By most metrics, the kitchen is the most important room in your home.
It’s where you prepare meals, and perhaps where you enjoy them.
It’s where you entertain, whether that means having a few neighbors over for a summertime happy hour or inviting the entire family for a big reunion party.
It’s where the kids do their homework and where mom and dad take care of bills and other paperwork.
Another part of the house might get the title of “living room,” but many of the most memorable moments in your home will likely be spent in and around the kitchen.
For all these reasons, it makes perfect sense that the kitchen tends to be by far the most expensive room in the house.
If you are planning on remodeling your kitchen space to make it bigger, prettier, more functional, more modern, or just all-around more impressive, you will have to make some decisions to avoid going recklessly over budget.
These four considerations will help you nail down what matters most to you in a kitchen—and where you should put your money.
1. How many people are you planning to accommodate?
How big your kitchen needs to be won’t always be decided based on the number of people living in your home currently.
For instance, it might seem that an empty-nester married couple wouldn’t need as big a kitchen space as a couple with four kids or teenagers in the house.
However, if the empty-nester couple regularly hosts family gatherings around the holidays or invites friends over for dinners or cocktail hours, then a small kitchen built with two people in mind is quickly going to start feeling cramped.
With this comparison in mind, think about how you are planning to use your kitchen as a space to accommodate people.
Bigger families typically equal bigger kitchens, but as the above example shows, there can be benefits to a more spacious kitchen even in a household of one or two.
It’s also not just square footage, counter space, or seating space that you should be considering.
Preparing a Thanksgiving meal for 20-30 people is a huge undertaking that also demands a bigger oven and stove setup, more space in the refrigerator, larger sinks, and more.
On the other hand, if you dine out often and don’t do much entertaining, a smaller kitchen with more modestly sized appliances probably makes the most sense.
2. What value will you get out of each kitchen investment?
Amid any renovation, homeowners are good about thinking through the big-picture value that the remodel will bring to their lives.
Perhaps you’re interested most in the dollar value of your new kitchen: you’re preparing to put your home up for sale, and you want to make it a more attractive prospect for a potential buyer.
Maybe your kitchen renovation is all about expanding your space for entertaining so that you can host more gatherings at your home.
In either case, achieving these goals by way of a renovation has value for you and your life.
What homeowners generally aren’t as good about is applying that same value-centric thought process to individual parts of a kitchen remodel.
Instead of just focusing on the big picture, think through each element of your kitchen as a standalone…
Cabinets, sinks, appliances, countertops, fixtures, flooring, backsplashes, shelving, and even additional square footage: all these things come in many variations of design, style, size, color, and yes, price point.
While it would be nice just to purchase the top-of-the-line item in each category, most of us don’t have the budget to allow for such an approach.
Instead, treat your kitchen remodel like a math problem. You have a final budget that you must consider, and you can plug in numbers to various parts of the equation (read: the different elements of your kitchen design) to make sure you are getting everything you need for the dollar amount you have in mind.
The trick here is deciding what you value most. It’s not worth spending top dollar on something that isn’t going to have a super positive impact on how you use your kitchen.
For instance, quartzite countertops can be pricey, but they also offer a variety of benefits—including incredible heat resistance.
If you bake a lot and want the convenience of placing hot dishes on your countertops without worry, then investing in granite makes sense. It’s solving a pain point, for example, having to have a bunch of cooling racks ready whenever you take something out of the oven.
If you don’t mind using cooling racks, though, or if you aren’t exceptionally swayed by any of the big benefits of quartzite, it might make more sense for you to opt for a less expensive countertop option.
Try to think through this type of value proposition for every individual investment you are considering for your kitchen remodel. Doing so will tell you which improvements you value most (the must-haves) versus the ones you’d enjoy but don’t necessarily need (the nice-to-haves).
In turn, you’ll be able to prioritize the different parts of your remodel (and allocate your budget) based on what is going to deliver the most value in your daily life.
3. How much are you willing to spend on aesthetics?
One quandary likely to come up as you weigh the value of different kitchen investments is the battle between function and aesthetic.
A kitchen can offer a ton of utility without necessarily being a work of art to behold. At the same time, a drop-dead gorgeous kitchen can sometimes lack features that would improve overall usability. You need to decide whether you value aesthetics or function more—and allocate your budget accordingly.
There is no right or wrong answer here.
If you fancy your kitchen as a spot for gatherings, then having a beautiful kitchen that sends all your guests into jaw-drop mode will probably have much value for you.
If you’re a chef who spends every day whipping up delicious confections, though, you’ll prize function above all else.
If you fall into the former category, you’ll probably put a fair amount of your budget into getting the flooring, fixtures, cabinet design, backsplashes, and countertop look just right.
If you’re of the latter persuasion, your focus will probably be on making sure the layout is perfect, or that you have enough capacity on the stove, in the oven, or in the sink to make food prep more efficient.
4. How do you use your kitchen right now?
As you dream up your ideal kitchen, some of your must-haves or nice-to-haves will likely be aspirational in nature.
Many homeowners renovate a kitchen with pictures in their minds of what having that space will make them want to do. While a new kitchen might inspire you to change some of your habits or adopt new hobbies, it’s better to plan your remodel based on how you use your kitchen right now.
For instance, if you already host many happy hour gatherings at your house and just want more space to do so, it makes sense to remodel your kitchen accordingly.
On the other hand, if you hardly ever bake, don’t spend much money building out a baker’s dream kitchen in hopes that it will encourage you to adopt a new hobby. Your goal should be to design a kitchen that solves your existing pain points or makes it easier to do things that you already do.
Even on the low end, most homeowners who choose to renovate their kitchens spend more than $10,000 doing so.
These are big investments and should be treated with the same careful planning and smart due diligence with which you would undertake any sizable investment.
Keeping these four considerations in mind as you are planning your kitchen remodel will help you set concrete goals and establish priorities to avoid going over your budget.