a Creative Contractor with Expertise and Realistic Ideas

There’s not a one size fits all approach to kitchen remodeling (or home remodeling in general). That’s why it’s important to find a contractor that has access to designers capable of creating unique solutions specific to your needs. A popular model contractors are beginning to use is the design/build model (See our design/build process).

Traditional remodels typically involve an architect or designer, an engineer, and a general contractor. The design/build model combines all three into one convenient package. Allowing one company to oversee your  kitchen remodeling project saves you money and headaches. In addition, a creative contractor will offer practical design solutions that may otherwise have been overlooked.

An example is creatively using the existing kitchen footprint which saves money on flooring, plumbing, and other minor expenses allowing money to be dispersed on larger features of the kitchen remodel.

8. Selecting the Right Kitchen Countertop

Countertops are important to your kitchen because they can help give your kitchen a particular tone that represents your lifestyle. If you have been looking around, then you are probably aware by now that there are numerous alternatives, from granite or laminate. Ubuildit’s blog takes a look at the nine most common materials countertops are made from and the pro’s and con’s associated with them.

9. Selecting the Right Kitchen Sink

Kitchen remodels are everything AND the kitchen sink. When it comes to the kitchen sink, the function will usually outweigh the looks. Sinks come in an array of styles, but it is important to consider how you plan to use your kitchen sink. It is also important to choose a sink appropriate to the size of your kitchen.

It is recommended for kitchens less than 150 sqft to use a standard 22×24-in. single bowl. For larger kitchens there are multiple bowl options and it is often recommended to consider a secondary bar sink if multiple cooks will be in the kitchen. You can refer to HGTV’s blog or This Old House for a more in depth look at choosing the right sink.

10. Light your Kitchen Appropriately

What good is the your perfect kitchen remodel if you can’t see its features? If you are fortunate enough to be situated near windows, use them! Nothing beats natural lighting, and there is plenty of it in a city like Phoenix, AZ. But what about at night or in cases where you don’t have any windows? That’s when using a combination of ambient, task, and natural lighting comes in hand.

Pendant lightings are typically used as task lighting above a kitchen island or peninsula. They serve as a perfect design element that accentuates the tone of your kitchen.

Under mount lighting is a nice way to add luminosity to areas otherwise void in your kitchen. They’re a  great way to accent your kitchen’s features such as a special tile backsplash or glassware.

Recessed lighting is by far the most popular way to light a kitchen. It has become a standard choice of lighting in contemporary homes.

For more detailed information check out This Old House’s blog


Pankow Construction is a leading contractor in Phoenix, Scottsdale Metro specializing in home remodeling, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and home improvement. Call Pankow Construction today for a free consultation.

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