Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

A Capital (Kitchen) Investment

When it comes to selling or buying a home, the kitchen is where it's cooking.

"The kitchen is truly the heart of a home," says Blue Arnold, a National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) certified kitchen and bath designer, owner of Kitchens by Request, located outside Baltimore, and former NKBA board member. "The kitchen is where life happens. It's not just a place to make meals, it's where the family gathers."

If the kitchen is the heart of a home, it needs to tug on the heartstrings of potential buyers. But Arnold says sellers don't need to undertake a massive remodeling project and spend a lot of dough to upgrade the kitchen. "It's easy to spend $30,000 on a kitchen remodel, but that money may be hard to recoup in the sale of the home," he says. "Sellers need to realize that millennials are minimalists -- and this is the demographic likely buying your home."

Arnold and NKBA's 2017 Trends Survey share culinary cues and delectable designs in the kitchen, which can fuel a hot property.

Hot Spots

Before beginning any kitchen upgrade project, Arnold encourages homeowners to first be inspired.

"Visit local kitchen showrooms. Search online for ideas and take note of kitchens in home and garden television shows," Arnold says. "Everything from the latest door hardware to trending kitchen colors is on display."

Arnold says to be upfront with kitchen sales representatives about your budgetary constraints for the best advice and service when you go into showrooms. Homeowners can get a big bang for their buck by paying attention to small details.

Lean and Clean

Homeowners should view the sale of a home as an opportunity to clear away the clutter in the kitchen. "Before you can begin to spiff up the space, you need to pare it down," Arnold says. "Open up the bottom and top cabinets and that 'junk' drawer in the kitchen and get rid of things you never use."

Donating unexpired and unused items to local food banks and not-for-profits brings a fresh energy into the kitchen, Arnold says. It also leaves less stuff to box up on moving day.

Color and Light

A fresh coat of paint brings color and life into a kitchen, Arnold says, and it's also an easy way to freshen up walls and cabinets that have been grease-spattered or dinged through usage.

"If you are trying to sell your home, the best tactic is to do as many DIY (do-it-yourself) projects as you can," he says. "Painting a space instantly transforms it. If you're painting cabinet faces, you can also change out the hardware to complete the look."

Arnold prefers paint colors that are bisque, almond and shades of grey, which are emulated in NKBA's 2017 Design Trends and dominate kitchen color schemes. Arnold's personal favorite paint shade is "Whisper" by Benjamin Moore Paints.

A bright tip to set the mood in a space is to change outdated light fixtures and remove large, bulky window treatments to let the natural light shine in. Common sense dictates replacing burned-out bulbs and broken fixtures, but sometimes spraying an old brass light fixture with a direct-to-metal paint in lacquer white or copper color breathes new life and light into fixtures.

Counter Revolution

A new Stone Age is dawning in today's kitchens, according to NKBA 2017 trends. Countertops and backsplashes made with engineered, man-made or manufactured stone have a natural look without the maintenance of real stone.

Most commonly called quartz countertops, this engineered stone is a manufactured surface comprised of more than 90 percent quartz. The remaining ingredients include high-performance polymers, resins and pigments that are colorized to mimic natural stone or concrete surfaces.

Engineered stone is nonporous, waterproof and stain-, heat- and scratch-resistant. The surface of e-stone is smooth and can have a shiny or honed appearance. Because it lacks surface holes, engineered stone does not support the growth of bacteria and doesn't require sealing as natural stone does.

Arnold says if quartz countertops and backsplashes are cost-prohibitive, homeowners can often get builders-grade granite for less money and install mesh-backed tile backsplashes using thinset and grouting in a two-day process.

Step on It

If the kitchen underfoot is in a state of disrepair, today's luxury vinyl tile options will floor you. Colors and patterns with water-resistant qualities that simulate natural flooring materials and easy-to-install tiles make this a popular mainstream choice.

If the kitchen has high-quality flooring, make sure tiled floors and grouting are professionally cleaned and wood floors are refinished, if the budget allows.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

The kitchen sink should be free of dishes and scoured clean. Make sure to fix or replace a leaky or outdated faucet.

If appliances date the kitchen to the harvest gold era, homeowners might consider replacing them with builder's grade or like-new appliances.

Ironically, the goal of updating the kitchen of a home on the market is to make it look as though no one cooks in it. A vase of flowers, bowl of fresh fruit and decorative hand towels are eye candy in an uncluttered kitchen, Arnold says.

"Pay attention to the small details in a kitchen," he says. "If you haven't taken care of the simpler things, a potential buyer may believe the homeowner isn't tending to the house's larger maintenance issues."

Niche in Kitchen

-- Kitchens By Request Inc., KitchensByRequest.com, 1115 Baldwin Mill Road, Jarrettsville, Maryland, 410-557-6957

-- National Kitchen & Bath Association, NKBA.org, click "ProSearch" to find a certified kitchen professional near you. 800-843-6522