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Tip #3: Where can I save money and what items are worth the splurge?

Many of our clients begin kitchen remodeling projects in the summer.  Kids are out of school and our commitments tend to be less (for some of us) in the summer months.  Today’s client query is one that I hear a lot.  Naturally we all want to get the most for our money in all our investments but where can you save money in a kitchen remodel and what items are worth the splurge?

The answer to that is largely subjective as we all have differing needs and priorities.  That said, there are some principles that should never be compromised and those include efficient use of space, safety and the best quality you can afford.

Contemporary Kitchen with standard depth refrigerator.  Courtesy of


refrigerator is a much better fit.  Courtesy of



I must confess, there are some standards in the kitchen industry that are just plain wrong.  One of them is the standard depth refrigerator.  A standard base cabinet depth is 24″ (25″ including doors).  A standard refrigerator is about 33″ deep!  It might look perfect standing solo at the appliance store but it could look like a beast in your kitchen!  Yes, they stick out.  Depending on the layout of the kitchen we can sometimes work around the depth by surrounding the fridge with extra deep side panels and a cabinet above pulled forward.  But if you’re tight on space it is worth investing in what’s known as a counter, or cabinet depth refrigerator.  This means that the cabinet box will be flush with your counter top and your “stick out” will just be the thickness of the door.  It makes a big difference.  Here GE shows the difference between standard, or free-standing and counter depth.  A standard GE french door refrigerator would be about 26 cubic feet and retails at about $2,100 vs. a comparable counter depth model which is around 21 cubic feet and retails at $2,700.00. Yes, you will have less cubic footage with a counter depth fridge and I suggest keeping the old fridge in the garage if that’s an option.  If the kitchen is large enough you can add a beverage cooler.  When water, soda, beer and wine are taken out of the main fridge you get all kinds of space. There is also a third category if you’ve got the big bucks and that is true built-in or integrated.  Those are even shallower but they are also more than a foot taller to compensate.  Whether you opt for Sub Zero or GE. a built-in refrigerator is pricey but the most visually seamless, particularly if you add matching cabinet panels.


This kitchen was created using stock cabinet.  Courtesy of



You can save money on your cabinets if you can keep to standard, or stock, sizes.  Simpler cleaner lines with minimal molding can also save you enough money to splurge on that refrigerator!  There are just two things to keep in mind.  Make sure the quality of the cabinetry you buy is sound and backed by a warranty.


Many professional kitchen designers will be happy to consult with you on the layout and selections for your kitchen.  An hourly fee is well worth it to have your plan validated by a pro.  In many cases, if you purchase your cabinetry through your kitchen designer, design services are included.


Here they saved on cabinetry by selecting clean simple slab doors with no moldings and
they splurged on the counter depth refrigerator and focal point pantry door.
You may have heard me say this before but I’ll say it again.  Buy a good quality faucet.  Your faucet is arguably one of, if not the most, used items in your kitchen.  Splurge up front and you won’t be sorry.  Buy a cheap faucet and within a couple years you will have drips and leaks.  By the time you pay the plumber and replace the faucet you haven’t saved anything. If you buy a stainless steel sink make sure the gauge 18 or lower to avoid denting and horrible water spots.


You can get this Solna faucet by Brizo for under $400.
If you’ve decided on granite counter tops, think about using 2cm material with no build up so that your total cabinet thickness is 3/4″.  The minimal look works especially well with contemporary designs.  You’ll get the functional advantages of a stone counter top without the extra labor to build up the edge to 1 1/2″.  The look happens to be great, especially in dark counter tops.  If funds are tight you can also leave the back splash for last.  The area between your counter and upper cabinets can be tile or otherwise and it can always be finished at a later date.  However if you have enough material leftover from your tops maybe you’ll want to use it for the backsplash. A word of caution: if you’re using a slide in style range you’ll want to make sure it’s compatible with the finished height of your cabinets.

Skinny top in Antique Brown from
Skinny top in Antique Brown from



I love unique artsy cabinet handles as much as the next person but did you know that you can spend anywhere from $1.99 to upwards of $50 a piece for them?  Aim towards the $5-$10 for really good quality knobs or pull.  If you happen to fall in love with one of the $50 buggers maybe you can use just a couple for a special area.


Focal point hardware is on refrigerator (true built-in).  The rest are simpler designs
in the same finish.  It works!  Courtesy of


Next up, Tip#4: Granite or Quartz?














Gloria Graham-Sollecito

Gloria is a kitchen and bath cabinetry designer with AKBD certification from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. She has also served on the Florida Treasure Coast Chapter's Board of Directors as the VP of Communications. Her work has appeared on This Old House as well as in Florida Design Magazine, K+BB Magazine and the Palm Beach Post. She is co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Remodeling Your Kitchen, Illustrated, as well as a freelanced writer contributing occasionally to the Sun Sentinel in the area of kitchen design. She is a proud member of the Blanco Design Council and the illustrious Brizo Blogger 19.

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