Keti’s Home: How to Elevate a Builder-Grade Kitchen & Dining Area

September 6, 2021

A couple months ago, I shared an inside look at how I elevated the builder-grade living room and bathroom in my own home. If you missed it, it’s definitely worth a read! 

Today, we’re moving on to two more essential spaces: upgrading the kitchen and dining areas. (You didn’t think I would forget about the heart of the home, did you?) It’s another transformation that is low in involvement and high in impact. Come take a look...

Quick Recap of My Home Design Journey

First, let’s recap how this project started. As I mentioned before, building my own home has always been a dream of mine. I spent years designing homes for my Dallas clients, which helped me pinpoint my must-haves and know exactly what I wanted my home to look like. 

Unfortunately, when you hire a production builder (see here for the 3 types of builders), you won’t always get the aesthetically pleasing design you dream of. Builders will offer you some limited (and sometimes dated) options to choose from. As far as I’m concerned, most of the builder-grade design features were not what I had envisioned. 

I could have upgraded to a custom home builder, but I didn’t think that level of personalization was necessary. Plus, timing was of utmost importance. Production builders are used to strict timeliness. They are accustomed to getting a home wrapped up and move-in ready in as long as six months. By contrast, spec builders move a little slowly, and it takes at least a year and a half before the home can be moved in. At the time, we were way past our move-in date. Our previous place was way too small and we were beyond the charming phase of being between homes.

I knew I had the design knowledge to take matters into my own hands and elevate my builder-grade home to meet my dreams and expectations. And that’s exactly what I did. You’ve already seen what my living room and bathroom look like, so let’s walk through my kitchen, shall we? Come on in!

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Before: Builder-Grade Kitchen

If you’re working with a builder for your new home project, there are certain things you need to be aware of when it comes to the kitchen. Like I mentioned before, they will offer options to choose from, but they won’t always meet your design goals… or what’s timeless and on-trend.

For instance, a pet peeve of mine is kitchen cabinet height. If your home has high ceilings between 8’-12’, your kitchen cabinets should go all the way to the ceiling. Period. It is the only way to achieve an elevated, luxurious look and ensure your kitchen design is on-trend for many years to come. 

Now, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your builder knows this. The first question to ask him/her is, “How tall will the top cabinets be?” Correct answer: All the way up to the ceiling.

In my case, my builder included standard kitchen cabinets with 42” top cabinets, which meant they would not go all the way to the ceiling unless we paid extra for that. So I did. That’s a no-brainer! 

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Post-production: Basic builder-grade kitchen

Trivia: What is a “luxury” home?

In any market, a “luxury” home is any home that’s valued at twice the price of a median home. In Dallas, since the median home is around $216K (or perhaps a tad higher), then by definition a home that’s valued at $430K and above is a luxury home. 

If that’s your home, make sure to invest in features that support the price point and what buyers expect from it! That’s how you get great ROI, whether you’re listing now or down the road.

After: Elevated Kitchen with Luxury Design Updates

So, how did it turn out? And how did I make it happen? Come step inside my new and much improved dream kitchen!

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Much better! Not so basic anymore, is it? Compared to the “before” photo, you’ll notice that I added sleek, modern handles on the cabinets, swapped out the light fixtures for more contemporary style pendants (the previous ones felt very ‘90s), and painted the island this enchanting blue color called Salty Dog by Sherwin Williams. I love it!

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You may have also noticed that the builder version of this kitchen had no backsplash. None of the options the builder shared matched what I was looking for, so I had him leave it unfinished. Once he turned the home over to me, I installed a simple yet elegant tile backsplash… that also matches the fireplace surround. That’s cohesive design! 

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I also installed a few more features that are worthy of a luxury home, including soft close drawers and doors, a tilted cabinet door below the sink, a trash can drawer, touchless faucet and my favorite feature, a reverse osmosis water system. I use it daily. (Hydration is essential to health!) 

Now, let’s move into the dining area...

Before: Builder-Grade Dining Area

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Most production builders will not install built-ins without a significant extra charge (if at all), but a luxury kitchen is a functional kitchen. I requested that they expand the cabinets into the dining area for more storage — and the ability to install a wine fridge. You know I love my wine!

After: Elevated Dining Area with Luxury Design Updates

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You can see that I swapped out that previous traditional ‘90s light fixture FAST, opting for an elegant chandelier instead. Lighting is the jewelry of the home, and this piece adds the perfect amount of sparkle to catch the eye and make meals feel special. The size also helps the dining area feel like a separate space in this open concept area. Stepping closer...

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It looks even more inviting. These built-in cabinets and shelving were installed around a window to keep great natural light coming in. And I spy a wine fridge...

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There it is! Considering the price point of our home (move-up luxury home), a wine fridge is an absolute must feature. By the way, I love Malbec. I have yet to try a new kind and not like it. If you are a wine drinker and you’re at a restaurant where the wine menu looks unfamiliar, go with the Malbec. Trust me, you will like it. 😉

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One final look at both spaces… Ahhh, now we are talking. This is now a classic, beautiful, and functional kitchen with all the must-have features of a luxurious and timeless kitchen. I absolutely LOVE how it all turned out, and using it every day is even better than I could have imagined.

Feeling inspired? Considering building your own home or upgrading the one you have to sell? I would love to help. Download my Renovation Guide below or reach out to me here to start the conversation.

— Keti

We increase the value of real estate through profit driven and timeless design for renovations and home staging. Whether you’re flipping a property, renovating, staging to sell, or want to wisely invest in updates, your ROI is our business.
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