With Housing Recovering, Perfect Time for a Kitchen Remodel?

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kitchen renovation

By Ryan Nickum

The past few months have shown plenty of signs the housing market is recovering, but it's interesting to note the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University says spending on home remodeling projects will accelerate as well.

"Strong growth in sales of existing homes and housing starts, coupled with historically low financing costs, have typically been associated with an upturn in home remodeling activity some months later," said Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. "This combination is expected to produce a favorable outlook for home improvement spending over the coming months."

Not only is this good news for the economy, it's great news for those with outdated kitchen cabinets, subpar appliances and linoleum floors. Consider this news your green light to finally upgrade your kitchen.

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Mouth-Watering Kitchens
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With Housing Recovering, Perfect Time for a Kitchen Remodel?

Aspiring chefs, gourmets and gourmands -- feast your eyes on these delectable kitchens, plucked from some of the finest homes on the market today. If the kitchen truly is the heart of the home, get ready to fall in love with some of the best-kept, cutting-edge and well-equipped tickers this side of Lyon. Bon appétit!   

Location: Brookline, Mass. 
Price: $6.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/14
Sq. Ft.: 9,838

Newly renovated, this Gambrel-style mansion boasts a sweeping English garden that encloses its one acre. The home's amenities include a home theater, wine cellar, three-car garage and... 

See more images of this stunner.

....a  stone pizza oven! 

See what else this home has to offer.

Location: Rome, Ga. 
Price: $2.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: N/A (9 acres)

Touted as "your own resort on almost nine acres," this property offers pastures and stables along with a pool, spa, tennis court, putting green, 20-seat theater, billiards room and wine cellar. 

See more images of this Southern manse

Pictured here is the residence's lavish gourmet kitchen, which boasts top-of-the-line restaurant-grade appliances. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 7/13
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This stately Georgian mansion, labeled a "smart home," has pretty nifty tech features that include computerized lighting, audio and security. Amenities include a screening room, gym, sauna and pool.

See the listing for more details. 

The slick, sconce-lit kitchen is nearly cavernous in size and includes a wet bar and sprawling kitchen island. 

See a slideshow of this beauty. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga. 
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This home is outfitted for large-scale entertaining and has the amenities to show for it: There's a paneled library, butler's pantry, office, pool, guest suite, massage room, spa, home theater -- phew! -- golf room, gymnasium, gift-wrapping room and living room. 

See the listing for more details. 

And what would a grown-up party house be without an over-the-top kitchen? Crammed with state-of-the-art appliances, this expansive culinary laboratory has two kitchen islands and encompasses a breakfast area with a fireplace. 

See 25 photos of this home

Location: Nashville, Tenn. 
Price: $3.2 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 5,598 

Sitting on nearly three acres, this four-story mansion offers plenty of space and a pool. And guess what else? 

See the listing for more details. 

A futuristic, eat-in kitchen with ample cabinetry. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $40 million
Beds/Baths: 9/13
Sq. Ft.: 13,885

They don't get much more expensive than this giant (though, believe it or not, there do happen to be quite a few houses that dwarf it). This gated mansion offers a swimming pool, tennis courts and, clearly -- at this price -- a whole lot more.

Get a taste of its other features by viewing the listing. 

Armed with a lavish pantry and cherry-stained cabinetry, the home's kitchen is a dream come true for a gourmet chef -- let alone, a movie star's spouse. 

See a slide show of this one-of-a-kind mansion. (There's a pretty thrilling arial shot thrown in.)

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $27.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: 13,227

This Beverly Hills manse boasts a four-car garage, solar-heated pool and guesthouse. It also offers easy access to community features like tennis, paddle and basketball courts. 

See the listing for more details. 

Gleaming with fine finishes, the kitchen offers a sizable island and pantry, and is stocked with a wide array of appliances. 

See what else this home has to offer

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Price: $34.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/10
Sq. Ft.: 15,000 Sq Ft

You can’t buy happiness, but this stunning architectural home is about as close to a Zen investment as you’re likely to find this side of Nirvana. With six bedrooms and 10 baths, you could start your own religious commune in this sprawling contemporary home. And speaking of food for the soul …

See what we're talking about

Get a load of this divinely feng shui kitchen, complete with dazzling views of the Pacific. Feed your friends (trust us, you’ll have plenty) and entertain in this multifaceted, high-tech kitchen.

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Colleyville, Texas
Price: $7.4 million
Beds/Baths: 7/12
Sq. Ft.: 12,194

Oh, would that we were real Disney princesses! Well, there’s also the princely sum this property costs, but we can dream, can’t we? This palatial estate -- in the Lone Star State, no less -- has everything an aspiring royal could ever want, including a grandiose gourmet kitchen.

Get regal

This Tuscan-style palace is just what fairy tales are made of -- rustic stone walls, golden chandeliers, and a kitchen island to die for. We may be highlighting killer kitchens this week, but the rest of this modern palace has to be seen to be believed. Swoon!

Location: Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
Price: $7,500,000
Beds/Baths: 3/5
Sq Ft: 4,141 Sq Ft

Sitting on a small fortune but aren’t much into mowing the lawn? Then try this tropical fantasy condo on for size. With cerulean blue around every corner of this luxurious beachside home, sit back and enjoy a Mai Tai in your spacious and airy dining room.

View the listing for more details. 

If you’re so inclined, walk over to your state-of-the-art kitchen and whip up something to snack on before the evening’s stunning sunset.  

See some of the other wild rooms in this mansion

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Price: $19.995 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: 13,875

The listing touts this single-story home as a “redefining structure within modernism.” Called the Glass Pavilion, its rambling 14,000 square feet sit on 3 1/2 oak-dotted acres in Montecito.

See the listing for more details. 

The glass-box kitchen is a chef’s dream -- provided the chef is obsessively neat. We're willing to bet it’s tough to keep really tidy where there’s a thousand-bottle “wine room”  only steps away.

See the gorgeous features of this home

Location : Newtown, Pa.
Price: $5.9 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.:  13,000

This sprawling brick manor started life as circa-1789 farmhouse, but you have to squint hard to see it. Inside, it’s old meets new, with an expanded and updated interior that spares no modern amenity.

See the over-the-top details here.

The kitchen has every top-of-the-line convenience, including a six-burner range, a built-in grill, a butler’s pantry and acres of storage space.

See a slideshow of the home

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Consider the Costs

When determining whether to remodel your kitchen, make sure you're scaling it to your budget and your available time. There's nothing fun about a partially completed remodel because you ran out of time or money, unless you're looking for an excuse to microwave Hot Pockets for all your meals.

If you choose to embark on this home improvement project, take heart in the fact that many experts say a modest kitchen remodel offers a higher level of return on investment than most other home improvement projects, especially if you do the work yourself. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll end up making that money back. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2011-2022 Cost vs. Value Report, a kitchen remodel has an average of 65.7-72.1% return on investment when you sell your home.

If the increased popularity of cooking programs and home improvement television shows is any indicator, the kitchen is rapidly becoming the focal point of not only homebuyers, but also homeowners. It seems an increasing number of homes hitting the market have more cash sunk into the kitchen than other rooms in the house. From expensive countertops and industrial stoves to spacious kitchen islands and farmhouse sinks, Americans are committed to maximizing their kitchen space.

13 PHOTOS
Top-Rated Kitchens: Before + After
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With Housing Recovering, Perfect Time for a Kitchen Remodel?

When 'This Old House' asked readers to submit their projects, more than 1,000 responded with work that showed the abilities of all you dedicated DIYers. Here's a look at the top picks for kitchen renovations chosen by TOH editors and your fellow readers.

Find Contractors: Kitchens + Baths | Painting | More

+ Kitchen Remodeling Guide

From This Old House

Who: Alma Moore-Egen and Bradley Egen

Where: Kalamazoo, Mich.

"We didn't think the hickory cabinets and white laminate counters suited our 1860 farmhouse, and when snakes surfaced a remodel was a high priority. I had big dreams, but Bradley and I both knew we had to do everything on the cheap. So we sanded and milk-painted the cabinets and added vintage-style knobs. We topped the base cabinets with cherry butcher block and used 12-inch boards crowned with molding to make the upper cabinets look ceiling-height."

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Who: Alma Moore-Egen and Bradley Egen

Where: Kalamazoo, Mich.

"Every weekend for 11 months we endured chaos and exhaustion, learning as we went along and begging for help from relatives. My brother-in-law built the cabinets that enclose the fridge. Together, we did just about everything. We even made the range hood and a dish rack, although a metalworker made the range backsplash, the sink, and a new top for an old table we had, turning it into an island. Now the kitchen's a paradise, with no snakes!

Who did the work: I did all the work myself

Cost: $10,000

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Who: Bo B

Where: Nevada, Mo.

"My wife and I completely remodeled and updated our kitchen from 'the 80's' to a more modern and updated look. We removed and gutted the existing kitchen with the 'country' looking old oak cabinets with 'wooden' style Formica. We increased the single entry door to 100 inches, which would give us the ability to install an island and barstools for added use and convenience. The existing kitchen had an unappealing soffit around three of its four sides, which we removed bringing the cabinetry and ceilings to 8 feet in height."

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Who: Bo B

Where: Nevada, Mo.

"The new white cabinets were given a 'fresh' and updated look with a granite countertop and a butcher block island. A new wood floor was laid in the kitchen, dining room, and hallway, replacing the linoleum in the kitchen and adding more flow throughout our home. My wife and I, along with the help of a family friend, completed all of the preparation work ourselves and had the cabinets and countertops professionally installed. We love our new, beautiful, and functional kitchen because of the gratification and cost-effectiveness of doing much of the work ourselves. This was an awesome learning experience that has inspired us to tackle additional projects throughout our home."

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Who: Arlene S

Where: Davenport, Wash.

'Our 105-year-old home was a hotel at one time, with the Harlem Globetrotters as one of its famous guests, but it needed a complete restoration. We began with the kitchen, determined to make it as historically correct as possible, while using modern appliances and amenities. We did the demolition ourselves, as well as the installation of the Jatoba cherrywood flooring, the plaster repair, and painting. We contracted with a custom cabinet company to build our cabinetry and bring our dream to fruition. They included pantry pull-outs and a recycling center. Matching fronts were made for the refrigerator and dishwasher.'

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Who: Arlene S

Where: Davenport, Wash.

'I sold my pickup to purchase the dual-fuel stove with a warming drawer, and it was worth it! We chose pendant lighting, as I was adamantly against recessed lighting in a vintage-looking kitchen. The open shelving provided space to display old family treasures next to the antique wall phone once used in my parents' farmhouse. The window seat gave us extra storage, while the fluted farmhouse sink matched nicely with the molding used around the windows, one of which was discovered during the demolition and became a pass-through to the sunporch eating area.'

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $50,000 to $100,000

Who: June B

Where: Minneapolis, Minn.

'When I moved into our 1970s split foyer house, I knew I had a challenge. I loved the quality of light throughout the rooms, the floor plan, and my husband's wonderful landscaping, but the outdated kitchen with its dark cabinets and '70s wallpaper was like a cave.
A neutral floor had already been put in, but still everyone laughed when I said I could redo the kitchen for $10,000. The biggest expenses were the Silestone countertops and stainless steel appliances. Since new cabinets wouldn't buy more space, we had the cupboards oil-painted a stark white, then antiqued them with a chocolate glaze. This process is very forgiving for old wood. Wanting a bit of dazzle, I bought glass knobs and pulls and used ceramic tile with a few custom inserts for the back splash.'

Who: June B

Where: Minneapolis, Minn.

'We had the drawers rebuilt for full extension and converted the broom closet into a pull out pantry. A neighbor built a counter corner garage. To add more storage, we antiqued a free-standing old cabinet, and for contrast I used my dark cherry dining room sideboard as a counter-height kitchen island, securing a stainless steel top to echo the stainless appliances. A fun graphic and a picture of roosters painted by a friend warm the cool look of steel. I fill the kitchen window box with herbs and edible flowers in summer, and evergreens and white lights for an extra sparkle during our long dark winters.'

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $5,000 to $10,000

Find Contractors: Kitchens + Baths | Painting | More

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Who: Carolyn H

Where: Piney Flats, Tenn.

'The kitchen is 13 by 17 feet. When we bought the house 5 years ago, it was a disaster. We stripped all the woodwork (using Dad's stripper), most of which was painted lime green. The house did have its original pantry, which was painted white. We needed someplace to put a return, as there was no heating system in the house, so we took off the closet door and put the return in the bottom, painting the cover a flat black. We found an antique built-in bookcase ($175) that had come out of an old house and placed it in the top half and built the trim around the door using a router and saw. It made a nice glass cabinet.'

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Who: Carolyn H

Where: Piney Flats, Tenn.

'We had an island built by a local sawmill, and to save money we stained it and used granite tiles on top ($125 for the tiles). We opted for a black cast-iron sink and a bridge faucet, which we installed. We repaired the plaster walls and wallpapered (from a wallpaper company going out of business). We hung the tin ceiling and replaced the light fixtures (as it had none). We refinished the original heartwood pine floors. We found the appliances at a gas company that had filed for bankruptcy and bought all of them for $7,500. They also gave us the cabinet that houses the microwave for free. We stripped it and refinished it.'

Who did the work: I did some of the work myself

Cost: $10,000 to $25,000

More Before and After Kitchens

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Get Inspired

While American homes are awash in stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, there are plenty of other options out there. If you're looking for inspiration, the internet is a treasure trove of inspiring kitchens. Pinterest is a great source for photos of dream kitchens and innovative designs to get your creativity flowing. Members tend to repost identical photos, but with thousands of new members joining each day it's a great source for ideas.

Online real estate listings are another great way to see firsthand how other people have made made the most of their kitchen. Unlike the staged photos you'll see in design magazines, these listing photos show the kitchens of actual people like yourself. It's a simple way to virtually tour thousands of kitchens around the country, which is helpful because styles tend to vary by region. Compare the edgier, modern kitchens in Los Angeles and Miami with more traditional kitchens in Atlanta or Washington, D.C. Or check out beach houses in the Hamptons or ranch homes in Austin, Texas.

For more rustic kitchens, look for areas outside major urban areas and play around with the keyword search by typing in "farmhouse" or "country." For more modern styling, try keywords like "chef's kitchen" or "contemporary kitchen."

There's a lot of decisions to make before starting on a kitchen remodel, especially the budget and the scope of the project. Starting with firm plans and a concrete budget will keep the project from running away with itself. Whether it's just a general update or a full-blown remodel, it's important to have the paramaters firmly set.

Cosmetic changes like paint colors, cabinet doors or countertops are far simpler and cheaper than redoing the floors or replacing appliances. Be sure to consider storage options, how much counter space you'll need for prep and appliances, and other variables that will affect usability. It's tempting to go with the latest trends, but those often end up looking dated the fastest. It's hardly worth the effort if you end up with a kitchen identical to everyone else on the block.

For those who've put off home improvement projects like a kitchen remodel because of the recession, key economic indicators are saying the time is right to start them now. On the other hand, sometimes it's easier to change houses than to update an existing one.

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