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Tips for creating a kitchen that sells

A quick introduction: I’m an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging, and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Now I’m a new Ask columnist. You may know me from features on Fox television and in Money magazine, but I want to be your Globe go-to person for all things related to home staging.

I’d like to get the ball rolling with two common questions home sellers ask. . . .

Q. I’m preparing to sell my home, but my kitchen cabinets are outdated. Does painting them make sense, and is it cost effective? If so, what color should they be?


A. Yes. Painting them is one of the best improvements you can make before you sell. Here’s why.

First, kitchens are a major selling point. Kermit Baker, project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, has said that buyers “look first at kitchens and baths.” An outdated kitchen can negatively effect the way a potential buyer views your entire home.

Second, as kitchen upgrades go, repainting your cabinets is one of the least expensive ways to give the space a face lift. The average cost to repaint outdated kitchen cabinets is only around $1,000. It’s the best bang for the buck.


■  White is the most popular cabinet color for resale. I recommend Benjamin Moore’s “White Dove” because it’s a warm shade that feels crisp but not institutional.

■  If you have an island, consider painting its cabinetry a different color. For example, if the cabinets lining the exterior walls are white, create contrast and interest by painting the island ones gray or black, both popular options. It all depends on the color of your countertops. For example, white cabinets with a gray/white granite or quartz countertop would be complemented with gray-colored cabinetry on the island. Pick a color from the countertop that also complements the cabinetry and tie is all together. Think of it like an outfit. If your top is white (cabinets) and your pants are gray (center island cabinets) than your scarf or tie (counter tops) should bring the outfit together. It’s a more exciting look than an all-white outfit.


■  If possible, hire a professional to paint them. Cabinetry should be done in a high gloss, and painting them is a complex process requiring a dust-free environment, sanding, etc.

■  Don’t put those old knobs back on the new cabinets; invest in pull handles instead. A polished-chrome finish is the hot trend. is a great source for new hardware.

■  If your budget allows, and if you have space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, install crown molding or build a soffit to add height and make your cabinetry look high-end and custom.

■  Do you have a kitchen desk? Consider removing it (be honest, it really just accumulates junk mail, doesn’t it?) and creating a wine and coffee bar. This is the latest trend, and buyers love the look. A wine and coffee bar creates a small space for cocktails while entertaining at night and a platform for the coffee maker and muffins in the morning.

Q. What should my counter tops look like when selling? How much stuff is too much?


A. The rule of thumb is two items per section, which is defined as a discrete area of space. For example, in the photos shown here, the area next to the sink is one section, the area near the refrigerator is a second, and so on.

When considering what to use for the two items, a decorative item like a cookbook or a pretty cake pan looks best, but sometimes one of the items ends up being the espresso/coffee machine or something else you use daily. Try to tuck away portable microwaves and toasters, and definitely stow the dish rack and utility items.

Ideally, your goal should be clean, clutter-free countertops that show potential buyers the lifestyle they can have in your home. By placing a cookbook next to the cooktop area, for example, you gently suggest home-cooked meals and entertaining options. If you have a small nook with limited counter space, make it into a Euro coffee bar with your Keurig and biscotti. You don’t want it to look too contrived, but you do want to suggest lifestyle options.

If you have glass doors, cut down on the number of items in your cabinets. Remove the college mugs and the mismatched glasses and opt for clear, plain glassware.

Remember: Countertop space sells. Clutter eats equity.

BEFORE Do you have a kitchen desk? Consider removing it (be honest, it really just accumulates junk mail, doesn’t it?) and creating a wine and coffee bar.kara woods
AFTER If you have a small nook with limited counter space, make it into a Euro coffee bar with your Keurig and biscotti.kara woods

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