Cooking in a well-designed kitchen
Dreamhouse Dreamkitchens

Kitchen of Your Dreams

Have you resolved to spend more time with friends and family this year, or to cook at home more regularly? Maybe what you need to achieve those goals is an inviting and functional kitchen. A well-designed kitchen – designed just for you – can make cooking feel almost effortless, says Jerry Schmidt of Dream House Dream Kitchen. “It’s like a waltz – when you’re on a roll in the kitchen and everything is flowing.”

Perhaps you’ve been getting by for years with a kitchen that’s not quite right: it’s outdated, or too small; it might have served the previous owner, but it just doesn’t operate the way that you do. “Sometimes, even seemingly small things can make cooking less fun, like not having the right storage space for all your favorite bowls and gadgets,” says Schmidt. “It’s nice to have a spot for everything you use in the kitchen.”

That includes ingredients and staples. When everything is in its place, it’s easy to check inventory the night before preparing a recipe. And once you’re cooking, it’s easier if your tools are where you want them. “If you have to haul everything out of the basement or the spare bedroom, you lose that flow,” says Schmidt.

For many people, cooking is more enjoyable when it’s a team effort. If the kitchen only has room for one cook, meal preparation can sometimes feel like a chore, which raises the temptation to phone for carry-out. In a well-designed kitchen with a spacious island, “you can accommodate friends and family to join you in the cooking process,” says Schmidt. “There’s room for several people to sit at the island while others are cooking.” Instead of being a job, meal preparation becomes a social occasion.

After a remodeling project, homeowners often find that they’re cooking and eating at home more often, because it’s more fun. They pull cookbooks off the shelf and try something new. And they entertain, not just more often, but more easily. “Instead of having to prepare everything the night before,” Schmidt says, “you can invite people over at 5:30 or 6:00 and everyone can hang out in the kitchen, enjoying the process together as the meal is prepared.”

Later this year, when the holidays roll around again, your kitchen might be the welcoming place where everyone wants to gather. And you just might wonder why you waited so long to get the kitchen of your dreams.


An Ideal Gathering Place

Gatherings of friends and family always seem to end up in the kitchen. “Whether you enjoy cooking or not, the kitchen tends to be the gathering place and one of the most-used rooms,” says Tracey Conner, owner of Madison West’s Kitchen Tune-Up. “An organized, functional and easy-to-use space goes a long way toward enjoying your time in the kitchen. Imagine a kitchen where all your frequently-used items are easy to access.”

When organizing your kitchen, it helps to be mindful of “one-use” tools, Conner says. “Often, much of our countertop and cabinet space is taken up by rarely-used space hogs: stand mixers, food processors, juicers, dehydrators, blenders, coffee pots and slow cookers can take up a ton of space.” Keep items on the counter that you use frequently, but store others.

Current trends for kitchen organization include exchanging lower cabinets for drawers. It’s much easier to store heavy items such as appliances or pots and pans in peg drawers, which are also handy for plates and other dishes.

Roll-out trays are perhaps the most popular storage solution. They can be added to base cabinets and pantries, as well as in bathrooms, home offices, laundry rooms and more. The entire space becomes more accessible; no more rummaging for that item that always gets tucked in the back. Other popular accessories include spice drawers, cutlery drawer dividers, and trash/recycling center roll-outs. A favorite new item is a pull-out spice cabinet by the stove.

“You don’t have to spend a fortune or live in a mess for weeks in order to update your kitchen,” Conner says. Cabinet organizers and accessories can be added as a stand-alone project or as part of a Tune-Up or a redooring, or refacing project. If your wood cabinets need some TLC, the 1 Day Tune-Up repairs and restores their original finish, typically for about $1,300 in an average-size kitchen.

Or choose cabinet refacing for a new door color and style. Trends for cabinets are moving from white to varying shades of grey and blue, says Conner. Black is also becoming more popular. Or combine colors, such as white upper cabinets with grey, blue or black lower cabinets. Prices vary based on the materials you choose and the size of the space, but cabinet refacing in a kitchen averages $7,000 to $12,000.

Ways to Finance Your Project

Along with plans for home improvement come decisions about the best way to pay for your project. For many homeowners, a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, also known as HELOC, is a good option. “You can use your home equity loan for almost anything,” says Ken Carlson, associate vice president of consumer lending at UW Credit Union, “but most people tend to use it for larger expenses, such as a home remodel, a vehicle purchase, college expenses, or even placing a down payment on a vacation home.”

Home equity loans and HELOCs generally have relatively lower interest rates. And because your home serves as collateral, access to larger amounts of funds may be easier than with other types of loans. The process for securing a home equity loan or HELOC is typically simpler than for a traditional first mortgage; there’s less documentation, lower – or no – closing costs, and quicker access to funds. Plus, interest may be tax deductible under certain circumstances. Consult with an accountant or tax advisor for details.


Home equity loans can be secured for a fixed term at a fixed rate of interest. However, the more popular method to access equity is through a HELOC, a line of credit that works much like a credit card: You can borrow as much as you need, up to the maximum amount of your credit limit, and as you pay back the amount borrowed, it becomes available again as part of the line of credit.

“One feature of a HELOC is that it gives you access to funds, but you don’t have to use all of it,” Carlson explains. “For example, if you qualify and secure a HELOC of $50,000, you draw only what you need, whereas with a fixed loan, you would take the entire $50,000.” With a HELOC, you’re charged interest and make payments only on the amount you have borrowed, rather than on the entire credit line available.

Most HELOCs have a variable rate feature, however some may provide the option to “lock in” an interest rate for a specified period of time. This feature provides the flexibility to place all or a portion of your balance into a fixed rate, fully amortized loan.

Apply online or over the phone, or visit your lender in person to discuss the possibilities. —

Cook Like a Pro

If your New Year’s resolutions include entertaining more often at home or improving your cooking abilities, you might be surprised to learn that a 90-year-old Madison company can help you with the latest in kitchen tools and techniques. Chefs, restaurant owners and other food service professionals have long known Kessenich’s Ltd. as their source for kitchen and bar equipment and supplies, as well as design and installation services.

But Kessenich’s serves home chefs as well, offering a variety of professional-grade products at its new 10,000-square-foot showroom. “It’s for people who are serious about cooking and really want top-notch equipment in their kitchen,” says Diane Sorenson, Kessenich’s marketing director. Having equipment with the power and capacity demanded by professionals makes every operation more efficient, whether it’s an intimate family dinner or a Superbowl party.

From professional-quality knives and utensils to food processors and appliances, Kessenich’s offers the quality you want plus the expertise to help you choose the right product and get the most out of it. “Our customer service staff is just super,” says Sorenson. “Some of them have been with Kessenich’s almost 30 years, so they really know what they’re doing.”

And if you want more than advice, you can take a class. In addition to its state-of-the-art showroom, the company’s new facility, opened in 2018, includes a test kitchen – the only one of its kind in the Madison area. The test kitchen will feature demonstrations and cooking classes, including themed classes, such as gluten-free cooking, holiday meals, or knife skills. For dates and details about classes, follow Kessenich’s on Facebook and Twitter.