9 kitchen renovation planning questions that reveal the most ideal combination of form and function for your cabinets and surfaces.

Perhaps the most visible items in your kitchen, cabinets and surfaces are the purchases which also will make up the lion’s share of your kitchen remodeling budget. A qualified, professional remodeler can help walk you though your choices, and they will most likely work with a designer who can help refine your options. However, there are some basic things to consider that can help them find the ideal combination of form and function for your kitchen. Here are a few of our favorite questions to ask homeowners:

1. What are your budget priorities?

For some homeowners, appearances matter. For them, beautifully appointed custom cabinets and stunningly unique granite, quartz or marble surfaces are going to be the focal point of their kitchen remodel. Anything less, and they won’t be happy. Others just want cabinets that function well and surfaces that are easy to clean. Yes, they still want beautiful kitchens, but ease of use rules their wish list. Still others would rather spend their budget on commercial-grade appliances or the statement backsplash that they’ve always envisioned. Remember, there are no wrong answers – only right choices for your family. No matter where your budget priorities lie, establish them on the front end and plan accordingly from there.

2. Trendy or traditional?

Perhaps more than other features of your kitchen, cabinets are where you get to let your personality shine through. Spend some time looking at kitchens you love and defining your personal style. Then, choose what you love. One caveat; consider how long you plan on remaining in your home if you are considering a trendy color or style. If you plan on moving soon, go with transitional choices to preserve resale value and get more flamboyant with easily adjusted options like paint. If this is your forever home, go with what you love!

3. What’s your kitchen’s personality?

When you are considering open cabinets or glass doors vs. traditional solid doors, you’ll want to take a careful look at what the stuff inside your cabinets really looks like. If you have pieces you would like to showcase, open shelves or glass doors allow you to show them off. Colorful assortments of sippy cups and plastic containers look far less lovely set behind glass. Many folks who like the open look opt for a combination of some closed and some open spaces to allow themselves permission to be messy in nonvisible areas.

4. What’s your kitchen personality?

Likewise, consider how you want to decorate your new space. We find that when they remodel, most homeowners prefer to replace existing upper cabinetry with new, taller uppers. They relish every inch of storage and want cabinets that soar to the ceiling. Additionally, taller upper cabinets eliminate an area where dust tends to collect – and the chore of cleaning there.

5. What do you need to store?

Again, it’s time to assess what you actually use in your kitchen – and how often you use it. Cookie sheets, pizza stones and muffin tins require far different storage spaces than roasting pans and woks. If you use them often, by all means build in storage space for those unique items. If you use them once a year during the holidays, purge your kitchen of these bulky items and instead purchase disposable pans for the few times you’ll actually use them. Think about adding a pantry closet for storing large items. If you have space, this can actually save money and reduce cabinetry costs.

6. Is granite your go-to?

There are myriad options when it comes to surface materials. Granite has been the natural stone of choice for quite some time, but it might be losing some of its edge to the solid surfaces we’ll discuss below. If you decide to go with granite, realize that the price you pay will depend primarily on thickness and pattern. The more rare the pattern, the more costly. Always select a 3 centimeter (1 -3/16″) granite thickness, but choosing a more common, Level 1 product will help reduce your costs and– the results can still be dramatic.

Marble (in a polished or honed surface) is very popular too, but keep in mind that marble can easily stain, scratch or etch, so you must be more careful with the countertop. If you are comfortable with a more weathered countertop, this may be a consideration. I like low maintenance and complete freedom in my kitchen, so I prefer quartz or granite as a countertop material.

7. Are manufactured choices solid options?

Some homeowners are gravitating toward manufactured surfaces for their versatility. Since they resist scratches and stains, they can be more forgiving than granite, and require less maintenance. They also come in a wider range of colors, allowing homeowners to get creative with designs. Just be aware that depending on the type and manufacturer, solid surfaces actually can be more costly than natural stone.

8. Do you want something unconventional?

From soapstone to concrete and butcher block to stainless steel, there are a variety of more unique surfaces for countertops. Before you opt for the unconventional, make certain that you understand the maintenance and cleaning requirements as well as its pluses and minuses. (Stainless steel typically used in commercial kitchens, for example, can handle hot pans and cleans up well with soap and water but will scratch if you cut on it.) Again, consider how long you will live in your home before you make a nontraditional choice.

9. Plan for how you live.

We’ve said this quite a few times in these articles, but nowhere is this more true than when it comes to kitchen surfaces. If your family likes to gather around the island for snacks, make certain that you select a large enough – and forgiving enough – surface. Want to make an elegant statement for frequent entertaining? Go with a dramatic granite or quartz. Know that you will be serving red wine at all of your parties? Steer away from easily stained marble on serving surfaces.

With some careful consideration, your cabinets and surfaces can be the star ingredients that help your kitchen shine.