9 Best and Worst Kitchen Upgrades

If you’re going to spend money on a renovation, you should get the most out of every dollar. Some kitchen innovations are worth every penny, but others? Not so much. Here are 6 on which to splurge on and 3 to avoid:


1. Coffee system

More than a simple coffeemaker, a coffee system is like having an at-home java bar – any time you feel like an espresso, latte or cappuccino, go no further than your kitchen. “To be able to serve a variety of coffee drinks in your own home is a definite plus for those who entertain or who just enjoy an exceptional fresh brewed cup of coffee,” says Sharon Flatley, owner of Flatley Design, in Dallas. “And it will cut down on your trips to Starbucks!”

2. Touch-activated faucet

After cleaning raw chicken, you turn on the kitchen faucet to wash your hands, right? Well, that instantly contaminates the faucet with bacteria. If you had a touch faucet, though, you’d use your wrist or elbow to tap the spout or handle to turn on the water – no hands necessary!

3. Good lighting

Since the kitchen is the center of family life in most homes, having the right lighting is key. “All three types of lighting (ambient, task, and accent)must all work together to make the space functional,” Flatley says. Ambient lighting sources include chandeliers and pendants to cast a warm glow over the room; task lighting includes under-cabinet lights, which help you see when you’re chopping vegetables on the countertop, and accent lighting includes fixtures that illuminate your china in a glass-front cabinet.

4. Universal design features

Making a kitchen easier for all people to use regardless of their age or dexterity is a common goal these days. That’s why the concept of universal design is so popular in everything from cabinets to lighting. These thoughtfully designed products are not only accessible but also sleek and stylish. For example, dishwashers are now available with drawers for easy opening; there are also raised models that eliminate the need to bend down.

5. Wine refrigerator

This cooling unit makes entertaining easier, Flatley says. It can be designed to go on or under a kitchen counter, or work as a freestanding unit in the cellar or any other room. Also worth the splurge: under-counter beverage units, especially helpful to families on the go so they can grab a cold drink as they’re headed out the door, she says.

6. Steam oven

This appliance prepares food fast, consistently and healthfully. “When cooking with steam, the nutrients stay in the food and aren’t lost during the cooking process,” Flatley says. “You can also save time by preparing a whole meal in a steam oven, from salmon to asparagus to dessert.” It’s become such a popular mode of food prep that manufacturers are making convection speed-cook ovens with a separate function for steam cooking.


1. Professional-grade appliances

Unless you’re training to be the next Ina Garten or Mario Batali, forget about appliances like the high-end six-burner with double ovens. Put your money towards energy-efficient appliances that better fit your skill level and lifestyle.

2. Pot filler

This special faucet, usually installed in a wall above a cooktop, eliminates the need to carry a heavy pot of water to the faraway stove. But Flatley thinks that it’s not worth the price. “Unless you have a sink immediately adjacent to the cooking surface, a pot filler seems a waste to me since you still need to [dump] the now boiling-hot water in a sink,” she says. “And if the sink is adjacent to the cooking surface, the need for a pot filler is redundant.”

3. Ceramic flooring

Drop a glass on this surface and it’s toast – you’ll be finding tiny shards on the floor for months. Better surfaces for a kitchen floor: softer materials like cork, hardwoods and vinyl.


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