How to Get a Chef-Worthy Kitchen for $50,000 or Less

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By Brie Dyas

Even grilled cheese tastes better when made in a stylish kitchen.

For those who love to cook, a gourmet kitchen is the dream. However, unlike a living room or bedroom, this space is much harder to remodel. Kitchens can’t be rearranged at whim, cabinets can’t be easily changed, and counters — well, there’s very little you can do to hide 1980s laminate countertops. (Their existence is proof that not everything comes back in fashion.)

But don’t shelve your dream just yet. It’s possible to get a luxurious look for under $50,000, which is close to the average price spent on a budget kitchen remodel. We asked designers where they’d splurge, where they’d save, and other projects to consider for a space worthy of your culinary creations.

Before you start, carefully consider the space and your lifestyle.

“Design your kitchen for the way you live 90% of the time,” says high-end kitchen designer Karen Williams. “Not the holidays or a visit from the in-laws.”

She ranks the overall layout as the most important element in a kitchen renovation. “Good design is good design. A proper prep center, cooking, and cleanup [space] is essential.” So before you get carried away on Pinterest, think more about the layout that best suits your daily habits rather than, say, Gwyneth Paltrow’s.

Making a list of your main concerns will be invaluable for efficiently communicating with a designer. “Share your ideas and priorities by listing them top to bottom,” says Sandra Brannock, principal at Expert Kitchen Designs. “Listen to the kitchen designer and ask for clarification if you are unsure about the design direction. If it is suggested something you want is not cost-worthy, listen and heed this advice.”

Where to Splurge on Your Kitchen Remodel?


Cabinets: Estimated Cost of $20,000-$25,000*

“The materials you choose for the kitchen cabinets will define the style,” says designer Natalie Kraiem. “If you are going for a modern look, I love to use high-gloss or matte lacquer or frosted glass in a solid color. If you want to achieve a richer look, then go with wood veneers. You could use laminates for a similar but less expensive look.”

Lifestyle also plays an important role in selecting materials. “Cabinetry will endure the most abuse, so look for all-plywood construction along with a superior finish and top-notch door and drawer hardware,” advises Brannock. “Your investment will require 20 percent to 30 percent more upfront, but the obvious return will be realized five or more years later when your cabinetry looks and feels as great as when it was first installed.”

Brannock has a few recommendations if you’re looking to trim costs: “Opting for cabinets with MDF construction will save you approximately 12 percent. Oak, knotty alder, and hickory are no-upcharge wood species that will save you 6 percent to 22 percent. Consider high-pressure laminate for a contemporary look.”

Appliances: Estimated Cost of $10,000-$14,000

Obvious as it may be, quality appliances are key to the gourmet kitchen. Kraiem likes side-by-side refrigerator and freezer models that offer custom panel options, which can blend in with your cabinets for a seamless look. A high-end dishwasher is also a luxury worth looking into, especially if it also offers the custom panel option. Hoods can be customized to suit the overall design.

If you’re currently using an electric range, don’t worry about converting to gas for a pro-caliber kitchen. Instead, replace the old stove with an induction model. “There are many high-end professional kitchens using this marvelous method,” Brannock says. “It is instantaneous, efficient, and also minimizes the extra heat generated in a hardworking kitchen.”

Luxe Details

Accessories have a big impact in a kitchen. “I like to splurge on hardware,” Williams says. “It should look good to the eye and feel good to the hand. You see it and touch it every day.”

Expanding Storage Options

Clutter can cramp the style of even the fanciest kitchen. However, you’ll want to go for storage options that suit your kitchen.

“Extra deep drawers can be a blessing or a curse if not thought through for one’s individual needs,” Brannock says. “If incorporating them, consider a smaller hidden drawer above them or a narrow partition to house smaller items such as lids or food processor accoutrements so all the space is utilized. These drawers add $200-plus each but are totally worth it.”

She also says that shallow-depth base cabinetry (13 to 18 inches deep) is especially cost-effective and can fit most people’s storage needs.

Where to Save on Your Kitchen Remodel?


Backsplash and Countertop: Estimated cost of $7,000

Renewed interest in marble means other natural materials can be found for a bargain. “With the popularity of white marble right now, granite may be a good choice. The marble yards have an overstock of the material and are usually offering to make a good deal,” Williams says. “Stay with the softer, neutral tones so your kitchen won’t look outdated.”

Additionally, new designs in porcelain present another cost-effective yet stylish option for counters, floors, and other surfaces.

Since a backsplash tends to cover a smaller space, it’s easier to cut costs here. “I tend to like to use the same countertop and backsplash material for a modern look. In this case, quartz is great because it doesn’t stain or get damaged easily,” Kraiem says. “I also like to use frosted glass or stainless steel for a unique look that’s not so expensive.” For more traditional kitchens, a tile or mosaic backsplash is the most budget-friendly option.

Flooring: Estimated Cost of $2,000

Your flooring is a big element of your kitchen, so it can have a big impact on overall style. “For example, with floors, 24-by-24- or 24-by-48 porcelain tiles in a concrete or minimalist color will ‘speak’ to those who walk on them as highly sophisticated,” Brannock says. “Another option is wide and random-width hardwood flooring such as fumed white oak for a rustic yet timeless elegance.” But the square footage here is probably less than in other areas in your home, so it’ll be less costly than, say, redoing the floors in the living room.

Miscellaneous items (Faucets, Sink, and Garbage Disposal): estimated cost of $1,000-$1,500

While these smaller elements play an important part in the function of your kitchen, they aren’t as noticeable, meaning you can get away with budget-friendly options. “Focus on the look and quality without splurging,” Kraiem says.

*Costs for this report were estimated by designer Natalie Kraiem and are based on a 10-by-10 kitchen. Your costs may vary depending on individual design choices.


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Which States Have the Oldest Homes? You Might Be Surprised

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ZillowThis 1954 California home designed by architect Cliff May has been updated in a retro style.

By Catherine Sherman

Zillow looked at single-family houses built from 1900 to 2014 to see which decades are most represented by the current housing stock. Turns out, many homes in the Northeastern states were built in the ’80s. But in California, the ’50s remain the dominant decade for homes still standing.

Washington, the nation’s capital, is holding strong as the area with the oldest decade — the 1920s — most represented today.

  • 1920-1929: District of Columbia
  • 1950-1959: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin
  • 1970-1979: Hawaii, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, West Virginia, Wyoming
  • 1980-1989: Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia
  • 1990-1999: Delaware, Indiana
  • 2000-2010: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington
Knowing when the largest share of homes was built isn’t just a fun piece of trivia. It also provides a window into the character of real estate in your state. Check out some of the most popular styles through the decades.



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Sweltering? Here are 10 Hacks for Living Without AC

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tel aviv aug 19 baby talya...
Shutterstock / ChameleonsEye

By Michelle Hainer

No AC? No problem! With these hacks, you can keep cool this summer — and keep your electric bill down.

When the temperature creeps past 90 degrees on a hot summer day, it’s natural to regret the decision to rent a place without air conditioning or own a home without AC installed. But don’t despair. With these tips for living without an air conditioner, you can stave off the sweltering heat without paying a sky-high utility bill (or putting in a noisy, energy-sucking window unit).

1. Change the rotation on your ceiling fan to counterclockwise.

It’s easier than you think to make this fix (usually your fan will have a little switch on the motor housing that alters its rotation), and doing so will allow the blades to circulate faster, creating a cooler breeze. If you have box fans, turn them around so that they blow hot air out the window.

2. Don’t let the light in.

Keeping shades, curtains, or blinds closed can lower the temperature inside your house by up to 20 degrees.

3. Channel your inner MacGyver.

Create a misting effect by placing a metal mixing bowl full of ice in front of a fan. Tilt the bowl so that the fan blows directly onto the ice. When the air hits the cubes, it will release a cool, misty breeze that chills the whole room.

4. Don’t close yourself off.

By shutting doors, that is. Keep inside doors open throughout the day, which allows the cool air to circulate throughout your house.

5. Revamp your bedding.

Pack away the flannel sheets (duh) and opt for percale instead, which is more breathable. Mist your sheets with cool water before bedding down for the night (or stick them in the freezer for a few minutes), and invest in a buckwheat pillow, which won’t trap heat the way traditional pillows do.

6. And then sleep solo.

Your partner may balk, until he or she realizes how much body heat cuddling creates.

7. Hit up your hot water bottle.

Only this time, stick it in the freezer first and then position it near your feet, which contain many pulse points. If you don’t have a hot water bottle, dunk your feet in ice water before turning in.

8. Unplug.

Appliances that are plugged in radiate heat — even when they’re not in use. So unplug what you can. Now is also the time to embrace your grill; turning on the oven on a 100-degree day is only going to make things hotter. But you knew that.

9. Turn off the lights.

Even the most energy-efficient light bulbs give off some heat, so make do with natural light on super-hot days. But still swap out incandescent bulbs for CFLs, which will also lower your energy bill.

10. Lie low.

Literally. Hot air rises, so putting your mattress on the floor can help you stay cool while you slumber. Or if you’re feeling outdoorsy but like sleeping with a roof over your head, rig up an indoor hammock, which will increase airflow. Bonus: It may even lull you to sleep, which will make you forget how hot you are.


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Mortgage Rates Plunge to 3.75%, Lowest Level Since May

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ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.

By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.75 percent, down 8 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped Friday, then hovered around the current rate for the rest of the week.

“Mortgage rates plummeted last Friday to their lowest level since May after U.S. data showed very weak wage growth in [the second quarter],” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “Looking ahead, since wage growth will be an important consideration in future interest rate hikes, markets will look to this Friday’s jobs report for hints about wage trends.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.92 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.72 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.


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