The thrill of kitchen remodeling always comes with a big negative: the specter of months of a war-zone-like construction area with cooking equipment boxed up for days, if not months.
Before you get to the renovation, there are an overwhelming number of questions to ask about appliances, backsplashes, counters, cabinet knobs, lighting, faucets and more that can quickly turn a dream project into an overwhelming nightmare.
Start the process right by investing energy into planning, so a new kitchen won’t take any longer or be more exasperating than necessary. Here are several Web sites that will make the task easier without taking away the fun of creating a new space.
Houzz: For photographic inspiration, check out Houzz ( www.houzz.com). It’s the Flickr of design idea sites: Visitors can upload photos, add comments and compile “idea books.” Photos can be filtered by room, style and metro area.
As of last week, more than 1,200 photos of kitchens were posted; the filters help narrow them down. You can also browse to get a sense of the range of styles and options.
To research kitchen designers, click on the “professionals” tab to find contact information for architects and interior designers, as well as photos of their projects.
HowStuffWorks: Void of any flashy photos or graphics, HowStuffWorks ( www.howstuffworks.com) includes a nicely organized article on “How to Design a Kitchen.” It’s divided into 10 subjects, including islands, kitchen shape and the differences between doing all new construction and remodeling.
The information makes such a massive undertaking seem relatively straightforward by breaking down the options and detailing what homeowners should think about when tackling a kitchen.
Kitchens.com: Kitchens.com is a comprehensive site about kitchen design. It delves into basic layout concepts and budgets and keeps on top of trends. For example, visitors can view this year’s popular kitchen colors (yellows and purples) as well as eco-friendly options.
There’s plenty of design inspiration, with before-and-after photos, videos about choosing lighting and cabinets, a blog and a marketplace where visitors can shop for faucets and tiles. Also helpful is a directory of kitchen designers organized by state.
MyDesignIn: Moving appliances virtually is a lot easier than lifting them in real life. Your back will thank you if you visit MyDesignIn ( www.mydesignin.com) before deciding where to place the refrigerator in your reality kitchen.
Though the Web site is in beta mode, anyone can sign up (for free) to lay out a kitchen or any other room in 2-D and 3-D formats. Visitors start with a blank slate and then add furnishings that are bookmarked from another Web page or from the site’s shopping list.
The site still has some kinks to work out, but it can provide a rendering of your vision.
Superkitchens.com: It’s one thing to have a budget in mind and quite another to calculate those costs on paper. Superkitchens.com provides worksheets that help with crucial aspects of kitchen renovation, such as estimating costs and financing options.
Plus, there are downloadable checklists for storage issues, questions to ask before hiring a contractor and measurement guidelines from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. These worksheets provide a solid reality check and can help rein in too many lofty ideas.
Kitchen Design OnLine: If hiring a full-time kitchen designer to help with logistics isn’t in your budget, consider Kitchen Design OnLine ( www.kitchendesignonline.net), a new service from Bethesda, Md., kitchen designer Jennifer Gilmer.
This flat-fee service, conducted primarily by e-mail, offers a range of in-depth design assistance, from simple floor plans to detailed drawings with 3-D color images.
The process is easy: Choose a level of service (basic, $495; intermediate, $750; or 3-D luxury, $995), then provide detailed information about your existing kitchen and the one you want. One to two weeks later, the service will e-mail you drawings of a proposed kitchen design.
After accepting the design, you’ll receive two architectural drawings via UPS, one to keep and one to share with your contractor or architect.