When it comes to building a new home or renovating an older one, the kitchen is often one of the most talked-about spaces. After all, it is the heart of the home. There are tons of options, which can sometimes be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Maureen Hodor and Lane Applegate, the certified kitchen and bath designers behind St. Simons Island, GA-based Kitchens by Design, have some recommendations to help you get started.

These ladies know the ins and outs of building the kitchen of your dreams!

“Clients often come to us with a budget but are completely overwhelmed about where to start design-wise and are unsure of the best way to get the most bang for their buck,” remarks Maureen. “Before choosing a color scheme or selecting features, we like to encourage clients to take a step back and think about their lifestyle and what make sense for their family.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the Pinterest world of kitchen inspiration, which is why the duo recommends putting a lot of focus on the evaluation and planning stage before you start make notes on the appliances, lights, etc.

“In our minds, no two kitchens should be alike because no two homeowners are exactly the same” adds Lane. “When planning a renovation or new build, we encourage people to hone in on their lifestyle, routine and preferences. Many people see pictures in magazines and on Pinterest and think that’s exactly what they want. And while that might end up being the case for some, there are likely additional things to consider, and add or take away, based on your lifestyle. For example, do you keep a well-stocked spice collection to complement five-star worthy meals for your family? Or maybe you’re a self-proclaimed party planner who loves to host your girlfriends for cocktails. Or perhaps you’re an on-the-go mom where convenience and organization play crucial roles in your day-to-day life. When thinking about your kitchen renovation, these are all things that can — and should — play a role in where and how you spend your money.”

Once going through the initial evaluation phase, Maureen and Lane recommend putting those findings into action to decide where to splurge and save. Budget is typically always a factor, so these tips can serve as helpful guidelines to get you started.


Quality cabinets

You will see and feel a difference by selecting quality cabinets. While you might not think of this off the bat, the fine details – including hinges, drawer glides and the finish – make all the difference in daily usage. Additionally, quality cabinets utilize a baked-on finish that will provide better wearability than less expensive options. “There are a lot of different cabinet varieties these days, and while custom options aren’t a possibility for everyone, we do recommend selecting a brand that provides top-of-the-line craftsmanship,” suggests Maureen. “Cabinets are the most used items in the kitchen, and you will be much happier five or 10 years down the road if you opt for something a bit on the pricier side.”

Cabinetry is a splurge-worthy area of the kitchen.

Light fixtures

Lighting can really set the mood for a space. It can add a dramatic focal point over the island or sink, making a wonderful statement in the space. “We are proponents of using slightly oversized fixtures above an island. This might seem scary at first, but slightly larger statement lights not only brighten the space, but also give you the ability to add character and personality to your kitchen,” shares Lane.

Countertop edge detail

Splurging on a stacked or laminated edge detail makes a huge visual impact in your space. Even if you opt for a thicker, more decorative edge detail on your island alone, you’ll be shocked at the statement it can make. “A stacked edge isn’t something that normally comes to people’s minds,” shares Maureen, “but we like to suggest this to really bring your kitchen to the next level. You’ll be amazed at how this detail will serve as a focal point throughout.”

RELATED: A Beautiful, Breezy, Beachy Kitchen

To make an elevated statement, Maureen and Lane recommend investing in a countertop edge detail in your kitchen.



These days it’s possible to get the look you want for less when it comes to hardware. There are a lot of affordable options at great price points, so do some shopping around. “No matter what finish you’re eying, you can likely find affordable options that match your style,” says Lane. “Some of our favorite affordable brands are Top Knobs, Atlas Hardware or Hardware Resources.”


Many appliance manufacturers now offer commercial-style appliances at affordable prices. This used to be an area of great expense, but the variety of options now available make it more budget friendly. “Unless you are a trained chef (or close to it!), there is likely no need to purchase the top-of-the-line appliances with all the bells and whistles,” says Maureen. “We encourage you to evaluate which appliances you use the most and how often, and use that knowledge to select your options.”


There are countless backsplash options to choose from, which means you can find something you love in your price point. Even if you save here, you can still make a big impact in your space. “For example, you can select an affordable, simple tile, but then play up the design with size, pattern or grout color,” says Lane. “Just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean it has to be plain! You could also opt for a more intricate tile to form a design behind your range. This might help achieve a more high-end look while still adhering to your budget.”

RELATED: This White Kitchen Has a Colorful Personality!

Backsplashes offer the opportunity to get creative – without blowing your budget!

For more design tips and inspiration, follow Kitchens by Design on Instagram @kitchensbydesignssi. And special thanks to Deborah Scannell Photography for the beautiful photos.


Whether you’re looking for future inspiration or a current project, we’ve got all of the home inspo right here.