Interior designer Nate Berkus and real estate experts weigh in on which upgrades are worth the investment (plus three that aren’t).
If you’ve ever fantasized about doing something a bit “unconventional” to your kitchen — say, covering the backsplashes in Moroccan tiles or installing a wood-fired pizza oven — you might want to reconsider. Interior designer Nate Berkus, who moonlights as the artistic adviser for LG Studio‘s high-end line of appliances, warns against investing in upgrades that reflect an overly specific aesthetic. Below, Berkus and real-estate experts share which kitchen renovations increase your home’s value—and which you’ll live to regret.
Anything with personality, like a chandelier, is a potential waste of money.
WORTHWHILE UPGRADE: HIGH-END APPLIANCES
“The right appliance can make the space feel much more finished and expensive. Plus, they involve almost no construction but change the functionality 100-fold,” says Berkus, who recommends going for ranges, refrigerators, cooktops, and other utilitarian devices with stainless steel finishes. The L.A.-based designer encourages homeowners to replace the entire suite of products simultaneously, if possible, which makes for a more cohesive look.
If you’re forced to choose just one, “do not skimp on the dishwasher,” says Sandra Miller, president of Santa Monica-based real estate agency Engel & Volkers. “It’s often the most overlooked appliance in the kitchen.”
UNNECESSARY INVESTMENT: STATEMENT LIGHT FIXTURES
“Anything with personality, like a chandelier, is a potential waste of money,” says Minette Schwartz of the Schwartz Team at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. Her rationale: More often than not, light fixtures reflect personal taste and can be a major turn-off to a prospective buyer who doesn’t share your style sensibility.
WORTHWHILE UPGRADE: NEUTRALS
Introducing a neutral color palette for major surfaces like countertops and flooring might just be your biggest return on investment. “It sounds boring, but taste changes, and neutrals are much more universal,” explains Berkus. “You can always transform the feeling of the kitchen through accessories on the countertop, or your glassware, dishware, and paint color—things that can be swapped out easily.”
UNNECESSARY INVESTMENT: ANYTHING TOO TRENDY
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a kitchen renovation is getting swept up in the latest design trends, says Berkus. “When you install things like crazy-intricate countertops, multifaceted tile backsplashes, and intensely carved molding, I can guarantee you that six months from now, something else will come along to replace that concept.” Miller agrees: “When in doubt, always go with timeless finishes versus the fashionable or trendy.”
WORTHWHILE UPGRADE: A CHEF’S KITCHEN
“Everyone loves to mimic the kitchens they see on television cooking shows,” says Ida Schwartz of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. “With the increase of foodies and amateur chefs, we’ve seen that a conversion from an electric stove to a gas stove—in addition to a double-oven—is highly coveted.” One solid option for the aesthete-gourmand hyphenate: LG Studio’s Stainless Steel Built-In Double Wall Oven. Merging modern form and function, the oven has four convection modes and the kind of sleek, smudge-proof finish which would be welcome in any homebuyer’s dream kitchen.
UNNECESSARY INVESTMENT: SUPERFLUOUS EXTRAS
A pizza oven won’t do your bottom line any favors. Same goes for the built-in coffeemaker and hibachi grill. “None of these things maximize the value of your home,” says Minette Schwartz. She also urges people to think twice before installing a washer/dryer in the kitchen—an idea that seems better in theory than reality, because, as Schwartz explains, “most people don’t want to eat where they’re washing clothes.”
WORTHWHILE UPGRADE: EXPANDING THE SPACE
“A larger kitchen is really what buyers are looking for when they’re shopping for a house,” says Berkus. He suggests knocking down a wall that separates an adjoining room, or creating the illusion of spaciousness by adding a window. “We live very differently now than how people lived when many of these homes were built, and these days, the kitchen is an all-encompassing space where everybody gathers.”