"I always tell my clients to choose a look that suits their personal style instead of following trends," says Sue Olson, of Sue Olson Designs in Menlo Park, a designer specializing in Eichler homes. "This way, they'll be happier with the results."
The National Association of Realtors recently reported that on average, major midrange kitchen remodels in 2005 cost $43,862 and returned $39,920 at re-sale, or 91 percent of the costs to remodel, up from 66 percent in 2002. The National Kitchen and Bath Association suggests that the kitchen is worth about 10 percent of the total value of the home—but that doesn't mean that one should automatically spend $50,000 on the kitchen in a $500,000 home. It all depends on your personal situation.
"I always recommend that homeowners who plan on selling a home in a couple of years just do a quick facelift to modernize it and add value," says Cooke. "If you plan on living there a while, it's worth it to customize the kitchen and spend more to make it just as you want it."
A "quick" kitchen update might include stripping paint off of kitchen cabinets or refacing the cabinet doors. Refacing can work well if you want to match new countertops and works best for cabinets that look tired but are otherwise in sturdy shape. Updated light fixtures, fresh flooring, and decorative hardware can also go a long way in making older kitchens appealing to buyers.
In restoration, homeowners often maintain the original kitchen footprint and make every attempt to capture the original spirit of the space. In the case of Carol Bua and Todd Clark, the owners of an Eichler in Granada Hills, this meant finding a cabinetmaker who could recreate the original cabinetry in more elegant mahogany. Carol says the work paid off when an Eichler owner came to see the kitchen and thought it was the kitchen installed when the home was built.
A full remodel offers homeowners the opportunity to truly customize their space. Walls might be knocked down, custom cabinets are installed, and time is taken to solve a family's specific needs. This might mean designing a custom banquette for informal dining, adding two prep stations for couples who like to cook together, or extensive storage for dishware or cookbook collections.
All of these extra features can add up. "There are usually five parts of the kitchen remodel to consider—floor, cabinets, appliances, countertop, and contractor," says Nadja Pentic, an Eichler-savvy kitchen designer with La Vita ´ Bella, Inc., based in San Francisco. "All can vary dramatically in budget, so the clients should build their budget based on what is most important to them and how much contractor work will be involved in the projects."
Cooke says he usually takes a potential client on a first walk-though writing down a wish list of items they want to change in the space. He'll then compare this list with the overall budget and timeline and show the owner how to break up the project to different building stages that might work for their financial situation.
For best results, designers and contractors work together to specify materials that will help work within budget parameters. Substituting mid-sized ceramic tile for large-scale European porcelain tile for floors and backsplashes can help trim a budget. Installing ready-made cabinets instead of custom ones can also significantly reduce remodeling costs, but designers say that it is important not to substitute a lower cost for poor design or craftsmanship.
"You want to keep the feeling of an open space and maintain the relationship between the inside and the out," Olson says. "Also, be careful about lines. Larger 24-inch by 24-inch tiles will create fewer lines on the floor than smaller 12-inch by 12-inch tiles would. Fewer lines create a more open feeling."
The cabinetry is usually one of the more flexible parts of the puzzle, and it can be as plain or elaborate as the homeowner wants it to be. Simple cabinets made of veneered wood, oak, or maple will cost significantly less than those made of more exotic materials, like tigerwood or wenge, an African hardwood. Built-in storage features, such as revolving trays, pull-out baskets, and dish caddies, can also add significant cost for their added conveniences.
Designers of mid-century modern homes often recommend using plain doors to stay true to the clean, minimalist look. "It's the Eichler aesthetic to keep things uncluttered and as simple as possible," Olson says.
Also, it's important to think ahead to how tones and textures will work together upon completion. "When remodeling a house that has a lot of wood paneling, I always recommend going with color to minimize clashing of wood shades and also not to have the house look completely wooden," Pentic suggests.